RIPPER! Melbourne’s TERRY return to complete a hat trick of three albums in three years (TERRYilogy?) that leaves the piss streak that is the rest of indie pop in 2018 dribbling down its own leg in the dust.
That the four members of TERRY also play or have played in at least ten other excellent bands (among them Dick Diver, Total Control, Mick Harvey Band, School of Radiant Living) is an indicator of just how purple a patch the Australian underground scene is right now. It’s arguable that Melbourne is now the epicentre of underground guitar music anywhere, and a fun game to play is to imagine what the early 90s NME would have made of it all.
A milieu this thick in the incestuous clique ridden rivalry that defines all the greatest "scenes" would no doubt have led to a nametag, call it The New Australian Underground, to rival Britpop. You can imagine the likes of Everett True jumping on a plane to shoot the breeze with TERRY and ending up getting too close, only to be callously disowned when the big time hit. But this is 2018, the NME and music journalism in general is a ghost and TERRY are still largely unknown outside the underground. Maybe that suits them just fine, but it still feels like a shame when the music they make is as intelligent and accessible as the best pop of the last forty years or so, a hard trick to pull off.
Opener 'Carpe Diem' conflates latin with Latin American language appropriation cliches, it’s a sly start that harnesses the band’s trademark deadpan blend of female and male voices to subtle and slightly disorientating effect. Throughout TERRY play with language, 'Under Reign' being perhaps the album’s most lyrically dense example of their capacity for tethering complex ideas to straight up tunes.
Lead single 'The Whip' cuts to the quick in a couple of minutes, lashing around a rollicking “nanananananaa” chorus. It encapsulates what is brilliant and subversive about this band, that they can make a song that on at least one level seems to be about S&M yet which breezily avoids all the nihilistic VU cliches, opting instead for a rodeo vibe that still sounds like what it describes. 'Crime' is a febrile chant that appears to celebrate and deprecate it’s subject in equal measure. 'Oh Helen' is all twee pop bingo hall shuffle, complete with weirdly appropriate sitar interludes. And while there’s nothing here as instantly poppy as 'Take Me To The City' from last year's 'Remember Terry', there’s a confidence and depth to the songwriting that belies a band hitting it’s stride.
TERRY are over the hype and romance of being a new band and their music is richer for it, veering off in all directions. If they have a failing it’s that they can come off sounding cold, but the emotions are there if you dig for them. Penultimate track 'Ciao Goodbye' is mysterious, sad and somehow hopeful at the same time. Is this TERRY’s way of saying so long? Maybe they should cap it at three records, quit while they are so far ahead.
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