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Father of four Liam Gallagher doesn’t sound like he has much patience for the younger generation on his new album: “Whatever happened to the world we knew? Now it’s full of drips… Oh I need a break, where there’s no snowflakes,” he whines on World’s in Need. But if they’re supposed to be so easily upset by everything, how come the kids’ music is so happy? The debut album from Bedfordshire teenager Alfie Templeman may be overshadowed by the return of Harry Styles a week earlier, as well as Rex Orange County in March, but all three young men are making consistently upbeat pop music that makes a sunny day feel significantly sunnier.
Styles’s As It Was is now on its seventh week in the number one spot and a strong contender for pop song of the year. Rex Orange County’s logo is a cartoon thumbs-up with legs and a smiling face. Templeman just launched this album by putting on a festival inside the blocky computer world Minecraft, where you could watch his avatar play while riding on a moon buggy or a space rollercoaster.
He left school after his GCSEs to make music full time, mostly in his bedroom. One of his earlier singles was called Happiness in Liquid Form, which sounds about right. The Spotify playlists featuring his music have titles such as Hug Ur Friends, The Bright Side and Good Energy. The 14 tracks here aren’t exhaustingly upbeat but even the slower ones are perfectly danceable, including the head-nodding disco funk of You’re a Liar and the rubbery groove of Galaxy.
Collaborators include Justin Young of The Vaccines and Tom McFarland from Jungle, though his sound is much closer to the soulful dance music of the latter than the shouty indie rock of the former. It clearly has cross-generational appeal, with the twinkly guitars and whooshy chorus of the latest single, Colour Me Blue, currently on heavy rotation on both Radio 1 and Radio 2. The big bright synths on Candyfloss and the vibrant chorus of Broken, whose wibbly guitar line recalls Coldplay’s Adventure of a Lifetime, takes things even closer to the mainstream.
Broken is meant to be a darker moment. “Sometimes I think that I might be broken,” he sings. He has spoken of experiencing mental health issues during lockdown, some of which he spent shielding. But the lush instrumentation tells a different story. If youth is wasted on the young, it really does sound like they’re enjoying it.