What is a "double natural"? One meaning refers to an obscure music notation. Another refers to certain roll of the die in a game of craps. But in the case of Melbourne's Boomgates, Double Natural means a debut album of well crafted songs performed with the relaxed assurance of musicians who seek to please themselves and support each other, with the confidence that the rest of us will appreciate it. And it every respect that matters to me, it is a triumph.
Boomgates' existence may be evidence that the perfect way to build a supergroup could be to have a worthwhile goal other than being a supergroup. The goal in this case simply was for a few friends already in other bands getting together to play for fun. And apparently is was fun and the output was good, so a few more friends were invited. The lineup coalesced with Steph Hughes (vocals and guitar) from Dick Diver, Rick Milovanovic (bass) from Twerps, Brendan Huntley (vocals) from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Gus Lord of Teen Archer (guitar) and Shaun Gionis (drums). A few 7" ensued and, some time down the road, they found the time to record an album. This assemblage works so well because despite all of the individual talent, no one seems determined to call undue attention to themselves at the expense of the whole. The music on Double Natural features Hughes' and Lord's wonderful loose, jangly guitars that sometimes remind me of Aussie greats The Go-Betweens and Lucksmiths, but sometimes sound like The Velvet Underground. The drums provide a solid foundation and Milovanovic"s sinuous bass varies between rhythmic accent and a lead instrument (for example, a segment of "Whispering or Singing"). One of the most delightful elements is the vocal interplay between Brendan and Steph. Sometimes they take turns, sometimes they sing together, and sometimes they duel in a call and response structure. The varying structures alone are brilliant, but the different vocal qualities make it truly interesting. Brendan's energetic style embraces both singing and talk-singing, and has a sardonic Camper Van Beethoven tint. Steph's innocent, almost naive, approach contrasts perfectly to give a combined savory and sweet vocal delivery. And the overall effect is of a series of conversations.
Track 5, "Cartons and Cans" is a song ostensibly about the suburban ritual of sorting recycling, but of course about other things as well. The beginning chord progression will delight fans of 60s guitar pop, and perhaps remind you of a Sam Cooke favorite. Two minutes of pop bliss, right here --
The other bands of the members of Boomgates have different styles, and the album incorporates elements from all of them. There are taut post punk moments, country stylings and a bit of 90s slacker to go with the jangly pop. What ties it all together is the broken-in comfort of the songs and sincerity of the emotions. Nothing seems forced or artificial; nothing seems like an attempt to try another genre -- it is all Boomgates. For a taste of one of the more muscular jams, enjoy this video for "Whispering or Singing". The first line references a freight train, and the remainder of the track delivers --
I certainly hadn't planned on Boomgates shouldering their way onto my playlist. But the ten tracks here make one of the most compelling demands on my listening time that I've faced this calendar year, and I have no doubt that it will be on my year end list of most recommended albums.
Here is a nice video of a song from a show from April 2011. If it fails to load, try this link.
Boomgates - Cameo @ Boogie Festival, Tallarook (23rd April 2011) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.
As to sourcing this music, the label is Brisbane's Bedroom Suck. I've provided the link below, but I don't know what the prospects or costs would be for obtaining a physical copy in the States. The album is a available in mp3 format from Amazon and the relevant link is below. If for some reason you remain uncertain about the album, try a few samples on the Amazon page. In no particular order, try "Cows Come Home", "No Excuses", "Hold Me Now", "Hanging Rock" ... oh hell, just try them all.
Bedroom Suck Records
Amazon link for Double Natural