Lust For Youth – ‘Compassion’ Review

Packing too much pop sensibility to ever feel crushingly miserable, ‘Compassion’ is nevertheless ripe for wallowing in

It wouldn’t be strictly accurate to say that ‘Compassion’ is the album that synth-wielding Scandinavian romantics Lust For Youth have always threatened to make. In fact, in the project’s earlier days – a harsh, clanging solo venture by Swede Hannes Norrvide, who’s since moved to Denmark and enlisted two bandmates, Loke Rahbek and Malthe Fischer – the only threats apparent were to the ears of the unsuspecting. The eight new songs on this, the fifth proper Lust For Youth full-length, aren’t noisy, ultra lo-fi or impenetrably gothic – they’re gleaming, if gloomy, slices of synthpop splendour, and as big a leap from LFY’s 2015 album ‘International’ as that was from its predecessor, ‘Perfect View’.

Packing too much tunefulness and pop sensibility to ever feel crushingly miserable, ‘Compassion’ is nevertheless ripe for wallowing in. Keyboards chime over slow-to-midpaced drum machine frameworks which are naggingly 80s in their style: ‘Limerence’ keeps sailing disarmingly close to the ‘Eastenders’ theme, of all things. Still, it really hits its stride with ‘Sudden Ambitions’, which has all the lugubriousness and ecstacy of mid-80s New Order, and ‘Better Looking Brother’, oddly akin to a synthpop REM. ‘Stardom’ is an unlikely lead single choice at seven and a half minutes – granted, no-one involved likely had daytime radio play in mind – but it shimmers and swells like an authentic pop hit.

The retromodern poses continue with ‘Display’, where doomladen keystrokes and lyrical hints to some sort of forbidden love (“//If we do as we should / And leave out the truth / Oh, what we would gain//”) make for a song that’s part Smiths, part Soft Cell. ‘Tokyo’, with its muscular hi-NRG rhythm, is the closest the album comes to unabashed club music, although Norrvide’s croon might induce tears before bedtime in overly emotional ravers.

Hints at LFY’s experimental origins crop up – the scraps of vocals and ghostly choirs filtering through ‘Easy Window’, or the muttered Swedish language monologue and drifty synth backing of ‘In Return’. The latter is a low-key but appropriately elegant closing song on a record that displays both pop smarts and an uncompromising, chilly streak. This feels like the album Lust For Youth wanted to make, not a cheap shot at success.