‘Who’s Feeling Young Now?’
On the title track to Punch Brothers third album, mandolinist Chris Thile sings, “Youth will not be wasted on this one.”
Even as its members enter into their 30s, Punch Brothers exhibits an ageless exuberance on its third album. “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” was released on Nonesuch Records Feb. 14.
Upon the dissolution of the acoustic trio, Nickel Creek, in 2006, Thile founded Punch Brothers. The quintet, its current lineup rounded out by guitarist Chris Eldridge, banjoist Noam Pikelny, violinist Gabe Witcher and bassist Paul Kowert, united a group of young men with shared musical and life experiences.
In the beginning, the band was a vehicle to express Thile’s work. “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” exhibits a democracy that’s been sorted out amongst the group. This album sees each member making significant contributions, particularly Pikelny and Witcher.
Spending a few years together on tour and in studios, Punch Brothers has become more comfortable with one another; in doing so, its members have reached a stride that puts them at what is, so far, the sonic prime of their careers.
Punch Brothers’ distinguishable songsmithing links the best of what the group is familiar with to that which it is just discovering. With an open-mindedness unlike any other, they utilize their backgrounds in bluegrass and classical music, while also exploring pop, rock and other fields.
The resulting product, an amalgamation of all avenues traveled, brings new life to contemporary music that has been in need for far too long. Punch Brothers doesn’t recycle what’s been overplayed and worn out, but instead opts for a more organic process of building songs from the ground up. In the end, they incorporate their influences of the past, but largely at play are their present originality and future aspirations of sound.
The title track, “Who’s Feeling Young Now,” demonstrates the progressive attitude of Punch Brothers’ best. The utterly perplexing song arranges their instruments in a way never conceived, the end result being rock ’n’ roll, folk, bluegrass, punk and pop at the same time. Their music is an absolutely indefinable combination.
Rarely are the songs easy to pin to a particular style or origin. “Flippen,” an instrumental cover of a song by the Swedish band, Väsen, is the easiest song on the album to classify, identifying the most closely with bluegrass folk. The other cover of the album, “Kid A,” is a fascinating take on a Radiohead tune, which originally contained many electronic sounds. Punch Brothers recreates it using solely the instruments at hand, no doubt requiring a great deal of skill and forethought.
Much of the fun of “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” is not knowing what to expect from song to song, or even one minute to the next. With unexpected rhythms and chord progressions present throughout, Punch Brothers are largely unpredictable. The album excellently captures the spontaneity of its naturally creative musical geniuses.
Prepared over the span of a few months in the same Manhattan apartment building where Punch Brothers worked on its first album, “Punch,” “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” realizes a band that has matured together greatly in the last six years, musically and otherwise. Surprisingly, with the passage of time, they’ve become more candid, while maintaining their eternally youthful spirit.
For more information, visit Punch Brothers online at http://www.punchbrothers.com.