Released: August 2014
Earlier in the year Australian indie pop outfit The Griswolds released their sharp and snappy EP Heart of the Lion, a mesh of Vampire Weekend guitars and MGMT vocals hell bent on basking in the glory of the summer. They’re now back with more of the same, this 12-track LP boasting disco beats and chirpy vocals and paying tribute to indie sensations of years gone by. It’s carefree and high tempo fun, but with a late-August release has this Sydney four-piece missed the boat for infectious summer pop albums?
The Griswolds go about songwriting with unadulterated optimism. The lack of cynicism in their ascending and descending melodies and fast paced drum beats paints with ease a picture of surfing the waves of their homeland under clear skies and a beaming sun. It’s no surprise that it completely clashes with the sound of current British starlets like Royal Blood and Fat White Family, who present a far angrier and downtrodden output to soundtrack our significantly less fortunate weather conditions; it’s like rock ‘n’ roll pathetic fallacy. On Be Impressive there’s glitzy disco sounds, catchy choral vocals and a hedonistic glee that certainly sounds alien to the general mood of British indie bands.
Beware the Dog, the band’s most recent single, owes a huge debt to bands like Vampire Weekend and The Drums, as do America and opener 16 Years which showcase a happy-go-lucky sensibility and tunes steeped in melody and polyrhythm. Despite their status as accessible pop songs, there is plenty of depth instrumentally in each track, which finely supports the simplistic party-mongering of singer Christopher Whitehall’s vocal performances.
There are elements of Passion Pit in Right On Track’s piercing synth, whilst the dance orientated If You Wanna Stay is straight out of a Los Campesinos! recipe book. It’s pretty high octane party anthemia for most of the record, borrowing from plenty of popular ‘00s artists and pointing in the clear direction of less-is-more guitar pop that has dominated the charts in recent years.
When Be Impressive relents, as on the more melancholic Live This Nightmare, it is truly charming with Whitehall’s soft falsetto vocals and a chilled funky bass taking centre stage. When it turns things up a notch, however, it borders on irritating; the title track’s childish chanted hook particularly grates, bearing the effect of “Hey Mickey you’re so fine…”rather than “We don’t need no education…”
Screechy vocal hooks aside, this LP is a pretty solid effort, even if it does sway towards the tame. Be Impressive isn’t supposed to be anything groundbreaking, but it does develop itself enough to appease indie pop fans and provide some interest for listeners that may be a little tired of such a sound. What’s unfortunate is that it has to be released now, just as festivals are coming to a close and the winter suddenly doesn’t seem so far away.
Some of the tracks on this record sound desperate to be chanted along to on the festival circuit, yet the time has almost passed for that. Here’s hoping The Griswolds can increase their presence over the next twelve months and really have a stab at luring in crowds with their charming and spritely pop anthems.