It seems like world music has well and truly taken over the realm of guitar-based indie music. From Cloud Control‘s Bliss Release, The Holidays‘ Post Paradise, and of course anything by Vampire Weekend, world music, and in particular African high life and Afrobeat, have taken the place of the sharpened punk-inspired guitars of early work from the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Rapture. Is this a good thing? New Navy would say so.
Looking at the title of the EP, as well as that of the songs, it’s immediately apparent the band are framing themselves in an exotic light. EP title Uluwatu is the site of Puru Luhur, a Balinese Sea Temple and a tourist site where you can go and feed the monkeys. First track Zimbabwe is well, Zimbabwe, the African nation, with second track Tapioca being a root native to South America and The West Indies, and the key ingredient in a pudding of the same name, also known by the name ‘sago’ (why they didn’t go with that over tapioca though I’ll never know). Final two tracks, What Was Golden and Oceans playing the ‘world card’ with a little more subtlety, nevertheless still conveying a sense of the foreign, carrying varying loads of tropical connotation, the latter somewhat more than the former, all the songs still working to communicate the meaning the band hope to convey. That this is a summer album (EP) – in case the release date didn’t give it away – and with the EP receiving unsurprisingly superlative praise from the likes of Richard Kingsmill over at triple j, expect to hear this shit everywhere in the next few months.
These are pops songs, first and foremost, with the band following the book on how to write triple j hits with aplomb. They all move when you want them to and are peppered with plenty of guitar accents to keep things interesting, while vocalist Ben McInerny does a good job of giving these swirling pop numbers a human anchor. There is a sense of subtle earnestness in his voice, not too overplayed as to make it sound farcical, that the band do well as backing up and complimenting. There are moments, though, where you feel the band outdo him, sections where you expect a strong vocal break that never comes, comparisons to vocally stronger bands such as The Temper Trap springing to mind, yet even so he carries himself well across the EP’s four songs for the most part and outdoes the majority of his contemporaries.
Opener Zimbabwe is the highlight; it’s energy and sense of fun better suiting the band than the touches of brooding seriousness in What Was Golden. Closer Oceans though, which again sees the band taking a slightly less bright aesthetic, actually works, being driven along by strong and catchy basslines and percussion, albeit held back at times by an indulgent structure and arrangement, the song being turned from a concise slice of pop to a wandering attempt at something else .. On this song they sound quite a lot like fellow Sydneysiders WIM, although the way the song moves let’s down what momentum they manage to build, the changes not gluing as well as they could have.
For a first effort this is without doubt a strong release, and one that the industry here will not fail to slather with buzz and attention. New Navy are sure to have a bright future ahead of them, following in the footsteps of bands like Faker and Amy Meredith. Keep your eye on The ARIAs, as they will surely be walking down its red carpet soon. Let’s just hope Tex Perkins doesn’t bash them at the afterparty.