written by Chris Familton
Straight Arrows have been fine tuning their ramshackle sound for a couple of years now and finally have an album to show for it. Their other releases have been 7 inches that have all been snapped up, something that has enhanced their reputation as the next great garage band to slouch forth from the Sydney suburbs.
Owen Penglis and the rest of the Arrows haven’t let the studio lead them into extraneous tracks and instrumentation, in fact they cram 11 songs into 24 minutes on It’s Happening – nothing even scrapes the 3 minute mark. This is one of the things that makes this album so damn appealing. You feel like you are getting fast ideas, simple no fuss fuzz pop that shakes and rattles and then leaves you hanging wanting more. Opener Bad Temper is the perfect example of a song that could quite easily have been stretched longer than its 2:12, the trebly surf guitar is like a day-glo sugar hit and the gang chant of the chorus throws up images of sweaty punters hanging over the front of a stage yelping along in gonzo unison.
Though Straight Arrows operate in a fairly tight style space there are some subtle nods to other bands. Mind Control could be an outtake from Circle Pit’s Bruise Constellation – in fact both bands share Angela Bermuda in their ranks. Gone is a psych pop Pink Floyd (Syd era) nugget and Magic Sceptre sounds like The Rolling Stones when they were still naive and fumbling to figure out who they were. Black Lips are an obvious comparison, both in sound and substance, with the main differences being the thin and brash reverb soaking that all of the songs get on It’s Happening – via the 1950s recording equipment they got to use – and it’s strong garage/beat aesthetic that doesn’t veer far from it’s template.
When I’ve seen the band live they sound like they are late for something, rushing to get through the set. The energy works on one level but thankfully they seem to have pulled things back and allowed more groove and skinny hip swagger to be woven into the songs. They sound hazier and more narcotically inclined compared to the beer and brio rush of their live set.
Haunted Out is a standout track with its gothic swamp punk sound, creeping along and getting all voodoo on your ass. The more I listen to it the more I hear things like the post punk guitar riff and the song’s malevolent intent. The flip-side to Haunted Out is the Flying Nun sweet pop sound of Golden Torch, showing that they can pen a pretty tune as readily as the frantic beat strum that they are best known for.
Straight Arrows have stuck to their guns and created a pretty unique album in today’s age of digital recordings, airbrushed sound and slick marketing. This sounds like organic music made without pretension and possessing an energetic shimmy and strut that gives their psych rama-lama sound its fresh appeal.
this review first appeared on Fasterlouder