A retrospective by Underground Lovers sees this underrated Aussie band’s best material including singles, remixes, b-sides and band favourites combined in one handy place. It’s one strong set that draws together the seminal singles and cuts from their six studio albums and numerous EPs.
The group had many and varied influences from Manchester stalwarts Joy Division, The Stone Roses and New Order to acts closer to home like Essendon Airport, The Reels and Go-Betweens and that’s not even considering their occasional nods to The Cure, Talking Heads, The Clash and Brian Eno. The upshot of this is that their songs are hard to define as fitting one specific genre or sound, something you don’t need a rocket science to figure out when you consider the aforementioned.
The albums the group produced were equally varied. Their eponymous debut, (represented here by only Round and Round on the second disc) focused on the interplay between acoustic and electric aesthetics with references to The Kinks and David Bowie. Of course, playing up the shifts from loud to quiet and in-between reeks of both The Pixies and The Smashing Pumpkins while additional experimentation into more lush and intricate sonic soundscapes would follow on Dream It Down. The cuts from this include the title track plus “Las Vegas,” “Losin’ It” and “Beautiful World”. The group changed again by stripping things back to the absolute bare bones on the following, Rushall Station, before collaborating with Sonic Animation for danceworthy beats and rhythms later in their career.
For all its variety, Wonderful Things is still a cohesive set with plenty of echoes, reverb and harmonies underpinning the songs and keeping them together as if with an invisible thread. The group originally wanted to create interesting music to fill the dull emptiness in people’s worlds and in 2012 the songs do just that by taking you on a similarly epic journey. The listener is treated to music that remains fresh and vital-sounding despite the intervening years but then, classic and intelligent music will often do this to you.
The band always put a lot of thought and consideration into the song. As frontman Vincent Giarrusso (vocals, guitar, keyboards) has said, they continually wanted to improve the track whether it be with a different riff or loop; changing the structure; or adding things like keyboards or drum machine. They certainly recognised the song smarts they each possessed, as they developed their fortes and strove for perfection.
“Dream It Down” is some light and wistful balladry you could imagine Oh Mercy covering with ease while “Promenade” is a number that feels like it sits somewhere between The Go-Betweens and Ride. “Holiday” could have inspired Ladytron while “All Strung Out” seems to have picked up a lesson or two from a Velvet Underground songbook. Moreover, the inclusion of singles like “Losin’ It,” “Your Eyes” and “I Was Right” make this set worthy of the admission price alone.
As the group prepare to record some new material, Wonderful Things offers a delightful romp through the cinematic and dreamy pop music they made during the multiple peaks and tangents in their career. It’s like the wonder and beauty of their youth has been intertwined with the classic and intelligent pop songs they made which brim additionally with honesty and fragility.
Originally published on 1 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31504/Underground-Lovers–Wonderful-Things-Retrospective
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