With Gotye's arrival, the musically cognizant American populace has begun to give some attention to Australia. This is a fine start, but adventurous listeners will likely discover that Gotye's minimal pop is but a miniscule cog plucked out of the larger apparatus of Australian music. With that in mind, we selected five newer groups carrying on the boundary-pushing rock lineage of the continent that, thankfully, are not Gotye.
Descriptions of this band typically begin with "members of," but this new Australian group's self-titled 2011 LP stands alone without having to run off its members' credentials. With a vocal delivery similar to the soulful stylings of Paul Weller, relatively clean guitars, a dreamy tempo, and syrupy hooks, this is a modern power-pop band that isn't trying to be. They play melodious pop songs with hyperventilating conviction and a flippant disregard for the pastiche posturing that haunts many self-declared "power-pop" groups.
Retaining the tension and maladjustment of post-punk while tossing aside the musical tropes, Total Control have repeatedly established themselves at the forefront of innovative Australian rock music with each record they've released since 2008. Their songs evoke at times the trebly guitar swipes of early Wire, but the group is too fickle to tread the same territory for long. Following any semblance of a recognizable riff or style will likely be a stark divergence into such disparate techniques as synthesizer atmospherics or motorik pulsing. On their split release with S.F.'s own Thee Oh Sees last year, each track seemed to become more volatile. Relief simply never occurs in a Total Control song; only the frightening adrenaline of the plunge endures. There is a nauseating uneasiness that permeates vocalist Daniel Young's delivery, and the lyrics grapple with appropriately existential crises. Henge Beat, the band's 2011 full length, and the aforementioned split record with Thee Oh Sees will provide more than enough motivation to seek out earlier releases on various tiny Australian indies.
The opening track on former Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard's final album before his death, Pop Crimes, in 2010, is a sultry duet with Jonine Standish entitled "(I Know) A Girl Called Johnny." There is seamless chemistry between the two vocalists on the hyper-sexual track, but it is also strikingly symbolic. Howard, a revered facet of Australia's musical old guard, ushers in Standish, the drummer and vocalist of HTRK, a new Australian group creating challenging pop. During their relatively brief existence, HTRK has already undergone significant changes to their approach and lineup. Their earliest output found them in line with a No Wave, noise-rock aesthetic, but following the suicide of core member Sean Stewart in 2010, the group returned in 2011 with the gloomy Work (Work, Work.) Druggy, minimal drum machine programming underpins dreary synths in their most recent work while Standish morosely croons above the bleak atmospherics.