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Houston, TX band Young Mammals have hit the point in their career where the novelty of a cool origin story or the clichéd struggles of a sophomore effort have come and gone. Now that they’re past that, they face a different sort of challenge. Their new LP, Jaguar, simply has to be the kind of record great enough to justify a continued existence in the sometimes harsh world of music.

Since forming as a middle school group in the early 2000s, the band has grown up together. That’s cute and all, but it matters little if the music doesn’t reflect the implied bond therein. Young Mammals are now forced to display the necessary maturity of performing over the past decade plus. It never helps a band’s ego to realize that certain iconic groups were already headed to solo careers by now.

The spiritual inspiration for the record comes in the form of Jean Rouch’s 1967 film of the same name, which was a masterwork of improvisation. The narrative focuses on a small group of men who have left their relatively simple confines at home to make the profitable yet treacherous trip to the former Gold Coast. “The energy of the film, the music, and the idea of becoming a jaguar in the city resonated with me,” says singer Carlos Sanchez. “That’s what started the initial writing for our record.”

Such a road-weary tale is appropriate for a band that has traveled extensively.  Young Mammals have shared dates and tour legs with such gifted contemporaries as Parquet Courts and Ringo Deathstarr.

Jaguar wastes no time in making its intentions known. It starts as a straightforward rock record with an extremely forceful trio of songs (“Crane,” “Jaguar,” “The Slight”) and a shameless amount of riffing. But it’s almost misleading. Somewhere in the middle is where Jaguar takes a breath and the full display of the group’s capabilities reveals itself.

The moments of vulnerability that mark the deepest cuts of the record are also the bravest. One lyrical passage stands out in particular and it’s easy to foresee it as a potentially emotional moment for the audience: “It’s one a.m.; my breath is sour. I don’t try to mask it, there’s only an hour. In the darkest corners, I search for you…” This is followed by such non-rock and roll declarations as “I’m in bed by 6 p.m.” The nodding passages come to an abrupt end when the track “Auroras” kicks off with the fastest rhythms on the record.

The LP was recorded at the legendary Sugarhill Studios under less-than- favorable conditions, but such is the unforgiving climate of Houston. There must be something to the oppressiveness of humidity, however. Freddy Fender, Archie Bell, and the 13th Floor Elevators all cut sides in the same room.

Young Mammals are fortunate in that almost any of the tracks off of their 10-song, 31-minute album could work as a single — it all depends on how rowdy or subdued they would like for their audience to be. It’s Jaguar’s overall range that it is its greatest strength.

“Rat in the Summer” is the best balance between the different shades of Young Mammals in their current songwriting cycle. That’s followed by “Heavenly” which is a refrain to the album’s quiet moments. Ultimately, Jaguar ends on a high note. “Morning Vice,” ends much like the album begins.

As likable as the bookends are to this record, it’s the sophisticated distance between that will reward repeat listeners. With Jaguar, Young Mammals have set themselves up for another decade together, should that be where their journey takes them.

 

 

album-cover

Young Mammals
Jaguar
Odd Hours Records
Street Date: November 11, 2016

Track List:

1. Crane
2. Jaguar
3. The Slight
4. Turfed
5. I’m Sleeping
6. Mango Beach
7. Rat In The Summer
8. Auroras
9. Heavenly
10. Morning Vice