The Goon Sax return darker and cooler on ‘Mirror II’, and the transition has gone superbly.
Credit: The Goon Sax/Matador Records
There’s no exact word to describe ‘Mirror II’, but there is no denying it knows exactly what it wants to be.
It’s our second 9.0/10 of the year baby!
I fell in love with The Goon Sax in the Autumn of 2018. Amongst the delicate honesty of their previous record We’re Not Talking, I found one of the most original jangle pop acts of our time. Their appeal was instant: a down-to-earth tone that tackled acutely modern problems, delivered through amiable Aussie accents. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Three years have passed since then, and their third album Mirror II feels firmly like the product of three years worth of ideas. It’s telling that the lead single and opening track ‘In The Stone’ is the one song that sounds most like their previous work; the other nine cuts strut confidently into new territory, creating something of a gritty take on Indietronica mixed with New Wave.
It’s that confidence that is the most revealing part of the record. The warmth and the intimacy of their earlier work has been shed for a colder, harsher, deliberately cool vibe, one that paints the trio as keen to design their own legacy. If they wanted to distinguish themselves from any contemporaries, they’ve certainly done that – the album feels isolated and unconnected to anything else around at the moment.
As unique as it is in the current alternative and indie landscape, it’s far from a closed off album. Their hooks and riffs, that have always had a habit of gradually getting under your skin, remain inviting and inspired, whilst their lyrics continue to be totally with the times. The tender words on ‘The Chance’ truly reach new heights for a band who have talent for knowing exactly how to put it when you need to hear it.
“…I sense the band want to establish themselves as their own brand of trendy aesthetic paired with equally trendy music.”
One could suggest that the endless comparisons to Australia’s most recognised jangle export The Go-Betweens, courtesy of a family connection with guitarist Louis Forster, has led to this need for distinction, but I feel that’s a bit predictable. Instead, looking at the over-bloomed album artwork, stylised music videos and numerous Instagram posts that have teased the record over the last few years, I sense the band want to establish themselves as their own brand of trendy aesthetic paired with equally trendy music.
For my money, the transition has worked superbly. They’re darker and more melancholy, yet have retained their tapered whimsy and supreme talent for romantic lyricism. There is a total assurance in their new style, especially amongst the haunting synths of ‘Psychic’, the Garage-feeling guitars on ‘Bathwater’, and the Chamber Pop inflections on ‘Til Dawn’. Whether you find it agreeable or not, there is no doubt that this is exactly the sound the band wanted to create.
“As their third record has grown on me, I’ve found myself more enamoured than ever with how canny and effective their songwriting is.”
What The Goon Sax are establishing with Mirror II is a legacy. Where once they seemed comfortable being a colourful Jangle act, now they want to be known as innovators. Cool, trendy, talented ones at that, with a distinct aesthetic. And yet they’re managing to make such a bold push without arrogance – rather, it feels wholly earned and deserved.
I fell in love with this band for many reasons, but chief of them was how rewarding their music is. As their third record has grown on me, I’ve found myself more enamoured than ever with how canny and effective their songwriting is. No image within their words fails to translate through their instrumentation, and this colder, darker stylisation is totally convincing.
One wonders what Mirror II might truly be mirroring. When I see pictures of the band – covered head to toe in stunning vintage fashion, adorned with accessories and nail polish – their well-edited expressiveness matches the tight execution of the many sounds on this album. The Goon Sax still want to make honest music, but rather than selling honesty about life’s ups and downs, they’re laying down a true reflection of themselves.