|Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Hope Downs (June 15, 2018)|
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Hope Downs (June 15, 2018)ι≡ι “PEOPLE SEEM TO FIND A LOT OF NOSTALGIA IN OUR MUSIC.”
ι≡ι Sunny~sounding Australian band specializes in “soft punk/hard pop” with a smart and jangly approach.
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genre: Indie Rock
Styles: Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Rock
Album release: 15th June 2018
Recording Location: Sydney Rd, Brunswick, VIC
Record Label: Old Jank Records
01. An Air Conditioned Man 4:51
02. Talking Straight 3:44
03. Mainland 4:14
04. Time In Common 2:04
05. Sister’s Jeans 3:16
06. Bellarine 2:54
07. Cappuccino City 2:54
08. Exclusive Grave 3:46
09. How Long? 3:06
10. The Hammer 4:28
≡ Nao Anzai Mastering
≡ Warwick Baker Cover Photo
≡ Doug Boehm Mixing
≡ Matt Chow Engineer
≡ Laura Jean Englert Vocals (Background)
≡ Liam Judson Engineer, Producer
≡ Fran Keaney Group Member, Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
≡ Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Composer, Producer, Sleeve Design
≡ Joe Russo Bass, Group Member
≡ Tom Russo Group Member, Guitar, Vocals
≡ Marcel Tussie Drums, Group Member
≡ Joe White Group Member, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
by Stuart Berman, JUNE 15 2018; Score: 8.1
ι≡ι The “120 Minutes” revivalists trade manic exuberance for panicked agitation on a debut album that applies their infectious brand of motorik jangle rock to lovelorn ruminations and geopolitical laments.
ι≡ι Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are either the world’s most meandering pop band or its most efficient jam band. Either way, for their purposes, jamming is as much a lyrical strategy as musical one. Over the course of two excellent EPs, the Melbourne quintet has mastered an adrenalized, infectious brand of motorik jangle rock that’s both warmly nostalgic and thrillingly unpredictable. The band’s three alternating singer~guitarists — Tom Russo, Fran Keaney, and Joe White — load their songs with fragmented narratives, overlapping dialogue, and impressionistic detail. Although the literal meaning of their lyrics isn’t always easy to discern, the internal dramas that play out in each track are deeply felt, and the jokes always land. RBCF may careen like a runaway locomotive, but they’ve decked out each car with its own distinct decor and unique cast of characters.
ι≡ι The band sustains that brisk momentum throughout its full~length debut, Hope Downs — although, at 10 songs and 35 minutes, the album is only slightly longer than the EPs that preceded it. Rolling Blackouts are still harnessing their strengths as erudite tunesmiths and freewheeling rock’n’rollers, and the past few years of steady touring have transformed them into a crack live act. Hope Downs feeds off that onstage intensity: “An Air Conditioned Man” kicks off the record like a car chase joined already in progress, with Russo and White’s chiming guitar lines slowly unraveling into dueling solos, while drummer Marcel Tussie trips up the steady backbeat with destabilizing fills. As the song hits a fever pitch, Keaney’s lovelorn ruminations give way to a detached, spoken~word denouement, with Russo emerging like a voice inside Keaney’s head to amplify his torment. “You walk past the wall you first kissed her against/How could you forget,” Russo intones. “Did it ever matter in the first place?” His languorous drawl has a sedative effect on the song, which — like the pent~up desire it chronicles — flames out into a smoky apparition of its former self.
ι≡ι Rolling Blackouts songs have always been fueled by a jittery energy; though Keaney is billed as the band’s acoustic guitarist, he’s more like a second percussionist, his ceaseless strums propelling the songs with bongo~like fury. As “An Air Conditioned Man” vividly illustrates, however, Hope Downs radiates panicked agitation more than manic exuberance. Sure, the band continues to function as an ‘80s college~rock fantasy camp: “Talking Straight” packs in all the post~punk propulsion, needling jangle, and crestfallen harmonies of an I.R.S.~era R.E.M. classic, while “Bellarine” practically begs you to sing the Go~Betweens’ “Was There Anything I Could Do?” over its opening riff. But RBCF are hardly operating in a blissful record~collector bubble. ι≡ι On “Mainland,” they put their own privilege under the microscope, with Russo recounting a recent trip to his ancestors’ homeland near Sicily, where bathers enjoyed postcard~perfect waters not far from where refugees were swimming for their lives. ι≡ι The beautifully downcast “Cappuccino City” paints an immersive yet damning portrait of café culture, singing of “FM on the stereo/Belgians in the Congo” as he subtly threads the needle between simple Western pleasures and colonialist violence.
