Orange County quintet Young the Giant is a modern-rock melting pot: Frontman Sameer Gadhia's parents are Indian immigrants, bassist Payam Doostzadeh is Persian-American and drummer Francois Comtois hails from Quebec. Though the group hasn't talked up their roots much before, nor gotten especially political, the band's third album comes at a time when hyphenated Americans are reminded daily of their status. The lyrics of Home of the Strange reflect that, taking a stance while yet referencing a complex, ongoing identity crisis.
"Amerika," named for the unfinished Kafka novel, is a drifting midtempo wash of electronics, a suitably chilly setting for Gadhia's skepticism about how a nation's outsized promises turn out to be a "rich kid game." A chant of "hoo" and "ha" introduces "Something to Believe In," an anthem that refuses to be uplifting, with a prickly riff emitting Eastern European undertones. And on the swinging synth-driven title track that closes the album Gadhia declaims, "For amber waves of fame I will not change."
The band seems to be learning to live with its longstanding musical identity crisis as well. In the past Young the Giant might have indulged in the wispy guitar swirls of early Coldplay, then bear down on a straight-up radio-rock crunch. Here they flaunt a new-wave sheen that flatters them, replete with nifty electronic sound effects. And though Gadhia hasn't shed all his Chris Martin influence, he's developed an edge of paranoid menace reminiscent of Muse's Matt Bellamy. It's a sound that comes from both everywhere and nowhere.