Spooklyand: Beauty Already Beautiful

Does solipsist rock'n'roll mean making music no-one else wants to listen to?

- If you’ve heard either of Spookyland’s previous EPs you’ll have a fair idea of what’s going on here: they both served as microcosmic examples of the quartet’s vaguely blue, grunge-folk ambitions and a platform for frontman Marcus Gordon’s indolent Aussie patois.

Beauty Already Beautiful is mostly more dour but not substantially different, except for the fact that its length gives you much more time to relish or resent Gordon’s loquacious leanings. That’s possibly going to be the deciding factor for enjoying the album, not the length but your tolerance for a man that sounds like Bob Dylan ate Gene Ween. Gordon’s delivery is often nasally Strayan to the point of satire, though maybe it’s just so authentically quintessential that it only seems contrived. Forced or not, it does a great job of undercutting the lyrical potency of the tracks, which is a real shame because Gordon obviously has such a strong desire to deliver a narrative that you really want to care about it, if only for his sake, it’s just so dang hard. Maybe it lives deeper in the delivery though, since even on the upbeat tracks the group just doesn’t seem to be having much fun.

The lead song, Abuse, is not exactly maudlin but does roll out a sort of thematic unwelcome mat. It feels like one of those downbeat crescendo ballads that shitty pop-rock bands put into the last act of their LP to lend it emotional weight. But being right up front doesn’t scrape the cheese off it and barely even works as a feint for the buoyancy of the following tracks. It doesn’t help that the rest of the album spends its time fighting off a tonal devolution like an apple resisting gravity. Mid tracks like Champions and Discipline can be downright bouncy but they ultimately secede to the withdrawn emotional neverland displayed, and essentially exhausted, at the top of the album.

These songs really want to sell you something homespun and wry though, and the commitment is commendable. So much of the work is actually super catchy and cleverly produced, with so many enjoyable elements; fun little choruses and swelling guitars, ebbing riffs and a reverberating orchestral distance that makes everything seem grander than it is. In fact, an instrumental rendition, or a guest vocal version featuring somebody that doesn’t sound like they’re complaining to Centrelink, might actually be a better way to capitalise on the material. It could actually be downright delightful. That’s not to say ‘Thanks for creating this beautiful thing Marcus Gordon, now fuck off and let somebody else enjoy it,’ but also it maybe is.

The band describe their own sound as solipsist rock and roll, and they may have truly lived up to it here. Despite its obvious desire to be embraced, it seems to have trouble believing you actually exist and often feels specifically like it was made for them alone. But if that’s the case, and even they don’t seem to like it, what chance do we have?

- Nic Addenbrooke

Album Details

Album Title: Beauty Already Beautiful
Artist: Spookyland
Record Label: (Inertia)