Nick Triani tries to find something to be happy about whilst reviewing the new EP release from Australia's unexpectedly excellent Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
Things I have learnt this year to be true
2017 has started with the thud of expectant disappointment. Right-wing attitudes hold the sway, sneaking up (it’s been coming) and taking over. PCism was never a thing to placate any argument, but in its place I see a strangulation of debate, a worldwide ‘nasty’ attitude. Decency and respect – ‘old virtues’ in this new anything-goes-climate. Fake news anyone? Give me a break, it’s more like shit news on heavy rotation. We, the undermined, just get on with the daily grind. Who said Modern Life Is Rubbish?
However, as a privileged and often white-passing cis male, 2017 has given me many cultural thrills already. Logan, Lego Batman, revisiting Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Sleaford Mods, Morley on Bowie, David Thomson on TV, Ty Segall, The Newsroom, Katy Perry‘s latest wheeze, the great weirdness of Taboo, 12 Years A Slave, the return of protest movements and editing much of what happens on this here One Quart Magazine. But music, and my interaction with music has become increasingly revisionist. I’ve somehow fallen out of love with new music. Very little seems to excite me anymore or gives me a new sense of purpose (which the best new sounds normally do). Music is so built into my fabric, and especially new music, that without anything to get overexcited about I wither.
My peripheral disinterest is hardly helped by how music is presented nowadays. Where is the danger, mystery and magic? Do we really need an ‘expert’ panel discussing the relative shittiness of the new Cheek single? Was I dreamin when I saw Bruno Mars piss all over Prince‘s memory at the Grammy Awards? But these selected are amongst the ‘highlights’ which are presented as if they are the benchmarks of popular music (or at the very least deemed ‘important’). We get the music we deserve in some respects, or we get the music we’re allowed to discover. Curators now formulate our music menu. It is criticism consigned to the post-pop dustbin. And that’s a moot point.
We get the music we deserve in some respects, or we get the music we’re allowed to discover. Curators now formulate our music menu. It is criticism consigned to the post-pop dustbin. And that’s a moot point.
Just like right-wing politics has made off with our daily conscience, consumerism has beaten the life out of popular music. Success is measured by streams and likes rather than talent and content; statistics maybe welcome to analize the final action of a football match, but if algorithms are the tools to gauge our musical discoveries by – we’re truly fucked. Of course, ultimately it’s still about the money (hasn’t it always been?) I sound old. Maybe I am, but this can’t be the end of it all, can it? On the other hand, Ed Sheeran‘s new album really does feel like a final nail in the coffin of art vs commerce. I wonder who won? I asked for magic and get a fucking busker.
I asked for magic and get a fucking busker.
For every glimmer of light (Lemonade, ‘Ultralight Beam’) there is an avalanche of mediocrity. A mass toning-down has occurred, that threat of lifestyle accessory has been realized and potency withdrawn. Popular music rarely threatens to reflect the here and now, instead, it’s found its place in an increasingly vacuous la la land of irrelevance and nostalgia.
This story has a happy ending
Sometimes music plays its hand. People who know me well, understand that I have a love for indie music, but in recent years I’ve become frustrated with the genre. This doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some great music coming from that direction, but it’s felt rather (as with much of popular music in general) that indie has lost its ability to surprise or to breathe a little – to inspire, to to do much else than add another brick to the pretty faceless wall of constant music. The landfill has become ubiquitous. Yes, we know ‘the man’ has won, but he’s laughing at us and rubbing our face in the shit.
Finding Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever has reversed that thinking. On the face of it this might sound like a lot of typical-white-guys-with-guitars-type-of-music. But you have to pay attention as to why this is so special, and why The French Press EP sounds like a revelation, a new start and a world of possibilities. Three singers, all with a distinctive voices. Six tracks make up the total of songs, and as a statement of focusing and replay and falling in love, it’s a perfect amount of time to give your full attention to. And The French Press EP remains coherent and it’s own piece of music.
Three singers, all with a distinctive voices. Six tracks make up the total of songs, and as a statement of focusing and replay and falling in love, it’s a perfect amount of time to give your full attention to.
I could break The French Press EP down into what constitutes its influences: The band are Australian (you can hear it in the collected voices here, the accent is strong – especially on sublime opener ‘French Press’). And the song ‘French Press’ feels like a watershed moment, like The Loft‘s ‘Why Does The Rain’, or The Feelies first album, or Felt‘s ‘Penelope Tree’ and especially The Go-Betweens ‘Cattle & Cane’. The Go-Betweens’ ghost hangs heavy over these tracks (and especially their Before Hollywood album). If you’re a fan of Robert Forster‘s work with that band, this is nirvana. But all this suggests a ‘retroism’ with RBCF. That’s not the case because this music lives and breathes in the now. Contemporary in its execution, The French Press EP forgoes tradition. Yes, this is a sound we’ve had glimpses of before, but no one has taken it to its non-logical conclusion, and Rolling Blackouts seem to have forged a new path.
Between the lines is where The French Press EP operates. This never falls into ‘classic indie tropes’, melodies are suggested (and repeated spins only enforce their wonder). Guitar lines are fluid yet almost dysfunctional, but Rolling Blackouts rarely rely on verse chorus structures. This is music of suggestion, we really need to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
Between the lines is where The French Press EP operates. This never falls into ‘classic indie tropes’, melodies are suggested (and repeated spins only enforce their wonder).
Mercifully for now, my fearful onset of doom has been set aside. Something exciting, with some sense of mystery (if only based on location) and a feeling that there is still unfinished business with this set of possibilities has emerged. We might have turned the corner. You need to hear this.