Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Young Jesus continues a reflective journey on The Fool

"The Fool"

Release date: 24 May 2024
Young Jesus The Fool cover
31 May 2024, 09:00 Written by Kyle Kohner

"The man of the year is here" – or at least, John Rossiter, the enduring core of the ever-evolving Young Jesus music project, is. However, he would readily admit he’s quite the opposite.

Over the spirited and bright soft rock of “MOTY” off The Fool, Rossiter’s seventh record under the Young Jesus name, he lays it all out. He's not too dissimilar from a broken politician or heartless innovator, nor unlike the deeply damaged men from whom he descends. But held within, there's also a dancer and a child who used to have hopes and dreams, whom Rossiter recognizes and affirms over the lamenting piano sway of “Dancer”.

To remember the bright-eyed kid, however, there needs to be some excavation and space to look within the heart and "grieve the things that I have done / to find forgiveness and some love," he admits in “Am I the Only One.” Rossiter bares it all for us to see through the shrubbery of obscure characters, strange encounters, and a bit of sardonic humour and self-deprecation. "Here I am before you," he declares on the same song, relinquishing himself to the discomfort of vulnerability.

After sitting down behind his computer and synthetic means to churn out one of the warmest and most underrated records of 2022 in Shepherd Head, Rossiter put the Young Jesus project on the back burner. He was drained and disconnected but found work in gardens to fill the void. Isolated, he dug deep to reconnect with himself, but healing by one's lonesome can only go so far. Though it’s a mirror pointed toward himself, The Fool is a record raised by a village: Alex Babbitt, Alex Lappin, Kern Haug, Shahzad Ismaily and many other friends, both new and old, emerged to reignite Rossiter’s creativity. A community, along with gnawing trauma ready to be untangled, saw music come back to Rossiter as much as he came back to it, during which he unearthed this collection of messy, heartbroken songs – a portrait fractured with honesty.

Straying from the unexpecting art pop of his last record and even further from the post-rock and colourful emo that defined Young Jesus’ initial output, The Fool offers something sparser. Minimal piano and guitar arrangements – some sounding impossibly alien and some intensely human – emphasize a voice so imperfect but sonorous and affecting that when he delivers these stories of profound heaviness and messiness, it often feels like he should have brought them to a therapist. His dreams end violently, and suicide and mental illness burden his bloodline; he confesses on the crushing “Rich,” all while carrying the guilt of inherited wealth and the privilege afforded to him for his mere existence.

Many of these anxieties and insecurities are confronted unflinchingly, uncomfortably so, but so much more seems to linger in the abstract and subconscious through recurring fictional characters and self-deprecation that may even mask more pain. Direct or not, Rossiter's words point to a haunted past, lyrical turns so potently wounded that he often sounds on the verge of tears or an angry outburst.

But it's not just his words that convey a bruised and battered heart; there's also an air about the record where its raw, barebones musicality appears to be caving in or ripping itself asunder to reveal something deeper. Glitches, static, and the sound of others, at one point a child's voice, can be heard chiming in, gently interrupting as if harkening to things that have been pushed down even further. But as quick and brief as these cracks appear, they're mended, and we're left present alongside Rossiter in this healing process.

This is a damn heavy record, but with it, there's faith and optimism of equal measure. There are quick cracks of humour and overt humility driven by the thought, "Your life is a gift," an honestly delivered piece of advice given to, presumably Rossiter, on the album opener, “Brenda & Diane.” The track glows with earnest positivity and signals a reinvigorated spirit; it's a musical and narrative ode to heartland rock that witnesses Rossiter break free from doubt, demons, and desolation while imploring us to do the same. When you "think every day's the same," it's not, he reminds us on "Rabbit". "It's new, and it's brief, and it takes your breath away."

Sometimes, one must dig deep through the impenetrable dry earth to remember this gift. For Rossiter, it took getting together with friends and crying with them at the kitchen table until they couldn't cry anymore, he recounts on “MOTY.” He had companionship, the time to think, and the time to grieve. Of course, this processing is never really over, but on The Fool, listeners are invited to bear witness and be a part of Rossiter's ongoing journey, one spurred on by chance, trust, and surprising vulnerability.

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