Songs are this weird, beguiling presence to me. When they first came out around 2009, I wandered into one of their sets at some miniature festival at a pub and they were playing nine-minute songs that seemed to just build and build into this hypnotic force without ever breaking out into the all-out sludge-fest that I so desperately wanted. And yet, despite their unorthodox songwriting and even more irritating name, I kind of fell in love with them. Their debut record, which I covered on these pages a while ago, was really something, but their follow-up, released recently on Popfrenzy, is even better. So much so that I’ve reviewed it twice, for the newspaper and our local street press and begged their label to give me this track so I could write about it. And yet, when I cycle past their bass player on the way to the beach every day, she never even so much as says hello. And let me tell you, that’s a massive deal when you’re a music journalist. It makes you like the band even more.
The aforementioned Ela Stiles, she of the scowl and long black hair and generally aesthetically appealing features, takes a stronger lead vocal role on Malabar, and it’s her you hear entering all sorts of alternate psychedelic universes on this track. It’s convenient that Songs decided (after losing two members and replacing them with better ones) to release an album that’s alternately hooky and heavy on the shoegaze in 2013. After all, if My Bloody Valentine’s return to the arena has proven anything, it’s that the low drone of bass and spiralling waves of effected guitar have never been in higher demand than right now. This, of course, is what Songs have always kind of done. But now they get to bust out all the accoutrements that comes with the presumably beefed up budget (you know, like, twenty bucks and some beers) that goes along with recording a sophomore album. This includes Kevin Parker-esque, pinballing L/R production, which one assumes is pretty expensive unless you are Kevin Parker, as well as tambourines, loads of guitars and a flute solo that is so epically Australian that I am using Men At Work at a touchpoint when clearly Jethro Tull are just as useful.
I don’t know what it is about Songs that helps them stand out from the small cluster of other bands trying to do exactly the same thing. It may be that they’re simply better at it, and that they take themselves seriously. Max Doyle is still the perfectionist he was the first time around, and even on a sprawling, six minute road jam like this one which really takes me back to some of the better cuts from The Doors’ L.A. Woman period in way, everything is fine-tuned to perfection. Ela’s bass still mopes its’ way into the room, but once it gets there, it realises that this is a pretty decent party and shakes some life into itself. And their two hired guns, who come from pretty great bands themselves, patiently subscribe to the idea that they will be playing pretty much the same thing for this entire track with slight variation because we are not dealing with choruses and verses and bridges here, man, we are dealing with Ideas. It’s a blissful trip that I never really want to end, and even when they’re pushing for dissonance with some of Stiles’ ad-lib harmonies, Songs still manage to come out sounding pretty freaking sweet.
Songs – ‘Looking Without Seeing’