In 2016, Brisbane’s The Goon Sax released their debut album, ‘Up To Anything’, while all three members – Louis Forster, James Harrison and Riley Jones – were still in high school. That record’s charm lay in its earnest simplicity, all punchy indie-pop ruminating on the details of teenage life: nascent relationships, crushes, anxieties and insecurities, the uncertain future. Comparisons to The Go-Betweens were inescapable, not least because of Forster’s musical lineage (co-founder Robert is his father). But The Goon Sax was clearly a young band to watch, regardless of bloodline.
2018’s ‘We’re Not Talking’ reflected a progression in songwriting, with a much wider sonic range on display. Acoustic and electric influences converged in a record that was impressive and expansive in scope, and more daring than its predecessor. It felt like the band were growing up and trying new things – just as you do when you enter adulthood.
A lot can happen in five years. The group’s latest album, ‘Mirror II’, sometimes feels like the work of a different band altogether. Their first record with indie giant Matador Records (though released on Chapter Music in Australia and New Zealand), it marks a sharp pivot in direction. The Goon Sax has taken cues from new wave and electronica, most evidently on ‘Desire’, a dreamy, fuzzy track overlaid with a sparkly sheen that takes the listener on a five-minute sonic journey. ‘Desire’ floats from a wall of noise to quieter, more contemplative moments, stillness used in a way that the band hasn’t attempted before: creating space for the ideas to make maximum impact.
Jones takes the front seat on ‘Tag’, her gentle vocals swimming over a delicious bed of synthesisers as the band tackles modulations with ease. ‘The Chance’ brings in keys and distortion, with Forster and Jones’ voices combining in the chorus to create an epic, expansive atmosphere. A saxophone punctuates ‘Bathwater’, adding a woozy new element before exploding back into angular guitar pop. These are assured, mature songs bursting with creativity.
That’s not to say that the trademark Goon Sax attitude has vanished: that same propulsive simplicity underpins many of the songs, layered as they are with new ideas. Driven by Harrison’s slacker drawl, ‘Carpetry’ could be lifted from either of the band’s first two albums, and ‘Caterpillars’ begins in the same way before leaking into an extended outro, voices used wordlessly as instruments.
Perhaps the most touching thing about listening to ‘Mirror II’ is noticing little connections with The Goon Sax’s early teenage songs: on 2016’s ‘Telephone’ they sang, “I hate those telephones / they hurt me everyday,” and on 2021’s ‘In the Stone’ they sing, “Didn’t have to sound so disappointed when I called / if you had ever saved my number in your phone”. So much can change in five years, especially in the transition from adolescence to adulthood, but some things will always be the same.
- Release date: July 9
- Record label: Chapter Music, Matador