Moaning Lisa – ‘Something Like This But Not This’ review: squalling sonics and stark self-examination

Full of fuzz and feedback, the Canberra four-piece’s debut offers cutting, compelling songs about difficult growth and painful rites of passage

Moaning Lisa’s debut, ‘Something Like This But Not This’, is pent-up and restless. The four-piece combine dreamy, melodic punk-pop with squalling, feedback-rich onslaughts of guitar – reminiscent of Sonic Youth’s rebellious, addictive energy – delivering a fuzzed-out record that captures the self-questioning years of early adulthood.

Since forming in Canberra in 2016, the four-piece have released two EPs, ‘The Sweetness’ in 2017 and ‘Do You Know Enough?’ in 2018. They’re led by the charismatic Charlie Versegi, who could sing a shopping list and make it sound sincere and soulful. She’s in good company with singer-bassist Hayley Manwaring, lead guitarist Ellen Chan and drummer Hayden Fritzlaff.

While recording ‘Something Like This But Not This’, the pandemic forced the band to hastily move from Sydney’s Golden Retriever Studios to the Melbourne home studio of Lunatics On Pogosticks’ frontman Calum ‘Candy’ Newton. But this unexpected shift didn’t hurt the record. While on queer love song ‘Something’, the gorgeously polished sound reflects the pure, lush sonics of a recording studio, on ‘Bike Riding’ there’s a fuzzy, imperfect edge to the guitars and vocals that suggest it’s been recorded in a garage. It’s charming, and it works.

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Lyrically, Moaning Lisa excavate twenty-something trauma and painful rites of passage. On ‘Bike Riding’, Charlie Versegi repeats the tiresome advice that do-gooders have been doling out to friends and family throughout the pandemic: “You should be bike riding instead of driving… you should do yoga, you should get a dog, you should eat better, you should go for a jog”. The tension gradually builds to catharsis, as Versegi sounds increasingly unhinged and infuriated.

Elsewhere, the sweetly down-tempo ballad ‘Don’t Dream’ is a lifeline from one friend to another. Versegi’s beautiful, soothing delivery evokes the angelic voice of Sarah McLachlan, but ‘Don’t Dream’ doesn’t set a slower pace. ‘Working Still’ snarls in on a whirl of guitar riffs like a savage wake-up shake. Rhythmically, it raises the ghost of Veruca Salt’s ‘Volcano Girls’, while its lyrics bottle up seething anger at the insidious exploitations of capitalism. “Your boss tells you you’re an asset, but don’t mistake that for praise, ’cause he’ll ask you to forfeit all of your sick days…” Versegi croons with sardonic sweetness, “But what’s the big deal?

My best friend was a razor blade, but I got good grades,” she admits on ‘Wild Days’, a lament for the bliss-and-brutality of youth. “I wouldn’t do it again, or maybe just once. Tell me that there’s still some wild days left in us ’cause I don’t think I’ve had enough of making mistakes yet.” As the drums kick in, the guitars wail up against a wall of feedback and the sound becomes all-encompassing, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be many more wild days for Moaning Lisa.

Details

Moaning Lisa Something Like This But Not This album review 2021
  • Release date: October 8
  • Record label: Farmer & The Owl / BMG
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