Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | Sideways to New Italy
In terms of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, there are many aspects that should not work. For one thing, the fact that the Australian band has three singers, songwriters and guitarists in Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney, still continues to achieve the cohesion that most bands have spent a lifetime trying to fine-tune.
Second, their joyous influences – The alternative melodic artists, including The Go-Betweens, a band that they have more than once referred to – will allow it something that at best sounds like an homage, a tentative pastiche, in the worst.
Nevertheless, Hope Downs created global appeal for the Melbourne band in 2018, and their performance (and their earlier EP) rendered them almost always on the road. This period of long tours was the gateway to its follow-up, which sounds like the lowest interesting offer for listeners on paper: rock stars that complain about the blah of world travel. Published mainly as a reaction to the disorientation of being on a tour and feeling “rudderless”.
So what do you get this time?
They also opted to create a personal inward-looking record, a so-called “totem to home”, instead of telling their listeners tales of isolated tasks and endless miles of paths as they did previously. That personal theme flows through these tunes, from the New Italy of the title (a tiny town in the NSW region of Australia first founded by Italian immigrants in the 1800’s, and also the hometown of their drummer) to the spoken-word verses provided by loved ones at the start of ‘The Second of The First’. Timid declarations of love ‘She’s There, The Only One’ sit astride the melancholic recollections of ‘Sunglasses at the Wedding’ as well as ‘Not Tonight’, providing cracks into their intimate private lives.
However, it’s the band’s timbre which checks the accord. Listeners compelled to the love of the 1980s jingle-jangle will have every sense of excitement at songs like Falling Thunder, with the breezy guitar licks, or at Beautiful Steven’s eloquent roll. The cut walk of The Only One is reminiscent of Orange Juice at their best, the klaxon-like guitar solos of the sinister indie-pop Cars in Space sound like anything from TV’s Marquee Moon, and the way the subtly hummed intro of Cameo blossoms into buzzing life is sublime.
A unique album of broad appeal is a tough concept for most artists, but it was pulled off by Rolling Blackouts in design, vivacity and – above all – a lot of spirit.