Straight Arrows - Rising

by Rob Taylor Rating:5.5 Release Date:2014-06-30

The Straight Arrows have been on the local scene in Sydney, Australia for a few years now. Rising is their second long player, the first being It's Happening in 2010. Apparently they've recently returned from plying their wares in the United States. They're touring Europe in December 2014, including playing on a houseboat in Venice. That's what you have to do for attention nowadays. Especially when you're one of a large crop of garage rock revivalists around the globe.

The underground garage rock/punk scene was very strong in Australia from the 1970s to the late 1980s. Bands like Radio Birdman, The Saints, The Scientists, The Lipstick Killers, and The Hard-Ons played slightly malevolent, punk-inspired, lo-fi garage. The Straight Arrows are less hard-edged than those bands, with a poppier 1960s vibe more akin to The Flamin Groovies, The Electric Prunes, or the thrashier end of the Hoodoo Gurus.

The distinguishing feature of early Australian garage rock was that it was often informed by rockabilly and/or surf rock. Aussie band The Psychotic Turnbuckles played garage punk/rock in the same vein as The Straight Arrows' less 60s-inspired tracks, but with real menace and rock 'n' roll swagger. On Rising, the track “Make Up Your Mind” achieves something approaching this sound, and that's probably what makes it the best track on the album. A corker in fact. 'Never Enough' is another crunchy, fuzzed-out psych-rock nugget worthy of the best.

The rest of the album is patchy. I have no idea what motivated the first track 'Introduction'. It sounds like a nine-year-old strumming daftly on two chords.

Garage is inherently wham-bam. Attention deficiency is factored in, so it should grab you by the balls, twist hard and threaten reprisals, lest it be marshalled off the stage for being inoffensive. What's missing here is not the commitment, or the playing, it's the lack of edginess, or even momentum.

Too much of the album sounds lacklustre. The AM fidelity and virtually non-existent bass come hand-in-hand with the style I suppose, but it also contributes to the lack of real oomph. The modern tendency to mix up styles also achieves the result of making this seem more like a collection of songs than an album.

Doubtless, there are legions of fans lapping up their live energy. I just wished their arrows were more poison tipped.

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