Album Review: Gang Of Youths - 'Angel In Realtime'

25 February 2022 | 4:11 pm | Jade Kennedy

A powerful tribute to family, love and loss.

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A lot has happened since Gang Of Youths released their platinum-selling, ARIA-winning Go Father In Lightness.

The band retreated to the relative anonymity of the UK, whilst playing stadiums in the US in support of bands like the Foo Fighters and selling out Australian headline shows.

Original guitarist Joji Malani left the UK and the band; Noah & The Whale’s former multi-instrumentalist Tom Hobden joined them. And - perhaps most significantly - Gang Of Youths’ frontman Dave Le'aupepe lost his father, Teleso “Tattersall” Le'aupepe, to cancer in 2018.

The band’s new album, angel in realtime, is a tribute to family, love and loss, as well as a celebration of life. It explores heartache, hope and history through Dave’s poetic lyricism, woven into a sonic tapestry of pounding drums and basslines, poppy synths, orchestral strings, beautifully simple piano and Pasifika voices.

The band has successfully broken the shackles of rock‘n’roll with this record, and somewhat akin to Silverchair’s Diorama in the early 2000s, listeners will either love or loathe it.

The album’s first single, the angel of 8th ave. is the track closest to the Gang Of Youths sound we’ve come to know. An ode to Dave’s current wife, it’s the first real ‘high’ point of the album, which begins with his father’s death in you in everything before exploring the continuance of ‘normal’ life under a heavy blanket of grief through in the wake of your leave.

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in the wake of your leave opens with a melody reminiscent of the Rugrats opening tune, but is a prime example of the band’s innate ability to explore dark themes with a wholly uplifting beat – think Magnolia and its discussion of suicidal ideation.

returner is a deep dive into Le’aupepe’s well-documented discontent with fame, and the music industry in general (and all that comes with it). “I’m only in it for the money / I’m only in it for the change / I’m not in it for the glory / I don’t do it for the parties, the awards or acclaim,” Le’aupepe sings, reiterating his claims that he resents “the “artifice” of fame and that success gives him anxiety.

With that off his chest, we’re taken to his father’s island home on unison. One of the tracks on last year’s surprise EP total serene (along with the angel of 8th ave. and asleep in the back), unison is one of several tracks on the album featuring the sounds of Pasifika peoples, some of which were recorded decades ago by composer David Fanshawe.

tend the garden and the kingdom is within you both look at things through the senior Le’aupepe’s eyes, exploring Teleso’s life, misgivings and possible regrets in a way only Gang Of Youths can.

White kids say they sympathise / But they’re afraid to look me in the eyes,” Le’aupepe croons over poppy synths and soaring strings. A heartbreaking truth of the 1960s and 1970s, when Pacific and Maori people endured harsh economic exploitation and racist policing in New Zealand, where Teleso moved from his native Samoa in his 20s.

It wasn’t until his father’s death that Le’aupepe discovered the man was a whole decade older than the family thought, and a full-blooded Samoan; not the son of a German Jew.

In fact, the remaining Le’aupepe family uncovered a life they had never known about – and the two sons Teleso had sired prior to his life in Australia, which is outlined to a powerfully simple piano arrangement in brothers.

Our father’s love was unmistakable / And he gave us everything he had / And I guess that meant pretending he was half white / To give his kids a better chance,” Le’aupepe sings. He begins the final verse with the poignant words: “I know our father had his reasons / But that can never make it right or fair / And I hate myself for stealing all his love / When my brothers thought that he was dead.”

the man himself sees the younger Le’aupepe musing over his past and potential fatherhood, but it’s the album’s two closers that steal the show. hand of god and goal of the century, with its grand orchestral opening into a choir chanting to a crescendo, are a fitting end to the journey – and one that may require tissues.

And it’s six in the morning / And England is storming / My wife is asleep and we’re thinking of children / I wish you could meet them / In a way it’ll feel like / You were an angel in realtime,” Le’aupepe offers in a final prayer to his father.