Second Of Spring (Chapter Music)
People make double albums about as frequently as federal parliament has double dissolutions. For good reasons.
As Malcolm Turnbull could tell you, it’s a fraught exercise that can end in tears, or tantrums, and history shows you rarely earn the plaudits for what Sir Humphrey Appleby no doubt would call your “brave” move.
You are asking a lot of the voters/listeners who have less and less patience for indulgence. You give the opposition/other bands an opening to be more nimble and direct while you defend this rare and weighty action. You can lose control of the narrative as multiple issues/tracks muddy the message.
And, perhaps most dangerous of all, the question of do you have the policies/songs to justify everything from cost to time will be asked, and asked brutally. The ratio of good to adequate is manageable in a regular package but in a bigger affair the quantity can obliterate proportionality.
That Second Of Spring is Beaches third album, and arrives some four years since their second, She Beats, may go some way to explaining its arrival as a 17-track, 76 minute collection that would in the old vinyl days have been a double record.
Only the confident and the well-stocked, or the frustrated and over-stocked, would even contemplate this much in one outburst. Which was at play here? I’m going with the former as the motivation for Beaches as this is a record that feels anything but shoved out the door just to clear some mental/storage space.
It sprawls, of course, but doesn’t do so aimlessly, the Victorian quintet never really spinning out any particular song beyond reasonable/internal limits. No wankers here.
It is varied but not eclectic, with the ground covered keeping to natural neighbours such as drone pop (imagine early ‘60s groups on some late ‘60s drugs), shoegazing dreaminess, pulsing psych and stoner rock.
And it sticks to regular templates of guitars, drums, guitars, keyboards, guitars and never too prominent in the mix vocals which serve as another brick in the wall of (modulated) noise. And guitars.
The trade-off, the discarded portion of the combinations, are any particular emphasis on melody, whether in variety or exploration. This is more a mood album than a song album, a musical cityscape of moderated, medium density dotted with colour rather than a jumble of towers, bungalows and multi-level variegating the sightlines.
Which isn’t to say the songs are indistinguishable, but rather that their differences are in the shadings rather than the headlining portions, and that accumulation of elements become a kind of momentum of its own.
If you drop in at any point through the 17 tracks you may find yourself wondering “what is the point and where are we going?” after three or four numbers. Nothing really stands out at first.
But if you play on another four or five songs there is a kind of atmosphere built that convinces you to set aside goals and focus on experience. Go with the drift, nod on the narcoticised tide and feel yourself lifted by the swells as they periodically appear.
As with any double album the question arises, would this have been better at half the time? Objectively you would probably say yes. Subjectively, it’s also a yes as there’s a reason why albums have long settled at a “natural” length of around 40 minutes, and not every track here justifies its existence when stood out alone.
But albums aren’t judged as stand-alone tracks – though Arrow and Contact would carry the weight for lesser songs on their own - so in an odd way, the length of Second Of Spring becomes its own best argument. Lose yourself in the journey and the distance being travelled, and the goal being sought, becomes somewhat irrelevant. It’s the feel, the vibe of the thing.
I bet you Malcolm Turnbull wishes he could make the same argument now. He could do worse than soothe/drown his regrets in Second Of Spring.