Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-15
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs

You have to be doing something right to be picked up by Sub Pop for your debut LP.  In fact, Melbourne-based band of brothers and cousins Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s excellent 2017 EP, French Press, was released on the label as well.  Accurately noted by many as having a sound reminiscent of fellow Aussies The Go-Betweens, RBCF part company a bit more on the full length Hope Downs.  Where their forbears softened their sound over the years and it was often as much about the open space as the note heard, RBCF have kicked up the energy level and with three guitars humming on most of these songs there isn’t much air space left in these tracks.  Having three lead vocalists in Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and, Joe White (Keaney’s cousin), each of who also simultaneously play guitar makes for quite a blissful racket when they fully lock horns.    

The band comes off the blocks in full sprint on the opening ‘An Airconditioned Man’ and hardly take a breath over the album’s ten tracks spread a little over half an hour.  Joe Russo’s (Tom’s brother) urgent bass line and Marcel Tussie’s insistent drumming keep pushing the song further into overdrive as it goes.  The tangled razor wire of guitars on ‘Talking Straight’ make for a fitting single and the line “ring the diving bell, I’m further down” only adds to the urgency of the track.  The two-minute race of a song ‘Time in Common’ evidences RBCF’s full attack well, with Keaney's deadpan lead vocals cutting crossways over the frantic beat and the other vocalists racing to keep up on the chorus.  The siren scream guitar on the oddly titled ‘Sister’s Jeans’ trends towards shimmery shoegaze which is a logical transition given the multitude of guitars.

To borrow a phrase from a major US sandwich chain, the band are at their best when the three leads are “fully involved” and when the house is ablaze.  That’s why I got a little concerned mid-album with the ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ sounding opening of ‘Bellarine’, that while a bit fizzier at the end is one of the weaker tracks here.  That’s only outdone by the lounge lizard stylings of ‘Cappucino City’ that recalls early period Belle & Sebastian daintiness.  But if coffee is for closers, the boys earn their caffeine on the final three songs of the album which are the finest here.  ‘Exclusive Grave’ takes the desperately urgent tack of the earlier ‘Time in Common’, but ends with more noise.  The hurried choruses of ‘The Hammer’ cement why this band is at its compelling best when they are at their most breathless paces.  And it must be mentioned that sandwiched between these two solid Tom Russo led closers, White's 'How Long?’ is simply the most beautifully mournful sounding three minute pop song I’ve heard this year. 

It’s great to see a band in a pop framework going full bore ahead, playing loud, tight, and fast in all the right places without losing the hooks.  There’s plenty of track ahead for this band to slow it down and enunciate clearly, but for now fanning the rush of the flame was clearly the right move.  If they can keep producing at this level of quality, who knows they may even get a bridge named after them one day.

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