Laughing Outlaw, 2009
The difficult second record has been the undoing of an untold number of artists, a road strewn with the wreckage of many a promising band. How do you follow up an album that you spent years writing and honing live, playing each song to ad infinitum, hoping for that break so you can finally lay them down on acetate — or, these days, on a hard drive? Once you’ve had that initial burst what do you do next? Do you follow it up with more of the same, do you grab the opportunity to now give yourself to your every experimental whim? Or, like Brisbane’s Grand Atlantic you could lend yourself to simply honing why got you that recording studio in the first place. With their sophomore record Grand Atlantic have pushed their boundaries but thankfully restrained themselves from the experimental folly of including that ten minute harp solo or Jamaican choir.
Opener “Coast is Clear” is pure power stadium pop and immediately sets their stall for where they are aiming. Its infectious enough but just misses that killer lick to get them over the edge. The next double salvo though of “Tripwires” and first single “She’s a Dreamer” show what Grand Atlantic are really capable of. The first is a synth laden chunky guitar stomp while the later is a shimmering slice of pop perfection that was sorely missing from the last Dandy Warhols album.
When they are firing on all cylinders Grand Atlantic can easily mix it with anyone, unfortunately when they try to do the sensitive piano ballad a la “How We Survive” they seem to stray into parody mode. The harmonies, piano, strings and big chorus are all there but put together they seem like a cliché of what a big pop band should be doing. It’s a good idea but unfortunately has just been done much better before.
It’s where they rock out though that they seem more at home though and “Used to the Sensitive Type” brims with the assuredness of a band that have found their feet and are coasting on their own wave. It’s a glam rock “sha la la” sing-a-long fest here and we can see this being sung back at them from the crowds it deserves before long.
Album closer “Don’t say Goodnight” certainly invokes the spirit of The Beatles and while the nasally vocals of Phil Usher could be reminiscent of a certain band of Lennon obsessives from Manchester, it’s handled more restrained and is a perfect ending to what is a bloody good pop-rock album. As the boys tell us on “Holding Pattern” — “I don’t mind if it’s rock ‘n’ roll/It feels fine just to lose control”. True words indeed.