Blank Realm likes repetition – in this case, putting out a solid album with Grassed Inn (along with the repetition of lyrics and hooks, as per usual.) The Australian quartet’s fourth release (almost) leaves the cacophony and distortion of Go Easy behind, opting instead for more ear-friendly sounds and distinguishable lyrics. They’ve left some of their experimental sounds behind, opting instead to tame and control their sound. The Spencer siblings (Daniel on vocals and drums, Sarah on vocals and synth, and Luke on bass) are joined by Luke Walsh on guitar and production.
While their past work had a bit of punk flavor, this one has pop. As previously mentioned, the band cut the heavy distortion, feedback, and squealing guitar that made Go Easy difficult to listen to at times. Still, this isn’t a squeaky-clean pop record – there are still hints of their experimental past. “Bulldozer Love,” a nearly nine-minute track, has about six minutes of pop before breaking into cacophony that would have fit in on their last album. “Violet Delivery,” which is made up of computer sounds with about as much of a pattern as a dial-up modem, somehow manages to sound pleasant. There are a few songs that completely break from the noise of the previous album: “Even the Score” has a bouncy beat that sounds like it came from a children’s TV show. “Reach You on the Phone” would fit in on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack with it’s deliciously ‘80s synth and perfect beat.
This album sounds sweeter on the whole, but “Baby Closes the Door” stands out as a black sheep. The vocals and this weird echoing screech noise don’t fit the same rhythm as the background music, ending and beginning at different times in a way that will confuse the listener’s brain. On the first listen, I found this track stressful (the opening drums make me think of a pounding heart) but soon came to appreciate it. About a minute and a half into the song, the band begins to channel the Pixies and everything sounds right.
Like with Go Easy, Grassed Inn has a lot of repetition. Most of the choruses on this album consist of one line (often the title) repeated. Even the instruments repeat with one short hook repeating throughout the entire song. This can get a little tedious when the shortest song is over four minutes long, but there are subtle differences in the instrumental repetition.
Blank Realm has gone in the right direction – their sound has changed in a way that should make them appeal to a wider audience. So if you were turned off by the noise of their past work, Grassed Inn deserves a fresh shot.