Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect is the debut album from Reading’s Sundara Karma. It’s a record heavily influenced by post-punk revival without sounding dated, and in spite of its somewhat gloomy title, as a whole the album is confident and energetic, making a strong case for being one of the defining indie-rock releases of the year.
‘A Young Understanding’ opens the album with aplomb. The band’s angular guitar riffs and lead vocalist Oscar Lulu’s strong vocals are evident right from the outset. In the opening line, Lulu discusses his anxiety towards adulthood with the line “Hold on tight, you’ve got a way to go / You’re terrified by the open road”, encapsulating the stark contrast between youth and adult life. Meanwhile, ‘Loveblood’ and ‘She Said’ are two exuberant dance-rock tracks that bring both passion and a youthful energy to the LP.
‘Flame’ is lyrically intellectual, subtlety utilising Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to explain how pop culture and social media prevent us from viewing the world as it really is. Prior to the chorus, Lulu is frustrated by life in the “cave” and asks us to think independently; “I’m tired of watching the shadows on the wall, my eyes are foreseeing / The shackles open, we’re finally free to bolt, if you’re done with believing”. In addition to this, the song’s repeatable chorus and sharp guitars make this the album’s standout track.
One of the songs that helped Sundara Karma’s ascent is “Vivienne”, which featured on their 2015 release EP II. The track shows the band’s ability to craft rock ballads with thoughtful and emotive lines, including “Just to stay here with you, you know I’d give you it all, Vivienne”. The other slower moving numbers found towards the end of Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect, including ‘Be Nobody’ and ‘The Night’, provide a successful contrast with the rest of the album and evidence the band’s versatility.
Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect is a solid start for Sundara Karma. There’s more than enough on the album to show that they’re one of the best up-and-coming British rock bands, and although the album isn’t especially ground-breaking or innovative, the band stick to what they know, and succeed in creating memorable alt-rock anthems with thought-provoking lyrics.