Review Summary: Exactly as advertised on the tin.
There’s a lot to be extrapolated from the cover of Melbourne slackers Crepes’ long awaited debut longplayer, Channel Four
. The artwork is like the Where’s Wally
of throwback ‘60s nostalgia: a kitschy collage of coily cables, amplifier jacks and on-the-nose Please Please Me
worship that just screams easy-breezy jangle-pop. And in the least derisive way possible, Channel Four
is exactly as advertised on the tin. Where the Cold Summers EP
(2015) wallowed in frontman Tim Karmouche’s dreary misanthropy, Channel Four
channels a newfound sense of optimism. To borrow Karmouche’s favourite metaphor of seasonal change, this record feels like the first weeks of spring—you’re still lazy and depressed, but apathy in the evening sun is sure better than huddling around your mum’s rickety old $50 K-Mart heater.
Buoyant opener ‘9-5 Summer Breakers’ is fine introduction to Crepes’ deft pop sensibilities—a steady stream of lilting piano melodies and guitar flourishes, with Karmouche’s laconic delivery swirling gently across the surface. It’s a one-two punch with second single ‘Mild Conversation’, a jaunty Devo-esque affair complete with motorik drumbeats and an off-the-wall synth break. The chorus (‘The truth is cool kids won’t let you get rich / They’d rather see you rolling at the bottom of a ditch’) has a touch of compatriot Courtney Barnett’s acerbic witticism; so too does ‘Sexyland’, a pastoral ode to Melbourne’s most infamous adult superstore that wouldn’t feel out of place on Paul McCartney’s Ram
While lackadaisical guitar pop is Crepes’ bread and butter, the more adventurous backend of Channel Four
is where the real magic happens. Baroque centrepiece ‘Getting Lost’ showcases Crepes at their brooding best—a pensive five-minute slowburner chronicling the disintegration of a relationship marred by mental illness. The phantasmagorical haze of guitars and wurlitzers calls to mind Kurt Vile’s most tender moments, but Karmouche’s grandiose final refrain (‘Getting lost is my only true desire / I’ll miss you sometimes in the visions of the fire’) has shades of Wings’ cigarette lighter-raising ballad ‘Let Me Roll It’. Whimsical bookend ‘Forgetting Something’ begins like a swinging Mac Demarco tune, but it too gravitates towards Elton John-like balladry—and although Karmouche’s heartfelt bridge melody (‘All I have to do / Is find a piece of truth’) absolutely oozes ‘60s kitsch, never do these brief nostalgic throwbacks feel ingenuine.
It’s rare to hear a debut as self-assured as Channel Four
. Crepes wield their influences with a deft touch, cherry picking early Rolling Stone editions to construct a unique identity of their own. Yet despite the artwork, Channel Four
doesn’t embody the true zeitgeist of the 1960s: it instead reflects the carefree, blue-skies fiction that exists in the imagination of millennials born fifty years too late. It’s a record obsessed with the ideals of the “golden era”—ideals of simplicity, opportunity and freedom far removed from the modern trappings of youth. For Karmouche, I suspect Channel Four
represents a temporary escape from his own prototypical mid-20s: of endless job-hunting, heart-wrenching breakups and $50 K-Mart heaters.