Lust for Youth - Lust for Youth (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Lust for Youth

Lust for Youth (2019)

Sacred Bones

Lust for Youth are a Swedish-Danish duo who are entering their tenth year of existence, and have gone through nearly as many musical evolutions in that time. While they started off playing a harsh and esoteric mix of industrial, noise and minimal synth atmosphere, by 2013’s Perfect View, a dancier and slightly more melodic vibe was emerging. On the following year’s International, they had morphed into a full-on, balearic beat-tinged synthpop band, and it was absolutely wonderful, echoing ‘80s acts like Pet Shop Boys but with greater emotional resonance. On their latest, this self-titled album, the band continues the logical path of this sound from that album and 2016’s Compassion, though they’re diving headfirst into straight-up Eurodance territory here -- and once again, it’s awesome.

The idea that any band could be so polarizing they fall into a black-and-white, love-or-hate division for listeners often seems silly and exaggerated, but it might actually be true with Lust for Youth. They verge on the corny air of their ‘80s predecessors, like the aforementioned Pet Shop Boys, or that band’s peers the Human League; but there truly is a sincere undercurrent of melancholy and yearning beneath the shimmering and swelling mix of electronic beats, dance grooves and synth layers that infect Lust for Youth and its eight tracks.

The album is certainly a bit top-heavy, admittedly, with early tracks “Insignificant” and “Venus de Milo” coming out of the gate real hard. The former has a driving dance beat and nails the dreary post-punk tenor of frontman Hannes Norrvide’s vocals; its last two minutes even introduce some minor-key, sort-of post-rock “jamming” never heard before in their sound while retaining the dance beat. Then comes the aching “Venus de Milo”, which seems to paint a sad portrait of a partner or possible romantic interest’s lack of emotional availability; when Norrvide sorrowfully observes “You’re statuesque” just before the chorus and it’s punctuated by the female background vocals, it’s heartbreaking and wholly effective.

Taken as a whole, Lust for Youth doesn’t match the hit-for-hit quality of International, but it’s definitely a step back up from Compassion. It hardly overstays its welcome, and there are still strong tracks after “Venus de Milo”, from the empathy of lead single “Great Concerns” to female stand-in ballad “Fifth Terrace”, the latter of which is sung by Soho Rezanejad (who handled vocals on possibly the band’s best song to date, International’s “Armida”). While the vitriol on closer “By No Means” provides no real closure to the mix of emotions permeating its prior songs, the biting chorus of “A compliment from you would insult me” ends things delightfully sour anyway, amid the brightly propulsive beat pushing it forward more kinetically than one might expect from a closing track.