The split EP by The City Lights and The Exile Co. (formerly The Exiles) sounds like an English band and an American band meeting in a bar for a musical play-off. The two groups are label mates and Sydneysiders. They’re also releasing a 7-inch EP that celebrates being young, footloose and fancy-free and all while nodding at two nostalgic eras in time and two rather interesting periods in music.
The first cut is “(She’s Got) My Name & My Number” by The City Lights and is a two-and-a-half minute story about a dangerous, unrequited love. Instead of Romeo & Juliet our star-crossed lovers are a mod and a skinhead (although given the former period, a rocker may have been more appropriate). It’s also a match that is a fiery one with the group likening it to a cobra pairing up with a mongoose or a scorpion with a spider.
The City Lights’ James Roden sounds a lot like Damon Albarn as his group perform some four-to-the-floor rock. There is a resonant, dirty guitar riff that is inspired by The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You”, while the sharp energy and party feel make the proceedings not dissimilar to the in-you-face style favoured by The Hives. It also shares the latter band’s sense of cheekiness in the lyrics. Consider: “I love her for her clothes/She hates me for my hair/She can’t tell the boys from the girls/We make the perfect pair”.
The Exile Co. on the other hand take us back to another point in the past, to the Cotton Club where dancer, Fay Ray is reminiscing about her early life. At age 12 she would hop a freight train from Louisiana to New York City. She would dance in the legendary chorus line, The Silver Belles (and did so for decades- well into her eighties). This song is a tribute to her by a quartet known for their alt-country and rock songs. On “Fay Ray” however, the music shares a few things in common with a layered Sonic Youth track thanks to its overarching sense of optimism plus its melodic and catchy chorus.
The City Lights and The Exile Co.’s split EP is at its core a true celebration of youth. It’s like a dance at an end-of-school party and it is oh so fun. It also manages to be relatable, honest and truthful and is the musical equivalent of having all of your favourite characters from a John Hughes film come to life and start strutting with gay abandon.