Posts Tagged ‘Aussie Indie’

Slush – “Middle Name”

Pretty much anything that comes out of Aussie enclave Hysterical Records is bound to be fun and the first single from new signees Slush is no slouch in that regard. The trio pelts out power pop that recalls ’90s soundtrack fodder from The Muffs and that dog., while dropping in alongside American counterparts Tacocat and Colleen Green in balancing the butterfly belly bliss of early relationships with candy coated hooks that lodge themselves in your brain like a lick-a-maid anchor. The track is a joyous somersault through carefree summertime swoons and its just begging for someone to set up a whirlwind montage of teen crush tension to its brilliant bounce.

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U-Bahn

The debut from U-Bahn arrives as a right proper wobbly chunk of New Wave weirdness out of Melbourne. The band, formed by synth savant Zoe Monk and guitarist/engineer Lachlan Kenny, holds nothing back in its dedication to the legacy of jerkin’ jitter-punk in its purest forms. The band’s eponymous LP is a frayed-nerve Booji Boy banquet of toasted-cone freak fritter – chomping down the detritus of DEVO, The Units, Starter, and Magazine then spitting them back as hot plastic pellets of song. There are quite a few that want to genuflect at the alter of Mothersbaugh’s heyday, but to truly don the Dome is to embrace the band’s boundless affection for subverting pop’s principles with a dose of torqued perspective.

U-Bahn aren’t just playing dress up in this regard, they’re swimming in the deep end of squirm rather than just soaking their sound in crushed angles of guitar and Stretch Armstrong bass wiggles. The record’s got an undercurrent of kink and cocked-eye towards technology – going so far as to construct a future funk interlude draped in samples from vintage erotica on “Damp Sheets” and waxing poetic about right swiping their way to ecstasy, placenta, the ruling class, and beta male blues over the rest of the slab.

The record’s both timeless and timely. The recent upswing of band’s embracing the plasticine snap of ‘80s miscreant pop is telling, and I say viva the bellyache bliss of Mind Spiders, Uranium Club, Andy Human & The Reptoids, Future Punx, Alien Nosejob, and Wireheads. Now add U-Bahn to the list. We’re back in an era of larger than life political pinatas, its time for some audible chaos to reign. If that starts with a dose of synth punk sizzle, that’s just fine with me.


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Traffik Island

On his solo debut, Zak Olsen (ORB, Hierophants, The Frowning Clouds) casts a subtler shadow than he does with ORB. The record strips away any semblance of the doom-shaking freak fuzz and Sabbath hangovers that have permeated the trio’s work. However, the shaky, whimsical footprint of Syd Barrett remains. In fact, the affectation not only remains, but becomes the guiding light for Nature Strip. The record reclines in pools of purple light, slips through the kaleidoscope’s eye and revels in an impish glee that’s only been hinted at in Olsen’s other projects. Its not just the Madcap magician that makes his stamp (though it is indeed the boldest imprint), this appears to be an album built from the bricks of fragile souls. Its pop as purveyed by Kevin Ayers, Skip Spence, Roky and Twink, and Olsen has lovingly recreated a lush world of bemused wonder that would befit any of them.

As the volume and fuzz have ducked out of view Olsen eagerly replaces them with a palette of mercurial keys and chiming guitars, not to mention a bevy of swooning strings and flutes. The record is pastoral and peaceful, but with a mischievous smile. Olsen feels like he’s having fun playing the part of the damaged artist – indulging every inch of the studio while creating beauty and weirdness in equal measures. This bubbles over a bit with the almost too spot-on Syd dribble “Lazy Cat,” but in most other cases he’s drawn the caricature lysergic psych-folk with a steady hand and pleasingly good-natured wit. There was often a lingering darkness that made the works of the ‘60 acid-damaged set as tragic as they were enjoyable, but Olsen finds a way to imbue the genre with a playfulness that doesn’t end in pain.



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Sleeper & Snake

While Sleeper & Snake pairs up the great Al Montfort and Amy Hill, who’ve both found themselves in league as band mates in Terry, the album isn’t quite the pop pairing that it seems on the surface. The hint lies in the name – Sleeper & Snake. Last year Montfort released a record titled Snake & Friends which shied away from his strums, jangles, and geniality for a record that was steeped in offbeat electronics and free jazz fizz. This is, by many measures, an offshoot of that record and not quite a brand new beginning. Though the two hint at a duo dynamic throughout, crafting some bittersweet janglers like the first single “Sugar and Gold,” which recounts the sordid backstory of Queensland with a breezy beat and the pair’s time-tested askew harmonies.

Montfort peppers the album with plenty of his Snake-style freeform dropout fare, buzzing against the cloudy charms of the opener and fellow janglers “Wisdom Vermin” and “The Lucknow Sound.” At times they threaten to overwhelm the album, but there’s more here than just sound collage sandwiched between a couple of singles. The pair push the pop envelope on the triptych on side one, “Junction and High” (pts 1, 2, & 3). They ease in strumming, but less palatable than they’d offered on the opener – a moth-eaten pop song that’s only letting the chaos consume it as it works its way through the second and third movements. In this portion of the album they show the heavy influence of Elephant Sixers like Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System – holding a similar glee in letting their gold peek through the din for those willing to walk the maze.

For a debut it holds a lot of promise, though I know that both artists have so much on their plate this may be a one off, which would be too bad. Its got a lot of promise as a premise, though I’d think they should embrace that E6 mafia mentality full bore. If you whittle down the noisemakers under the 1:30 mark and stretch it out with a few more high concept pop like “Jangle and High” this could work its way towards jangle-psych bliss. Still, its by no means a miss for two Aussie pop smiths at the top of their game. Though for many their hand will be seeking the skip button or nabbing the needle, this is an ambitious swing with a lot to love.



