It was only back in March that I was first introduced to Swimsuit Issue through their atomic blast of a debut single ‘Addict’. However impressive this debut was, it didn’t portend the incredible sonic versatility this band has within its canon. Indeed, there was much more to come over a series of singles that have revealed a chameleon-like ability of Swimsuit Issue to change the colours of their cloth while maintaining golden threads of an indelible song writing craft and impressive musicianship.
Their debut album ‘Burn for the Buzz’ is a single and very coherent whole, yet reveals the band’s ability to experiment and surprise within each of its tasty morsels. Throughout the album is an air of romanticism and nostalgia: a personal and moving series of snapshots about the minutiae of life, love, loss and even a little indulgence.
Opening track ‘Golden Days is infused with a sparkling sunshine that only a Queensland band could mustre. Swimsuit Issue’s adeptness at memorable melodies and the smooth evocative vocals of singer Danny Mann are immediately obvious. The switch from the breathy verses into a mountainous chorus is euphoric, while the tone is touched with an air of melancholy about a life well lived – I could pinch myself, I’ve got some stories to tell. This is bright, evocative chiming indie pop.
‘The Feeling’ shows the band has has many arrows in their quiver: this is a restrained and shimmering track, melodic and nuanced. A whistled riff adds a summery sheen and an indelible spark – an innovative and surprising addition that lifts the song. This is a gorgeous, atmospheric track that surprises with sonic changes and complexities: pure pop mastery.
‘Hit It With You’ moves gently in an entirely different dimension: it has a sunshine-filled laid-back vibe that oozes with bucolic joy and a whiff of something illicit wafting through the dappled sunlight. The whistling makes a return, adding to the carefree nature of the song. A pedal steel guitar by guest Jye Perry Banks adds to this sleepy and immersive aura. The vocals are crusty and crisp with a whiskey-soaked edge with backing vocals by Dorah Jacson adding a soft mesmerising sweep.
Singer Danny Mann says of the track:
It is a song that I wrote when I was up the beach camping, I was lying down on the sand with headphones on listening to some old school country, nicely baked and reminiscing on some magical times that I spent with my fiance travelling around Mexico and in Particular Los Cerritos where we sat on the rooftop of our condo every afternoon after a day surfing looking over the point and the ocean while sipping tequila and cervezas and listening to old time music
These rose-tinted memories are deeply imbued in the track – there is a sense of the white hot heat and the indolence of a tropical clime with a timelessness and poignancy that comes with reflection and change. Mann is at his sensual and eloquent best.
The chilling, arctic new wave sizzle of ‘This Is The End’. is another shift in pace but a spectacular diversion. This track is a fuse that slowly burns – it simmers and prowls with an indelible atmosphere as Mann exudes a sonorous, deep and alluring tone over the muted crystalline guitars and bass. His voice has a late night smoky lounge feel to it: world weary, blasted and pained that emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon into the chorus.
Strings ominously edge their way up the mix and the guitars have a Lynchian threat to them as they mark the horizons of the song with languid lines. The sudden introduction of a saxophone just sparks the fuse alight into a flame: a haunting refrain that swoops across the top of the track like a sudden spotlight across the gloomy, dark and gothic textures underneath.
This is a song that immediately wrests its way forward into one of the most enigmatic and statuesque releases this year so far.
‘Shipwrecked’ is an aquatic ballad – liquid and bubbling with a viscosity – that has the mantle of a seventies excess: anthemic and posed. Celestial choruses range on the distant horizon and there is a hint of a wailing pedal steel guitar.
Reverberated guitars and close, soft vocals begin ‘Where’s Our Head At’: showcasing Swimsuit Issue’s prowess at anthems: bold, atmospheric but this time with a little grit and an unhinged vocal line. The band ups the aggression and introduces a more wild and unpredictable side.
‘True Love Will Find You In The End (Alternative version)’ – a Daniel Johnston cover – is a fuzzy wall of sound, Mann’s vocal distorted and receding towards the back of the mix creating a shoegaze fugue and a hazy psychedelic air. ‘Hey You’ is wilder – an angry tone and rougher-hewn edge slipping back to seventies prog rock territory.
The progression to a harder line in the second half if the album is never more evident than in debut single ‘Addict’ has a dynamic quiet/loud ethic popularised by the Pixies, mixing a reverb-soaked dreamy reflective verse with an angry blast of thundering guitars in the chorus.
The unashamedly and very welcomed Australian diction shines through before the gut-wrenching chorus kicks in.
A song about, as the title suggests, the pain of addiction, this is visceral raw and brutal music – edgy and pained. The arrangement of the song reflecting the ebbs and flows of addiction – the dreamy pleasures of a hit and the pain and torture of withdrawal.
It’s a visceral and cathartic joy.
‘Ocean Haze’ brings in a Leonard Cohen red velvet late night bacchanalia: slow, languid, sensual whispering with sparkling instrumental layers creating a slow burning flame that sparkles in the dark. ‘Amie’ is heavy and thunderous. Heavy metal Swimsuit Issue: this band can do it all.
Altogether, ‘Burn For The Buzz’ is a triumphant debut from a band that is not afraid to experiment or tip a hat to different genres, each done with respect and prowess. Ultimately, though, this is a band forging its own style. With lush production and glorious instrumentation, Swimsuit Issue defy expectations and easy labelling, but prove themselves an important and fascinating entrant to the antipodean indie music scene.
Feature Photograph: Amie Victoria