The sheer brilliance of Melbourne’s Underground Lovers is only matched by the incomprehensible way they have remained under the global musical radar for so long in their career. Underground Lovers were pioneers of dream pop/shoegaze along with contemporaries My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride in the late eighties/early nineties, creating a magnificent body of work far from the epicentre of the shoegaze movement in the UK, neither influenced by or emulating any other artist but rather forging their own inimitable path in relative isolation. Seek out ‘Your Eyes’ to see what I mean. Every review I do of their work bangs on about the same topic, but it is worth repeating. This bands epitomises the term underrated.
And the Undies (as they are affectionately known) are back with one of their best releases ever, ‘A Left Turn’. This album, more than any of their earlier releases, is a complete package, proving the Undies have reached an impressive ascendancy in their creative career. At the risk of hyperbole, I cannot express more how good this album is. It is always exciting to anticipate an Undies release, but the joy in the epic way they deliver is unbridled.
Opening track ‘Feels Like Yesterday’ is low key start, with co-singer/keyboardist Philippa Nihill’s dream evocative vocals floating above the chiming guitars. Is that a Theremin I hear? Second track ‘Bells’ – one of my favourites – perfectly combines Nihill’s floaty vocals and Vincent Giarrusso’s unique sardonic tones with what is the Underground Lovers’s particular sound: forging pulsating electronica with Glenn Bennie’s shards of guitar over the spine of Maurice Argiro’s dancing bass line: an absolutely mesmerising analogue/digital fusion. This song is a hypnotic delight with bubbling electronic pips and squeaks and scaling choruses.
The Undies are never afraid to nod at other songs – their own and others. ‘Dunes’, for example, is another Nihill-fronted dream pop reverie that even with its title and general air of summery euphoria can’t help but remind me of the old classic Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod” (sampled in the Groove Armada classic ‘At The River’). Lyrically, themes on every day ennui such as friends, weekends and travelling form a golden thread through their albums.
Single ‘Seven Day weekend’ captures this trope in one – a brilliant pastiche of images delivered in a brilliant sound that smashes The Jesus and Mary Chain grunt into Roxy Music delicacy:
Every track is a melodic masterpiece – from the four on the floor indie drive of ‘Hooky’ (again reviving the best friend trope and delivering a feisty tribute to a loyal if misguided friend) to the loping ethereal ‘The Passer-by’, the first single off the album:
The final track is a nine minute epic ‘Rocky Endings (A Left Turn)’ which is another hypnotic rumbling track that mixes the melodic earnestness of compatriots The Go-Betweens with ‘A Northern Soul’ era The Verve: a sonically charged evocative landscape.
A key element to this album is of course the production from one of the best producers/engineers operating out of Australia: long time collaborator Wayne Connolly Behind a coterie of Australia’s best (including Died Pretty, You Am I, Youth Group and The Vines), his work is crystal clear and crisp with that magic touch of dirt when required.
The Undies are on tour across mainland Australia next month to launch the album (see details below). If you get a chance to catch them, do so: their live performances are as brilliant as their recorded sound.