Album Review: All Gone by Pop Singles (2012) (Label: Vacant Valley)

I love free stuff. The little cookie at my local coffee shop, the newspaper on a flight, anything with the word ‘complimentary’ attached to it or the mere mention of ‘gratis’ by an ingratiating salesman  will generally have me appreciating and engaging with a ‘free item’ more specifically than usual.

This album, out of Australian label Vacant Valley, is now free and appears to be the only album from Aussie vocalist Tam Matlakowski’s pre-Tam Vantage solo work and initially I was extremely please at my find.

Early album tracks such as the exceptional All Gone (see below) and Field of Dreams are genuine slices of the typical mid to late 80’s windswept Australian pop that I have spent far too much money on over the years. The melodic guitar work of Peter Bramley and the fluttering deliberately imperfect brush of Ash Wyatt’s drums are married to a downcast echoed vocal delivery that conjures up references to The Go-Betweens. Added to the Australian indie mix is the sparse mixing arrangements that remind me of Born Sandy Devotional era The Triffids.

However after repeated listens, the self congratulatory back slaps for my free find increasingly diminished. Initially beyond the above two tracks there really is very little of note. The angular bass work and and hushed vocals do add that eerie sort of post-punk feel to the sound in the same manner as many late 80’s tracks do, but the better bands of that particular era / genre always had ‘something to say’ to drive the overall quality of an album home.

Unfortunately, lyrically this album is merely ‘love fodder’, opining about the emotional upheaval of relationship commitment etc etc and etc. This would not be quite so bad if Matlakowski’s lyrics were engaging, however tracks such as The Greatest Feeling are pretty much typical of the almost child like simplicity of the lyrics which proclaim

You’re not in charge of me
But more importantly you’re not in charge of you
As your an actor too.

or from the opening track

I see your eyes and I start to wander
If all our dreams are shooting stars

[insert pregnant pause]…

Let’s die alone

Its just all extremely derivative…but it is free.

In conclusion the chosen name of the band perfectly sums up my feeling for this album. Enough talent to produce some superb singles (I may even add Hold On Tight to that category – see below) but simply not enough ideas or even charisma to force home a full album.

Despite this there is currently another EP, a demos album and a live album all for free at Bandcamp and I certainly feel it is worth the exercise of indulging in a bit of singles mining.

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