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Five Rooms (Modern Morning)

KICKING MYSELF RIGHT NOW as I’m a bit late to this record. Which is a shame. Not because it’s too late for me or you to get into it (who, apart from excitable 15-year-old fans and incitable record company staffers, only buy albums in the first week or so of release?), but it’s a shame for the time I missed having a most excellent time playing pop music that kicks as well as shines.

Guitar pop music in this case. Four-piece; sometimes fuzzy, sometimes clean guitars; male and female lead voices alternating sometimes, in unison other times; strong scent of the ‘90s and especially Sydney (though Brisbane, actual original home of these folk, might have a word to say about that); melodies that aren’t complex but do hang around; bass that regularly pokes its nose out and says “I got hooks too”; drums that say “you guys do you, I’ll keep things going” but still find ways to rumble in advance when necessary; and tunes. Sometimes really sweet tunes.

The kind of stuff that says yeah, these people might know what they’re doing. Which, it turns out they do: main songwriters/voices, bassist Kellie Lloyd and guitarist Tim Steward, have been at this for three decades as Screamfeeder; guitarist Darek Mudge is an old hand, having joined first time around the turn of the century; while drummer Phil Usher is probably still in the initiation stage of sitting in the dud seat/been sent to buy left-handed screwdrivers, having signed up at the beginning of the year, just in time to record this album.

Not that there’s anything obvious to suggest the band playing Five Rooms is any more wrinkly than other bands working ‘90s sounds like, say, Wet Leg, Restless Leg or Horsegirl (who all happily dive in like they were even born then) or indeed any less vibrant than Imperial Broads or Marveline (who were actually making music then). Well, except maybe an easy certainty in their handling of the form.

Take the way Late To The Party, a winding, long (for this album) drone-like piece of mood rock holds its shape for the duration rather than looking for a sugar hit or payoff. That’s a pop band not scared of not being pop. But just as telling is Break It Clean, which feels subdued, or at least tempered, in its first minute, as if the low horizon guitars will control aspirations. Yet the song actually breaks through the cloud just enough in the guitar solo to give the final two minutes a surprising buoyancy that simply appeals. That’s a pop band knowing when to be just pop enough.

On more obvious grounds – in their presumed natural state of hook-y fare – there’s no hesitation either in the rush of Don’t Get Ge Started and, especially, Deirdre, in the upturned face of State To State and How We Pay, or the low hip slow swing of Late To The Party, just as they let the grunt show through in the album’s closer, Try To Find Us, and show us just enough vulnerability in the bouncing, jangling, everything necessary Everything Is Temporary.

In the interests of not letting anyone know too late again, if you like what you hear here and you live in Sydney or Brisbane, Screamfeeder complete their mini-tour – with Adalita no less – at Oxford Arts Factory on June 18 and Princess Theatre, June 24. I reckon you should go. After all, why kick yourself later?


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