This Melbourne band’s full-length debut is a minor marvel: 10 perfectly pitched guitar-pop songs, not a dud among ’em. There are echoes of other bands – generous handfuls of R.E.M. and the Cure, mostly, with a little New Order and Television thrown in – but they make it all sound absurdly crisp and new, like some kind of magic trick.
Take “Mainland,” the album’s third track and one of several instant winners. The lyrics are a revolving door of Kings of Leon-ish clichés (“I said I’m just a servant to my base desires/She said I’ll tell you a few things free of charge”); the riffs are the kind you’ll swear you’ve heard before, somewhere on a teen-movie soundtrack or a cassette that your Walkman ate a few lifetimes ago. Except you haven’t, you’re hearing them for the first time right now, and you’re tapping your feet, and maybe humming along a little, and when’s the last time a band like this made you do that?
This happens again and again on Hope Downs. “Talking Straight” rushes ahead with such wild cosmic bliss that you won’t even notice it’s a cars-and-girls song about someone named Jenny and her midnight-blue coupé. “Cappuccino City” is a brain-fogged ballad that would make Paul Westerberg proud. Every amp tone on this album is just sweet enough, every jangling rhythm hits exactly where it should. Rolling Blackouts are playing an old game, but they’re damned good at it.