“Lo-fi” as a genre is one that of course doesn’t lean in to the polished end of the rock genre. Aussie songsters The Stevens definitely don’t want to give too much of a concession to aural fidelity – which is a shame, as there’s plenty to love here if you can get past the morass of fuzz.
Opener, Chancer, sets the stall out early, coming off like mid-nineties Dandy Warhols with Teenage Fanclub’s ear for a lively melody and harmony lines. Grandstands sounds like it’s about to segue into The Who’s Happy Jack (you can hear echoes of Pete Townsend’s gift for chord-based riffs throughout the album), before the unremarkable King Hit grinds the chirpy start to a halt. At eighteen songs, you’d expect some filler, but not this early.
Things pick back up after a few tracks with single Pulling All The Facts Together, a jaunty McCartney-esque number that feels like it’s building up to something – but then ends as things are going from “pretty good” to “sublime”. It happens throughout , as if there’s been a decision to ensure each song doesn’t outstay their welcome (Chancer and Keep Me Occupied are, at 3’55 each, the longest tracks on show).
That seems to be the issue with the album; a commitment to playing the lo-fi card at the expense of the musical quality that is obviously under that oppressive style of production. Fuzzy guitars? Here. Vocals low in the mix? Oh aye. Seemingly “quirky” touches that sound like every “quirky” touch in the indie playbook? Give it up for the instrumental Super Subtle and the amazing Fisher Price accordion piped in from a Wes Anderson movie (that’s playing on a VHS) – well I think it was an accordion, but let’s not go over the mixing again.
And all this is a shame. An album is obviously some kind of winner if it can call to mind Eels, Wheat’s Hope & Adams, their erstwhile tour mates Real Estate and even Syd-era Floyd (I Know (Charles & Jerry) gives off a strong Arnold Layne vibe, before the fuzz guitar kind of starts and unfortunately ends the song when it still has about two minutes to go – note to indie guitarists: don’t guitar solo if you can’t guitar solo). Luckily there are great tracks like Cruiser, Keep Me Occupied and single Thirsty Eye to keep you listening.
So at least The Stevens are pointing in the right direction, and with style. Next time: less filler, more killer.
Good is out on 14th July via Chapter Music.