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LIVE: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Tramshed, Cardiff, 26/05/2022

Anybody who spends longer than ten minutes in my company is subjected to my theory that the best music in the world is currently emanating from Australia.  Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, who hail from Melbourne, are one of the inadvertent proponents of my hypothesis.  The quintet sonically reflect the quirks of their homeland, effortlessly crafting a DIY surf rock sound that draws on the jangle pop of Aussie cult-heroes The Go-Betweens, but also references the output of the country’s thriving contemporary alternative scene.

The few hundred revellers packed into Cardiff’s Tramshed had quite the ordeal to access the venue.  A certain ginger-haired megastar’s three-night residency at the city’s Principality Stadium saw the surrounding streets flooded with 75,000 fans.  The band were quick to acknowledge this, introducing themselves as “Ed Sheeran” to a collectively jubilant laugh.

Tonight, Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s ardent fans, undeterred by numerous pandemic-related rescheduling incidents, are to be treated to music from the two albums they have released since the first date was pencilled long ago – Sideways to New Italy (2020) and Endless Rooms (2022).

These two recent offerings take an initial backseat, though.  ‘An Air Conditioned Man‘, the first song from their debut LP, Hope Downs, was the natural choice to open the set.  The rampant sound of three guitars directly opposes lyrics that detail the quotidian life of an office worker, providing an ironic and enjoyable musical dichotomy.  ‘Julie’s Place‘ similarly exhibits the youthful playfulness of Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s early discography.  An ebullient ascending riff is central to the song and is a clear favourite with the congregation of devoted fans in the centre of the room.

It isn’t until the seventh song of the set that the audience are gifted a sample of the new record.  ‘Deep Dive‘, ‘Blue Eye Lake‘, and ‘My Echo‘ are greeted with rapturous applause that mirrors the critical acclaim Endless Rooms has received.  The isolating nature of their pandemic writing environment is no doubt the inspiration for much of this album, however, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have produced a sound that evidently speaks to a wider population.  Songwriter Fran Keaney’s statement that “I keep hearing the sound of my echo” fulfils its prophecy in the cavernous interior of Tramshed – except it’s a receptive crowd singing back at him on this occasion.

The melodic guitar work of the band’s three frontmen – who share singing duties throughout the set – often fails to mask the stark political statements that unexpectedly intersperse their discography.  ‘The Way It Shatters‘ elevates the dancing of the audience, but simultaneously delivers a devastating take on rising anti-immigration sentiment in Australia – “if you were in the boat, would you turn the other way?“.  The five-piece don’t feel the need to answer their own question.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever save their most popular song for the encore.  The instantly gratifying opening chords of ‘French Press‘, the title single from their 2017 EP, reverberate off the venue’s walls whilst half-spoken vocals are repeated by vast swathes of the crowd.  An extended jam acts as the perfect culmination to an exhibition of utterly joyous guitar music. For now, my hypothesis remains.

Photo credit: Will Jones

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.