Beautiful and Damned is the latest EP by Manchester band The Underground Youth, which has been realizing its neo-psychedelic/post-punk music since 2008, after artist Craig Dyer decided (like a latter day Ian Curtis) to put his poetry to music. Upon recruiting his Siberian wife, Olya Dyer, to play The Jesus and Mary Chain–esque percussion, the duo was signed to alternative label Fuzz Club Records. Guitarist Thomas Joseph was added to the lineup in 2011 and a subtle shift in direction resulted.
Thus far the band has put out six self-produced albums and two EPs. Whereas earlier efforts such as 2010’s outstanding Mademoiselle had much more of a Spacemen 3/Velvet Underground/Anton Newcombe ambiance, Beautiful and Damned treads convincingly toward dark-wave territory. There are four songs on the EP: “Behind,” “Damned,” “Naked,” and “Shadow.” The atmospheric “Behind” is a lover’s entreaty. “Damned” seems descended from The Sisters of Mercy’s “Temple of Love” — albeit with a slowed-down tempo. And in place of Ofra Haza’s wailing, an atmospheric Muslimgauze-esque bridge and echoing sound bites of foreign chatter ensconce Dyer’s Andrew Eldritch–like monotone singing of “You may be beautiful / You may be pure / That’s what they’re preying on / That’s what they’re looking for.”
The opening riff on “Naked” recalls The Cure’s “Seventeen Seconds,” although Dyer’s lyrics are arguably stronger than Robert Smith’s. And at seven minutes, final track “Shadow” is a slow-burning horror show, with its chill factor that’s Edgar Allan Poe by way of Joy Division. Against a creeping guitar and bass-line- and synth-washed soundscape, an angst-laden Dyer moans: “The shadow of the Devil, he creeps up the wall / And in a split-second shudder, he climbs into me / Shows me visions of his heinous crimes — desecration / What am I to do? / He’s inside of me / He’s getting close to you / You know what to do.” With his sonic fleurs du mal, Dyer is nothing less than the reigning poète maudit of the current Manchester underground music scene.