This blog rarely highlights new or emerging bands, and it’s even rarer that a new album gets some sort of review. This is on the basis that I don’t think I’m smart or skilled enough to make the sorts of observations needed for such purposes, and besides, I hate putting up an mp3 when a song is new, and it’s hugely important that as many folk as possible make a purchase.
But I’m making an exception today.
Back in 2018/19, it took me four months to review We’re Not Talking, the second album to be released by The Goon Sax, an Australian trio consisting of Louis Foster, James Harrison and Riley Jones. It was a very impressive effort, one which was a very welcome addition to their debut from 2016, Up To Anything. I concluded that particular review by saying that the trio had come a long way in a short period even though they were not yet out of their teens, and that I thought it would be fascinating to see what came next as they matured and developed as individuals, and as a recording and performing band. My summary was that ‘Perhaps, the onset of their 20s will lead to a genuinely classic album which will stand the test of time.’
And now, as the summer of 2021 continues, The Goon Sax have given us Mirror II, an album recorded last year with the assistance of veteran producer John Parish, best known for his work with PJ Harvey, and which I picked up last Saturday from my local indie record shop here in Glasgow.
The short summary, based on two full listens, is that the new Goon Sax album is different from the previous releases.
And it will divide opinion….especially for those who were hoping for a record that would make them nostalgic for indie-pop of the guitar, bass and percussion variety, with twee vocals.
Mirror II opens with In The Stone, Psychic and Tag, three often synth laden efforts that feel aimed squarely at ‘the kids’ rather than the folk attracted to them via the Forster family connection. In The Stone was the track chosen as the preview song a couple of months back. It’s easy to see why:-
And there’s also been a video made for Psychic, which illustrates what I mean about the synth-led sound:-
And just as you settle down expecting more of the same, along comes Temples, a song written and sung by James Harrison in a style that made me think immediately of The Television Personalities with a very off-key vocal delivery. Side 1 concludes with another sharp and jolting turn on the rollercoaster as Louis, again assisted by Riley, takes over on The Chance, a track which has all sorts of indie and pop influences from through the ages running through it. I’m sure it too will get the video treatment in the fullness of time.
Side 2 opens with Louis now channelling his inner art-school influences, as the near five-minute long Bathwater veers all over the place tempo wise, incorporating sax and guitar solos and lyrics sung in German (there’s his mum’s influence very much to the fore!) before another track for which a video has been made….and this time it sounds as if it wouldn’t be out of place as the slow-down number on a CHVRCHES album:-
Two of the final three tracks belong to James. And this is where I fell for the album in a way that I didn’t anticipate.
Where Louis and Riley’s efforts are polished in a way that makes them tailor-made for daytime radio and for the crucial 16-25 market to fall head-over-feels for, James takes us back to the shambolic indie-pop of the 80s….Carpetry really feels like a tribute to James Kirk‘s efforts with Orange Juice….completely unexpected and one of my musical highlights of the year. But I can see the kids giving this one a miss when they play the album, and no doubt make a sharp exit for the bars when the band do finally make it back to the stage.
He does more of the same with album closer Caterpillars, which, rather bizarrely, is the closest song to anything you’ll come across on the previous two records, sounding to my ears like a Violent Femmes influenced effort. These two songs bookend Till Dawn, the one I initially thought was easily the weakest effort on Mirror II. I’m still not convinced by it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it suffers from its placing on the album, very much at odds with the songs that come before and after it.
I’m very happy to give the new album by The Goon Sax a huge thumbs-up, although it doesn’t quite form a classic that will stand the test of time. Mirror II veers off in directions I wasn’t expecting at all, and while I find that encouraging, there’s a few fans of old who won’t be happy. Having said all that, it’s likely that those who decide they no longer like what they are hearing will be replaced by a larger number of new, and most likely younger fans, for the time being at least. I wonder what ‘the kids’ would make of these songs from 2016 and 2018:-
Here’s hoping there’s much more to come in the years ahead.