Its artwork an oddly phallic empty swimming pool, there’s a sense that Auckland trio Popstrangers spunked their proverbial ton on Antipodes, their début full-length. It’s a plucky effort – as gloopy at times (In Some Ways) as it is gritty at others (404) – though above all, it reeks of personal exertion and human effort. In fact it does so in a way that few other records nowadays do and although its languid climax, Occasion, may be as slack as Codeine’s Frigid Stars it’s A, as opposed to “D for effort” as far as these three rowdy Antipodeans may be concerned.
Take the unhinged savagery of What Else Could They Do, for instance: though it may begin with Joel Flyger’s insouciant coo, it’s soon overthrown and absolutely mauled by a mobilised coup comprising scrappy guitar work and rambunctious drums. In there somewhere is a Britpop-indebted beaut of a thing, but it’s besmirched by this brutal, oozy brilliance – nitty distortion and overdrive to curl your nails in on themselves and incur profuse bloodshed from your grizzled fingertips. With its clunky, swaying bass line which heaves like a dilapidated Steam Fayre swing boat, the segueing Cat’s Eyes glares menacingly – a variation on that same vitriolic theme.
Though where restraint serves as a recurring trope to unite the disparate sonics on offer, never do they sound more refined than on Heaven – a giddy summertime stomp of sorts directly redolent of Phoenix, were Thomas Mars et al. pegged back to the early ’90s and left to fend for themselves among the snaggletoothed likes of The La’s, etcetera. This time smeared in gummy shoegaze – and thereby deriving significant inspiration from just across the Irish sea – there is so too an unmistakably British idiosyncrasy running through the record like some mawkish idiom right down the middle of a stick of Brighton rock.
The gangly, bedraggled bits of Roxy Brown recall Robert Smith at his more maniacal, while Full Fat plays off the dizzy and overdone psychedelia of our widely lionised late ’60s – that all too brief time when the dreaded Isle of Wight Festival would’ve been reckoned to be, you know, kinda alright at least. I’m not going to go all jingoistic and acclaim all this to be a consequence of colonialism, or owt. The British Empire was a bastard, as far as I’m concerned. Though if it in some inadvertent way or other contributed to the piecing together of Antipodes then, well, at least one plus point came of it. And all that effort both on behalf of our forebears, as well as of Popstrangers, didn’t go to waste after all.
Released: February 25th, 2013 [Carpark Records]