Album Review: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - 'Sideways to New Italy'
The sophomore record from Melbourne five-piece Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever heaves with the feeling of homesickness and the loss of a place to call home, yet the weight of expectation proves too much to live up to its predecessor. Freya Martin delves into the Australian outfit’s latest record.
Sideways to New Italy is the second album from Melbourne-hailing Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, the self-proclaimed ‘soft-punk’ five-piece known for their unhurried, laid-back guitar music. The Australian band has found themselves with a reputation for mellow, summery sounds without losing the intricacy of the two interweaving guitars nor relegating themselves to obsolescence as ‘another guitar band’, after releasing two EPs, Talk Tight (2016) and French Press (2017), and 2018’s subsequent debut album Hope Downs to huge praise.
Borne out of the frustration and angst of endless touring, Sideways to New Italy heaves with the feeling of homesickness and yet the loss of a place to call home, both of which come as a result of the transience of a touring musician’s lifestyle. However, for those eagerly anticipating this record, while peppered with a handful gems, this latest offering unfortunately fails to live up to the height and quality of its predecessors.
The first three tracks of the record all seem to blur into one another, though perhaps not desirably so. All opening with a non-descript selection of guitar chords and riffs, you may be forgiven for forgetting each one as an individual track in itself. Whilst all characteristic of Rolling Blackouts C.F.’s jangly, multi-guitar style, the tracks themselves seem to be forgettable and a non-descript start to what had promised to be such an exciting second album. She’s There, the second track of the record sandwiched between two remarkably uninteresting tracks The Second Of The First and Beautiful Steven, is marginally less of a disappointment – whilst this song too begins with a similar surge of guitar, it is at least chirpy and uplifting, the repetition of short pithy lines used to good effect.
'Vibrating with energy, [Cars In Space] features the two shimmering guitars writhing and interweaving throughout the track, buried behind succinct repeated lyrics which keep the song surging forward'
In contrast, subsequent track The Only One is a refreshing change, opening with a strong punchy bassline which is at odds with the first trio of songs. Finally something different to break the relative monotony of the previous few tracks, this song appears with a pretence of happiness and undertones of lyrical melancholia, again referencing the solitude and loss of identity that accompanies constant touring. “I’m back in the state/ to find another way back/ in to the new world / that looks exactly the same / And when I open the gate / Cold sweat on my face / I can never really be sure / Who’s gonna open the door”.
Cars In Space was the first single to be released from this album, and with good reason, setting a high precedent for the remains of the album to follow. Vibrating with energy, the track features the two shimmering guitars writhing and interweaving throughout the track, buried behind succinct repeated lyrics which keep the song surging forward. The standout track of the album, it is reminiscent of earlier releases from Rolling Blackouts C.F. including In The Capital and Mainland with its use of uplifting guitar twangs working alongside the vocals and drums to form a cohesive swell of sound. The song meanders and swerves as though on the road trip it represents, perhaps another reference to the time spent by the band on the road while touring. It is plain to see that this is simply a joyous song, the enjoyment of the band captured perfectly and each member simply relishing their music.
'For those eagerly anticipating this record, while peppered with a handful gems, this latest offering unfortunately fails to live up to the height and quality of its predecessors.'
Sunglasses At The Wedding, the penultimate track, sets a vastly different, more melancholy and spectral tone and would perhaps have been a better end to the record than the fairly flat final track The Cool Change. Sunglasses at the Wedding features nicely uncomfortable chords, giving body to the whispery, sad mood and a welcome calmness after the energetic bulk of the album.
Sideways to New Italy was a record hotly anticipated by the musical community, and while there are a few standout tracks, it largely falls flat. Heavy on the guitar riffs, the album lacks the subtlety of earlier works by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, less polished and refined yet on the whole it is sadly forgettable. Regrettably, while featuring a select few gems, overall it simply falls too short of its high expectations.