Sundara Karma undoubtedly wrote this album to be performed in stadiums and arenas worldwide, and I imagine their live shows to be equally as grand. Writing anthemic indie rock isn’t easy and this particular Berkshire quartet are far from being awful at it. In fact, they’re pretty good at it. Oscar Lulu’s vocals sound huge throughout – soaring above flowery guitar runs, sweeping synth chords and crisp, spacious percussion. However, for this band to make any sort of lasting impression, there needs to be at least a little more semblance of who they are as a group and what they’re about. As of right now, they do run the risk of being the next generic indie rock act to grace the cover of NME only to fade into irrelevance shortly after.
I don’t want to assume Sundara Karma are the latest flaccid product fed to us by the music business hype machine, but whatever it is that makes them unique or stand out from the crowd isn’t readily apparent on this record. In fact, a lot of their tracks sound like they were written by the all star trio of Brandon Flowers (i.e. “She Said”, “Watching From Great Heights”), Marcus Mumford (i.e. “Happy Family”, “Be Nobody”) and Caleb Followill (i.e. “Love Blood”, “Flame”, “The Night”). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but when you’re trying to gain any sort of footing in today’s indie rock landfill, it isn’t exactly helpful when there’s nothing particularly distinctive about your music.
All of that aside, I do believe Sundara Karma have succeeded in putting together a solid collection of pleasant, indie rock anthems – and I really do admire their commercial aspirations. There will be a huge audience for their music, and a lot of people will enjoy their efforts. I don’t think Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect is a bad record, and I did have fun listening to it – I just feel like there’s nothing interesting to say about it after that.