The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2018-09-14
The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking

So I’m walking back from a gig in the centre of town and listening to the new album by Brisbane indie-pop trio The Goon Sax and their second LP We’re Not Talking. It’s about the third time I’ve listened and it’s starting to feel like something pretty special is going on. Above all, I’m thinking how they remind me of one of my favourite bands of all time, The Go-Betweens.

Being otherwise unfamiliar with The Goon Sax I delved a little deeper to discover that their vocalist Louis Forster is, in fact, the son of Robert Forster. I’m sure Louis gets a bit tired of the constant comparison yet for me it only made The Goon Sax all the more intriguing. The Go-Between’s had gone by the time I really got into them but here was a band that captured a little of that wonderful striped sunlight sound.

The album starts in fine style with the gorgeous and impeccably perfect pop of ‘Make Time 4 Love’. There’s a beautiful sense of melody, sprightly and slightly unexpected percussion from drummer Riley Jones and a chorus that blooms with an effortless magic. I doubt you’ll hear a finer opening 2 minutes to an album this year.

All three members sing and bring songs to the table, making We’re Not Talking a real band effort. The songs address relationships, loneliness and the inevitable growing pains, Forster and Jones still in their teens while guitarist James Harrison is about 20. The eloquent ‘Love Lost’ deals with the weight of expectation, “and it’s hard to decide what to read/ it’s so hard to be who you want me to be”.

The songs, deceptively simple and playful odes to life and love, recall the honesty and effortlessness of early Orange Juice, the quirky pop sensibilities of The Wave Pictures and the youthful longing of The Field Mice. But I don’t want to get bogged down in unnecessary comparisons. The band has links the indie-pop lineage, sure, but the songs here present a fresh and invigorated sound all of their own.

The songwriting and instrumentation is never showy or excessive while the economical run times mean the album packs a lot into its all too brief 30-minute duration. That’s not to say it sounds unsophisticated, quite the opposite. Acoustic textures meet indie-pop jangle while subtle string arrangements bring a quiet majesty to proceedings.

The brilliantly wonky and perfectly realised pop of ‘Losing Myself’ would be a bonafide hit in a fair world while the gorgeous ‘Strange Light’ finds Jones taking the lead on one of the albums most beautifully melancholic moments. The excellent and angst-ridden love song ‘She Knows’ finds the band in a noisier mood, rattling along as Harrison sings, “I never knew what love meant/ and I still don’t”.

Maybe it’s something in the water over there but for all the weary resignation on the likes of sad-eyed duet ‘We Can’t Win’, We’re Not Talking still feels like an album brimming with hope and the possibilities of summer. The lyrics explore loneliness and anxiety but the overall feel remains one of shaky yet hopeful optimism. Acknowledging life’s obstacles but refusing to be overwhelmed by them.

The Goon Sax have created an album I’ve found myself coming back to again-and-again, songs you feel like you can play on repeat and never get tired of. It’s only their second album and while it’s easily one of the best things I’ve heard all year I get the feeling they’re yet to release their masterpiece. It’s genuinely exciting to think what they might achieve by album number three. In the meantime, I think I’m going to give We’re Not Talking another few hundred spins.

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