From the first notes of The Goon Sax’s third album the tone is darker, or perhaps that’s not the word. Thicker, might be closer to the idea. The band’s previous albums bent pop onto a twisted wire frame. The songs were spare but channeled the confusion and emotional chasm of youth better than most bands with towering studio bills. Now, with a move to Matador, the band might have a bump in the budget, but money won’t wrangle hooks and heart. Its the band’s raw-nerve spark that sets their songs aflame. The aesthetics may have been altered here, but the trio’s scar tissue always sets them apart from the bulk of their contemporaries.
I wrote in my review of We’re Not Talking that “There’s a sense that the band could tenure track this sound over the next few years into something mature and rich.” Seems the band disagreed as, like most of us, they’ve picked up new sonic crushes over the past few years. Mirror II adds synth foam, velvet thick and thunderous at times to the mix. There’s a lockstep pulse that would feel more at home with Beggars Group sister set 4AD than in the indie penthouse at Matador. The guitars still pick at the jangles here and there, but they fray with fuzz at times and twist into brittle circles in others.
While Louis Forster’s vocals still hang with a heavy resonance that outpaces his youth, on the bulk of the record the rest of the band rises to meet the force of his voice. There are moments when the winds wane, but when The Goon Sax lay into the bracing pulse of “Psychic,” the dizzying dream pop of “Desire,” or the sun-warped wobble of “Tag,” they push forward with a hunger that haunts. The band proves to be true pop chameleons, and I, for one, hope they never find their comfort.
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