The Goon Sax - Up to Anything

by Al Brown Rating:6 Release Date:2016-03-11

The Goon Sax are so young: still in their teens and very much sounding like it. In this case that’s a double-edged sword. There’s lots to love here: great, simple, melodies; unaffected voices; lyrics that drift in unfiltered from a teenage bedroom. There are also problems, but I’ll come to that in a bit.

They’ve got one Triple-A Banger: ‘

’ is just a few hooks thrown together, but what totally dreamy hooks they are. The words are great too, I especially love the line: "I need a boyfriend/Or just anything real", which sums up that single-minded longing in a way that’s just so teenage, so perfect. I don’t even care if it rips off Girls’ ‘Lust for Life’. It doesn’t matter. This is just as great, just as real.

And just as I used to have nebulous dreams about unattainable crushes as a teen, The Goon Sax have me dreaming of the ideal Goon Sax album, in which every song melts my heart like ‘Boyfriend’. And of course, it can’t live up to that ridiculous fantasy. The Goon Sax are pretty good at writing very simple indiepop songs, but over the course of an album, it’s not enough. They have some great weapons in their arsenal: three different, distinctive voices (that aren’t ever really used to their full potential) and some simplistic but intuitively catchy guitar, bass and drum-work. But there’s a tendency on the first half of the album for the band to settle into a downtempo college-rock template and just not go anywhere (but then, perhaps that’s fitting when most of the songs are laden with references to suburban ennui.)

'Susan' is the second-best song, benefitting from a punchier rhythm and some nice, yearning lyrics: "Susan what are you thinking when you spend the night with Steve?", asks our perpetually heartbroken frontman, Louis Forster, and it’s sad and funny while seeming to reference about a million indie bands at once. In fact it might seem amazing how such a young band could have an intimate grasp of 80s indie in particular, with strong echoes of The Go-Betweens, The Smiths, C86 and the Dunedin Sound running throughout - but the knowledge that Forster’s Dad is The Go-Betweens’ Robert, offers an explanation.

Up To Anything is close to being a great album. At its best, there’s a raw, touching plaintiveness that is properly irresistible; at its worst their bare-bones approach loses its charm and starts feeling unexpressive and one-dimensional. Give them a couple more years and they should have it nailed.

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