Review Summary: I still see the universe in you.
Forget the idea of lightning never striking twice in the same place: in the case of Jonathan Boulet, there's some kind of freak electrical storm going on. Less than six months after the release of his debut solo album - a warmly euphoric exploration of summery, lo-fi percussive pop - Boulet has returned to the drum seat of his main band, Parades, to take part in the creation of yet another truly sensational debut. Foreign Tapes
is the kind of album that leaves its listeners at either end of extremities; either completely speechless or tripping over themselves in order to decided which hyperbole is most immediately applicable. Stunning in its execution, this is the type of LP that is increasingly rare to find amongst the current musical climate in the fact that you won't find anything else quite like it. Not in the band's native Sydney, not in Australia...not anywhere. Parades have delivered an opus that is entirely unique to them and them alone; making for an involving, exhilarating listen - a revelation of the greatness going on in Australian music beyond the charts and entertainment centres.
The Parades sound incorporates slathers of early post-punk, vintage indie rock, 2000s post-rock and the exciting, versatile sound of the current Sydney underground. If that sounds expansive only in theory, wait until the actual music of Foreign Tapes
graces your ears. Thick, simmering strokes of reverb-soaked guitar and keyboard ambience become the backdrop to an array of dynamic drum patterns (both acoustic and electric) and a small army of voices that range from their shivering lonesome to the kind of choral mountain-peaks normally only attained by groups like Arcade Fire or the Polyphonic Spree. The vast nature of transitioning from the former to the latter is especially prominent in tracks like the gorgeous "Hunters", which begins serenely with sampled piano, guest vocalist/contributor Bec Shave's soft vocal wispiness and the rhythmic click of snare drum rim hits echoing in the background. Midway, the song boils over into Dan Cunningham's spiky lead guitar, all-in vocals and firepower drumming at the very edge of the soundscape. It's an exemplary representation of the dynamics that define Parades - the atmosphere and the adrenalin, working either separately or as a momentum-shifting hybrid.
isn't just a spectacle of progression, either - there is most certainly fun to be had. Opener "Dead Nationale" quietly builds up before the explosive drum pattern snaps you to attention and sweeps you away in a flurry of big hooks, soaring vocals and a guitar break that sounds like an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object. In a parallel universe, this could even be a #1 pop hit. "Past Lives", somewhat contrastingly, works through breezy harmonies and shimmering guitar to create a warm, encapsulating serenity. The fact the two songs can create just different environments with all but one song separating them is one thing, but the fact they rival one another in regards to their degree of catchiness also makes quite a bold statement about the band's creativity and muscular songwriting. It doesn't stop there - "Loserspeak In New Tongue", one of the album's standout tracks, circulates around guitarist Tim Jenkins' sole vocal melody in warped syncopation that threatens to stay put in your subconscience for days (perhaps even weeks) on end. Technically, Foreign Tapes
might be unclassifiable in the realm of pop music, but that certainly doesn't mean lessons have not been learned from the very realm itself.
For all its soaring highs and masterfully-calculated crescendos, one track stands head and shoulders above all as the standout moment of Foreign Tapes
. The six-minute masterstroke of "Marigold" amazingly manages to sum up exactly what makes Parades a great band. From the reverberating snare drum that signals the opening to the breathless, tom-heavy drum fill that signals its conclusion, not a second is wasted in the composition. Shave's tender vocals reach their peak, the guitars churn their way into overdrive, a horn section scales the song's power to what feels like an insurmountable high...truly, this level of greatness is not to be ignored.
With bands like Powderfinger and Jet moving out of the spotlight, much has been made of which bands will take over as the forefront venue-fillers in the national music community. With this in mind, it's albums like this that will make you question if such a position really matters in terms of who fills it. What if the greatest music in the country was being made right under your very nose, without the support of mainstream media or even mainstream venues? For now, it very much is. Whether this will continue is anyone's guess, but for now, Parades are what's truly important. Foreign Tapes
is a dream which you never want to wake up from, an alternate world to escape to and a triumph of Australian music.