wears the trousers magazine

gabby young & other animals: we’re all in this together (2009)
December 17, 2009, 1:09 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Gabby Young & Other Animals
We’re All In This Together ••••
Gift Of The Gab

Gabby Young & Other Animals consists of crimson-haired 22 year old frontwoman Young and her seven-strong band. Their first album, We’re All In This Together, features Young on the cover looking like a cross between a Suicide Girl and a Frida Kahlo painting, while the ‘other animals’ – Rosie, Stephen, Adam, Charlie, Jim, Rory and Yusuf – dress like Amish circus performers and wield an array of instruments ranging from a mandolin to a clarinet to a banjo. Self-released through the aptly named imprint Gift Of The Gab, partly funded by fans, the album follows on the heels of their 2008 EP Bear With Me, and Young’s two previous solo albums – both of which feature Young looking undyed, uncostumed and much less ‘in character’.

We’re All In This Together is a bizarre and whimsical set of songs. The sound of the Other Animals is surprising, ever-changing, and wildly eccentric in parts, while Young’s voice is the thread holding it all together. One minute she’s a cabaret performer surrounded by trombones and honky-tonk pianos – it’s easy to imagine her kicking her legs high and raising her top hat in rhythm – the next minute she’s a femme fatale, crooning atop a grand piano in a smoky bar. Comparisons with Regina Spektor are all too easy, and there are elements of Gogol Bordello’s wild anarchy, but it’s altogether more structured and accessible. We’re All In This Together constructs a world of voiceless actresses, torn big-top tents, and empty wine bottles on a summer day, all seen through the hazy lens of an imagined past.

The vaudeville party starts with ‘Ummm…’, a romp about silence that demands to be played loud. It slows down a little for ‘Ladies Of The Lake (Reprise)’, but ‘Ones That Got Away’ gets you back out of your seat with a brass and piano section sure to set any toes tapping. First single ‘We’re All In This Together’ pulls us in close with simple guitar plucks under Young’s soaring, smoky voice. We stay under the radar with ‘Lipsink’, the only forgettable track on the album, but perk back up again with ‘Sour’, at once thigh-slappingly catchy and irrepressibly sexy, with a vocal reminiscent of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. It’s back to those bare bones again with ‘Ask You A Question’, which starts out sparse and angry but soon becomes a knees-up singalong. Penultimate track ‘Too Young To Die’ delights with the simplicity of Young’s honeyed vocals and an accordion lullaby.

We’re All In This Together never stays still, moving from wild honky-tonk cavorts to whispered wanderings and back again, bringing in an orchestra of accordions, kettle drums and a double bass. But the main attraction really is Young’s voice, at once simple and complex, wise and questioning. It’s certainly a performance, and perhaps this is where the album stumbles: at times it seems like the soundtrack to a musical. Theatricality can turn into insincerity, and it’s all too easy to feel that it’s nothing more than another carnival. Gabby Young and the Other Animals are talented musicians willing to experiment, but there is an element of repetition to the album that might be avoided if they said what they meant instead of putting on a show. When the guard is let down – most notably in the title track – we’re treated to something both beautiful and fragile. Look past the carnivalesque and We’re All In This Together dazzles with truth beneath the greasepaint.

Kirsty Logan
UK release date: 02/11/09; www.myspace.com/gabbyyoung

‘We’re All In This Together’


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