Album Review: The Downs by Rolling Blackouts C.F. (2018) (Sub Pop)

There are three (obviously ridiculous) generalizations that can be proffered about Australians. 

1) They make the best food on outside fires. Apologies to South Africans and Americans, but Aussies can do things with a BBQ that titillate taste buds to such an extent that a) it has various hoofed/scaled critters queuing up for the honour of being sacrificed and b) it almost makes up for the absolute awful fizzy liquid chemicals that they try and pass off as beer.

2) Aussies need to win at sport too much. Whether it is tennis players making sexual remarks to another players wife, Aussie Rules footballers taking more drugs than Charlie Sheen or their Cricket Captain smuggling half a hardware store down his pants to secretly cut the ball in two…they are going to get the job done and the job is to win.

3. 94% of all people from Melbourne have played in a band which is some sort of glorious jangle-pop/jangle rock band, for it is the current mecca of the off kilter jangle scene.

Of course, I jest about everything apart from point 3 and if Melbourne is currently the blessed kingdom of the jangle scene then Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have, in the course of two EP’s (split by their signature with the worlds coolest major, Sub Pop who snapped them up virtually straight after their debut 2015 Talk Tight EP) and this, their debut album, proven themselves to be the erstwhile heir apparent to the crown.

So how does this album cement RBCF’s position as ‘Melbourne nobility’? Initially by doing very little differently to what they have done before is the obvious and unequivocal answer. The album is book ended by Hammer and the superlative opener An Air Conditioned Man (see below). Both these tracks (along with Exclusive Grave) sees RBCF engage in the typically characteristic blue collar rock of a band such as the The Hold Steady, whilst entwining various levels of jangled riffs into the resolutely competing guitar interplay that eventually seem to somehow crash land into each. This is their default mode and a totally essential one.

An Air Conditioned Man

Of course there is much more to the album than their contnued reliance on the originality of the brilliant mayhem described above. When the tempo drops, so does the intensity and we are left with tracks such as Talking Straight, Mainland, How Long? (see below) and Cappuccino City that seem to claim the channel between the more lucid earlier sounds of the Miracle Legion and the spikier more pungent / snide snap of their more quirkier college rock soulmates, Pylon.

How Long?

In general the album may have received limited criticism for not appearing to have changed their aesthetic since the two preceding releases. However, why would they? They have only released a dozen or so non-album tracks across two EP’s before this album. Would it be time to add different nuances to their core essence before they have even pitched their flag with an actual debut album?

Perhaps they have been the victims of the huge amount of critical acclaim that the preceding The French Press EP garnered and therefore the expectation was that they were now due for a change or at least were further down the path of ‘band maturation’, when in reality they are still very much a fledgling band needing to find their place at a natural pace.

Either way I am willing to jump on the RBCF train and simply hope it continues to careen out of control with the same abandon and with me clinging on desperately to see where it ends up. Ultimately if it ends up in the same place as this album, I will be more than happy.

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