Perhaps to counter suggestions that he’s a fake; a caricature; an industry plant, Dominic “Yungblud” Harrison announced this third album by getting a tattoo live on the internet. He had his personal “manifesto” etched onto the skin over his ribcage: “Never compromise. Imperfection is perfection. Embrace the strange. Never judge. Tell the truth. Pink socks. Beer. Move.” It was on that part of his body because he’d heard that’s the place where tattooing hurts the most, “and it pains me the most when people misunderstand me and people misunderstand us”.
“Us” being the fervent fanbase known as the Black Hearts Club. To them he’s a lifesaver, the one who shares and articulates their worries about shaky mental health and oscillating sexuality that the older generations largely fail to grasp. To those older generations, if they’re aware of him at all, he’s a lipsticked pain in the neck, especially irritating on his hyperactive genre-jumping second album, Weird!, cynically repackaging musical shocks of the past for an audience too young to remember them. It was unsurprising to hear that this former Disney Channel actor recently had auditions to appear in biopics of both Boy George and the Sex Pistols.
Making an album self-titled is usually a sign of a reset, a reintroduction. Here, while he’s still a magpie for the old stuff, his delivery has thankfully turned the volume down a bit and the musical quality of the songs has been given far more attention. There’s no room for last year’s way too obvious Nirvana ripoff, Fleabag, on this album. Instead he’s chugging along like Billy Idol on The Funeral (the video for which also features Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne) and sampling the drumbeat from The Cure’s Close to Me on Tissues.
The chiming keys of Sex Not Violence and wiry guitar on Cruel Kids continue the Eighties indie theme. Where he sounds more modern, he’s aping the floaty electronic indie of The 1975 on I Cry 2, and teaming up with fellow Gen Z favourite Willow on the emotional pop punk of Memories. The album overall is far more coherent than past work, melodies strong enough for songs to stick in your head in a not unwelcome way.
Lyrically, he’s still crashingly unsubtle, always taking the most direct route to express feelings of self-loathing and insecurity. The Boy in the Black Dress has a punchline that’s visible from miles away. But he’s calmed down a little, and that makes this his most appealing work so far.