So here’s my concept of Wondrous Bughouse. The realm of Youth Lagoon’s fantastic debut Year of Hibernation has been left to rot/ferment. But instead of two years, it seems like a century. Everything is (more) out of tune; the tight single-worthy songs of the debut have been neglected and melted into colourful sonic puddles. Indeed the remnants of ‘Cannons’ from Hibernation can be heard as a stuck loop on Bughouse’s ‘The Bath’. It would not be far off to say the album sounds like an abandoned carousel, or the canal trip in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Except the real inspiration seems more psychological than visual. As the album cover of Hibernation seems like the outside of a cave, the cover of Bughouse looks like some fantastic troglodyte world that is eons away from the surface. Trevor Powers’ motto seems to have been ‘go deeper’.
This tactic may seem risky. For it becomes simultaneously more personal and more unrelatable. We no longer have the universal themes to grasp onto, like ‘Posters’ or ‘Afternonn’. Instead we have nightmarish apparitions, a ‘Pelican man’ and ‘Attic Doctor’. This is perhaps why a few, including originally myself, were disappointed with Wondrous Bughouse. It did not have the simple riffs, the heartstring pullers, that cosily distant voice that we had eagerly anticipated. Now Youth Lagoon sounded like it had been left out in the sun for too long- or not been out at all. But I supposemusical maturing is neither easy nor graceful. And perhaps it was this in mind that I’ve eventually come to appreciate this unique album. Its molassal thickness can be intimidating, but if you wade through it enough it can be very rewarding. Perhaps the greatest challenge is getting through the first song, which is random spurts of keyboard, almost a rite of passage for listeners into the ‘bughouse’. But once through, there are some standout songs like ‘Mute’, ‘Dropla’ and ‘Third Dystopia’. There are also some playfully irritating songs like ‘Attic Doctor’ and ‘The Bath,’ to remind you that the ride will not necessarily be comfortable.
Thus Wondrous Bughouse feels like a transitional album. It is of Youth Lagoon searching still deeper into his musical psyche and describing the things he has seen on the way. Much will decide its worth with his following album, which will hopefully elucidate whether it was part of a great trilogy, or in fact a standalone classic. For now it is a challenge, and that is perhaps one of the greatest gifts real music can offer.