Review: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Endless Rooms

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Endless Rooms

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever emerge out of strict lockdowns with the best album of their career.

Sometimes home may be home, but not so sweet.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have, since their debut Hope Downs, presented a musical outlook which could as much have been from Manchester, England or Manchester, New Hampshire – a stylish amalgam of R.E.M. bookishness and classic British indie jangle.

The quintet are Australian however – Melbournians to be precise – and Endless Rooms has its contextual roots in both the city’s harsh lockdown protocols of 2020 and in part also the country’s highly stratified society where haves and have nots live out very different, uneven lives.

Recorded at a house built by the family of siblings Tom and Joe Russo (who are the outfit’s guitar and bass respectively), before that process started the pair had traded rough demos with fellow members Joe White, Fran Keaney and drummer Marcel Tussie, unable under the terms of the strict local pandemic enforcement to do much else.

The result is a collection of songs which inevitably pulls both in and outward, an extension of the title’s concept. Here behind every door lies another and the group insist this is almost an ‘anti-concept’ album, threaded – and only then tangentially – by a method in which tracks are created first as a husk and then meticulously decorated with intricate sonic patterns.

The counterweight was a desire to reign the go-anywhere spontaneity which had been a feature of the previous record Sideways To New Italy – and the outcome is a record that traverses the spectrum from the serious to the absurd but which remains musically accessible at times.

At just over one minute long, the instrumental opener Pearl Like You still manages to sketch out a drifting, dreamy ambience created by Joe Russo’s loop pedal; this is territory RBCF haven’t visited before, but the segue into Tidal River, from passive to active, is a familiar almost perfection.

Reflecting on the profound barrier affluent Australians have from their natural environment, and the fate of the indigenous peoples they’ve dispossessed, it’s arguably their best to date, shot through with a Paisley Underground vibrancy and slug after slug of defiant purpose.

There is a sense that as a vehicle something as frequently idyllic sounding as this doesn’t quite convey politics with whatever ‘p’ you want to choose. And this is not a polemical record, more one happy to hand the megaphone to someone else.

Cases in point, the frenetically buzzing The Way It Shatters and Saw You At The Eastern Beach deal allegorically with how most lives have no more determination than circumstantial randomness and the carcass of decay respectively: both are at best lyrically ambiguous.

With the demo material often scattered and set down on a phone, ideas came and went, got hammered out of shape, followed, discarded and completely reinterpreted. Here, Open Up Your Window, which began as an eight-minute jam, has been truncated into a beatific stub, whilst at the other end of the spectrum the moribund closer Bounce Off the Bottom was finished in less than 24 inspiration filled hours.

The last conceptual strand embraces the separation from reality that being musicians often gifts; the title-track ruminates in one universe on creativity, whilst the lilting countryfied strains of Caught Low underpin the story of a trip to Coachella and some downtime spent in a community locked away from existence itself.

Sometimes it’s a talent for observing what happens and turning it into randomness that gives us our humanity. Endless Rooms is by turns inscrutable, heavenly and sublime – occasionally all at once.

It’s also without coincidence easily Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s best album yet.

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