So, farewell to The Goon Sax, the band that just got it.
Break ups, body image, dead end jobs; The Goon Sax’s sound acutely recorded the experience of twenty first century twenty-somethings.
It is doubtless that the creation of music by people in their twenties represents one of the single greatest forces in the history of performed sound. Across all scenes, genres and time periods, from the earliest music notations of the Babylonians in 1400 BC, to the Baroque pioneers of modern orchestra in the 17th century, to the Hyperpop artists of today, so much music has been created by the twenty-something demographic.
Where should a little trio of Brisbanians fit into this great canon then? When much of their discography is deliberately quaint, it’s hard to see them taking up that big of a space. But for me, it feels recluse not to consider them immensely important. Within that great canon, there’s never been a requirement for music by twenty-somethings to only be about being in your twenties. The Goon Sax, on the other hand, have written quite simply some of the best music about being a twenty-something ever.
“Their perspective uniquely captures the helplessness of not knowing what it’s like to be older yet being desperate to find out if you got it all right.”
An indelible mark is found across just about all of their material; that of the euphoric freedom of being an adult at last versus the crushing weight of the 21st century, with all of its economic unfairness and body standards that were designed by marketing teams. Within this, the three piece tell tales of their romantic ups and downs, cherishing friendship and the vague hope that it will be worth going through all of this. Their perspective uniquely captures the helplessness of not knowing what it’s like to be older yet being desperate to find out if you got it all right.
It’s in that sense that The Goon Sax were, quite frankly, a band that just got it. Not only in their outstanding lyricism, but in their musical approach as a whole. Across three albums, it took until their last record to get beyond anything that wasn’t rakishly easy going. How did they advance themselves between their 2015 debut Up To Anything and 2018’s We’re Not Talking? They added some strings and, er, nothing else.
I believe them to be brilliant for that. Their music is a totally reliable comfort blanket that shines in its sheer down-to-earthness. Those strings on We’re Not Talking practically made the record, adding to the already tender Jangliness of their sound an extra punch of emotion. Their connection as a trio is apparent on everything they worked on, as if all three of them met at just the right time to explore the same experience they all found themselves in. Musical innovation doesn’t matter when you possess a talent to be as interpersonal as they were.
That interpersonality created a power of context. In my time of knowing them, I’ve been through quite a number of the things their songs have talked about – break ups, breakdowns, finding queerness, finding expression – but their most lingering feeling is one of trust. Rarely do I turn to one particular song of theirs to scratch an emotional itch; I feel representation in their overall demeanour.
“We were cooking scrambled eggs, and the tone that We’re Not Talking hit on that Sunday morning has never left me.”
My first time listening to them was in the kitchen of my best friend and now flatmate’s house after his 22nd birthday bar crawl. We were cooking scrambled eggs, and the tone that We’re Not Talking hit on that Sunday morning has never left me. It became a record I turned to on quiet nights at uni, alongside their earlier work. Then came their 2021 release Mirror II, one of Sourhouse’s top three records of year. It was the album of a band in transition, in search of place to affirm their newfound expressions. Their looks and tastes had changed; so had mine. After a year and a bit of lockdowns, it spoke to the wounds of living through such a traumatic event, and the deeply personal journeys so many of us went on.
It’s one thing for a band to soundtrack your life, but something altogether more remarkable to soundtrack a universal experience so well. Everyone over a certain age has, by definition, lived through their twenties. The experience of youth too is constantly evolving, and what one generation goes through will contrast with another. What makes the work of The Goon Sax such an achievement then is that they were able to reflect the experience of twenty first century twenty-somethings without having to become an idolised ‘band of a generation’.
““For us it feels like a happy ending. We love each other and we love you” – there’s no denying then that this is the right decision.”
That, however, still hasn’t prevented them from coming to the end of the road. On the 12th July 2022, they confirmed their split in an Instagram post. A couple more shows will happen back home down under, and that will be that. “For us it feels like a happy ending. We love each other and we love you” – there’s no denying then that this is the right decision.
Within the realm of Western Indie and Australia’s Jangle Rock scene, The Goon Sax always held a low key appearance. Their fanbase was small and devoted, whilst those on the outside often compared them to better known jangle rockers The Go-Betweens, with whom they share family connections. Hardly the worst band in the world to be compared to, but such connections simply do not reflect their achievements. The Brisbane trio will be remembered by myself and those who loved them in far greater esteem, and I intend to ring their praises for as long as I live.
As I write this particular line, the slow loneliness of ‘Strange Light’ is soundtracking the views from the train I’m commuting home on. Yet another building development rushes by with the gaudy catchline “Deptford Foundry Stamp Duty Paid”, and their talent shines brighter than ever. The Goon Sax had the magic touch of being able to give context to just about everything about being in your twenties in this careening, hypernormalised world. With their music, the signs on endless new apartment complexes you’ll never be able to afford to live in feel a little less revolting.