Review Summary: Just as seagulls can glide higher than this, robins can make better analogies.
Listening to Chris Bolton and co. play out “Dust Storm”, the first song for their first record, it feels as if one is in touching distance of Bolton’s personality. The opener of Goodbye Weather
holds together a dreamy collaboration of melodies – most noticeably the spiralling guitar interplay – and douses itself in the ‘natural’ sound Seagull desire to invoke. The question therefore, is why Bolton – the lover, diplomat and weatherman of the album – can’t recognise what every music fan immediately will: that “Dust Storm” is his truest form, and that it should show more often than just once.
“Dust Storm” is exempt from the album, as absolutely instantly afterward Bolton loses all sparkling motive. Gone are those whispery, windy hums, replaced in “Not There Yet” by woe after woe and an extreme failure to reach the pitch that panders them. “Not There Yet” is a warning of how the album will continue: a near constant exchange of dashing backdrop and lazy wails.
If these rough, disjointed parts of Bolton’s voice could be cut out completely, things would change. The urgency of “Half Sleep”, “Trucks are Sheep”, “Dictator” et al could be realised and rediscovered. “Baby” and “Joy” would be sing alongs instead of, well, drunken sing alongs. Instead of simply hushing his Australian accent, however, Bolton decides to glaze sound over it. His guitar playing may be enough as it is - what with a singer-songwriters’ trademark delicacy - but what saves Bolton’s debut of croak after croak is the noise. His voice keeps a stubborn temperament throughout, but it sinks below clashes of instrumentation. There is ambience (the overlong “Not There Yet”). There are loud ‘n’ proud bellows of guitar and drum (“Baby”). And then there’s the counters to these – the fuzz and grit – with the sounds of seaside sunshine; Bolton splashes his songs with accordion playing so resonant of Neutral Milk Hotel it could bring Jeff Mangum out of hiding. Goodbye Weather
instigates that indie rule of thumb that counters strums with spontaneity.
When the appeal of the album wants to return and when it indeed does, it becomes harder to brush off Bolton’s debut for what it can’t do cohesively. The acoustic interplay of “Crow”, for instance, emotionally opposes “Dust Storm”, the song it sounds most in vein to. These are two ends of the album’s spectrum with whatever the group wants cramped between. So if Bolton – and his awkward, atonal voice box – has learnt anything, it is to compliment variety with a beginning and an end. If that’s good enough for you, Goodbye Weather
is just an album that can’t decide whether to get louder and louder or sadder and sadder. Instead it does both.