Young Galaxy's eponymous debut album is a tantalising affair that sees the cosmic rock duo both lifted and restricted by their influences. For every moment these tyros appear poised to strafe the stratosphere, there is another one of join-the-dots copycat predictability.
The band is, to all intents and purposes, former Stars touring guitarist Stephen Ramsay and his long-time girlfriend Catherine McCandless, and their epic yet fractured indie-rock unfolds within the thrall of UK minimal-is-maximal goliaths Spiritualized and psychedelic voyagers such as Flaming Lips. Opener "Swing The Heartache" is typical, Ramsay offering an erudite stoner critique of modern living through a morphine guitar haze.
Like many bands in the burgeoning Montreal scene, Young Galaxy sound like Britophiles, and the ardent "Outside the City" recalls long-lost early-'90s shoegazers like Ride or Lush. The spectral "Lost in the Cell" is similarly FX-heavy, McCandless sounding like a one-woman girl band marooned in a white-out blizzard. Ramsay is no musical slouch and the stardust guitar on the tremulous "No Matter How You Try" recalls both Echo & the Bunnymen and U2's the Edge at his most defiantly lovely.
Yet Young Galaxy's strongest influence by far is Spiritualized — which is where their problems begin. "Lazy Religion" and "Embers" both mimic Jason Pierce's opiated astral voyagers at their most sedated and do so with relative panache. "The Sun's Coming Up and My Plane's Going Down," though, is beyond the pale: its diligently observed tick-list of funereal drums, phantom organ and treated end-of-the-world vocals would rightfully belong to a top-of-the-range Spiritualized tribute band.
It would be churlish to be too harsh — this is a dextrous debut with many fine moments, but beneath all the learned mannerisms, Young Galaxy need to work out who really they are when they're at home.