Album Review: Sundara Karma – Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect

Glorious debut from Reading indie rockers confirms their status as one of Britain’s most promising bands.

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A band I have been following for the last three years, Sundara Karma consist of lead singer Oscar Lulu, guitarist Ally Baty, bassist Dom Cordell and Haydn Evans on the drums. Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect is the band’s debut album combining influences The Maccabees, King of Leon and The Lumineers in a joyous, 12 track record.

Opener A Young Understanding is a terrific tale of youthfulness, naivety and growing up whereas Olympia is more straightforward, Kings of Leon type rock with Lulu’s rousing vocals pushing the song along.

Loveblood is an infectious synth-dominated song with line “Tasting of the thunder from her thighs / Makes me shake,” the best lyric on the album. The song is a humorous, fast paced metaphor for love and sex and has been one of the band’s most popular song’s so far.

Happy Family, the best track on the album, is a lesson on how to write the perfect lengthy song. At just over six minutes long, the song opens with an innocent and delicate guitar riff which provides much of the flow to the song, with Oscar Lulu layering soulful vocals over the top in a similar style to Marcus Mumford, to provide a warm Fleet Foxes-esque two minute introduction before a powerful drum beat kickstarts the groove to the song. Lyrics “Been searching for a long time in this town / Been looking for a goldmine so we can get out” capture a desire to move on in life, whereas the rousing chorus highlights the fragility in our lives, “Well maybe we will be dissolve / Careful what you wish for now / Nothing lasts for ever / Time will always take its toll.” The chorus is the pinnacle to what the band have said is the saddest song on the record but one which bounces from beginning to end and could become a crowd favourite very quickly.

Flame is an uplifting stadium anthem, a commentary on the nativity in the world and the search for the light. The line “I’m tired of watching the shadows in the wall” takes Plato’s Myth of the Cave into the modern era and with Lulu chanting “Hold my flame and set alight / Hold my fire screaming inside,” this is the band at their most powerful.

Loose the Feeling sees Oscar Lulu in a deeper, philosophical mood, “I don’t wanna lose the feeling / Searched so hard to find the meaning / I found the door and I’m kinda hoping / To use my head and crack it open.” The most relaxed song on the album, the song mixes R.E.M styled guitar with twinkling piano which flow beautifully together to make a catchy yet laid back track.

She Said is a jangly, indie pop thrill, with one of the catchiest choruses on the album. A tale of youthful playfulness, it sees the complications of teenage love. “Ain’t it funny how we’re never certain ‘bout the way we are / Another youth is wasted an eternity tainted” is just another message from the band how youth is so complex.

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Vivienne is a deeper, more personal story of a relationship and its mix with drugs. “Come on baby let’s feel alive / We could change the world if we stopped getting high / But goddamn I’d give it all up / Just to spend it with you” shows the battle between ambition and love and the sacrifices of each decision.

Melodic and warm Be Nobody is a documentation of how life is changing, “All the kids are ravers /  Cas’ the church is now the club”. The song, with its carefree attitude, highlights the insignificance of individuals and the comfort with being with other people, “But I found you / And you found me / And we’re happy being nobody”. Line “We’ll never see the colour, if we live in black and white” is another call to step out of the shadows and do something.

Deep Relief is Springsteen styled rock, with guitars and drums crashing together on a track which tells of the struggles in life as you get older with more responsibility and is where the line and album title “Youth is only ever fun in retrospect” comes from.

Watching from Great Heights is a call out against people ignoring the issues that face everyone encouraging everyone to “Fight the fear you keep inside.

Closing track The Night starts with a chilling buildup before a huge drop launches wild guitars and big drums. The song is a wonderful ending, a rejection of daylight falseness in favour of nighttime “A wild desire for the night / Honey I’m staying in the night, in the night.

Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect is an infectious, rousing masterpiece with hits aplenty. Lulu’s vocals standout alongside beautifully crafted lyrics and the band have managed to create a sound so glisteningly catchy, you can’t stop listening. Alongside their stunning live show, this album is just the start to what is guaranteed to be a huge year for the Reading four-piece.

9/10

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