It's nice to hear something completely different every once in a while, and 21st Century Liability is just that. A new take on punk rock that blend emo, rap and punk together in a way that is entirely unique. Fair play to YUNGBLUD, it works brilliantly.
21st Century Liability doesn’t just touch on sensitive topics, such as drug abuse, rape and the stigmatisation of mental health; it brings them to the forefront in such a way that the serious issues brought up across the entire album that it is impossible to miss. There is something about the lyrics and themes of the tracks on 21st century liability that are so relevant to so many young people, the album is acting as a voice, and YUNGBLUD captures that brilliantly in 21st Century Liability.
YUNGBLUD, AKA Dominic Harrison, is a young emerging artist from Doncaster, who has previously recorded songs for the soundtrack for 13 Reasons Why (alongside artists such as Selena Gomez and Years & Years); but 21st century liability is his debut album, and it definitely propels his music career in the right direction. YUNGBLUD’s voice is raw and powerful – which is refreshing where most artists try to fit in the mainstream – and he is determined to make hard hitting statement pieces.
‘Psychotic Kids’ is one such statement, speaking out about older generations refusing to listen to new ideas from their younger counterparts. The title comes from the idea of older generations calling the youth “psychotic kids” and stating, “they don’t know what they want”, writing off the opinions of the young as naïve ideals, such as “a world where suffering is dead” as an impossibility. The track also touches on the topic of mental health, and the idea that older generations can use it as an excuse to write off any suggestions by young people. It also plays on the typical patronizing assumption that “youth is wasted on the young”, and that they don’t know anything about the real adult world.
Another track which touches on mental health is ‘Medication’. This track brings up the idea that people in positions of authority are using mental health as an excuse, more specifically anxiety and depression. “I just wanna take my medication so I can find my motivation” shows the dependence of society on drugs for it to function, especially in the young. The idea that antidepressants will make it all go away, and everything will be fine, because “Doctor says don’t fight that feeling, but my head is stuck on the ceiling”, which shows the drugs don’t work. As the issues escalate, “my heart is a bomb, it ticks along”, so does the severity, leading to suggestions of self-harm and more drugs (hence the references to the Velvet Underground song ‘White Light/White Heat’, a song about heroin).
‘Polygraph Eyes’ is the defining track of the entire album. It is so relevant to a really important issue: intoxication, consent, and rape. The narrative of the song is about a girl who goes out, gets so drunk “she can’t even run, she can’t even walk”, so a guy walks her back to his and has sex without consent: “She slurs when she speaks, but you hear what you want when she can’t even talk”. It also brings up some repercussions that wouldn’t immediately be apparent, such as the breakdown of the girl with her boyfriend (“In his mind she was a slag” and she’s “crying at the top of her lungs, don’t leave me here you’re the one I love”), as the sexual assault has broken their relationship and has hurt her further. ‘Polygraph Eyes’ has such a strong message about what sexual assault can be, and this ties together with the #MeToo campaign which is bringing the issue of consent to the forefront of discussion today.
YUNGBLUD brings something new to the genres of alt rock and emo, vaguely similar Enter Shikari, but toned down, with the same goal; bringing politics into their music and using it as a tool to educate and inform those who may not be listening already. It will be interesting to see what YUNGBLUD does next.
21st Century Liability is available now via Locomotion Recordings Limited. YUNGBLUD will be touring the UK in September on his 21st Century Liability Tour. Catch the video for polygraph eyes below: