My introduction to Yungblud came by way of “Tin Pan Boy,” an upbeat tune targeting developers and companies whose sole purpose is to make money, and I fell in love. There’s something about the song reminiscent of Buzzcocks or Subhumans that inspires revolt, and it’s this calling out, this traditionally punk in-your-face attitude that led me to listen to 21st Century Liability, Yungblud’s first full-length album.
Although the album as a whole isn’t on the same level as the single, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed; the songs on 21st Century Liability are memorable in their own way (and are more diverse than his older songs), but they don’t all necessarily carry the same type of weight as the politically-charged “Tin Pan Boy.” They’re not subdued, per say, but they don’t rouse the same fighting spirit. They’re less punk, more mainstream.
What I do like about 21st Century Liability is that it’s unapologetically different than most of what’s considered “top 40.” And each of the songs is distinct from one another; although they each carry subtle similarities (as is expected), they’re all different enough that it doesn’t feel that you’re listening to one very long song.
What’s interesting about Yungblud’s musical style is that it can’t be pigeonholed into one specific category; many of his songs are a combo of rap and rock with repetitive, pop-tinged choruses. “Medication,” although dark in tone, is strangely vivacious, as is “California,” an antagonistic middle finger of a track which is extraordinarily upbeat for a song about drugs and blowing one’s brains out.
Even if it does carry pop undertones, Yungblud shows substantial awareness of and a willingness to share insights into common but stigmatized subjects. “Psychotic Kids,” “Medication,” and “Anarchist” all cover the struggle of dealing with mental health problems and addiction, while “Polygraph Eyes” targets people in bars who go after others who have had too much to drink: “She can’t even run / She can’t even walk / She slurs when she speaks / But you hear what you want when she can’t even talk.” It’s this deep social and personal awareness that makes Yungblud’s music carry weight.
However, there is one song on 21st Century Liability that is undoubtedly punk. The title track, “21st Century Liability” is evocative of Rage Against the Machine in both musical style and lyrics, unapologetically belligerent and obnoxious, and balances out the heavier subjects on the album.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily compare the majority of 21st Century Liability to traditional punk a la Anthrax or Dead Kennedys, it does manage to show astounding awareness of important topics by delving deep into them in a way most mainstream artists don’t, while weaving several genres together and making it sound good. This, coupled with Yungblud’s evident talent and distinctive style is what makes 21st Century Liability exceptional.