Alright, I’ll admit it … seeing that Sundara Karma were releasing an album left me fairly sceptical, and even tentative when it came to pressing play. Given the non-stop bombardment of this new wave of ‘indie’ acts like Catfish and the Bottlemen, Rat Boy and so on, I expected mediocrity from the Reading four-piece – alas, to lump their debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect in with the rest of that lot would be unfair.
Right from the off with opener ‘A Young Understanding’, it’s clear the subject matter of this LP is the passage into adulthood. Aptly related to the album title, ‘A Young Understanding’, and other tracks including ‘She Said’ have an imperative on juvenility and reminiscence; it’s almost like frontman Oscar Lulu has gifted you the chance to be wistful and nostalgic about your youth, whilst also knocking you for six with political undertones throughout. Clever move, that.
Sundara Karma are a maudlin lot, and songs on this album like ‘Lose The Feeling’, with its lyrical yearning, and ‘Be Nobody’, hold up a cynical perception of youth culture. In contrast to the sullen nooks of Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, highly acclaimed 2015 single ‘Flame’ gets a slick new makeover with this LP, and retains the Crown as Sundara Karma’s most regal track. ‘Flame’ absolutely overflows with a singalong chorus just dying to hit the festival circuit, sliding right in amongst early singles ‘Loveblood’, and ‘Vivienne’, each acting as a pit stop on the band’s journey to success since their rise in notoriety in 2014. Rounding off a pretty impressive collection of tracks, the duo of ‘The Night’ and ‘Watching From Great Heights’ set up an entirely triumphant close to Sundara Karma’s first long-player, and boy is it a good’n.
Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect fully exceeded my expectations, with more tender tracks like ‘Happy Families’ tugging at the heartstrings and taking a political slant, and ‘Be Nobody’ shifting away from the sun-kissed sound synonymous with Sundara Karma, and trading it for a doom-esque ballad style. Filled with sun-drenched guitar licks, the melancholic, the euphoric, and the fervent, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect is stadium-ready and essential 2017 listening.
With their unforgettable debut, Sundara Karma are set for a pretty colossal year; the band embark on tour with Two Door Cinema Club, before heading out around the UK on their own headline tour. Tickets are available here.
Released Friday 6th January 2017, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect is available to buy here.
Words by Jasmin Robinson, feature image by Patrick Gunning.