Review Summary: Endless Rooms, diminishing returns?
I had a hunch that Endless Rooms
would see Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (henceforth to be referred to as “RBCF”) striking out dramatically on a new path. Maybe it was the gorgeous nocturnal vibe of the album’s artwork, which contrasts with the sunny beach vibes which characterized the group’s first two full-lengths. Or maybe it was an acknowledgement that, while RBCF’s second record, Sideways To New Italy
, was a great release, it also was one of those albums whose title proves oddly prophetic: indeed, it truly was a move not forward, but sideways, very similiar in vibe and direction to the band’s wildly impressive debut Hope Downs
but not quite living up to the quality. Given that history, my gut feeling was that RBCF simply had to tweak things up.
While trusting my gut has paid off more often than not, in this case I’d have to say it was essentially incorrect. Endless Rooms
is, for the most part, an effort which still sees the band paddling the same waters as they always have: moderately fast-paced and jangly indie rock with warm-weather vibes. In that sense, this record is an unqualified disappointment, especially given the songs largely lack the infectious hooks that made tunes like the debut’s “Bellarine” or “The Hammer”, or even the follow-up’s “The Only One” some of the most memorable of recent years. The majority of songs here which follow the typical RBCF formula are reliably pleasant, but pleasant songs are a dime a dozen, and these rarely reach beyond.
The previous paragraph isn’t this album’s whole story, though. The boys from Down Under have also engaged in some experimentation in various directions here, and while some of the results work far better than others, it’s certainly welcome. Whether it’s an unprecedented (in the group’s discography) little instrumental opener (“Pearl Like You”), the slow-downed “Caught Low”, whose beautiful shimmer recalls both dream pop and Americana, “Open Up Your Window”, a lovely noodling interlude-length track which sees the band feeling like a southern-hemisphere Real Estate, “Saw You At The Eastern Beach”, which ups RBCF’s usually minimal post-punk quota to feel vaguely like a Fontaines D.C. song, or the mild trippiness of the title track, it’s fair to say that the band haven’t remained entirely stagnant on Endless Rooms
. While not all of these attempts are successful, it’s fair to say that the potential for the band to move in a more atmospheric and psychedelic direction feels quite compelling based on this small sample size.
I’m well aware this review’s tone might be all over the place. After going into this album with high expectations, it simply didn’t deliver, and it’s pretty clear-cut that this is the band’s worst album yet. This puts RBCF is dangerous territory: three LPs in, and each one has been worse than its predecessor (by this reviewer’s estimation, and the general consensus, as much as that can be gathered). With all that said, fans of this band shouldn’t be as appalled as all that suggests. Endless Rooms
has the feel of a transition album, with the group throwing some new ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. There’s several new sounds and influences present on Endless Rooms
which present intriguing and viable routes for RBCF to pursue on their eventual fourth record. The future is uncertain, but hope springs eternal.