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Cult of Youth - Love Will Prevail

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Artist: Cult of Youth

Album: Love Will Prevail

Label: Sacred Bones

Review date: Nov. 19, 2012

Sean Ragon has emerged from the icy fascist wasteland of New York City to craft a second LP of songs to hear while huddling around a barrel fire. Love Will Prevail doesnít depart much from Ragonís previous material, but that a record this utterly straight-faced came out of Brooklyn in 2012 is a feat unto itself. Ragon treats the theatricality of New Model Army, the folk-driven bleakness of Death In June, and stark, buttoned-down British post-punk as touchstones on Love Will Prevail, and in so doing he makes it clear heís operating in peace punk and neo-folkís tradition of martial seriousness.

Love Will Prevail performs its due diligence in flirting with fascist and occult imagery, giving Ragon plenty of room to sing wide-eyed about "new old ways" and "paths of total freedom," but the album is at its most successful when Ragon dials down the apocalyptic grandeur a bit, focusing on details like moonlit walks instead of the "nature of man." Applying sound-of-marching-feet empowerment to personal matters sounds like an awful idea in theory, but Ragonís approach is studied enough that it works, fitting in well with the similarly melodrama-oriented work coming out of the Zola Jesus and Cold Cave camps.

Anyone listening to Love Will Prevail has to be willing to meet Ragon halfway on this stuff ó this isnít music for cynics, or for those who might roll their eyes at a 70-second excursion into a borderline-sea shanty (the aforementioned "Path of Total Freedom"). Unlike the outsized, near-mythical personalities from which Ragon cribs a lot of his style, this sort of grandstanding has the potential to ring false when itís coming from a record store owner who used to be in Love As Laughter (Ragon played bass). I realize this is unfair; not everybody can be Nick Cave. Still, everything about Love Will Prevail begs to be analyzed and treated as a monolithic artistic document, and there are elements of it that fare strangely under scrutiny. I believe Sean Ragon means everything he says, but when youíre referencing bands who were militant about not being even the slightest bit full of shit, youíre entering risky territory.

Ultimately, Love Will Prevail probably isnít going to win over any newcomers, but itís a solid addition to Cult of Youthís catalog; itís pretty clear by now that nobody is doing this type of thing with the gusto and attention to detail that they are. Twenty-first century attempts at grand sincerity like Love Will Prevail are usually hobbled by history, but since Ragonís primary signpost is that grand sincerity, he ends up coming pretty close to the mark.

By Joe Bernardi

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