Sunday 20 October 2019

Review: 'Uplifting and melancholic' Years and Years rock Longitude

Festival goers enjoy the fun at the Longitude festival at Marlay Park in Dublin
Festival goers enjoy the fun at the Longitude festival at Marlay Park in Dublin

Ed Power

It was slightly surreal watching chart-toppers of the moment Years and Years fill the Saturday afternoon slot at Longitude.

Still clawing their way out of the indie landfill when booked for the festival last spring, with the release of debut album Communion the trio have transitioned to fully-blooded stars. Really, they could plausibly have featured far higher up the bill, such has been their profile lately (Communion this week whooshed straight to number one in Ireland).

The London-based trio's breakthrough isn't a surprise. Sad-eyed soul boys are music's hot new trend, as demonstrated by the transatlantic success in 2014 of Sam Smith. Years and Years explore a similar vein of catchy angst, Olly Alexander's moochy lyrics paired with glimmering grooves and melodies a nudge away from Coldplay-esque.

However calculating, on a windy evening in south Dublin the formula assuredly worked. A former teen actor, the boyish Alexander embraced the cliche of complicated frontman, swaying and reaching melodramatically towards the pit as songs such as Shine and King deployed epic tempos around him.

Uplifting and melancholic in the same instant, it was a reiteration of pop's golden formula – that same happy-sad dynamic promulgated by everyone from Abba to Pet Shop Boys and Girls Aloud. The only wobble came as they were forced to abandon album track Real and instead pitched into a cover of Sean Paul's Breathe (Alexander blamed a hen-party down the front for distracting the drummer).

A post-lunch hour festival spot can be thankless but it was clear Years and Years were knocking on an open door."It's good you're so rowdy," Alexander observed, "you've definitely been the best festival crowd we've had". In the space of a few months Years and Years have progressed from skinny underdogs to chart overlords. Judging by their reception at Longitude, they are merely getting started.

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