Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs (Ivy League)

For those lucky enough to catch RBCF at Laneway Fest this year they will know all about their wonderful slacker-jangle and swagger. 

This Melbourne based band are brilliant at mining the legacy created by Aussie 80’s bands like The Triffids, Hoodoo Gurus and The Church. On Hope Downs you get elements of all of them and more.

This might be the band’s album debut but it sounds like they’ve been around much, much longer. They leap right into the fray with some perfect student radio rock on An Air Conditioned Man, which kicks right in.  There’s no intro, no wind-up, no fluffing about.  The tinny groove is clean and natural right from the get-go.

This is par-for-course for this Australian quintet. It was all over their super-nice first EP Talk Tight (Ivy League Records), which was fast and furious acoustics.  Last year’s Sub Pop effort (The French Press EP) ramped up on volume and pace rounding out the gook-laden indie pop that they are now making so well.

Drummer Marcel Tussie gives you driving beat lead tunes backed by the bouncy bass playing from Joe Russo over which brother Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney layer strumming acoustic guitars and soaring, edgy electric grunge.

The album’s title refers to a mine in Western Australia.  But this is no Blue Sky Mining.  These dramas are more down to earth. “I kept my head down, two eyes on the paving,” Keaney sings in his quintessential Ocker accent on An Air Conditioned Man. “Caught in a necktie. A lifestyle in single file.” I love the philosophical juxtaposition with the mundaneness of an office worker and the madness of modern life.  The publicity guff calls the song a portrayal of the “slow-burning salaryman”.

Modernity appears again in the ironic middle-class prettiness of  Cappuccino City. Exclusive Grave is all about exposing the hypocrisy of modern-day class privilege, comparing  “satin sheets to stinking streets”.

I couldn’t help thinking of early R.E.M. when I heard Talking Straight, that took me right back to my favourite student radio playlists. It also has that student party vibe in the accompanying video. I also loved the country-punk twang of Time In Common – another infectious Bob Hawk era strummer that had me pogo-ing around the living room full of nostalgia.

Not all the songs are at a fast pace, though. Sister’s Jeans is a slower soft rock romp, lead this time by Russo’s bass playing.  Keaney’s nasal vocals and slightly manic preacher approach are close to some of Paul Kelly’s work.  However, Ballarine, has, by contrast, is more like a tune from the Bats or something from The Church’s Milky Way period.

How long is a little like a long lost Pixies song, without Frank’s snarl, but the jangle is very much the driver on this one

Jangle, jangle, jangle.  All 80’s indies pop, with a mostly Aussie influence.  Great to dance to at your next party. What’s wrong with that? Every one of these tunes is sufficiently familiar.  Catchy hooks and clever lyrics.  Always in fashion.

Tim Gruar