It’s easy to think of influences and comparisons when you listen to Melbourne’s Pop Singles. Everything from The Go Betweens and The Triffids (cause they’re Australian) to The Rain Parade and The Teardrop Explodes. But that is only because they, like all other great bands, have understood and digested pop history, distilling it into their extract. They’re not without vision however – that’s important. On their first album All Gone, just realased in Australia, Tam Matlakowski has found his voice as a songwriter and a singer. Rather than adding more guitars, as on their first couple of 7″s (released in 2009-2010), they have stripped down the sound to the bare essentials. You definitely get the feeling Pop Singles have reached their sound by playing live regularly, where the songs can get very energetic (check out a complete recent set from Sydney here). There’s another similarity to The Go-Betweens, whose first album also has the sound of a live recording. But rather than losing the finer details in washes of guitar, the production is kept clean with a minumum of overdubs (the odd bit of guitar and keyboard here and there). This gives the vocals a lot more prescence even though they’re still low in the mix. And this is without a doubt one of the most lyrically interesting albums I’ve heard this year.
This is the title track “All Gone”, a fantastic pop song, and that hook after the third chord is a textbook example of how to write a memorable tune. It’s also doubled on the bass, and in general, the way Peter Bramley’s bass playing interacts with the guitar is a huge part of the sound. His playing is melodic and full of ideas, you can tell he really cares about making the songs work. He’s also the person behind the Vacant Valley label, who have released the album, a true mark of dedication. I hear that copies will be available in Europe soon, via X-Mist. The third member of Pop Singles is drummer Ash Wyatt, who has also played with Velcro. Her drumming is excellent and could even have been a bit more prominent in these recordings. As I recall, it was a joy watching her play when I saw the band way back in 2009, as I’m sure it would have been to see Lindy Morrision live.
All Gone beats about the bush, sort of shunning straight major chords and lilting and wavering on major-sevenths and minors. Some of my favourites are the languid “Overcast”, the strangely positive “Are You Still There?”, and closing track “The Shore”, which starts off very similarly to Primal Scream’s first ‘pop single’ from 1985. Let’s hope Pop Singles don’t follow down the same path, but then again they don’t have a Jim Beattie to lose. Listen to four of the tracks here.