Long the domain of pub rockers and daytime soap escapees, Australian music is going through the kind of purple patch not seen since the late-80s heyday of The Go-Betweens, The Triffids and Nick Cave (you can shove Push the Sky Away up your arse – he was much better back then and you know it). The last year and a bit has seen bloody fantastic albums from the likes of Cut Copy, Royal Headache, Jagwar Ma and Tame Impala, to name but four sonically diverse bands helping consign grim memories of Midnight Oil, Angry Anderson and Craig McLachlan to the nearest dunny.
First piece of Oz wondrousness out of the blocks in 2014 comes from Brisbane’s prolific Blank Realm, with their third album in under a year. Combining the mid-80s boho jangle of The Weather Prophets and the aforementioned Go-Betweens, the spacey psych-pop of War on Drugs, and the rock posturing of Bobby Gillespie (clearly a legend in Australia given his influence on this, Cut Copy and Jagwar Ma), it lurches from the brilliant (hook-laden opener “Back to the Flood”) to the awful (Daniel Spencer’s vocals on “Baby Closes the Door” are barely listenable) via the somewhat baffling (the clumsy electronic experiment that is “Violet Delivery”), while remaining utterly compelling listening throughout, due to the band clearly and unironically giving a massive shit about what they do.
Highlights? The aforementioned “Back to the Flood”; the joyous indie-pop mess that is “Falling Down the Stairs”, whose keyboard-freakout coda recalls long-forgotten high-octane 80s janglers The Groove Farm; and the dreamy, sinuous guitar lines and Krautrock stylings of “Bulldozer Love”.
It’s at least 50% brilliant. And even the 50% that isn’t brilliant is still a lot more interesting than most other albums you’ll hear in 2014.