Gang of Youths: angel in realtime (Warner) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, February 6th, 2023  

Gang of Youths

angel in realtime


Feb 25, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

David Le’aupepe, frontman of Australian five-piece Gang of Youths, held his father in such high esteem that throughout his band’s ascent at home, and later across stages all over the globe, he would sing his father’s praises. One of their best-loved songs, “Magnolia,” from their debut album, 2015’s The Positions, is as much a dedication to his dad—an avid gardener—as it was about Le’aupepe’s 2014 suicide attempt. Their whole second album, 2017’s Go Farther In Lightness, is fused with his father’s presence in a myriad of ways. The heartbreak he then felt, when his father passed away in 2018, was colossal. But angel in realtime is not only about coming to terms with the magnitude of that loss but also how to contend with his father’s memory and legacy. His father, his best mate, was not entirely what he seemed: He had committed the most egregious sin and abandoned two young sons, earlier in his life. And left no trace of this, until his death.

Angel in realtime is an attempt for Le’aupepe to understand and forgive his father, while embracing his Samoan heritage and this newfound family in a way that his father never could. The uplifting orchestral arrangements of “you in everything” raises the curtain on this extraordinary story as Le’aupepe describes cradling his father as he laid dying and ruminates on how he will now raise his future children without him. The music is ever bright and propulsive against the pathos of the lyrics—a constant throughout the album.

While there are songs dedicated to his wife (“unison”) and the band’s adopted city of London (“the angel of 8th ave.”)—it’s the songs that guide us through the landscape of his father’s heart that are the most affecting (“the kingdom is within you”).

“Returner” captures the tension of being in a cog in his capitalist machine of choice—the music industry—“I’m only in it for the money,” he snarks repeatedly in the chorus as the band joins in, like a football song sung at the pub. “Brothers” is a bare bones piano ballad that paints a tender portrait of each sibling and culminates with the revelation from the firstborn that “our father left him at the hospital but if he forgives him” then Le’aupepe should too.

While loss is the beating heart that powers the songwriting, in its form it pulls from hymnals (“hand of god”), the structure of ’90s and early ’00s hits from Elbow and The Verve (“the man himself”), the synth and bass combo of ’80s pop (“tend the garden”), and the unlikely bombast of early ’70s Elvis, (“spirit boy”).

Thematically, the current zeitgeist of leaning into questions of identity and race underpins the album and allows for the use of sound archivist David Fanshawe’s recordings of indigenous music from Polynesia and the wider South Pacific, in poetic and profound ways. A particular standout is “the man himself,” which fuses the band’s knack for anthemic peaks with the glorious a cappella of a traditional immenetuki—a hymn from the Cook Islands known for its stirring choral singing—Le’aupepe finally surmounting his grief to find peace.

Unfolding like a rock opera as it traverses the length and breadth of one man’s entire life from the Polynesian Isles to the Tasman Sea and back, angel in realtime is a bold and epic expression of identity, loss, and our need to believe in something greater than ourselves—in the divine—that angels do walk among us, albeit flawed but worthy of second chances. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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