I Used To Be So Young
There seems to be a trend emerging with albums produced by Anti-Flag’s Chris#2. For a guy that built his reputation on rebellious punk rock, he sure loves wiry indie-tinted folk punk. First, Dandelion Snow, then White Wives, and now Pittsburgh, PA one man band The Homeless Gospel Choir. Born of the love and labour of sole member Derek Zanetti, the band’s prolific output in a short five years has yielded quite a discography.
Zanetti’s latest output, I Used To Be So Young, marks his most ambitious, full band backed album to date. While distinct in overall style, the album will inevitably garner Knife Man-era Andrew Jackson Jihad comparisons (particularly “Holiday Song”). By now Zanetti has likely exhausted most of his one-man-playing-his-acoustic-guitar-furiously-in-protest stage, and moved on to more creative fields. For newcomers that stumble upon The Homeless Gospel Choir because of the new A-F Records affiliation, this is good news. Prospective fans stand to discover the most confident and creative iteration of The Homeless Gospel Choir to date.
As Zanetti makes clear on his website, every song under The Homeless Gospel Choir banner is a protest song, even if it is just Zanetti protesting against himself. I Used To Be So Young continues this trend. “Jesus Christ didn’t die so that you could be an asshole” becomes a recurring theme and passage that emerges early in “Untitled” and arises in various wiry acoustic songs that explode into gang-backed choruses (“Don’t Give Up” and “Black Friday”). The general album message questions how society’s self-identified morally righteous simply pick and choose what suits them best, turning a blind eye to the cycles of hate and war (on “Holiday Song” Zanetti explicitly sings “please don’t think that Jesus wants you to kill other people because they’re Muslim”). As Zinetti makes clear, there are other ways to live outside of America’s mold, you just have to be strong enough to pursue them.
Instrumentally I Used To Be So Young gets busy and takes advantage to a host of styles and effects. Zanetti’s vocals move between strained and muffled (“Armagedon”) to a clean and burdened (“Slow Down The Time”). Tracks like “Some People” combine both styles, creating an incredibly personal fusion of full band, vocally backed choruses that thrive every bit as much in their peppy, undulating bass and sing-along melodies as they do in their stripped down acoustic, down-in-the-dumps moments. Zanetti really enjoys extending outros into a “song within a song” format. A track latter on “Slow Down The Time,” Zannetti follows up with more of the latter, slowing down to a vocally burdened, lighter-waving tempo much in the vein of indie troupe I Said Stop!. Based on the quality of tracks like “When The War Is Over,” The Homeless Gospel Choir deserves a shout out for their willingness to marry such a visible breadth of production and styles. Zanetti is more than just some resentful dude with a six string and a belly full of anger.
“Don’t Give up, don’t give up… you are loved” wails Zanetti in the aptly titled “Don’t Give Up” – the song’s mid-album placement serving as a metaphor for The Homeless Gospel Choir’s search for hope amidst societal and personal demons. With such a powerful resolve driving the album’s instrumental shifts, Zanetti makes each moment count. Even when the final notes cease, the album’s many themes will resonate with listeners. For all of the above reasons, I Used To Be So Young stands to mark The Homeless Gospel Choir as an underground staple from here on out.