Review Summary: Easily one of the most amazing and overlooked rock albums of the 80's..
So here it is 2012 with one of the most unlikely surprises to cross continents, Gotye. An Australian artist that has created one of the biggest hits of the year. Step back nearly 14 years and we have another Australian outfit that had a tiny cross-over hit, Onion Skin, that received scant airplay in the U.S. and peaked at #8 on the modern rock charts. Go back even a few years earlier and you had another Aussie band, Midnight Oil, who had their only single to make waves and then have their popularity wane quickly.
Maybe it is a curse for these Australian bands, to chart with a song (maybe two) and then fade away from rapidly from the collective American consciousness. Boom Crash Opera were one of the most popular bands in Australia at the time but somehow that didn't translate to overseas success. That being said, 'These Here Are Crazy Times' is every bit as good as pop on the American charts at the time. While receiving support from the likes of Bono/U2, who recognized the potential of the band, somehow they slipped under the radar.
For starters, this is a band that has an amazing front man, Dale Ryder. His voice embodies that of any good power pop singer. It is forceful, dynamic, and very commanding. He dominates the songs in the much the same way Freddie Mercury was a powerhouse when he was belting at full force. There are also hints of fellow country-men, INXS, in the music and the vocals. However, what truly separates this band from its peers is the amazing vocal additions of Peter Farnan (bass/guitars) and Richard Pleasence (bass/guitars). The three part vocal harmonies are nearly utilized on every track to their fullest extent.
Their music is solid, original, albeit, nothing absolutely extraordinary. Unlike much of what was going on with rock at the time, they mainly adhered to the typical rock formula of guitar, bass, and drums, and the keyboards that are on the album are placed in such a way as to never overpower the song. This is probably a great part of what keeps this album from sounding severely dated like so much of the 80's rock. The songs range from straight up rock such as the lead off track, 'Onion Skin' to all out acoustic jams, 'Get Out of the House' and 'Mountain of Strength', to enormously catchy pop, 'Talk About It' and 'Dancing In The Storm'. The latter track is perhaps the most perfect example of what this band has to offer when it is on top of its game.
'Dancing in the Storm' begins with an acoustic riff and Dale Ryder quietly singing until moving on into a full-on anthem-type chorus with all three vocalists singing in unison. It would be hard to simply place them as just another great pop/rock band without mentioning the strange subtleties thrown in. 'The Best Thing' goes from an upbeat pop song leading into a darker bridge only to come full circle. Then there is the brooding 'Axe To Grind' that has that slow dark menace to it while slowly building to crescendo.
The only thing here un-noteworthy to speak of is the lyrics. They are sufficient, they compliment the songs appropriately, but are fairly generic. Most of the subject matter is relationship based and pretty to the point. However, everything else in regards to this album is nothing short of amazing. The guitar work is solid and at points beyond what you would expect from a power-pop band, and again, the vocal harmonies are exquisite. There are very few bands that pulled off what Boom Crash Opera did vocally in the 1980's. It is truly a throw-back to the amazing wall of vocals created by The Beatles and Beach Boys and re-enforced by such bands as The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
The flow of the album is perfect, from one song to the next, a run of rock, pop, and acoustic jams. The songs never get repetitive, each one offering up something new to the listener while maintaining a consistency to feel like it all belongs on one album. Truly one of the most overlooked and enduring albums to come out of the 1980's.