Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: Chapter Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Sometimes, not often, magic happens. Listening to the debut album from Brisbane three-piece the Goon Sax is like living inside a great Australian coming-of-age movie – Noah Taylor/Loene Carmen’s The Year My Voice Broke, for example – sun-blinded wonder and trembling insecurities hidden under rapidly shedding layers of confidence. Each song is a wistful vignette, coloured by accident and hope, the commonplace transformed into the exceptional through a few carefully chosen bass lines and loping vocals – Ice Cream (On My Own), Sometimes Accidentally.
On their debut album, Up to Anything, Brisbane, Australia trio the Goon Sax tell pithy and insightful tales of teenage life over sparse musical backdrops that are reminiscent of classic indie pop bands like Beat Happening and the Cannanes. Formed by Louis Forster and James Harrison in the early days of high school, the duo soon added neophyte drummer Riley Jones to the band and began working on creating a simple, unadorned sound that features the two guitarist/bassist/vocalists trading off songs and instruments. Harrison's are more straight-forward and pleading, with his nasal vocals pushing at the jangling guitars and Jones' primal beats.
In American English, saying you're "up for anything" usually means you're open, adventurous, maybe a little indecisive. The Brisbane teen trio the Goon Sax have titled their debut album Up to Anything, which might be the dark flipside of that sentiment: "I'm not feeling up to anything/I'm nothing, nowhere, all over again/I can't walk/I can't walk this sadness out," bellows frontman Louis Forster on the first and title track. In this mind state, you aren't just open, you're rudderless and confused, and will go along with whatever life presents you.
Welcome to the dark underbelly of the pretty unfair industry cycle that shoves Radiohead and Queen Bey and Views and that Apple Music independent contractor Chance the Rapper down our collective throats. You can’t really engage with music in 2016 without knowing about those records, but now that ….
Often we talk about music not being challenging enough– everything sounds like something else, and recycled to the point of frustrating monotony. But despite pop “eating” itself, there’s still something very satisfying about discovering a band that don’t pretend to be anything other than themselves: in The Goon Sax’s instance, that means purveyors of simple, unembellished pop music. For all of the flaws in their name (come on – it’s pretty terrible), Up To Anything is as perfect a pop album you’re going to get in these times.
Whilst The Goon Sax might too easily and obviously have drawn comparisons with The Go-Betweens, due to being co-led by Robert Forster’s son Louis, the fledgling Brisbane trio have more in common with latter-day guitar-slinging Australian outfits like Twerps, Dick Diver, Bitch Prefect, Full Ugly and Terry – and not just in terms of sharing a questionable commerciality-averse approach to choosing a band name. Funnelling ‘60s jangle-rock and the omnipotent VU chug through the filter of ‘80s-to-’90s DIY indie-pop to wrap around their bespoke tales of late-teenage life, the threesome are both part of and stood apart from a currently buzzing scene of charming young Antipodean misfits. With Forster (vocals/guitar) joined by high-school friends James Harrison (vocals/bass) and Riley Jones (drums/backing vocals), the three 17-18 year olds have forged a collection that stealthy conceals a high age-belying degree of craftsmanship within deceptively rough-cut arrangements.