Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music Album Review: Sundara Karma – Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect

Album Review: Sundara Karma – Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect

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Sundara Karma – Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect

Four-piece alternative act Sundara Karma are the latest act to emerge from Reading’s budding music scene, a group whose Sanskrit name translates to ‘beautiful life’. A Coldplay-esque attitude with their name, their debut LP is the much more revealingly named Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect, a slightly cynically named piece from a group who are far from an age to see their youth long gone in hindsight. Exuberant frontman Oscar ‘Ozz’ Lulu may only be twenty-one years old, but leads a group whose music is mature in lyrics yet youthful in anthemic instrumentals.

Opener ‘A Young Understanding’ kicks off by shamelessly launching into a bold riff which catches attention from the go, with the first line perhaps setting a brief warning for the listener – “hold on tight, you’ve got a way to go” before heading to an upbeat chorus, a positive starter for the album. Others have noted similarities with Bruce Springsteen and U2, and it’s easy to spot these with Lulu’s bright and energetic vocals which could effortlessly rouse and connect with each member of an audience.

Pulsing drums open subsequent track ‘Loveblood’, of which Lulu has spoken of the influence of Romeo and Juliet upon the track’s creation, an anecdote which perhaps evokes more appreciation from fans, coupled with Lulu’s casual performance in the accompanying music video in which he sings to the camera with the mischievous charm of The 1975’s Matty Healy. One of the most exciting tracks of the album, the striking guitar notes and swift vocals prove Sundara Karma’s skills at easily dazzling their listeners with energy-fuelled hits.

complex lyrics struggle with a mysterious admission of love

‘Olympia’ is up next, and refuses to lose the rhythmic instrumental backdrop this group has skilfully created so soon in the album. As the complex lyrics struggle with a mysterious admission of love, peppered with references to mythology, and sung with the same energy and drive as that of Blossoms’ Tom Ogden on ‘Charlemagne’, it’s clear by now this indie group is breaking away from any stereotypes and creating its own path into indie rock territory.

The album slows down on track four, the emotive piece ‘Happy Family’ which has echoes of Fossil Collective and Fleet Foxes with its opening one-noted guitar picking and layered vocals. Reflecting on the impact a troubled home-life has on a “hollow shell from the grim 90s”, it’s thought-provoking for both listener and group.

‘Flame’ is quick to cover any signs of revealing personal history and once again uses strong imagery to ignite the feeling of being trapped. ‘Lose the Feeling’ comes next, marking the album’s halfway point, and continues the pattern of stirring vocals, passionate chords and drum beats to convey the group’s message. ‘She Said’, another bouncing hopeful indie anthem which tells a frustrated boy-wants-girl story, involves shiny musical notes and clever lyrics such as “going through the motions of/Strangeways Here We Come and teenage love”.

the complex lyrics struggle with a mysterious admission of love

One of the group’s earliest singles, ‘Vivienne’ comes in at number eight, a more direct, familiar indie ballad about love; the snappy electric guitar bridges and short lines refuse to show any sign of this album slowing down. The listener knows the score by now, and tracks nine and ten don’t disappoint. ‘Be Nobody’ and ‘Deep Relief’ follow the Sundara Karma recipe, with the latter including the album’s sceptical title in its lyrics.

Penultimate and closing tracks ‘Watching from Great Heights’ and ‘The Night’ could be seen to end the LP on an appropriately nostalgic note. Is ‘Watching from Great Height’ a nod to looking back at youthful years from an older age to ‘observe the things they hide’? Track twelve and final number ‘The Night’ with its catchy, simple notes sees Ozz Lulu resolving to stay in the night as he sees ‘promises always leaking through the day’, an ambiguous note to end on. One thing is for certain though, Sundara Karma defy any expectations in their debut record, and are an uplifting and reflective, refreshing breeze in youthful indie rock.

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