Sydney supergroup Victoria‘s debut album ‘Treats’ perfectly captures the vicissitudes of life with warmth and compassion, wrapped up in a series of tracks that positively sparkles. Sometimes, all that glitters is in fact gold, and this album is pure gold from start to finish. Released through legendary producer Wayne Connolly’s label Scenic Drive Records, ‘Treats’ is simply stunning and it has rapidly become for me a contender for one of the albums of the year. A wry sense of humour threads its way through every track accompanied by a delicacy and vulnerability, a perfect encapsulation of what I call the Marrickville Sound, a peerless example of shimmering antipodean indie pop from veterans of the field.
The label supergroup is apt – this is a band consisting of members of seminal bands Youth Group, The Vines, Smudge and Songs, and, in a crowded field, they are slowly and inevitably nudging their way to the front of the pack with their unique brand of intelligent and delicate songs filled to the brim with melody and verve. Victoria is Cameron Emerson-Elliott (Youth Group), Alison Galloway (Smudge), Patrick Matthews (The Vines, Youth Group) and Max Doyle (Songs), and they amusingly came together, according to Matthews, because:
We felt that there was a bit of a dearth of indie rock bands making catchy songs with an overabundance of words at the moment. So, we thought we’d give it a go.
The lilting and crystalline sounds are indelibly linked to the Dunedin sound (The Bats, The Chills) and the sunshine Queensland sounds of The Go-Betweens and The Apartments, all via Scotland’s Orange Juice. But Victoria are carving out their own particular branch of pure indie pop. Every track on this album is a sparkling jewel, this band is phenomenal; crafting deliciously sculptured indie pop songs that are instant classics.
Named in honour of The Kink’s classic song, there are three songwriters in the band but the result is something seamless and perfectly coalesced into a brilliant whole.
Opening track ‘Creative Frenzy’ displays all the antipodean low-fi charm that can be traced to the Dunedin Sound and that dappled sunshine sound from Queensland with a naïf charm in the altogether too brief two minutes it takes to traipse delicately through your brain. The bass forms a steady spine with the drums, and the guitars lay a gold filigree over the top. while layered vocals deliver an indelible melody.
Sung and written by Matthews – with his fine and admirable history playing bass in the The Vines and Youth Group – there is a witty bite to the lyrics, capturing the vicissitudes of everyday life and the big questions of existence, in a dry and sardonic manner. According to Matthews, the lyrics were inspired by the forgotten Russian writer Daniil Kharms, and a short story of where the protagonist struggles with noisy neighbours, the sun, rival writers and the existence of God. Matthews notes:
Something about it struck a chord with me.
The tune itself was born from a desire to create a simple structured pop song:
Earlier in 2021, when Victoria were able to play gigs, I wanted to add another 3-chord song to our set. By secret ballot we agreed on the three chords and away we went. Lyrically it started life as a Courtney Barnett-style day-in-the-life song but along the way it took a turn down a dark alley.
And we all know anything more than three chords is just jazz.
The video is set in the charming inner west of Sydney during lockdown:
‘Rushing Bull’ is a rambunctious angular slice of indie pop, leavened by a melancholy delivery as the guitars hop, skip and jump underneath. It is bolstered by an euphoric chorus with glorious harmonies that positively ring out across the sunburned skies of the antipodean landscapes.
There is a perfect mix of a New York post punk vibe (think Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, early Talking Heads) and an antipodean raw veracity (think The Go-Betweens, The Apartments, The Chills or The Bats), shaken together and creating a transfixing cocktail that shimmers and sparkles like the stars over the outback desert.
The song reflects Emerson-Elliott latent fan-longing for actor/comedian Janeane Garofalo. Dedicated to impossible crushes everywhere, Emerson-Elliott says:
When I was a teenager, Cameron says, I watched The Truth About Cats & Dogs one family movie night and developed a crush on Janeane Garofalo. She is the best.
As always, muses can encourage the greatest of art, and ‘Rushing Bull’ is no exception. The accompanying video is a series of clips from a nineties video created from VHS footage of Emerson-Elliott’s share house at that time – a charming series of shambolic vignettes that captures the innocence and poignancy of the track:
‘Favourite Teacher’ has a gentle, reflective demeanour that coasts along with a rippling pace, underpinned by a recurring cyclical motif created by an ambulatory guitar. The vocals are imbued with a sense of yearning and brittle edge. Doyle, noting that both Galloway (drums) and Matthews (bass) are teachers, jokes:
I’ve gone into a relationship, and agreed to let my partner be my boss… I’m looking at the rhythm section and trying to decide who’s my favourite teacher…
Doyle refuses to say who it is.
There is restless movement to ‘Edge of the World’ with its wry, personal observations, soaring melodies and sudden switches in pace.
‘Pompeii’ channells Robert Foster at his most acerbic and droll with its delicate sardonic tone. Another day – I wish I was spending it with someone other than you. Written by Doyle. the song is about choking in a relationship:
Really should have seen the signs, thick ash falling from the sky…I can’t breathe here next to you.
‘Bats’ has a high stepping trot that is vulnerable and with a Jonathan Richmond tone and a Velvet Underground wry cheek replete with a wild guitar solo. ‘On The Spree’ has similar jingle jangle approach with its distant sardonic vocals and harmonies.
‘Justify’ is simply stunning – delicate and nuanced slice of pop with a thread of melancholia and a melody that is indelible and infectious. When the chorus kicks in, an injection of steel in the bones is detectable as the chorus rolls in like a thunderstorm, layers of harmonies in the distance creating something powerful and majestic.
Written by Cameron Emerson Elliot, the track is dedicated to his partner of 25 years, Jenny:
It’s me ruminating on the pressures (internal and external) to justify emotional choices made in the early days of a relationship.
The bittersweet tones bleed out in every note.
Arpeggiated synth notes introduce ‘The Nature’ which builds up like a bushfire and canters along with a military percussion, observational vocals and air of shambolic chaos.
The album ends with ‘Haunted House’, urgent scything guitars and a wild ambulant flow that meanders like a river. It is a reflective end to a fantastic album, again channeling angular arch early period of The Go-Betweens.
‘Treats is out on Friday, 24 November and available to download and stream through all the usual sites and through the link below.
Victoria has two upcoming shows :
Friday, 8 December – Factory Theatre (supporting RatCat)
Sunday, 10 December Union Hotel, Newtown (album launch) – tickets and details here.
Feature Photograph: MacClay Heriot