Revolutionaries starts off with a 30-second scratch of a track before leading into You Won’t’s signature twitchy, uncut sound; an underscoring, one could say, of the theme of the duo’s sophomore LP. The “false start” couldn’t be anything but a knowing nudge-and-wink from Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, who took their sweet time creating and shaping this album over a two-and-a-half year period. Their debut release, Skeptic Goodbye, came out in 2012, and was a galloping romp through rough-cut and absurdist themes that proved the duo to be a homegrown delight. While Arnoudse and Sastri have been playing together for over a decade, it has only been in recent years that they decided to focus their respective talents and channel it into You Won’t.
Arnoudse provides the vocals for You Won’t, and his voice alone contributes to the helter-skelter, homespun vibe of the band; it’s at times a mix between Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel and Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers. Sastri is, on his own, a high-functioning one-man band, covering a great number of diverse instruments (the electric bagpipe?!) with dexterity. He also contributes the background harmonies on certain tracks.
As sophomore albums go, this one doesn’t experience any kind of slump. The duo has managed to maintain their raw sound while also exploring darker, more interesting themes in Revolutionaries. The 15-track opus addresses the winding and bumpy road that leads into adulthood, rife with detours and hiccups and shifting ideas about the world; these heady matters are reflected in the maturation and exploration of the instrumentals. The featuring of electric bagpipe on certain tracks harkens back to the original “revolutionaries”, who fought during the Revolutionary War in the duo’s hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts.
Revolutionaries opens with “Untitled 2,” despite there being an “Untitled 1″ later in the album. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and calling this a cheeky move on You Won’t’s part to reinforce the theme of organized chaos and awkward growing pains. “The Fuzz” dips into a 60’s rock vibe, spiked with Arnoudse’s unique lyrics. The track explodes halfway through into a miniature rock show, with galloping guitar riffs and crashing drums, before collapsing in on itself. “Invocation” begins with ethereal pipes, portraying a mechanical birdsong; this is then overlaid with tempestuous guitar strumming and Arnoudse’s floating vocals.
“Jesus Sings” is one of the more produced songs on the album, a full-bodied track replete with acoustic guitar harmonies and a strong drum line background. The lyrics are, as usual, quite interesting to listen to, and the electric bagpipe is again featured along with Sastri’s background accompanying vocals. The instrumentals cut out at the climax to highlight the acoustic guitar and vocals before being gradually added back in until the track swells with an organized cacophony of bagpipes, drums, and guitar. “Untitled 1″ follows seamlessly, carrying the lingering bagpipe and expanding the solo with crackling feedback and swirling chimes; the music creates a whirlpool effect, with random instruments being hit or clanged in the background.
“Douchey” is a rollicking song with plenty of drums and acoustic guitar, with electric guitar and what sounds like a cowbell added in after a short introduction. This track features interesting and somewhat autobiographical lyrics following the theme of personal growth and the winding road of maturation. Revolutionaries ends with the title track, starting with that mechanical birdsong before an accordion-esque instrument fades in with the lyrics. Arnoudse hammers home the overarching theme of the album by addressing suicide, recovering from hardships, and taking little pleasures from life despite the bumps along the way. The reduced background instrumentals lend a more somber, pensive tone to this final track.
Throughout Revolutionaries, You Won’t has captured all the insecurities that accompany a rise to moderate-level fame and the fallout after finishing a debut album, channeling them into a messy, driven, barely-held-together sound that expertly reflects the atmosphere of uncertainty and unabashed determination. They still play like they have nothing to lose, which is both an admirable and endearing quality, portraying the duo as a scrappy band of brigands just looking to spread the cheer of some rocking music and have a good time while doing it.
Album released: April 29, 2016
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam