The second album by The Goon Sax, 'We're Not Talking', sees the Brisbane three piece growing in confidence, with flashes of brilliance at regular intervals throughout. Central to its charm is the voice and nascent charisma of Louis Forster, the son of a Go-Between who somehow manages to wear his indie pop lineage lightly and on his own terms.
There’s no getting around the fact that Forster, now 19, has chosen to follow his own indie pop into not only music, but the exact same genre of music in which said pop is so venerated. It’s a path fraught with all kinds of potential pitfalls but so far Louis appears to be treading it with ease, not least because it turns out he can write very good songs himself. He’s also joined this time around by both bandmates on songwriting and vocal duties and the result is another album that will be making end of year lists in a few months.
Opener 'Make Time 4 Love' bounds in on a bed of cowbells and beautifully judged strings. “I’m as happy as the number of lights,” sings Forster, before triumphantly skewering the kind of happiness that entails. It’s a song about trying to lure an object of affection away from the things that distract them, while acknowledging its author’s own distraction in the process.
Something that immediately grabs you about this record is the production, which easily elevates it above its more naive sounding predecessor; the sound of new label Wichita making good on their investment. Recorded in Melbourne by Architecture in Helsinki’s James Cecil and Cameron Bird it has some of the superficial bells and whistles of that band (cowbells and castanets in this case) but it’s all nicely done and still leaves The Goon Sax plenty of space to be themselves.
James Harrison takes the lead on 'Love Lost', the first of three Harrison songs in a row on side one. Flying Nun bands like The Clean easily spring to mind on this and other songs of Harrison’s here, lead single 'She Knows' in particular sounding very much like mid period Chills. In contrast to Forster's precocity Harrison can sometimes sound ordinary but this isn’t to disparage him, his songs are among the most authentic on the album in their accurate depiction of the awkward age they describe.
Drummer Riley Jones joins him on 'Losing Myself', bringing to mind the Pastels. She also takes the lead on 'Strange Light', its stripped down solo approach recalling Juliana Hatfield, very welcome in a set otherwise dominated by her male cohorts. This interchangeability is one of the band's strengths, too much of one or the other could get grating, but with each taking turns, splitting vocal duties etc, they keep reeling you in.
While Forster's songs (including standouts 'Sleep EZ', 'We Can't Win') appear to be mostly about relationships and identity, Harrison's tend more towards the solipsistic, and can be direct to the point of bluntness. It makes for a nice contrast between the two personalities, mediated somewhat by Jones' presence.
For the moment Forster has the edge in terms of sophistication but you get the feeling Harrison is learning fast, and with Jones now contributing her own songs the competition will be fierce on the next record. Penultimate song 'Get Out' is pure Postcard era Orange Juice, with the bits in.
It maybe the most enjoyable moment on the album, shy boy raucous and unselfconscious, the sound of young Brisbane politely ripping it up. It's derivative to the point of pastiche but when Forster sings "I need you around/tie my feet to the ground" you can hear an original straining to be heard, and you're inclined to listen.
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