What better way to end 2020 than with some unadulterated escapism? Sydney three-piece STUMPS offer that in spades on their debut album ‘All Our Friends’, a riotous pastiche of classic indie disco sounds that throws back to sticky club dancefloors and late-night singalongs.
While Gang of Youths and City Calm Down are their most obvious Aussie peers, STUMPS have far more in common with the late-2000s indie boom in the UK than they do their local counterparts. Opener ‘Mt. Pleasant’ almost reaches the same heights as Bloc Party’s infamous opening track ‘Like Eating Glass’, its gauzy guitar lines swelling over rumbling percussion as frontman Kyle Fisher’s unflinching baritone takes flight. And like ‘Like Eating Glass’, ‘Mt. Pleasant’ is underpinned by wryly dark lyricism: “We’re all cannibals / Under camera lights / So we’ll eat ’em all / All our friends tonight,” croons Fisher.
That darkness continues to bubble underneath the massive hooks and anthemic choruses of ‘All Of Friends’. While there are sly nods to indie icons of the aughts throughout — the bubblegum pop of Two Door Cinema Club (‘This Is Why We Fall Apart’), the disco-tinged swagger of Talking Heads (‘I’ve Had Enough’) and the buoyant energy of Foals (‘Suburbia’), for example – STUMPS avoid outright mimicry through lyrics that aims to puncture idyllic views of Australian suburbs. “We’re gonna die so we might as well laugh about it / We’re gonna die so we might as well smile about it,” they smirk on the dizzying foot-tapper ‘Laugh About It’.
There are plenty of tender moments throughout the album, too. ‘All Our Friends’ succeeds in capturing a great night out like a flurry of Polaroids, from the pre-drinks to the club to the afters. ‘Culture Tourniquet’ is lo-fi and crunchy, like a sweet iPhone voice note confessional delivered during a quick break in the smoking area. Then there’s the laidback, end-of-the-night vibe of ‘2020’: a song which sounds like a Beach Boys track going through a comedown, bleary-eyed and worn out, but still determined in the face of despair.
Believe it or not, indie clubs peaked over ten years ago, and hearing these sounds spring back to life in 2020 is bound to prompt some nostalgic smiles. Nothing here will be unfamiliar to anyone who was interested in guitar music between 2005 and 2009, and it evokes the same feelings too: the majority of this album makes you want to neck a shot and swing from the rafters.
So, is this ode to indie discos of the aughts something we need in 2020? For the most part, yes: ‘All Our Friends’ successfully captures the same spirit of ‘Tourist History’ and ‘Silent Alarm’, and is a welcome escape from the year even if the sound occasionally shows its age here. And the future for STUMPS could be especially bright, if going forward they follow in the footsteps of bands like Foals and Bloc Party by exploring bold, multi-genre experimentations.
- Release date: December 4
- Record label: Cooking Vinyl Australia