New wave emerged in popular music during the late 1970s and reached maximum popularity in the early 1980s. Icons of the genre, such as Blondie and Talking Heads, grasped the sunnier side of pop music while adopting sensibilities of punk. In the 2000s, bands like The Killers, The Strokes, and Interpol were seemingly reviving post-punk/new wave, largely in thanks to their hugely melodic pop songs contrasted with themes of disillusionment and heartache. Now, Parquet Courts and Public Practice have taken the mantle of Talking Heads-esque post-punk, Preoccupations fill the art-punk void, but where’s the poppier side of the spectrum?
Enter Lust for Youth, the Danish new wave duo comprised of Hannes Norrvide and Malthe Fischer. Their new eponymously titled album presents eight tracks ready to be consumed on the dance floor. Seamlessly integrating contemplative balladry and voyaging through 90s Europop, Lust for Youth have crafted a superb collection of tracks that rightfully likens them to legendary new wave acts New Order and Depeche Mode.
“Whatever happened here, are people deranged? Deny evolution/reject climate change/in times of great concerns, what will it take? A flood over Europe/a fist in the face, or what?” Hannes Norrvide begs to understand in “Greater Concerns.” Arriving at the halfway point of the record, “Greater Concerns” is the first ballad subsequent to three exhilarating dance-pop tracks. “Fifth Terrace” circles back to the deeper worries of “Greater Concerns” – Norrvide’s detached vocal isn’t to be found here – instead, fellow Danish experimental electronic artist Soho Rezanejad guests, her divine vocal illuminating the song’s shoegaze atmosphere. Melancholy synths spin around her, mirroring the devastating revelation, “our glaciers vanished and our concern long before/was it a given? Our land is perished, and our kindness doesn’t show.” Luckily, “Adrift” follows, and it’s a new wave banger.
While Lust for Youth’s previous album, Compassion, observed euphoria and the tribulations of millennial life with dry humor, Lust for Youth instead embraces vulnerable longing for true connection. Trailing similar strides of past releases, the duo continues pushing their style to new heights. “Insignificant” is unlike anything else in the genre. Mostly a beat-driven dance track, guitarist Malthe Fischer makes an epic entrance when you least expect it. Clever, swirling syncopated chords twist “Insignificant” into something contemporary – remember the guitar solo in “Lambert” by Foxing? Fischer beautifully introduces a post-rock element to the band’s sound, cementing Lust for Youth as a supreme creative force.
Unexpectedly modern in its theme, Eurodance album closer, “By No Means” provides numerous lyrical gems. Perhaps countering The 1975’s pleading of retaining humanity and pursuing real happiness in the single “Give Yourself A Try,” Norrvide is fed up with needless cynicism in this dismissive hook: “your self-pity is appalling/I see you’re always happy to talk about your misery.”
Shining, moody album opener, “New Balance Point,” however, lives in a smaller world. Norrvide snaps at the lack of ambition in his peers, first introducing a character we probably all recognize, (“I can’t believe you/you’d rather watch HBO”). Then, unrestrained in his disappointment he, oddly specifically, asks if the world really needs “another local DJ assisting a semi-pro photographer.” With the contrast of “By No Means” and “New Balance Point,” Lust for Youth addresses the all too familiar loss of hope when confronted by greater issues.
So, what makes Lust for Youth so special? The band pays homage to legends of the genre, with a sprinkle of their modern touch. None of it feels derivative or tiresome. Rather, I find myself wishing it was a different era, so Lust for Youth could gain the attention they deserve. For better and for worse, this album simply isn’t trendy in today’s pop music landscape. More valuable, however, is Hannes Norrvide and Malthe Fischer’s presentation of a splendid bunch of songs reminding us why new wave music was so dominant in its prime years.
There’s a reason why New Order, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Cure, et al. are regarded as all-time greats to this day. In 1989, New Order’s sophomore album, Power, Corruption & Lies landed at #94 on Rolling Stone’s top 100 albums of the 1980s list, calling it “a landmark album of danceable, post-punk music.” Each celebrated new wave act that comes to mind allowed their brands of strange, danceable pop music to shadow over themes of despondency. And that’s exactly what Lust for Youth have done with their fifth album.
These songs, “By No Means,” in particular, will have you instantly grooving. Norrvide is often personal in his apprehensions. Alongside Fischer, they skilfully wind environmental concerns through the album. Lust for Youth isn’t a callback to “good old days”. It’s innovative and exciting, just like their peers and idols.