The Young make rock that implies something heavier than what comes out of the speakers. Hans Zimmerman’s high, breathy singing holds back more emotion than it gives, and it sits half-buried under guitars on the cusp of fuzzing out, but which really aren’t that loud. A track like "Don’t Hustle for Love" is tight power-pop that’s slightly slower and less jaunty than would be expected. It shuffles, but creaks at the joints. Taken on it’s own, it’s a "hey, now we’re getting rolling" kind of song. In the context of Dub Egg, its as rolling as things get, a two-minute spurt before tracks start unraveling.
Zimmerman has played in a bunch of hardcore bands over the years, resolutely anti-art fun — one off-the-cuff cassette release was called Woman in Prison, another Army of Jesus. It’s the sort of up yours rock that glowers at indie bands who have the potential of pleasing the great well-washed. The Young are like a project they’d glower at, signed to Matador after an excellent 2010 debut, creating songs of interlocking guitars with shiny tones.
Yet, if the riffs The Young play could fuel Cheap Trick hits, the delivery is arid and uncomfortably still at times. Zimmerman is committed to a downtempo feel that’s not only the opposite of hardcore, but also disqualifies him from the typical pro-am indie. They’re from Texas, and geography seeps in. When the songs open up, it feels the prelude to a jam, but no solos appear, just motoring through a prairie. The dedication to easy tempos might be where the "dub" in the album title comes in. There’s nothing here to recall the genre (save a sneer at the sudden hipness of all things hyphenated thusly as dub), but you can’t have a fast dub track, either.
Overall, Dub Egg isn’t as strong as The Young’s debut, Voyagers of Legend, but second-album jitters aren’t the problem. If anything, The Young have a little too much confidence in their style. By the time the finale drifts into its dissipating breakdown, it feels a song too long. But even if Zimmerman and Co.’s best days are ahead of them, there’s plenty to connect with now. The fully countrified "Only Way Out" is less pastiche than the similar dip westward that The Men make on Open Your Heart. The Young achieve a mournfulness that’s rare among rock bands — not the can’t-leave-my-bed sadness that’s typical of rock, but a real high lonesome. And it carries over to the rest of the tracks, even if the country feel doesn’t. The longest track, “Dance with the Ramblers,” rambles just fine, thinning out a power-chord riff until it is a forgotten dream, bobbing behind loose noise. The lead single, "Livin’ Free," tops every song in The Young discography. With the laid back crush of Crazy Horse, they let notes hang, teasing and delaying the big payoff. Their living free doesn’t sound liberating; it sounds disappointed and lonely. This band walks some crooked miles.