Since 2012’s Growing Seeds, Lust for Youth has been steadily creating dark but melodic tracks that exude depth and emotion. Their music has evolved from scratchy 8-bits to finely produced ballads. Their style and panache for sappy lyrics have also reached a natural conclusion. But what is that conclusion?

On Compassion the Copenhagen natives reach new heights of reduction. They have synthesized (pun intended) their “dark ambient” sound into something more approachable and, more accurately, uninspired. You could always hear the faint influences of bands like New Order and Pet Shop Boys in their early work, but on Compassion, they have abandoned all nuance and fully embraced their influences; churning out an album that feels like it should have come out 30 years ago.

This may sound like a good thing. It may sound like they’ve found a way to take the new wave sound and package it for today’s music listeners and lovers. Or maybe they’ve pivoted from their earlier work and decided to take their sound to a new, more upbeat direction. But, no. They haven’t. Compassion feels more like a cover album of some lost early Depeche Mode EP than anything original. It is surprising to see the praise this album has received. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather go back and listen to Substance or Speak & Spell than listen to a band that wants to emulate those bands so badly they’ve gone off the deep end of unoriginality.

It’s not even productive to talk about songs individually because they all sound the same. The only exception is the last track, “In Return,” which is certainly more experimental in the sense that it breaks the formulaic mold by featuring presented so far in the short eight-track album. Whether it’s the Smiths or New Order or Depeche Mode, each track feels so reductive that one might wonder if this is a cover album. Overall, each track balances a darkness found in the lyrics with the joyous melancholy found in the music nicely.

This is not to say that the album isn’t entertaining, because it certainly is. The songs are written well and they are perfectly produced. The sound is sharper here than in previous endeavors and the lyrics have the bitter-sweet quality that defines the sound they are going for. But again, when you listen to the album, you have to ask yourself what you’re hearing. Lust for Youth has enjoyed just praise and their live shows are definitely not to be missed. However, all that work has been squandered on this lazy, derivative release. If you find yourself still tempted to listen to Compassion, do yourself a favor and go back and listen to any of the other bands mentioned in this review.

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