As the seas rise, the forests burn and the temperature soars, denial still runs rampant among us. At the risk of being informed of unpleasant news, we choose to stick our heads in the sand. Self-preservation is meaningless if there’s nothing left to save. “Youth Vaping,” the latest single from Chicago-based folk rock band, The Empty Pockets, is a simple, homespun sound contrasted with a stark message about collective complacency.
Topping out at number one on the Billboard Blues charts, their new album, “Outside Spectrum,” has also hit the top five on the Americana/Folk (#3) and New Album (#5) charts as well. On “Youth Vaping,” the Empty Pockets have put forth a no-nonsense, bluesy style of folk rock. With how plain and simple it sounds, it is easily disarming and can be mistaken for a down home jam. However, it’s only a cover for wanting to shake up your sensibilities in the most sly way possible.
In contrast with all of the disaster tropes spun by singer Josh Solomon, there’s the subtext of how idyllic settings are for appearances only. Take, for example, somewhere in suburbia with “elaborate landscaping” that is besieged with the vaping epidemic. You can cloister yourself from the problems of the world at large. But, when they reach your front door, how will you answer?
In addition, post-apocalyptic “clans” have dual meaning in the present day as the division that exists among us. We are tribes of like minded individuals who listen to echo chambers designed to reinforce what we already believe. Before we tear the world apart over philosophy, humanity’s future rests with new generations that “can’t stop vaping.” An addiction is a fitting metaphor for how we cannot stop doing what is harming the planet and, by consequence, ourselves.
“Youth Vaping” isn’t preachy about reducing your carbon footprint. However, it paints a colorful picture of a world on the brink and the society who doesn’t heed the warning signs. The synergy of a blues-folk tune is what allows The Empty Pockets to subtly slide in such a dire subject.
Written by Travis Boyer
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