Flowertruck – ‘Partly Cloudy’ review: joy shaded with melancholy

For their first record in four years, the Sydney/Illawarra indie band turn in a mercurial and empathetic work

With four years between albums – and half of that time spent on hiatus – the future hasn’t exactly been assured for Flowertruck. Such uncertainty comes across even in the Sydney/Illawarra band’s complementary album titles: ‘Mostly Sunny’ and now ‘Partly Cloudy’. They’re two different ways of describing a similar forecast, and that push-and-pull between upbeat and downturned is a defining feature of bassist/singer Charles Rushforth’s lyrics here.

On the standout ‘Likelihood’, Rushforth muses about the actual odds of getting a degree or saving enough money for a trip overseas. He first decides it’s low, but by song’s end he is repeating “It’s so unlikely” about those and other aspirations while the initially chiming melodies from new guitarist David Gauci (Gauci, Hatchie) gradually take a noisier, more overcast turn.

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Rushforth’s vocal delivery is similarly mercurial across this record, taking excited leaps to match the music’s exuberant upswings. But he also retreats as the songs (and lyrics) turn inward, creating a fascinating cross-section of threads both joyous and melancholic. Yet, even when the water gets choppy, there’s a certain knowing buoyancy that keeps Flowertruck afloat.

And the bright spots are downright glaring. Inspired by Rushforth’s stint as a handyman in a Broken Hill caravan park, ‘Sing Along to Your Life’ lurches into gnashing angst at one stage that only provides more contrast for its aptly communal chorus. Another instantaneously catchy chorus appears on the following ‘Quiet!’, a song that channels both the jerky rhythms and zinging keyboards of classic New Wave. You can really hear how Rushforth, Gauci, keyboardist Sarah Sykes (who also leads Sydney band Sunscreen) and drummer Will Blackburn playfully respond to each other at every turn.

FLOWERTRUCK
Credit: Jordanne Chant

Flowertruck’s animated guitar-pop slots nicely into an established lineage of wordy, self-aware acts, from UK exports like Orange Juice and Dexys Midnight Runners to Aussie forebears like The Go-Betweens and The Lucksmiths. With its folkier lilt, ‘Oberon’ even harks back to The Kinks’ lighter yet archer moments. And as with The Kinks, the emotional messages are layered: here’s a giddy song about giving up some of the dreams you’ve long held onto.

The lack of a certain future is a common enough theme in bands crossing over from their 20s to their 30s, but Flowertruck hit it with particular poignancy. Kicking off with an Cure-esque flare of guitar, ‘Alright / All Right’ mocks the all-or-nothing treatment of one’s personal outlook. Whether you choose to bike to work or simply turn off the lights and sink back into bed, there’s room enough for both options in the days and weeks that stretch ahead – and neither is the perfect solution. “It doesn’t have to be alright,” Rushforth reassures us.

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Album closer ‘Hopeless’ doubles down on this false dichotomy of being either happy or sad. After a repeated group chorus of “Hopeless in happiness,” Rushforth asks, “What was it that you were chasing so endlessly?” before Gauci’s biggest, most sustained guitar solo of the album takes satisfying flight to close out the record. It plays like one more good-humoured puncturing of the daily pressure we put on ourselves to do more and feel better – even when we’d rather pull the doona back over our heads.

Details

FLOWERTRUCK - Partly Cloudy

  • Release date: September 2
  • Record label: Spunk/Virgin
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