ι≡ι Thirty years ago, RBCF’s brand of alternative rock would have made them ripe for crossover fame. But these days, their “120 Minutes”~era sound has been pushed to the margins — and not just of the pop charts. Even within the realm of contemporary indie, the band is a glorious anomaly. Sophisticated and subversive in equal measure, their staccato sing~alongs come on pristine and precise, then unspool in surprising directions as decorum gives way to abandon. Rolling Blackouts may occupy an empty playground on the modern rock landscape, but that gives them the freedom to run wild in that wide open space, inventing their own games and making up the rules as they go.
Words: Will Richards, 14th June 2018
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra; Score: ****½
• 2016 Talk Tight IVY LEAGUE
• 2017 The French Press SUB POP
• 2018 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever SUB POP
≡ It’s rare that a band’s debut album sounds as confident and self~assured as Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Hope Downs. To say that the first full~length from the Melbourne quintet improves on their buzz~building EPs from the last few years would be an understatement: the promise those early releases hinted at is fully realized here, with ten songs of urgent, passionate guitar pop that elicit warm memories of bands past, from the Go~Betweens’ jangle to the charmingly lo~fi trappings of New Zealand’s Flying Nun label. But don’t mistake Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever for nostalgists: Hope Downs is the sound of a band finding its own collective voice.
≡ The hard~hitting debut album is a testament to Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s tight~knit and hard~working bonafides. Prior to forming the band in 2013, singers/guitarists Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White had played together in various garage bands, dating back to high school. When Rolling Blackouts C.F. started, with Joe Russo [Tom’s brother] on bass, Marcel [Tussie, Joe White’s then~housemate] on drums, the chemistry was immediate. After a split EP with You Yangs (another Russo brother’s band), released in the form of a frisbee, they self~released Talk Tight in 2015, which Sydney~based record label Ivy League gave a wider release the following year. Talk Tight garnered plaudits from critics, including legendary rock scribe Robert Christgau. ≡ In 2017, Sub Pop released The French Press EP, bringing the band’s chugging and tuneful non~linear indie rock to the rest of the world as they settled into their sound with remarkable ease.
≡ Hope Downs was largely written over the past year in the band’s Melbourne rehearsal room where their previous releases were also written and recorded. The band’s core trio of songwriters hunkered down and wrote as the chaos of the world outside unavoidably seeped into the songwriting process. “We were feeling like we were in a moment where the sands were shifting and the world was getting a lot weirder. There was a general sense that things were coming apart at the seams and people around us were too,” Russo explains. The album title, taken from the name of a vast open cut mine in the middle of Australia, refers to the feeling of “standing at the edge of the void of the big unknown, and finding something to hold on to.”
≡ With the help of engineer/producer Liam Judson and his portable setup, the band recorded Hope Downs live, and co~produced ten guitar pop gems over the course of two weeks in Northern New South Wales during the winter of 2017. Hope Downs possesses a robust full~band sound that’s all the more impressive considering the band’s avoidance of traditional recording studios. If you loved Talk Tight and The French Press, you certainly won’t be disappointed here — but you might also be surprised at how the band’s sound has grown. There’s a richness and weight to these songs that was previously only hinted at, from the skyscraping chorus of “Sister’s Jeans” to the thrilling climax of album closer “The Hammer.”
≡ Hope Downs is as much about the people that populate the world around us — their stories, perspectives, and hopes in the face of disillusionment — as it is about the state of things at large. It’s a record that focuses on finding the bright spots at a time when cynicism all too often feels like the natural state. Rolling Blackouts C.F. are here to remind us to keep our feet on the ground — and Hope Downs is as delicious a taste of terra firma as you’re going to get from a rock band right now.
|Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Hope Downs (June 15, 2018)|