2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
With his band the Glory Fires, Lee Bains III has spent the better part of the past decade confronting Southern stereotypes. In their familiar-to-some blend of classic rock, hardcore, melodic punk, and rootsy country-grunge, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires insists on a version of Southern rock that interrogates its region’s history while explicitly fighting for Southern progress.
With its sprawling 17-song tracklist, Youth Detention (Nail My Feet to the Southside of Town) finds Bains zeroing in his focus as a songwriter. The album is primarily an expansive, multi-angled exploration of the way in which Bains’s hometown of Birmingham socializes its children along racial and class lines.
Songs like “Black & White Boys” and “Good Old Boy” are fierce polemics that jolt the band’s message into sharp clarity, while the album centerpiece triplet of “I Heard God!,” “Crooked Letters,” and “I Can Change!,” complete with a sample of children chanting and audio snippets of protester rallying calls, show off the band’s London Calling-level ambition.
Bains is a bookish songwriter whose intersectional Southern-punk has always been interested in the colliding worlds of religion, history, gender, and identity. With Youth Detention, he’s made his most thoroughly urgent album, one that concerns itself with the problems of the here and now more thoroughly, and convincingly, than any of his previous work, which tended to be more historically-minded.
But for all his scholarly leanings, Bains is an unpretentious, pop-loving, rock ‘n’ roller keen on physical detail as a songwriter and sympathetic to the occasional anthemic chorus (“Whitewash,” “Nail My Feet Down To the Southside of Town”). On Youth Detention, which blends the band’s heady conceptualizing with a sturdy batch of solemn sing-alongs, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires have finally made an album worthy of the group’s outsized ambition.