by Eryn Brothers
Ah, to be young. There’s brevity that comes with looking back, a kind of potency that only glancing over your shoulder can bring. Add a pandemic on top and it seems like we are all living Pillar of Salt City. Dylan Pacheco’s Youthful Exuberance is an apt soundtrack for that mood and these times, a musical collaboration between the gossamer of nostalgia, the grit of depression and all the creative manias in between.
Pacheco, formerly of Paperback, highlights his punk sensibilities in songwriting and chorus screams. But he also gives himself space ala Daniel Johnston to allow the synth infused EP to tell its existential humor, that to be alive is strangely hilarious.
One of the best examples of this is “Parvo,” launching with quintessentially sounding 90’s drums and guitar. While using the clipped language of dissociation, Pacheco wields the story of the death of his mother’s dog as a motif for not only the desire to be seen by the many faces of love, but the many faces of fate. “The dog got sick/It was something in the ground/Mom asked god/If he would cut it out,” works gently with the chorus (“I don’t think it likes me/I love what makes you happy”) to convey the joke of acceptance, particularly if it is from something we don’t particularly care for.
The sardonic observations of his own life make Pacheco a formidable songwriter. “Negative Space (Manic Panic)” opens the entire EP with its gut wrenchingly relatable opening line: ”Oh no, who’s that– it’s me/Coming up with another scheme/I’ve been laying pretty low these days/When you saw me at work/I had nothing to say.” An ode to questioning whether the trivialities of existence are confining you or if it’s yourself, “Negative Space (Manic Panic)” whirligigs into its own oblivion, all as Dylan playfully sings “I gotta get out from under it/And stay/Out of my own way.” As he whirls himself into a poppy tizzy, Pacheco nods to what all creative manics end up doing at some point of their lives– dip into a jar of Manic Panic, as if the change of color will fix the tumult underneath.
At heart, Youthful Exuberance is a wistful and candid collection of very modern experiences. “Weak Ankle,” bares all (“I can’t hide from you anymore” winces against itself in a delicious way) and “Boy Meets Void” churns, exploring the ideas of the past in the present while screaming against the void of reality and the voids of our own creation. This is the apex of this tender EP, these ideas of external versus internal, and how each of those manifest in a life.
From dizzy beats to painful realizations, Youthful Exuberance embraces itself while understanding– and to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen— the joke is always on yourself. “The passage of time/Is always unkind/Seven years in proportion to a dog’s life” hangs tenuously at the end of the album and the beginning of the last track, “Unkind,” and it sort of says it all. Dylan Pacheco has savvily given credence to his understanding of the world at large and the world within, making a gentle, whimsical, sarcastically nuanced solo debut.
Eryn Brothers is a poet, writer, musician, and all around jerk of all trades. A high school dropout who never graduated from Possum College, Eryn has published comics, essays, and poetry with Venison Mag, LIFE RAFT ZINE, RAWPAW, and the up and coming BIBLE BELT QUEERS. She also is currently working on her own sad bastard indie country that eventually will be public. Eryn can be found idolizing Nick Cave at your local bar and singing Robyn loudly from her bike. Follow her on Spotify for a dose of weird on her friday playlists. They’re a hoot and half a holler. (Which is, surprisingly, how tall she is.) Follow her at @regaldebbie on IG for righteous memes, musical opinions, and weak attempts at yodeling.