One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.
Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.
One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.
One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!
Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:
- In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
- Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
- The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
- They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
- They just keep getting better!
- They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?
Taking on America with an extensive 25 date tour is ambitious for any band, but when you’re Chook Race, a little known three piece jangle pop band from Melbourne, Australia it’s downright impressive (and maybe a little insane). The band made its way into Seattle Wednesday night to play the Victory Lounge, a bar with no stage in East Lake. This is one band I thought I would never see in Seattle, but after self-releasing their first album, Chicago label Trouble in Mind signed them making their second LP widely available in the United States as well as this tour a reality.
Singer and guitarist Matthew Liveriadis has a slight monotone delivery, but drummer Carolyn Hawkins provides a beautiful juxtaposition with her backing harmonies. The trio played an energized and jangly set inspired by the Bats and Close Lobsters mixing soon to be jangle pop classics from their first LP with ones of a slightly more classic pop sound from their new second album Around the House. In their short existence the band already have a stash of A-list songs and they didn’t leave any of them out including jangly diamonds like Dentist, Time, Sometimes and Hard to Clean and Older. The band’s tight sound and laid back attitude easily won over the likely already won over folks in attendance and made us all appreciate the long trip they had made to get here.
Like minded Seattlites Zebra Hunt opened for Chook Race with a set that consisted almost entirely of new songs (Half Right was the only old one). Apparently the new album is nearly ready and based on this evidence I would agree. One song really stood out with its Feelies-like crazy rhythm, even slowing down and then rebuilding itself into something quite raucous. Zebra Hunt has still got it!
In Australia a goon sack is the membrane inside box wine. Box wine not having the reputation for quality, gets purchased not to be appreciated, but to get wasted and conveniently after you’ve drank it all the sack can be used as pillow. The Goon Sax are a Brisbane trio of underagers that probably have to get their older friends to buy box wine for them or maybe they get paid for gigs in box wine.
Funny in-joke name aside, the band have some other qualifications like their songs and Robert Forster’s son Louis is a member. He and his buddies James Harrison and Riley Jones may be young in years, but they make a sublime catchy racket that belies their age. Obviously fans of Jonathan Richman, the Lucksmiths, Feelies and the Pastels the Goon Sax debut album is full of jangly fun that could only be created by a bunch of kids young enough not to know better. In a few years they’ll probably be too self-conscious to write songs about getting a haircut to look like Roger McGuin, Edwyn Collins and David Byrne or worrying about holding sweaty hands.
Knowing that the progeny of a Go-Between is in the band will have you comparing a song like Susan with Karen or Lee Remick, and you’re sure to find some similarities. After that’s caught your attention though, the Goon Sax have more than enough qualities that set them on their own path like their sweet naivety, Harrison’s touching little anecdotes that are part Jonathan Richman and part Paul Kelly, and their ability to write a chorus that will stick with you long after you’ve taken off your headphones.
The Goon Sax Up To Anything is out on Chapter Music in Australia.
I remember seeing the Lucksmiths eight or nine years ago at the Sunset in Ballard and getting into a conversation with someone at the show about how strange it was for a band to travel half way around the world just to play this tiny bygone place in Ballard where the bar was right in front of the stage. A lot has changed in Ballard since then, including the Sunset. It has recently been remodeled so that there is a front room called Betty’s Room that is open to non-ticket holders and then there is a separate back room where you need to pay a cover to get in to see the bands. It’s very similar to places like Piano’s and the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They may moved the bar away from the stage, but they left the giant support beam that cuts across the stage make a substantial obstacle for tall bass players who like to jump around. I guess you could say it adds some character to the place. All things considered the remodel is a major improvement.
Now it feels like a destination for bands traveling half way around the world, like the Twerps from Melbourne, Australia. Three years ago when they were in Seattle, they played at Chop Suey to a score of people. This time it was sold out. The Twerps at their core are Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane, both sing and play guitar. Helping them out this tour is the rhythm section from the Stevens who also share a record label, Chapter Music in Australia. The Twerps new album Range Anxiety features much better production than their debut and quite a few fairly obvious nods to the Go-Betweens. Live the band seemed loose and in good spirits despite a late night drive to make it to Seattle in time for a session at KEXP earlier that day. Marty has a cheeky sense of humor, at one point in the set declaring his preference for Portland over Seattle. He seemed to relish playing to a full room. A couple highlights from the set for me included Jules’s Raft from the Underlay EP. This song doesn’t really sound like a Twerps song, but was pretty great nonetheless sounding part Bats and part Lovelife era Lush. Another highlight was Simple Feelings which really took an Feelies vibe with its swirling guitar and manic beat. The set was packed full of gems like like Dreamin’, Work It Out, I Don’t Mind and Back to You. With two albums and a handful of EP’s the band had bounty of riches to choose from and they chose wisely, making it a jangly good time for everyone.
Range Anxiety by Twerps is out now on Merge Records.
Zebra Hunt who opened for the Twerps at Chop Suey three years ago also opened Saturday evening. I can’t think of a better match of bands for a bill. If you haven’t checked out Zebra Hunt’s album yet and dig the Twerps, I can guarantee that you will love it.
After last year’s Plumes compilation caught us up on what the Ginnels had been up to over the course of their previous three albums, they are back with album number four, A Country Life. Plumes was a sublimely excellent collection of songs separating the wheat from the chaff. A Country Life is a richly stalked silo of brand new songs that leads me to believe there never was any chaff in the Ginnels catalog.
A Country Life paints a bucolic scene with its psychedelic, hazy, jangling songs. Previously Ginnels records were mostly Mark Chester solo affairs, but on A Country life he’s got some help on drums and guitar making this more of a band effort. To tell the truth it isn’t vastly different from before, which is ok since before was quite good. Songs like Woodlands and Car’s Parked and Honestly and Not What You Think are upbeat jangling affairs that are inviting and fun. The quieter, gentler ones like the Great Escape and Settle Down and Ashton Memorial are perfect for kicking up your feet after a long day in fields, or in front of the computer.
The Ginnels fourth album is pretty little thing. Recommended to fans of Elliot Smith, Apples in Stereo, early Divine Comedy, the Feelies and Teenage Fanclub with a good appreciation for tricks of the light and other subtleties of the countryside.
stream: The Ginnels – Woodlands (from A Country Life out on Tenorio Cotobade)
The first time I listened to Half Right by Zebra Hunt I kept thinking that there was no way that the song could not be that good. It started out with guitar jangle reminiscent of the Verlaines, I thought OK this sounds cool, but kept expecting it to go downhill from there (at heart I’m a pessimist). Next the singer starts to sing “I’m only half right with you” sounding like he’s related to both Graeme Downes and David Kilgour. At this point any lingering pessimism has flown out the window and I am now a super fan of Zebra Hunt. The next song The Only Way Out has me seriously considering cashing in my kid’s college fund to start a record label with the sole purpose of putting Zebra Hunt records. Thankfully the glassy pacific feel of the final song of the EP The City Sighs allows me to momentarily come to my senses enough to realize that maybe starting a record label may not be in my best financial interest.
Seattle continues to produce some of the best (and unsung) bands this year and Zebra Hunt add to this city’s pop arsenal. The Zebra Hunt EP is available for free download from their bandcamp page and you can catch them live opening for Eternal Summers and Bleeding Rainbow September 8, at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard.
stream/download: Zebra Hunt