THE FRENCH PRESS EP by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
If there was one word to describe Sub Pop’s recent signees Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, a Melbourne, Australia-hailing rock act that’s two-parts The Go-Betweens, one-part Teenage Fanclub, and 1/16th Grateful Dead, it’s “relentless.” The band took a lot of people, including Sub Pop, apparently, by surprise last year with their exquisite EP TALK TIGHT, a confident and unrelenting 29-minute workout of jammy guitar riffs and clever wordplay. From the jump, the band displayed a tightness it takes most bands years to achieve.
The quintet is back with their first official release since signing with Sup Pop, another EP entitled THE FRENCH PRESS, and the band explodes on the opening title track with unprecedented urgency. Just as TALK TIGHT blitzed through its modest half-hour run time, R.B.C.F. make quick work of the six-song, 23-minute project while holding nothing back in their exploration of each guitar solo and every instrumental jam.
The EP’s opening track, “The French Press,” is the band’s most fully realized track to date, a fast-paced folk rocker that is grounded by an unwavering bass line and the group’s decision to really let the song breathe over five-and-a-half minutes. The closing track, “Fountain of Good Fortune,” offers a similarly refreshing amount of space for the song to really develop. Just like the sound they cultivated on TALK TIGHT, R.B.C.F. do a great job on THE FRENCH PRESS of embracing the role of each instrument and letting songs develop to their natural conclusion. Even when the tracks are under three minutes, as they are on “Sick Bug” and “Colours Run,” they feel elongated and tinkered with to maximize the sound. These five musicians feel even more comfortable with each other and their sound, and they spend this entire EP making sure no guitar solo outstays its welcome while continuing to emphasize the crisp drum sound and driving bass as the backbone of their guitar-focused jamming.
Over two excellent EP’s, R.B.C.F. have displayed a rich understanding of their sound and cherish a particular part of rock history, notably the early days of college rock. The woody and warming acoustic guitars of acts like The Go-Betweens are an obvious influence, but you can hear traces of early R.E.M. and The Church too, as well as pretty blatant homage to formative twee pop acts like The Pastels, The Field Mice, and early Belle and Sebastian.
(Side note: What is it with this whole “Two quick turnaround back-to-back EPs to start off your career” move, and why is it an Australian thing? Courtney Barnett? Hazel English? King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard? Just sayin’.)
THE FRENCH PRESS doesn’t offer any new revelations that TALK TIGHT couldn’t have delivered last year, but it does feel as though the band spent much of the limited time between projects to become even more in sync. When pressed as to what was coming next during an interview on KEXP, their answer was surprisingly cut and dry: “These first two EPs were more so collections of singles . . . There was no thought of a collection . . . We’re talking about making (the full length) not a concept album exactly, but there will be a theme to it.” And both THE FRENCH PRESS and TALK TIGHT often times read like a collection of really excellent but slightly disjointed songs—it’s part of what makes both projects so uniquely charming. What happens next is anyone’s guess, and while we’ve seen that these guys work really really well in short bursts, a “concept” album is an interesting and unexpected direction for the Aussie natives.
Regardless of what follows, these are still clever songs about girls and life on the road that are captured in the spirit of late-night jam sessions over coffee and cigarettes. For now, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are one of the only acts releasing this kind of unfashionable jam-cum-jangle pop rock, and that makes THE FRENCH PRESS a joyous oddity in the current world of guitar music.