Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REVIEW: Blank Realm - Grassed Inn

From the opening strains of the swaggering "Back to the Flood" to the sizzling melancholic emotion of "Reach Me On the Phone", the eighth and final track, Grassed Inn showers the listener with an aggressive and relentless backbeat, tantalizing guitar riffs, and sizzling synth lines.  It is a swirling, melodic and audaciously confident mix of southern hemisphere guitar pop and psychedelia with occasional seasonings of blues and electro-rock.  For me, the particular genius in the songwriting is the ability to craft a sharply melodic song that flows and sprawls as if it is from a live performance. And it demonstrates that the surging quality of the Australian underground over the past several years is continuing into 2014.

Grassed Inn is the fourth album from Brisbane's Blank Realm, a quartet consisting of siblings Daniel Spencer (drums, vocals), Sarah Spencer (synths, vocals), and Luke Spencer (bass), and Luke Wash (guitar).  The band is equally confident with big scale rockers such as the above-mentioned "Back to the Flood" and the sprawling "Bulldozer Love", the electronic centered "Even the Score", dense psychedelia such as "Baby Closes the Door" and "Violet Delivery", and a vampy blues number like "Bell Tower".  But even in an album with no low points, a few tracks stand out to me.  The first is "Falling Down the Stairs", with layers of guitar and organ and veins of grit adding a distinctive texture.  You don't want it to end, and accommodatingly, for six minutes it doesn't end.  The second is the delightful "Baby Closes the Door".  And perhaps this is just my own preference, but the track I most often play - perhaps even to obsession level - is "Reach You On the Phone".  The tale of frustrated romance builds beautifully with trebby guitar notes and a thick bassline.  After a few bars, Daniel's drum drops in to drive the song and the synths begin to flesh out the texture.  For me, there is a lot of Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen in this song.  Please check out the live version below.

Fractured, fuzzy psychedelia, jangling distortion, lyrical themes of longing and obsession, great rhythms -- so early in the year, and I already have a worthy contender for my favorite album list.

Live version of standout track "Reach You On The Phone" -

Blank Realm - "Reach You On The Phone" from Joshua Watson on Vimeo.

Here is the video for "Falling Down the Stairs" --

Blank Realm - Falling Down the Stairs from BSR on Vimeo.

Grassed Inn is out this week on Fire Records in Europe and the US/Canada, and Bedroom Suck Records in Australia.

Fire Records
Bedroom Suck Records

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