[POP PUNK 'N' ROLL] Until a few days ago, I'd felt a big brother's pity for Youthbitch: A shame, I thought, that a band with so much potential would saddle itself with such an awful name. Don't Fuck This Up!, the young Portland quartet's new LP, changed my mind. Turns out Youthbitch has hit a stride so sure and beautiful that strategic branding just doesn't matter anymore, and the 11 blasts of bracing pop punk on Don't Fuck This Up! should transform the band's terrible name into a household one, at least in circles wont to worship noisy joy.
Chief songwriters Nico Esparrago and Stevie Sensitive make like Lennon and McCartney, trading lead vocals and lifting each other to great pop peaks merely hinted at by last year's Youthbitch Youthbitch Youthbitch Youthbitch Youthbitch. Where that album got by on snotty charm and fuck-it-all glee, Don't Fuck This Up! finds Esparrago and Sensitive foregrounding their leap in songwriting prowess with crisp production that gives the garage-bound sound some room to breathe.
There's not a wasted minute on the entire album, but Don't Fuck This Up!'s first side is the standout stretch, a six-song statement of purpose that meshes power-pop bliss and rock-'n'-roll swagger to irresistible effect. It might be the best local document of such a sound since the Exploding Hearts' Guitar Romantic, and it deserves a vaunted spot next to Gentleman Jesse's self-titled debut in taxonomies of contemporary classics.
The album's title suggests the members of Youthbitch knew they were on the verge of something great, and they were right. And they did not fuck it up, even a little bit.
SEE IT: Don't Fuck This Up! is out on vinyl now.