The Goon Sax really are talking

If I hadn’t known that I was listening to the second album by Brisbane, Australia pop trio The Goon Sax called ‘We’re Not Talking’ I would have guessed that this was a hitherto unknown archival recording by the Go-Betweens.

And if that isn’t praise enough to immediately want to go and get this album, then I should say that although Robert Forster’s son Louis Forster is in the band, they don’t only manage to capture the frail and wonderfully imperfect perfection of the early Go-Betweens but they also manage to add an internet era teenage perspective that very much puts them in the here and now.

And I said teenage because the Goon Sax are still just 19-year olds and fresh out of high school. Their coming of age angst balances perfectly against the music that manages to stay wide-eyed while not in reality necessarily breaking new ground. Although their first album ‘Up To Anything’ was quite an eye-opener, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they tried a bit too hard to punch above their age. Here, they are more comfortable in their own age, and manage to convey the freshness and insightfulness of youth at its very best.

This is also the album where drummer Riley Jones steps up as a personality that is every bit as strong as Forster’s and James Harrison’s. Although she completes the comparisons to the Go-Betweens by being the female drummer behind the two boys trading vocal duties as well as bass and guitar up front, here she effortlessly goes beyond that role. Her songwriting and vocals add both complexity and nerve, particularly on ‘Strange Light’, turned by Jones’ slightly detached yet simultaneously heartfelt voice into one of the album highlights.

Production is also kept to a minimum, which is not to say that it is lacking in any way. On the contrary, the soundscape has grown quite a bit, but neither strings nor horns detract from the overall spartan atmosphere. 

The Goon Sax capture the same joyful amateurism as the early Go-Betweens, but if anything it is balanced with more solid playing skills. Still there is that feeling of just the right amount of discord that could just be unintentional, but in any case doesn’t feel calculated.

It all adds up to one of those pop albums that are simply irresistible. Just wow!

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