Album Review: RVG – Feral

Melbourne band RVG (Romy Vager Group), in their second album ‘Feral’, have somehow managed to coalesce all that is great in the Australian indie scene – past and present – to produce what is in my opinion one of the best global releases in recent years. Hyperbole? Have a listen.

You can detect all that is arch, self-deprecating and humorous in the delivery of these ten songs that stylistically and thematically reflect bands like The Go-Betweens (and in particular the insouciance and wit of Robert Forster) and Pulp. Musically, there is the celestial jingle/jangle of guitars that provide melodic journeys of their own, reflecting bands like The Smiths, The Church and REM. Despite this and in spite of this, RVG have carved out their own unique and distinct path in ‘Feral’ – an album that does not have one singular weak spot in its altogether too brief 30 minutes.

Romy Vager, the singer, songwriter and guitarist is a prodigious talent. She delivers an enigmatic, expressive and unadorned brilliance in her songs, displaying wit, both acerbic and gentle, and an ability to capture the mundanity of everyday life. The band as a whole deliver precision and warmth in an album that was produced by Victor Van Vugt (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Beth Orton). Internationally renowned, Van Vugt currently resides in Berlin, Germany and travelled to Melbourne to work with RVG. The tracks were mostly recorded live, and you can tell this adds a level of spark to the sound.

Have a listen to the first single, the sublime ‘Perfect Day’, to see what I mean:

Vager’s delivery is unique and enigmatic – hints of The Waterboys with the laconic unashamed Australian drawl similar to Courtney Barnett.

First track, ‘Alexandra’, exemplifies the deep poetic humour Vager infuses in her lyrics, providing a very Jarvis Cocker-like vignette on everyday feelings and emotions. It’s anthemic, cathartic and expressive with a haunting tone, the video filmed in bland surburbia of suffocatingly normal cafes, motels and apartments:

Vager’s voice is extraordinary – imbued with feeling and emotion, moving from a whisper to exhortation like a pleading preacher.

‘I Used to Love You’ is heartbreaking and raw with its themes about the vicissitudes of love and fleeting feelings and change, hinting at fellow Australian Paul Kelly’s love-lorn ballads:

RVG’s knife-sharp crisp shards of guitar, soaked in reverb and regret, form the prefect base for the songs with their melodic strength. This never so evident than in the exceptionally amusing ‘Christan Neurosurgeon’ and it’s hilarious video. Wry, observational and raw:

I’m a Christian Neurosurgeon.

I wake up in the morning and open up your brain.

I go home in the evening and I get down and I pray

There is an indefinable malevolence and horror buried deep – hear the ominous whine of drills at the close. At heart there is a frenzied madness perfectly captured in the video.

The rest of the album does not lose in quality control in the slightest, from the seven minute finale of ‘Photograph’ with its reflective sombre build up on the theme of isolation and exile (while still maintaining a subtle sense of humour) to the lyrical brilliance of ‘Asteroid’ where the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is forced by a friend’s casual gesture to reassess his life’s work, as Vager considers the ways in which an outside influence can interrupt everything.

Utterly intelligent and statuesque songwriting.

This is a triumphant album that maintains one’s faith in the power of indie rock’n’roll. With this album, RVG proudly join the ranks of the best that the Australia indie musical scene can give to the world – think of the long trail of innovation back from bands like AC/DC, The Go-Betweens, The Triffids, The Saints, The Scientists, The Birthday Party, The Church, Undergound Lovers through to Courtney Barnett and DMA’s. All contributing greatly to raw creativity born from the isolated continent.

You can get the album, out now through Our Golden Friend (Australia) and Fire Records (rest of the world), through all the usual download/streaming sites or through the link below – remembering that on 1 May, BandCamp will be forgoing all fees paid by artists for sales.

RVG is Romy Vager, Reuben Bloxham and Marc Nolte.

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