What to call this: You release your first record at the age of 17/18 to widespread international acclaim and excited cries of „flawless guitar pop“ and then follow it up two years later with something that will have no critic even think about the overused phrase „difficult second album“? We call it true class, yeah. The Goon Sax have just confirmed themselves as such a class act with album no. 2, We’re Not Talking.
A recent „Bandcamp daily“ feature on the band by Annie Zaleski sailed under the peculiar headline „Is this pop?“, the story being that the band imagined a „poppier“ sound for their second album and found out that everyone involved in the recording had very different ideas what this would entail. Without a doubt, the sound of We’re Not Talking is not nearly as raw as it was on Up To Anything. Instead, the record paints a much more rounded, full and mature soundscape. Its backbone consists of multiple layers of acoustic guitars, a small string section, and a wide range of rhythm devices (cowbells, castanets, cabasas etc.) on top of some very sophisticated and varied drum patterns. Generally, a significant amount of the band’s musical development appears to be connected to drummer Riley Jones stepping into the foreground. A much larger portion of vocal duties than on the 2016 debut has been shifted to her, much to the album’s advantage, including her taking the lead vocal on the heartbreakingly beautiful „Strange Light“.
While the sound emerging from We’re Not Talking may be considered more accessible („poppier“?), this doesn’t mean the record is more shallow or less ambitious than the first one. There remain enough quirky-weird bits to puzzle the listener – from the two minimalistic interludes „Somewhere In Between“ and „Now You Pretend“ to lines like „I’ve got no patience / Cause I don’t speak German“ („Losing Myself“). Speaking of which and coming back to the question „Is this pop?“, our answer to that would be to suggest taking a look at the lyrics. In almost every single one of them, we find some kind of acknowledgment of feeling utterly lost and out of place … in the world, among people and especially in relationships. And if acknowledging this feeling and turning it into relatable and quotable couplets isn’t the very definition of the pop we all love, then we seriously want to ask what else is.
We’re Not Talking is a riot of complex beauty. Even if you didn’t know about the Forster family-link, or if you weren’t automatically drawing your own conclusions when you heard about a three-piece band from Australia with two friends and a female drummer … try listening to „She Knows“ without thinking of the path that other band took after their second album, Before Hollywood.
We’re Not Talking was released in September 2018 on Chapter Music / Wichita Records: https://thegoonsax.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-talking