Arriving nearly four years after their first full-length, it’s a fair assumption that the Bristol-based Woahnows are no longer ‘young’. They are, however, still cool – albeit in an off-centre kind of way – but leading with the title ‘Older and Quirky’ doesn’t have the same allure.
Anyway, while Woahnows may be a little greyer and grizzled, they still have a knack for delivering fun-filled three-minute pop songs. Musically, much of ‘Young and Cool’ sees the group softening the edges of their sound, instead focusing on traditional song structures, ringing melodies and sharp hooks. The off-kilter riffing is still there in abundance, making them sound like Fountains of Wayne wired to the teeth on Red Bull and Sour Patch Kids, but there’s now also clarity of focus in the lyricism that reflects the growing confidence of songwriter Tim Rowing-Parker.
And such boldness makes for some wonderfully thrilling moments. The opening salvo ‘Something To Regret’ and ‘World Explodes’ set the tone, switching from earnest and sincere to confident and forthright. These two songs sit at the opposite end of ‘Young and Cool’s musical spectrum, with everything else finding its own space in between these poles. And, while on previous efforts each member of Woahnows sounded like they were in a rush to finish their parts first, here everything moves to fill the space. ‘Hippy Shit’, for example, may possess a typically overdriven chorus, but its lizard-lounge vibe feels unhurried. Similarly, ‘… and Breathe’ is a jazzy little interlude that helps break up the driving power-pop.
That said, Woahnows are at their best when they cut loose a little. ‘No One Else’ displays the group’s growing strength in observational, lyrical songwriting and is a suitably infectious riot, while ‘I Know I Knooow’ is a toe-tapper of the highest order. Better still, closing number ‘Cold’ is an earworm that ends the album on a triumphant high.
What ‘Young and Cool’ does so well is define Woahnows’ sound and identity, marrying all of their ideas together in a perfect, easily-digestible, package. Fun, irreverent, heartfelt and passionate, it’s a winning combination when set against the group’s grasp of what pop music should be.