Writing about local music can sometimes feel like a race – a completely fabricated and non-competitive race, but a race nonetheless. But it’s not just a race to find the next up and coming artist as you might expect, but a race to create meaning out of not just a collection of sounds, but also a collection of albums and on a broader scale, a whole scene of bands. If you exclude any band that features a sample pad or an acoustic guitar in their lineup, Sydney’s underground pop music scene rears up as a challenging beast to define – many of the releases we come across or the bands we go and see have trouble being sufficiently distinguishable from one another, yet as a whole they aren’t cohesive enough to form a scene unique to Sydney.
Main Beach’s debut LP Hypo Lazy takes the best elements of Sydney’s musical diversity to create something important to Sydney in 2014.
However, every now and then there comes an album that somewhat summates the sound of Sydney’s scene – albums that provide a moment of lucidity and unity among a wash of conflicting sounds, styles and influences. Enter Main Beach‘s debut LP Hypo Lazy – a work that might not be the outright best album you’ll hear all year, but might be one of the more important in defining what a group of bands from Sydney are sounding like in 2014.
The traditional view of scenes in general is that they are distinguished by geography – think the sounds of Dunedin, the sounds of Seattle, the sounds of Manchester. From baroque to hip-hop, genres are understood as reactions to and results of their coordinates in space and time. Last year, Sydney band The Dead Heads were bold enough to release This Is What’s Happening In Sydney and even though it cut a broad swathe and leaned on Americanised neo-psychedelia, it was surprisingly telling of some of the things that Sydney’s guitar bands had brought together at the time.
Around the same time, we were smashed by some similar revelations from Day Ravies‘ Tussle – a moment of thoughtful introspection among a gazy gale of inner western psychedelia and Palms‘ Step Brothers channelling the energy of the DIY rock and roll albums made famous from various previous projects. Recently though, apart from Boulet’s GUBBA (which was written in Berlin so doesn’t count), there’s been an emptiness in Sydney’s 2014 full length releases – a void into which Main Beach seem to have themselves.
Hypo Lazy can broadly be understood as a surf-rock album that swims safely between the flags. There’s howling, reverberated oooh wooo ooh oooh’s on more than a few tracks (done best on Down By The Wall I reckon), the intro riff on Roxanne is a Dick Dale wet dream and there’s overwhelming evidence that the guitars are plugged into Fender blackfaces or a wonderful emulation thereof. The lyrics are about kissing girls by the ocean and going to parties – Lost And Found‘s simple refrain of “you’re the one I want” resonating wholeheartedly with anyone who has ever wanted anything ever.
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Don’t be disheartened by that last paragraph though, Hypo Lazy might lean on a lot of current and past tropes in guitar music like This Is What’s Happening In Sydney, but also like that album, it’s important for two main reasons. The first is that the album is comfortable. Main Beach have a clear desire to be a psych band, cracking out the phaser and go hard out on the tremolo on Let’s Go To Frankies, but they do so in a way that is both easy to produce and easy to consume. There’s a desire for complexity that belies the simplicity of their songs, but there’s no gaps left in convolution’s omission. Like any piece of modern, abstract art, you probably could have made Hypo Lazy yourself, but you didn’t.
Secondly, it’s an album that seems like it’s been crafted and carved half by man and half by nature. Songs like Under The Surf Club Lights and Always sound as though they started big and were slowly weathered away by easterly breezes to what appears on the album, wrought out like the sandstone that graces the walls of St Mary’s, the QVB and the USYD Quad. Along with this natural wearing, there’s no doubt that there’s a social tiredness to the songs as well. It’s not the carefreedom of Brisbane, or the poetic ennui of Melbourne, just a weariness that I think strikes a chord with all us Sydneysiders who try our utmost every weekend to have a good time at some of Sydney’s most uniquely depressing spots.
Hypo Lazy paints a picture of Sydney’s guitar music scene – a hazy, incomplete and perhaps quite inaccurate picture to the majority of Sydney’s citizens, but it’s painting something recognisable to me. It’s not the glossy picture you’d see on the NSW tourism board ads, nor the darkly cynical one you’d see on Felony, but one that might resonate with you if you’re (dare I say) one of us. It’s an album that seems to fit in the right place at the right time and it’s ability to instill a miserable nostalgia for something that once was but unfortunately might still be without shoving it down our throats makes it quite an important work.
Hypo Lazy is out now via the band’s Bandcamp page and is coming soon to iTunes, which I’m assuming will just be automatically downloaded to my phone and my computer and my watch and my car and my fridge. That’s how iTunes works now, right? Go get drunk and catch Main Beach live at one of the dates below.
Sat 20 Sept | Tokyo Sing Song
Fri 26 Sept | The Lansdowne
Sat 4 Oct | The Sly Fox
Sat 18 Oct | The Standard Bowl
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