Yotam – California Sounds

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Yotam

California Sounds - Hardline Entertainment

Useless ID frontman Yotam Ben Horin probably wishes he was born five years earlier.  Heavily inspired by the EpiFat era, his band came into being at the tail end of the 90’s and didn’t find its way to Fat Wreck Chords for another decade.  His career has always been one step behind his obvious idols No Use For A Name and Lagwagon, and the same can be said of his solo career.  Following in the footsteps of the late Tony Sly and Joey Cape, Yotam has recently begun exploring the potential of a parallel acoustic solo path.  His soft spoken nature makes for a natural jump to the stripped down arena.

Yotam’s sophomore full length California Sounds plays out with the relaxed vibe of a punk rocker willing to let down his guard.  Songs like “Heaven Sent” and “Silver and Gold” rely mostly on the pure melody of a frontman typically used to weaving complex stories in a much rougher rhythm.  Yotam finds his footing with little effort, singing lightly of issues typically more delicate than might be explored in Useless ID.  Occasional piano notes and violin strings work to further Yotam’s alter ego much like that found in Joey Cape’s solo offerings.  

A few more upbeat songs though tend to really lead the charge.  Yotam first really picks up the pace with “Catastophe” in the song about personal walls closing in in a world where control seems to continually slip from our grasp.  The song actually segways nicely into album centrepiece, “Tony Sly.”  Named after the influential songwriter of the same name, the track flows with the stripped down pacing of a Leche Con Carne-era No Use For A Name tune minus all of the full band accompaniment.  “If life was like a tape I’d stop and hit rewind… when I try to erase the feeling I realize I can’t let go, wish I could have one second in July, with my friend Tony Sly,” sings Yotam of the sudden and tragic loss of one of skate-punk’s most revered icons.  Intertwining heartfelt lyrics with odes to album titles, the song feels as if it should have ended up on the official Tony Sly tribute album, and loosely follows a song structure that could pass as Sly’s own.

The only downside to California Sounds is the somewhat homogenous sonic pallet.  While there’s something to be said about a consistent approach, Yotam tends to uphold the same soft strumming tempo for the album’s first half.  The result makes for certain passages that blend together rather than pop out amongst one another.  The trio of intro tracks suffer the most from this struggle to differentiate.  “Days Of Leaving,” “Where Is The Time” and “California Sounds” are all very touching individually, but sort of get lost and tangled together.  While not too detrimental, a little more track by track personality would have spruced the disc up.

Yotam’s sophomore solo effort makes a solid case for taking a break from Useless ID between albums to explore alternative acoustic pursuits.  California Sounds should feel familiar for those who have seen punk frontmen walking a different path.  While there’s a sense of likeness coating the bulk of the songs, there are enough standout tracks and sing along choruses to revive interest whenever the album takes a brief dip.  Yotam may have started late in the 90’s punk scene, but his drive and sincerity is every bit as genuine as the footprints of the legacies he has followed in.