Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rolling Blackouts C.F.

  • Talk Tight [Sub Pop, 2017] A
  • The French Press [Sub Pop EP, 2017] B+
  • Hope Downs [Sub Pop, 2018] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Talk Tight [Sub Pop, 2017]
Released mid-2017 U.S. but early-2016 Australia, this sounds more New Zealand--Chills-Clean-Bats, bright young white guys whose trebly guitars purl and mesh, although Go-Betweens recitative enters as well. If you like the effect--and why not, it's beautiful--you'll gravitate to it on sound alone. But what I'm loving at least as much is lyrics that suit the bright white male culture the sound implies. Seven tracks lasting half an hour include four courtship songs that dig so deep and sweet into that adventure that the titles alone evoke their smarts and heart: "Tender Is the Neck," "Heard You're Moving," "Write Back." The fourth title, "Wide Eyes," is less evocative, so here's the whole couplet: "Been drivin' cross the country [a big deal in Australia] / Just to see those wide eyes." Then there's "Career," which is not a love song and may even be a tragedy--or a dark comedy. A

The French Press [Sub Pop EP, 2017]
"And I've been disconnected," ends the first stanza of the title opener, where the press of that title purveys news in France and makes coffee in Australia and by the end the link between the speakers in those nations disconnects electronically as well as emotionally. So figure these guys are bright enough to know their newest batch of intense, speedy songs doesn't connect the way the first one did--and also aesthetes enough to think that's valid if not brilliant. Valid I'll definitely give them. B+

Hope Downs [Sub Pop, 2018]
What's most distinct about the best jangle-pop band to surface in years is also what's weakest--the way the jangle-pop commonplaces "sparkling," "effervescent," and "boisterous" that adorn their raves don't actually apply. "Addictive," yes, which is why admirers rave and why I'm giving them their due. Lyrically, the mood is basically melancholy, which in songs like the mournful "Bellarine," the reminiscent "Cappuccino City," the pro-immigrant "Mainland," and my favorite, the love-out-of-reach "Talking Straight" are dark notes I'm inclined to suspect their stauncher fans don't feel, because that would dull their jangle-fix. FYI, the Hope Downs of the title is an iron reserve in Western Australia, but those words do have other resonances, don't they? Sub Pop connects them to "the feeling of 'standing at the edge of the void of the big unknown, and finding something to hold onto.'" The persistence of jangle-pop, for instance. B+