While wandering the same West Brunswick streets – over and over again – during Melbourne’s endless lockdowns, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's Tom Russo pondered the “decent amount of things clearly wrong in this country”.
Hence, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s third record covers some heavy thematic ground including “the reverberations of living on stolen land” and the horrific natural disasters (bushfires, floods) our nation has suffered through of late. But because there’s a joyful, rebellious, youthful exuberance to the band’s overall sound, you’ve really gotta tune in to catch the more political lyrical content that’s scattered within Endless Rooms.
This quintet boasts a trio of guitar-playing singer-songwriters – cousins Fran Keaney and Joe White plus their mate Russo – with Russo’s bassist bro Joe and drummer Marcel Tussie holding down the rhythm section. Sometimes their vocal delivery channels GANGgajang’s Mark Callaghan, at other times, Steve Kilbey.
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The sound of a creaky door unlocks Endless Rooms, morphing into a minute-long opening soundscape: the atmospheric Pearl Like You, which evokes In The Air Tonight. Tidal River – described by Russo as “a little snapshot of living in a place at a time when it feels like there is no one at the wheel” – artfully employs an underwater-singing effect on occasion: “Jetski over the pale reef/ Chase the pill for some relief/ As long as you don’t point out/ What’s underneath your feet” – there’s Midnight Oil residue in this one, which dismantles Australia’s reputation as ‘the lucky country’.
Mostly recorded at “The Basin” – a mud-brick house the extended Russo family built in regional Victoria in the ‘70s (see: album cover image) – Endless Rooms contains field recordings of “fire, rain and bird sounds”. And this rural, lakeside setting inspired the vast, live sound that Rolling Blackouts C.F. roll out on album number three.
During lead single The Way It Shatters – which features hyperactive synth and shimmering, metallic guitar lines – White calls out entitled mofos: “It’s desolation by rote/ All around your home/ If you were in the boat/ Would you turn the other way?” Standout track Dive Deep showcases a curly, syncopated riff (totally showing off there!) and Blue Eye Lake’s freak-out conclusion bottles the rush of swinging from a rope into a refreshing river on a scorching hot day. The album’s bleak, forlorn penultimate title track scales right back to minimal strums and feedback-squall accompaniment, directing the spotlight towards our stonkered protagonists: “Through endless rooms we walk/ Just tryna find somewhere to lay down.”
A distinct sense of place makes Endless Rooms a vivid listening experience. Hang on, can we actually smell bushfire smoke right now? A repeated mantra from the rollicking, Russo-penned album track Saw You At The Eastern Beach – “Things always can look up” – pretty much sums up this album’s broken-but-hopeful spirit.
Endless Rooms is out now on all digital services and will be released on physical formats (CD, black vinyl & Sub Pop’s limited edition Loser opaque yellow vinyl) on Friday 3 June 2022 through Ivy League Records.