Civic – ‘Future Forecast’ review: Melbourne punk rockers capture lightning in a bottle

Led by charismatic frontman Jim McCullough, the five-piece offer a cleaner, more melodic sound that still buzzes with adrenaline

If you – like most of the world – have been deprived of live music for a full year now, Civic’s debut album will hit you extra hard. The Melbourne quartet charge ‘Future Forecast’ with the rallying kinetic energy of an overcrowded pub gig;such is the impact of their ambush that you can almost taste the sweat and beer.

Even in Australia, where touring is happening again at a reduced capacity, the band’s melody-laced punk can feel like a full-bodied throwback to another era. You can certainly trace these anthems back to the late-’70s glory days of the first two Saints album and further along the timeline to The Stooges – right down to the ripe saxophone salvos from Stella Rennex – but Civic bring on enough frantic spontaneity to stake their prominent place in the here and now.

Such balance of articulation and adrenaline is deceptively tough to pull off. But between guitarist Lewis Hodgson’s saw-toothed hooks and searing solos, and the tightly wound propulsion of bassist Roland Hlavka and drummer David Forcier, the songs are already thrilling before frontman Jim McCullough even enters the frame. And when he does, he proves equally comfortable breaking into a bitter snarl as he is diverting into brooding spoken word (the mid-album dynamic reset ‘Sunday Best’) or the thoughtful questioning of his own actions (the surprisingly romantic ‘Back to You’).

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A trio of singles over the past few years, including a triumphant cover of The Creation’s bludgeoning garage classic ‘Making Time’, have charted Civic’s steady progression from the raw promise of 2018’s ‘New Vietnam’ EP. They’ve made yet another considerable leap to the cleaner, more layered attack on display here. Civic bring a newfound melodic focus to their pub-wrought punk without diminishing its heated intensity or standout rhythm section.

It helps that ‘Future Forecast’ prizes catchiness and variety along the way, from the hopped-up power-pop overtures of opener ‘Radiant Eye’ and the consumption-themed ‘As Seen On TV’ to the lap steel guitar that lends pronounced moodiness to the otherwise chugging riffs of ‘Tell the Papers’. The cathartic ‘Shake Like Death’ applies scathing feedback and Sonic Youth-style guitar bristles at the start, setting McCullough up to emerge more glowering and swaggering than anywhere else on the record.

Likewise, ‘Hollywood Nights in Hamburg’ answers his more gravelly vocal turn with some of the brightest melodies and forceful momentum on the LP – plus a free-ranging guitar solo to savour. Whether McCullough is sticking to punchy, compact refrains (‘Velvet Casino’) or chewing on the scenery with Iggy Pop-worthy flair (‘Clone’), he’s a commanding frontman at every turn.

Closing with the foreboding ‘Come to Know’, McCullough sings about police, pollution, the modern news cycle and other nagging anxieties that bog down both collective everyday experience and our “future forecast”. It’s bleak in mood but energising in delivery, with the siren-like bleating of guitar leading the charge on a gnashing final two minutes of instrumental squall.

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Consider it a satisfying encore for an album that rivals real-life gig-going. Until more of us can see Civic in the flesh, ‘Future Forecast’ will remain firmly on repeat.

Details

CIVIC Future Forecast

  • Release date: March 26
  • Record label: Flightless Records
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