Armageddon Party Dress
Elizabeth Moen Album Release with Hot Tang, Young Charles
Englert Theatre — Friday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Mitch McAndrew, both the vocal and songwriting chops behind Young Charles, comes across on the band’s debut, Armageddon Party Dress, as a jazz composer who desperately wants to be a folk singer (with a slight addiction to pop melancholy). The genres fuse and break, weave in and out of each other in ways that evoke the mid- to late-’70s years when Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel were contemporaries.
Like those two powerhouses, McAndrew and the rest of Young Charles (Harrison Horgan on guitar, Erich Martin on bass, Skyler Gonzalez on keys and David Galloway on drums) seem loath to maintain any one genre for too long. Tracks one and two on the wide-ranging record — “Palm” and the title track — set a firm foundation for the jazzy phrasings and instrumentations scattered throughout the rest of the disc (it’s no surprise to learn that Armageddon Party Dress was recorded and engineered by nouveau-avant-jazz genre-destroyer Dana Telsrow).
Track three, “Octavio,” is the first distillation of the album’s disparate influences: a bright, catchy, pop hook with a noodling, curious, folksy guitar and just enough melodic and rhythmic catches to remind the listener of the jazz passion underpinning the lot.
Track six, “Where It’s From and What It’s For,” serves much the same purpose. It’s an incredibly solid song, one that could easily be covered in any number of simpler, more straightforward styles. But here, although it starts with a folk-infused, almost alt-country guitar and melody, it just keeps adding layers, with a lounge-y keyboard line that lures the vocals along, bringing them in line with it stylistically as it gains prominence in the mix. It’s a song that forces the listener to question the sometimes arbitrary lines we draw between genres.
“Posture Kid (Forced It),” which vies with “Octavio” as the record’s most obvious single, is a nearly straightforward rock tune that allows McAndrew to impress with his vocal versatility, although it’s obviously not the style he finds most comfortable. He’s most entertaining (and clearly having the most fun) in a folk register — but he’s most impressive with his Thom Yorke-channeling turn on “Ides,” exhibiting an enviable precision and control.
Armageddon Party Dress is a vibrant 10-track debut that moves too fast and leaves the listener wondering what new territory Young Charles will explore next.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 248.