Those seeking understanding in the music of Limbeck need to look no further than the words that delicately fall out from the CD’s pastoral packaging. Yes, the words that sprawl through the unending vistas of America’s back porch amuse with casual observations of small towns, highways, passing cars and those sleepless nights spent under the pull of the moon. These words that so delicately describe a seemingly infinite road trip highlight Limbeck’s fascination with life on the move; be it their own traveling (“It was a long quiet drive / Yeah, we took it last night, over the Colorado river / A sleep stop in nowhere with switchblades and potted plants”, in “Comin’ from Tuscon”) or a friend’s (“We were supposed to have a black and white Spring, do you remember that? / You’re probably packing some things to bring / Toss the boxes in the back”, in “I Wrote This Down”), they snake charmingly down the dusty roads of alt-country-pop with that wide-eyed suburban touch. And they do so without much fuss; straightforward and at their very best, reveling in the joy of being – enthralled by sightseeing and interpreting the experiences in the most human way possible.
The ardent simplicity of the music is a fitting tribute to the sense of wandering, almost ambling by it seems. Canvassed by soft guitar strumming that sways between electric and acoustic and textured by the often mid-paced percussion work, Hi, Everything’s Great is a brew of sweeping pop rock doused heavily by country’s laid back twang. It was a philosophy taken by the band upon recording that their sound would resist modern technology’s calculated presence, and instead rely on the genuine echo that resides in more practical vibes. Cowbells, lap steel guitars, banjos and organs are all part of this rural adaptation; from the wistful acoustic breeze of “In Ohio On Some Steps” to the foot-tapping makeup of “Honk + Wave”, this deliberate reliance on more earthy sounds and idyllic pop views comes together in perfect unison. A far cry from their early day juggling of the pop punk aesthetic that saw them squeeze their round peg into a square hole.
The band is more than a sound however; the mini postcards-as-lyric-sheets are adorned with the photographical work of members Robb Maclean and Patrick Carrie. They capture the sentiments felt in the music – moments trapped in time that have forever been isolated by the camera. Desert roads, sidewalks, practice spaces, lakes, mountains and the snow covered streets are passport stamps of their journey; visual companions for this traveled sound. It is an indication that they are not too bothered by creating compositions of grandeur – unlike the aching works of say, a Ryan Adams, Limbeck are simple, uncomplicated and unflustered by their craft, calling upon similarities to former Doghouse giants Chamberlain; resulting in a brisk, untroubled, road-tested collection of uniquely suburban country-tinged sounds that treads lightly on wholehearted passion and stapled memories. It however, signifies their greatest weakness; their fondness for minimalism leaves them perched on the lower rungs of their ilk and would see them struggle greatly to please those looking for far less picturesque offerings.
Nonetheless, an epic road trip calls for many of music’s accompaniment – certain occasions, circumstances and geographical co-ordinates require suitable audio supplement. California’s sweeping coastal landscape may call upon Brian Wilson to provide the soundtrack while the Orleans of New hark jazz’s greatest madmen, but for all the times in between where the air is a sifting cool and the sun is the blanket of warmth, maybe all you’ll need is a little bit of ‘everything great’.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.