Doncaster pop-rock hero Yungblud‘s first album, 2018’s ‘21st Century Liability’, was a giddy ska-infused soundtrack to being young, misunderstood and angry. A string of chart-busting collaborations with the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly later found him fearless in the face of the mainstream, while his hyperactive live show offered people a safe space to rage, cry and feel part of something understanding. Speaking directly to an army of diehard fans who felt just as lost, Yungblud quickly became the voice of a generation that, quite frankly, has had enough.
In every country around the world, Yungblud was met with sold-out rooms who felt exactly the same way. Faced with all that community, it’s perhaps no wonder that album two sees him ditch the cynical anger for something more optimistic. ‘weird!’ is a record about believing in change. Despite the shift in outlook, Yungblud’s as exciting as he’s ever been.
A powerful coming-of-age record that exudes a kind of heartfelt naivety, ‘weird!’ is the playlist for growing into your own skin. Weirdness is “a thing to be celebrated,” Dominic Harrison told NME earlier in the year, and the album is as celebratory as you’d expect. That’s not to say things have been watered down, though, as Yungblud bounces between different emotions with a gleeful grin. He never tries to be perfect; this is a record that’s rough, ready but full of stadium ambition.
Opener ‘teresa’ is a lighters-in-the-air rager on which Harrison celebrates his newfound lust for life. “As long as I watch over you, you don’t need to run,” he sings, trading his usual punk snarl for something more serene; it’s a world away from the spat fury that’s come before. The sexy ‘cotton candy’ is a departure, too; a bubbling pop banger that finds Dom doing his best Matty Healy impression: “There’s something about the way our bedsheets turn religion upside down / So we just have sex to solve all our problems”). And that’s just the start. Every track on ‘weird!’ sees Harrison take on a brave new musical world and make it feel like home.
A very Gen-Z rock star, Yungblud’s never been bothered much with genre, but with ‘weird!’ he pushes that modus operandi further than ever before. ‘love song’ is more stripped back and vulnerable than he’s ever dared to be, while live favourite ‘ice cream man’ is a vicious rabble-rousing punk romp. Elsewhere, the psychedelic title track, written after his dream-come-true headline show at Brixton Academy and inspired by Depeche Mode, acknowledges the “weird time of life” we’re all facing. ‘strawberry lipstick’, at the other end of the spectrum, is a hedonistic party track that offers three minutes of escape.
At the heart of every track is a message of believing in yourself and trusting your own choices, as Harrison sets out to empower his fans with the same belief that they gave him. ‘mars’ (inspired by the story of a young trans fan who was only accepted by their parents after going to a Yungblud show) is a dreamy, cinematic number about belonging. ‘god save me but don’t drown me out’ is a pulsating guitar-driven anthem on which he wrestles with insecurities, drugs and rock & roll.
Sounding like a cross between Beastie Boys and Gorillaz, the frantic ‘superdeadfriends’ is Harrison at his most direct. “When you’re making a baby in missionary / Be prepared to accept them for what they’re gonna be,” he sings before, throwing open his arms and welcoming everyone in his fanbase, the Black Hearts Club. “We don’t care if you’re black or you’re white, asian or sexually intertwined.”
It’s the closing theatrics of ‘the freak show’ that represent Yungblud at his most unifying, though. Channeling Freddie Mercury, Lady Gaga, Prince and David Bowie while armed with the galvanising power of My Chemical Romance’s ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’, the song is an outsider anthem that couldn’t be more confident. Full of hope, Harrison sings, “Times will change and you might break, but we’ll go on,” over marching drums, before screaming “I will spend my life believing in you” as the album is brought to a jagged close. Empowering and full of steely resolve, it’s the sort of song that becomes entwined in the memories of a generation.
Taking everything that’s brilliant about Yungblud and amplifying it, album two is Harrison at his most extreme. It’s exactly where he belongs, too. Yungblud’s never seemed more inspiring or vital as he proves himself as one of the most important rock stars around. ‘weird!’ really is wonderful.
Release date: December 4
Record label: Locomotion / Polydor Records