Release Date: Jan 14, 2014
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise Pop, Noise-Rock
There are bands that play with force when they’re captured on tape, and then there are ones that are recorded in the same way you pin a writhing snake under the flat of your foot. “Back to the Flood” breaks open Grassed Inn with so much momentum that it’s virtually levitating, like barreling down a really grimy Rainbow Road. While previous Blank Realm records married with drift, Grassed Inn doesn’t waste a second on introductions, nor anything else; it pretty much has a Cert IV in kicking down your door.
It's barely a year since this enormously appealing Brisbane psyche outfit gave us their last record – the terrific Go Easy – and now they're back with another treasure of an album that goes even further in resolving their hazy, noisy art-rock beginnings into a wonderfully weird and wobbly party-pop sound. Opener Back to the Flood spurts into life like a shaken bottle, or indeed a bursting dam – its whirling little guitar figure eddying around and around atop a glorious swell of chords and synths. This great initial deluge gushes on through the rabidly catchy, organ-led Falling Down the Stairs, then subsides a little for a run of calmer, floatier songs, every one rippling with hooks: Bulldozer Love is all big, warm waves; Even the Score a bubble-blowing lullaby with an acid twist.
Blank Realm's 2012 album Go Easy wasn't widely released until the following year, so when Grassed Inn arrived at the beginning of 2014, it felt like the band's creativity was running at a breakneck pace. While that wasn't exactly true, Grassed Inn is still a marked leap forward. Go Easy suggested that Blank Realm had more potential and ambition than many of the other bands reviving fuzzy college rock from the late '80s and early '90s, and the best moments here fulfill that promise.
It’s tempting to frame the career of Aussie quartet Blank Realm as a steady progression from noisy obscurity to clearer songcraft. It’s also not too difficult: connect the dots between the dark sounds of early CD-R’s, the dense psych of 2010’s Headless Ark, and the damaged rock of 2012’s Go Easy, and you’ll trace an arc sloping toward accessibility. And their latest, Grassed Inn, is their most structured, tune-heavy album—as well as their best.
I’m a weirdo; I eat my cereal dry. While I certainly enjoy a tall glass of milk, partaking in a bowl of cereal sans milk brings out all of the wonderful flavors and textures of the cereal itself. The spongy marshmallows perfectly counterbalance the crunch of the crisps in Lucky Charms; all that cinnamon and sugar cling to each flake of Cinnamon Toast Crunch rather than seep out into the surrounding sea of milk; Rice Krispies still offer every snap, crackle, and pop in my mouth without it going cold and soggy.
Australian quartet Blank Realm have been compared to Talking Heads and Sonic Youth amongst others since emerging from the Brisbane art-psych rock scene as something more than just experimentalists. 2013’s Go Easy proved that there was far more to them than their earlier recordings had suggested, with more conventional song structures starting to break through from the cataclysmic cacophony of noise that their music had often descended into in the past. Whilst there was still a strong sense of chaos for much of the previous release, tracks such as the eight-minute behemoth that is the brilliant Pendulum Swing proved that they were capable of creating masterfully mesmerising, persistent slices of synth-tinged psychedelic rock.
I’ve really liked what I’ve heard by this Brisbane, Australia bunch who last year released the terrific GO EASY (also on Fire Records after full-lengths on Not Not Fun and Bedroom Suck). Honestly, this is what I was hoping the new Surf City record would be but that was a real letdown (after their superb debut). This group includes the Spencer siblings (Daniel on vocals/drums, Sarah on synth/vocals and Luke on bass and more power to ‘em that they can be in a band together and not kill each other) who along with guitarist Luke Walsh have been turning heads at every turn.
With Blank Realm’s self-reinventing Go Easy (released in 2012 or 2013 depending on your part of the globe) the Brisbane quartet so majestically channelled the euphoria and paranoia of intense city living that a sequel has been top of many new release wish lists for 2014. Inevitably, with such highly-set expectations there is a risk that the foursome might dash us on the rocks of disappointment. Whilst it’s fair to say upfront that Grassed Inn isn’t quite the hoped-for Go Easier, in terms of unbridled melodicism, it’s undoubtedly another strong Blank Realm LP in own right, with even more evolutionary forward-stepping.