When We Were Young is the fourth album from Brooklyn rock four piece The Energy. On it they deliver another helping of slick, poppy modern rock, while lyrically looking back on things they’ve lost-and gained- in their decade-long career. Opener “lose yourself” kicks down the door with a swaggering, no-nonsense three note riff and a chugging verse in the tried and tested style of T-Rex or AC/DC. The smooth vocal harmonies and uplifting melody of the chorus have a much stronger pop-rock vibe that fans of The Calling or 3 Doors Down will definitely get behind. The two halves of the song sound like they could’ve been written 30 years apart but the different rock styles are handled expertly and blended together to make a simple, winning slice of air-guitar ready rock. The guitar solo is an absolute scorcher too.
This mixing of modern and classic influences drives many of the best moments on When We Were Young. “You Can Follow” has a much more rhythmically complex riff that tumbles and twists like Toys In The Attic era Aerosmith, while the lyrics reveal The Energy to be a band fully comfortable in their shoes. “Take me now for what I am… Please don’t call me superman” sings vocalist Adam Wolfsdorf over thick stabs of guitar and drums. This is a band who don’t need to prove themselves to anybody, and they’re clearly having a great time doing what they do. The title track shows the flipside to this maturity as Wolfsdorf sings with powerful clarity of regrets and missed opportunities on the brooding, tense verse. But the message isn’t as simple as “getting old is bad”. Lines like “Oh, when we were young, we could not fight it” on the chorus show how growing older can mean trading youthful energy for experience and self-restraint. It’s a surprisingly insightful thought, and the blistering guitars and passionate vocal delivery make the song a definite standout.
Nods to the various gods of classic rock are found throughout the album: “Return to You” brings a Lynyrd Skynyrd twang and some brilliant slide guitar licks to its raunchy mid-tempo groove, and the wah-wah sounds on “Don’t Come Around” are pure Hendrix. When The Energy stray away from their classic rock roots into more pop-punk inspired territory the results are mixed. “American Disaster” drives along on bouncy riffs straight out of the 90’s, managing to be a decent song despite everything about it screaming “Greenday knock-off”. “The Constant” is not so lucky. The stop-start verse and super slick chorus are all well and good, channelling both Sum 41 and 30 Seconds To Mars, but the guest vocals from rapper G4shi are… and acquired taste to say the least. He’s a skilled enough rapper but his inclusion is very badly implemented- every time he cut in with an “Uh! Uh yeah!” I died a little bit inside. A couple of the other tracks don’t quite rise above being pleasant but generic mainstream rock, and while the musicianship is faultless I could’ve used a few more full-throttle rock outs and solos. And yet amongst all the raging riffs and banging drums the surprise highlight was the closer “Little Man (Dax’s Song)”, a Beatles-esque acoustic ballad with a sweet, gentle charm. Wolfsdorf sings this one with the vulnerability and hopefulness of a father singing to his infant son, and the lush acoustic finger-picking provides a perfect backing. Getting older is a fear all of us have to face up to, even rock bands. But if the result of growing up is the maturity to write songs as honest and pwerful as this then it’s a price worth paying.