After two EPs in as many years, Melbourne indie rock quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have at last released their debut full-length, a ten song LP titled Hope Downs. If you’ve made yourself familiar with 2016’s Talk Tight and/or their 2017 release, The French Press, then you already know what you’re getting with Hope Downs as, other than sounding more polished, the band’s style has changed very little since they began recording and releasing music five years ago.
Hope Downs opens with “An Air Conditioned Man”, a speedy number that nicely utilizes all three of the band’s guitarists, combining sprightly strumming with dueling leads parts that howl through until the trio winds down, bringing the song to a gentle end. “Talking Straight” keeps the accelerator firmly pinned to the floorboards as the boys offer up the album’s first catchy chorus amidst a two-chord verse. The lead guitar, vocal harmonizing, and all-in moments on the short, punchy “Time in Common” helps to break things up just before the breezy “Sister’s Jeans” puts a wrap on side A with a pleasant, sliding lead guitar and lyrics like, “You hardly look sharp, your guts are in a knot, and all your new friends, are frayed at the ends.”
The second half of Hope Downs opens similarly to the first, kicking things off with “Bellarine”, a swift, somewhat moody track that slows only momentarily during the choruses, with one of the boys (all three guitarists share vocal duties) singing, “My Bellarine, from here I shoot my scene, there’s fire in the west, I never did my best.” “Cappuccino City” is the poppiest Rolling Blackouts gets on Hope Downs. The pleasant female oohs and ahs are a nice momentary digression from the album’s otherwise guy-heavy vibe. “The Hammer” is the album’s closer and offers a staccato snare during the choruses, which is nicely offset by a chorus of oohs. Within its tight four and a half minute running time, “The Hammer” manages to showcase all of Rolling Blackouts’ talents, offering a sing-speak portion in addition to dreamy alternating lead guitar parts.
Much like the earlier EPs, there’s very little deviation in tempo from track to track on Hope Downs. Rolling Blackouts consistently maintain either a pedal to the metal velocity or a nimble mid-tempo pace. There’s not a single ballad to be found here…or anywhere in their discography. And although Rolling Blackouts’ songs are pleasant enough, it’s easy to confuse one track with another, especially amidst the songs that don’t offer well-defined choruses. Regardless, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have an undeniable chemistry when it comes to composing and executing quickly-paced, jangly indie rock, a formula that’s worked well enough for them up to now. Why fix what isn’t broken?