After listening with increasing appreciation to the debut album, Up To Anything, by Brisbane’s The Goon Sax all week, I had been composing a review in my head that would draw parallels and comparisons with fellow Brisbane legends, (and I don’t use that word lightly), The Go-Betweens. Specifically early period Go-Betweens, where the charm and humility of their music outshone the at times somewhat lo-fi recordings. So you can just imagine how I felt when, on doing a bit of research just prior to writing the review, the penny dropped. Louis Forster. Son of The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, a man who, I don’t mind admitting here in print, I pretty much idolise.
I then toyed with the idea of leaving out all mention of The Go-Betweens as that would seem too lazy and too obvious, but then I concluded that this would also be dishonest, as I had listened to the music entirely without this knowledge. I knew that they were Australian, but that was it. So here is my self-imposed rule for the rest of this review – The Goon Sax DO have many of the hallmarks of early period Go-Betweens, and frequently remind me of that band, but I am not going to mention them again from hereon in, as this is an outstanding album from a very promising band who have their own tales to tell, and it would be unfair to make further mention of The G…you know who.
The Goon Sax are a three piece band – as well as Forster, they also have Riley Jones and James Harrison. Jones apparently had just a month of drumming lessons before joining the band, but her contribution on percussion (and some backing vocals) is one of the most pleasing aspects of this debut, as her playing has real character and definitely enhances the honest and organic sound of the record. The same could be said of My Bloody Valentine‘s Colm Ó Cíosóig and the way he puts his unique stamp on that band’s records.
A couple of tracks here appeared as singles last year: ‘Boyfriend’, which sounds a bit like The Velvet Underground in a collaboration with The Pastels, and ‘Sometimes Accidentally’, which is a very C86-ish tune of self doubt set to a deceptively sprightly tune. Words such as ‘I don’t know why you would ever like me at all’ betray a darker side to the song.
The lyrics throughout are in turns funny, sad and poignant. ‘Target’ begins with the killer line ‘I couldn’t work at Target / The only colour shirt I wear is blue’, presumably a reference to the huge department chain and their red uniform. Elsewhere, ‘Telephone’ is a hugely touching song about talking on, well, a telephone, which features effective tempo changes and makes you realise that it is quite unusual to hear a 17 year old even say the word ‘telephone’ at all.
‘Home Haircuts’ is a wonderful lament to the failure to get the desired hairstyle: ‘I show them a picture of Roger McGuinn / Edwyn Collins, John Lennon, David Byrne, it seems I just can’t win’.
The album’s best moment though, comes in the form of ‘Sweaty Hands’, a bittersweet tale of a girlfriend / boyfriend seeing you at your worst. It has a wonderful bass line and has a real melancholy underpinning the track.
Final track ‘Ice Cream (On My Own)’ at first seems a deceptively throwaway track but on repeated listens, could turn out to be the album’s ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ – an upbeat end to the record that seems quite at odds with the album in some ways yet is a perfect fit.
A really enjoyable album. It will be interesting to see where they go next.