How do you improve an already striking set of stripped-down, homemade pop? Gary McClure, the St. Louis-by-way-of Scotland songwriter behind American Wrestlers, a once anonymous project that became one of 2014's best new bands, believes it's about being true to the basics. "It's truly about becoming good enough to write the album you wanted to listen to when you were 15," he says. "Every time I make a new record, I feel like I'm getting closer."
Goodbye Terrible Youth shows McClure taking bedroom recordings onto a bigger stage without sacrificing the intimacy that makes them so attractive. If his self-titled album showed his knack for stringing together addictive guitar lines – the shimmer of shoegaze mixed with the emotional fist pump of power pop – Goodbye Terrible Youth amplifies that energy with a road-tested band. Literally breaking out of the home studio – the Tascam mixer McClure had been recording on has fallen apart from overuse – he's embraced a bigger sound and stage on Goodbye Terrible Youth, his rueful yet propulsive songwriting only becoming sharper.
Building on the dreamy haze of previous recordings, McClure's music on GTY often crackles with energy. Lead song "Vote Thatcher" flips a switch between propulsive, jangly guitar lines and bright, boisterous, choruses, a fitting backdrop for lyrics imploring listeners not to let their youth slip through their fingers. "Someone Far Away," propelled by a massive, fuzzy bassline, makes a perfect soundtrack for a long desert drive, while the angular and angsty, while "Terrible Youth" opens with a muscular take on the mid section riff of Marquee Moon, than fuzzes into grunge over a Stone Roses bass line along with a bit of Big Star swagger.
"I'm always surprised by how each record brings me closer to writing simpler, heavier, catchier songs like those bands who gave me my musical epiphany: Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Hole and that first Foo Fighters record," he says. "I first learned how to write by copying them and got lost for a decade in intricacy and experimentation. Now, it feels like I'm heading back."