“Still can’t believe you died.” This is how Gary McClure begins his latest record under the American Wrestlers moniker. Last year’s debut as American Wrestlers was a bold and big record hiding underneath the cover of lo-fi. Most of the songs hovered around five minutes as McClure examined a wealth of issues including the brutal death of a homeless man at the hands of the police. But unlike his debut self-titled effort, Goodbye Terrible Youth features McClure turning inward and making a critical reflection.

From the outset of the record, it is clear that the production values are worlds better here than they were a year ago. On album opener ‘Vote Thatcher’, shredding guitars clash and mesh with video gamey synths before McClure begins his examination of death and how to reconcile with those who have left us. This is hardly the album’s only reckoning with the great beyond, as ‘Terrible Youth’ features a dreary and bleak glimpse of what lays ahead of all us. “Metal moans will multiply,” McClure sings, “we’re death in motion.”

McClure does possess the enviable ability of coupling thoughtful, painful lyricism with some truly beautiful compositions. The additional use of synthesizers on Goodbye Terrible Youth goes a long way toward accomplishing this, such as on ‘So Long’. This is still an American Wrestlers record, so McClure makes ample use of thick fuzz in every track. But it is the myriad ways that he meshes that distortion with the beauty of the keys to create something rather lovely.

The album’s spot of sunshine peeking through the clouds comes on ‘Amazing Grace’, a relatively low-key little tune with delicate piano flourishes that push and pull with McClure’s harsh guitar tones. It is a moment of euphoria and promise on an album full of questions, dread and regret. Growing up can be quite ugly, but that little bit of hope for the future is what keeps many of us going.

At the end of the day, American Wrestlers is still a growing and evolving project. Goodbye Terrible Youth is not a perfect record by any means - but it is an emotional record, and an affecting one at that. To create such an album is no easy task, especially as McClure has had to alter his recording methods to make a smoother product at the same time. Goodbye Terrible Youth is a sure sign of great things to come from American Wrestlers. For now, we can enjoy the fruit of McClure’s labors and pains through this very, very good offering of thoughtful fuzz pop.