Soft Approach - The Stress Of Leisure Album Review
I'm a great fan of recipes, even musical ones. When the last Stress Of Leisure album crossed my palm with its aural silver, I compared it to Go-Betweens – it seems many other journos have done the same. With SOL (aka Ian Downes and chums) in 2010, we have a different menu – Go Betweens, plus post-punk sprinkles springing to mind and for those four reasons, you should at least cock an eye to this review.
"Soft Approach" is an odd yet totally enthralling feast – it starts with the weakest song out of the nine on offer here ("Somewhere In The Afternoon"), before gathering pace and ending with what could possibly be this band's greatest moment. Track-list ordering is a skill that Downes doesn't quite have – but what he does have is blindingly great tunes and I haven't stopped re-shuffling this beast since it plopped onto my mat. It really is a cracking album – it bursts like sherbet on your tongue.
Armed with back-up musicians, Stress Of Leisure are bigger and better than before with songs like "The Boy's Got Issues", a barbed yet hopeful paean aimed at an acquaintance on the verge of social faux pas. Then there's the excellent have-to-be-singles "All Australian Punk Band 1979", "Shy" and "On The Weekend", all spat-out anger and joyous observational alt-rock with a penchant for harmonies, spangly riffs and a surfboard under the arm.
Just when I though "Soft Approach" couldn't get any better, partly because this set is harsher and tougher than his previous 2008 set "Hour To Hour", up pops the historic "Any Moment This Could Be Massive", a tale that begins with a man in flippers and a snorkel, gawping at a menu in a fish and chip shop – I guess you had to be there. As tracks go, it writhes like an octopus in a bucket – a filthy bass-line, an insistent six-minute monologue and a similarly unnerving backdrop that briefly resembles Ultra Vivid Scene's "Portion Of Delight".
I won't bore you with how excellent the next few songs are until the closing "In The Movie Where He Dies Of A Mystery Illness At The End" – it's boringly excellent and a perfect conclusion to what is a pretty bang-on album. Seriously, if you identify with any of the bands above, yet want something utterly unique at the same time, get this album. It's the kangaroo's gonads, bigger than their hometown of Brisbane - and I am going to start a one-man crusade to get this lot to hop on a plane and play in the UK. Anyone vaguely interested?