Sundara Karma crossed my path not even 12 months ago, when they were on stage at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, opening for Nothing But Thieves. Long hair and look typical of some consumed indie rockers, a sound incredibly fresh yet clearly inspired by some catchy fm rock. Oscar Pollock, finally, embraces all you would like to see in a frontman. ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun When In Retrospect’ is Sundara’s official debut. And I’m willing to bet it will be one of the most notable records this year.
Sundara Karma brought to our hearts a loud ode to youth. Oscar and friends encompassed all the necessary elements of a journey through the human nature, complicated and sometimes tough especially at a young age. This Reading-based quartet jumped to the UK headlines quite slowly. They nailed their own persona and growd a fan-base described as “wild” by the frontman himself. Who has, often, also stressed that the band “didn’t really fancy to be hype, at the very beginning. To be honest, I wasn’t that happy to be labeled in that way. We understood it all came from our fans, though, and it’s ok as it is”. Let’s put it this way: these guys are one of those bands who grew something more than a brand.
Their debut LP brings on the scene some sparkly vibes. Its bomb explodes right after pressing start. ‘A Young Understanding’, powerful opening track, unveils Oscar’s impressive voice; ‘Loveblood’ sounds like a thunderstorm, closely followed by the more delicate ‘Olympia’.
There’s a lot of stuff already released as singles as well as songs picked from the two first EPs released between 2015 and 2016. Despite this, the new tracks ar rock solid. ‘Happy Family’, for instance, reminds me of an old Sundara’s promo photo, taken with the whole band dressed up like an average family from the 80s. C’mon, one of those tacky pictures where mom, dad, and the kids wear heavy and old fashioned jumpers, showing embarrassing hairstyles and unnatural smiles. The track seems to describe with accuracy every single detail of this iconography, involving dense lyrics and a sense of melancholy overall. “Maybe we were disavowed / Careful what you wish for now / Nothing lasts forever, time will always take its toll”, the frontman sings, while everything sounds almost like a warning. The guitar riff, also, is a vague reference to giants like Kings Of Leon and – why not – Mumford & Sons.
The seesaw of emotions keeps moving backward and forward, through gems like ‘Flame’, ‘She Said’, or ‘Vivienne’. Not to mention ‘Deep Relief’ – perhaps my favourite number in this album – right before the finale.
Sundara Karma are something peculiar. They might seem cocky when they actually are a breath of fresh air. ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun When In Retrospect’ is a great album, which sounds like a greatest hits, more than a debut long playing. It’s a number of hits flourished by four guys with patience and loads of love. And after all, what should we ask more?
RCA Records | 2017
Tracklist & Stream