Deaf Ambitions, 2016
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/17/2017
A couple of the tags that Redspencer uses to describe their music on their Bandcamp page are “lo-fi” and “slacker.” These descriptors suit “G-Talk,” the opening track from this young Melbourne-based outfit’s debut LP. The song is a laidback and dreamy guitar-pop number, in which frontman Dave McMillan sings in his boyish and deadbeat voice, “…Everybody dies / But I’m not really scared, ‘cause that seems miles away / I wanna go out tonight / I’m burning bright.”
A similarly nonchalant youthful sentiment drives the music of another young Aussie outfit, the Sydney-based Glass Towers on their debut Halcyon Days . However, while Glass Towers expresses their youth through energetic and passionate songs with soaring and lush music, Redspencer expresses theirs through sleepy and unexcited cuts with lazy bedroom-pop music. Nevertheless, the youthfulness of both these bands is equally as authentic and contagious, which is why both these very different albums are equally compelling.
On one hand, the carefree indifference on Perks is pretty amusing, especially with McMillan’s rather dry lyrics and vocal, which can be quite acerbic and mundane at the same time – take “Some People,” which features the sentiment “Some people just don’t give a fuck / Whatever concerns me and mine / Long as I got a drink in hand, easy to keep an absent mind” (“Some People”). Meanwhile, lines like “Sunshine everything is fine purely divine / Daily gift of boundless bliss / Alcohol induced happiness and truth forevermore” on “Rainbows” extol booze as a ticket to happiness and peace in a do-nothing idler lifestyle.
On the other, there is some real heartwrenching beauty to the slackerdom of this album’s songs. While the album opener “G-Talk” might appear as the perfect track to encompass the overall nonchalance of Perks, it doesn’t represent the haunting melodiousness that prevails here. Cuts like “Convenience,” “Hard Work,” “Ride It Out,” “Spare Me,” and “Fuss,” along with the aforementioned “Some People” and “Rainbows,” wrap the album’s goofiness (of which the number “Petrol” is full of) with seriously melodic music that is bathed in wistfulness.
Perks was recorded to tape out of a makeshift studio. From one point of view, this makes the quirky insouciance of the album feel more genuine. At the same time, this lack of polish makes its tender moments utterly from the heart and free from any conceit. Sure, “drinking beer” is one philosophy of this album, but it is the sheer lack of vanity in embracing this philosophy and turning it into great music that makes this effort so gratifying.