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Bench Press – “Respite”

Melbourne’s Bench Press release a blunt force blast of a single – the wiry, nervy post-punk nug “Respite” for Poison City and knock it up a notch with an excellently crisp infographic inferring video created by Defero Productions. The song is tough and sinewy, as their work has been in the past, but this time it’s got a breathless immediacy to it as well. The song huffs steam and belches bass, but it’s the solar-plexus-jolt of Jack Stavrakis’ vocals that draw the attention the most. His voice is an instrument of constrained chaos locked onto a song that singes like science – a perfect mesh of hi/low tensions that brings to mind a host of Dischord alumni and their own homeland’s heroes Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Check the design nerd eye candy above.

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Cyboogie”

The silence is broken and the lid is off. King Gizz is back with a new single and, as usual, as shift in sound. This time the band embraces the slick slide of glam and funk into the advent ’80s electronic, feeling every bit like Gary Numan trying on platform shoes with Slade, ELO, and Harald Grosskopf in the same shopping trip. They’re straying far from the face melting guitars, but the rest of the band’s schtick remains in tact – the dystopian vibes, psychedelic bent and penchant for voice overs remains. For the video they play up those vibes with touches of paranoid cinema, with the clip echoing the close-up discomfort of A Clockwork Orange and the shabby glitz of The Running Man. Whether this is a taste of what’s to come of a one-off diversion, only time will tell. The sound feels good on the band and ya gotta hand it to them, they don’t sit still and they don’t stagnate their sound. The single is out Feb 1st.

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The Stroppies – “Nothing At All”

Bummed that not enough people have been prattling on about The Stroppies, but that’ll catch up to them later. The band’s proper debut is out in March on Tough Love and the second single clinches the quality of this jangle-high strummer. “Nothing At All” sees co-vocalist Claudia Serfaty take over and the keys that permeated their previous single, “Cellophane Car,” take a backseat. There’s more than a little love for Flying Nun in the driving rhythms and a boundless energy that’s beggin’ to break free. Perfectly swung pop that prickles with life over a bittersweet core. If you’ve been sleeping on the short format releases the band has proffered up to this point, then its time to get familiar with Whoosh.

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The Snakes – “Snakes Bday”

Melbourne’s Snakes draw from the ripped and ragged soul of old New York, rather than snagging the punk vein of their own hometown heroes. With the knocked askew sensibilities of The Voidoids, Heartbreakers, Electric Eels and in a decidedly non-NY grab, The Pop Group – the band’s debut for Anti-Fade has a split-lip edge that feels familiar but still dangerous. The band’s hardly been humming for six months, but there’s an urgency in “Snakes Bday” that feels like waiting longer would waste momentum. Sawed and sewn back up, the track jerks like its got a methadone drone in its soul and a freak furnace pushing it past the point of good taste. Doesn’t hurt that the band’s also got just a touch of the ol’ Jonathan Richman sneer in its delivery. For a first taste, this one has me coming back for more right away.



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Sleeper and Snake – “Sugar and Gold”

The hits never stop from Al Montfort and Amy Hill. After a busy year for both with Terry, Primo, and Al’s low-key Snake & Friends release, the duo have a homespun record coming out together on Aarght. Guess that makes Amy the Sleeper in this case, but however you scratch it, the first track has a humble charm about it – sounding like stripped back Dick Diver with Terry’s sensibility for slightly off-kilter harmonies. The song tackles the sordid underbelly of Queensland, tackling its history of as the band notes “kidnapping, slave trade, colonial wealth and the illusion of a fair go,” proving that we Americans have no lock on the exploitation market. The accompanying video is full of helpful drawings to illustrate the points and the pair doing their deadpan best not to crack a smile. At this point I’m a sucker for anything either of these two have coming down the pike, but this is a humable hit nonetheless.

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Mope City

While its tempting to battle the deluge of current events with dips into sunny distraction and plastic pop, there’s something comforting about slipping into a narcotic pool of blissful disconnect. For a good swath of the ‘80s and ‘90s there was a production pinpoint to turn to when just such a sound was needed. As much as Steve Albini built his empire of sound on the unflinching light of austerity, his counterpart Mark Kramer built his own brand basking in the warm glow depression pop. Sydney’s own downer step-children Mope City are echoing the highlights of Kramer’s production canon – from the woolly jangles and slightly askew harmonies of Galaxie 500 to the grey-skied vocal wallow of ‘90s Low. Its only appropriate, then, that the band should dial up the legend himself to put a mix and master on their sophomore LP.

The band’s songs echo their moniker like a mission statement. There are cracks of light in that peek in through the blinds, but for the most part the band is lacquering the inside of the bell jar with the windows closed and the fumes bring on enough of a buzz to dull the pain awhile. It’s clear that of their aforementioned alt touchstones, the group has spent the most time with the catalog of Boston’s finest slowcore trio. Mope City’s got Galaxie’s disaffection and echo-chamber anesthetics pinned to the floor, though the band lacks the luster of Wareham’s liquid mercury guitar solos and their absence is definitely felt. The duo’s pulling off depression pop and a slowcore revival admirably well, if not necessarily moving the dial forward all that much from its 1990 heyday.

News From Home succeeds the most when it breaks just a touch out of its own head. The key change breather and ebullient strings on “Excuses Start To Thaw” floats the song to the top of their heap along with the slouched swagger of “Medicine Drawer”. Its clear that the band is onto something, and separating themselves quite nicely from the pervasive trends that abound in their home country’s indie union. The best mope-pop worked well when we listeners could believe there was some kernel of hope inside. When Mope City rest on their heels and let the dirge overtake the day then it muddies the songs a bit too much, but when they nail the balance of hope and despair, the record becomes much more than an homage to an era separated by time and 9500 miles of tide.



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