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ALBUM REVIEW : Punchnello 'Demon Youth'


“Don’t listen to this album during the daytime.” These are Punchnello’s recommendations towards his latest techno rap album ‘Demon Youth’, which he released on July 12 along with three music videos for the songs “Back”, “Boy in the Mirror” and “Who Need”. The dark opus, produced from beginning to end by Konsole, is composed of 11 tracks that the rapper wrote in a drunken haze. “No song in this album was made without the help of alcohol […] alcohol brings the honest feeling out of you”. When explaining the tracklist, Punchnello describes the progression of songs as the sober stage, the drunk stage, and the final regret stage, “like when you get left alone after a fun party”.

When asked about the inspiration behind the title of his album on ‘A Sober Interview with Punchnello’, the rapper explains how on Juice WRLD’s song ‘Legends’, dedicated to XXXTENTACION and other of his friends’ passing, he uses the expression ‘demon youth’, which, according to Punchnello, “fits perfectly [his] current situation”.

‘Demon Youth’ starts off strong with the track “Yellow Tape”, which uses heavy synths and puts you directly in the dark and wild atmosphere of the album. The title of the track references the yellow tape used by the police on crime scenes, as Punchnello describes the drunken stage right before passing out, where people want to express themselves on being depressed. He goes on to say, “I felt like there was yellow tape around me because I was the victim of a crime”, a feeling that can be felt when listening to the song’s lyrics that describe the confusion, fear, and craziness of a wild drinking night, as well as the beat which reminds you of a room spinning out of control.

9 to 5 references the commonly used expression to describe conventional work schedules of 9am to 5pm, but Punchnello cleverly switches it around to describe how he drinks from 9pm to 5am, explaining that “I drink like it’s my job”. The short 1:35 minute track amps up the intensity with an energetic and distinctive flow that illustrates the repetitive aspect of each day, drinking to oblivion, always faster. This second song entrances the listener in a hypnotizing zone with the mix of repetitions in the lyrics, the flow, and the overwhelming beat.

“Who need” featuring Coogie switches things up with the first featuring of the album. This track offers a fresh spin on the atmosphere instilled by the previous songs at the perfect time in the album. Coogie’s verse comes in crisp, and the new flow is a welcome addition to the album, filling every space on the beat. The energy of the track is condensed in the dynamic between the artists, which allows the beat to take a step back and support the verses in a more sober manner. Punchnello chose Coogie on this song for him to run freely since he masters this style like few people. Punchnello goes on explaining that “he filled all the blank spaces, even the part where the hook was supposed to be on, I never intended this, so I deleted the hook after his verse, because Coogie’s verse did it all”.

The next song “Boy In The Mirror” features Kidd King, a longtime friend of Punchnello, who he directly thought of upon hearing the beat for the track. “He performed the style that I really wanted to do; he understands that style so well. His voice is a perfect match for this track.” Kidd King gives himself completely and is not afraid to bring the energy even higher with an aggressive and sharp delivery. The two artists work in harmony on this track and their complicity can be felt through the track as well as in the music video, with the two artists clearly enjoying themselves in an atmosphere reminiscent of “Fight Club”. “Boy In The Mirror” carries the theme of duality between the person in front of the mirror and the person in the mirror, as well as the two sides of the medal, like in the lyrics “Boy in the mirror, I'm stupid, boy in the mirror but rich rich!” The “Fight Club” theme of the music video may be a wink to that concept of duality too.

The songs “Faded” and “Chopsticks” continue on the same theme of being drunk, but with a more sober delivery (pun unintended). The album continues with the track “BACK”, which illustrates the stage of drunkenness where you feel invincible, right before transitioning to “Run it!”, featuring Konsole, where the disillusion translated in the lyrics announce the final stage of regret in the album. From that point on, the beats soften, and the mood leads you to the end of the night, when things finally slow down, and the hectic feeling dies down. “Lost in Hell” describes the feeling of sinking deeper and deeper in regret, with all thrill being gone, only being left with the consequences of a reckless behaviour. The fall into helplessness continues with “Mayday” where Punchnello expresses all the hardships that come with his excesses and asks for help.

The last song “Don’t Love Me” contrasts with the rest of the album. It is a melodic and nostalgic track. For the first time, Punchnello can be heard singing on a guitar melody, which brings vulnerability to the project. It is a nice way to wrap up the listening. His voice seems distant, as if lost in the brain fog of a hangover. On that topic, he mentions that this song expresses the day full of regret after drinking. “The day after drinking and the day after that are the hardest. I get worried about the mistakes I might have made while drinking […] trying to dodge everything.

Punchnello’s strong lyricism and imagery shine through the dark project. There is, at times, a feeling that the lyrics were written quickly, like a visceral need to express ideas without compromise. The aspect of repetition in his lyrics emphasize the feeling of intrusive, obsessive thoughts, building up the angst. Punchnello has stated in his interview with AOMG that this is the first album where he didn’t compromise to give his fanbase songs that would meet their wants. This raw authenticity and uncompromising attitude are reflected in the whole opus, and it is quite refreshing to see an artist radically sticking to his creative vision. The themes may be relatively homogeneous all throughout the album but offer some variations as the songs progress. ‘Demon Youth’ is an album where the focus shouldn’t be on the complexity of the themes, but mostly on the feelings that the songs provoke. It is more of a sensorial experience, going through a crazy trip with the rapper, like a Dante’s Inferno of drunken nights. Punchnello seems to be conscious of this, as he says “I made this album without any burden; I hope you listen to it without giving it too much thought about it. Don’t try to find meanings that will make you study tracks. It’ll be exhausting. Just listen and feel.” And that’s just what we’ll do, listen, and feel.

RATING: 8/10

Juliette Garcia

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