Today’s youth can attest to the pressured way of living of our current society. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and as soon as you step into it, you come to learn that navigating it can be insurmountable. In the case of 23, HYUKOH speaks directly to the struggling young adults of South Korea who have lost themselves in the pursuit of a secure future.
Statistically, South Korea’s unemployed youth is alarmingly high, with most jobseekers busting their ass to land a position in one of the nations chaebols (conglomerates that dominate the job market, i.e., Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc). They spend their lives cramming in academies dedicated to entrance exams, paying little concern to their majors and social lives, so long as they graduate from a prestigious university and, by the graces of god, beat out the hundreds of thousands of other people sinking in the same boat. In other words, life fucking sucks for the youth in South Korea right now. And with those big companies cutting back on jobs, things aren’t getting any easier.
You can only imagine how soul-sucking life can be when societal pressures begin to weigh on the people fighting for their livelihood. In 23, HYUKOH dedicates themselves to exploring this through deep and often ferocious soundscapes. The album is largely anchored in garage rock with heavy influences from the 1960s and 1970s–a genre and an era of rock that are befitting of the thematic arcs HYUKOH have melded together.
But HYUKOH doesn’t just resign themselves to one specialized style nor do they focus their energy squarely on one side of this narrative, but instead approach their music in a way that celebrates the riotous spirit of their youth as something to be cherished.
As a mid-twentysomething, I understand where HYUKOH is coming from in their first full-length album. 23 pays large homage to the dichotomy of youth–that is, the attempt to get your shit together while at the same time not knowing what the fuck you’re doing. It’s a coming-of-age narrative from the point of view of a band that skyrocketed to fame in record time, but in the midst of that fame realized that they hadn’t quite figured out who the hell they were. Frontman Oh Hyuk pours himself into this record in a way that he hadn’t previously, and you hear it in the way he growls through topics of misery, depression, solitude, and hope.
23 is vivid in its portrayal of what the youth of South Korea is going through today on a darkly internal level, kicking away at a mixed bag of emotions that can only be placated with time.
Genre: Rock | Release Date: 4/24/17