Review: The Goa Express – The Goa Express

Artwork for The Goa Express' debut album

The Goa Express party like it’s 1996.

Back in the summer (‘of Britpop’ as some wags dubbed it), despite an excellent new album, one of Blur’s most impressive achievements was how intensely and accurately they were able to roll back the years to deliver their early, frantically wasted tracks as potently as they had during their first burst of youthful insolence. The likes of Oily Water and Popscene had lost nothing in three decades.

If The Goa Express are lucky enough to last that long (and here’s hoping they do), the Burnley band will have a task on their hands to do the same, for youthful verve is very much the order of the day even if the band have been plugging away for a few years now. Flummoxed by COVID and the now-standard vinyl delays, their second album is – by all accounts – already written.

As is likely, it will have a different sound to this debut judging by closing track Prove It which, unlike every other track, opens quietly before bursting into life with a widescreen, indie-rock marching outro, pointing to a bigger, grander future.

Which is just as well, because otherwise it’s the sort of album that can – and should – only be made once in a career. It has a youthful vitality and vibrancy, full of optimism and heartbreak. Current single It’s Never Been Better (on which James Douglas-Clarke sounds unerringly like Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble) recalls how, ‘back in the summer we spent nights together’, and displays both confidence and nostalgia on, perhaps unsurprisingly, the oldest song on the album.

Honey has a spring in its step with frantic guitars and impassioned vocals, while the simple but infectious You’re The Girl hits all the indie-rock hallmarks one could ask for in its two minutes. Indeed, the album is a slight thing – coming in at just over half-an-hour – but shrewdly leaving the core audience wanting more.

Including some bona fide anthems-in-waiting helps, of course. The wondrous aspiration of Good Luck Charm, all righteous verse, swoony chorus and drilling drums is one, while the relentless Portrait is another. Both come from the Supergrass school of thought when it comes to singles: direct, punchy and memorable.

Speaking of Supergrass, along with Blur they are a clear influence across the album, and on Small Talk the two best meet. The ragged guitars recall Graham Coxon at his most belligerent, while the chorus is a snotty Albarn special and the song’s pacing is very I Should Coco. Splendid stuff.

That’s not to say Britpop is the only influence, as the album contains glimpses of all great British pop, from the Buzzcocks to the Lightning Seeds. Talking About Stuff, knowingly inane, is a pleasingly buoyant blend of Libertines and Style Council.

Delivered with a breath-taking pace and unironic sincerity, The Goa Express have fulfilled their promises on album one. Swaggering, confident and, above all else, fun.

It should light up the dark winter that comes.

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