Though it’s a mere hovercraft away from the English mainland, Lauran Hibberd has described her hometown – Cowes, on the Isle of Wight – as feeling like it’s stuck in a time-warp, a couple of decades behind everywhere else. Growing up, Hibberd started out writing folk between her shifts at a low-budget dinosaur museum, where she scrubbed plastic Velociraptor eggs with a toothbrush.
Though she had some local success under her more minimal guise, winning a competition to play Bestival back when it was still held on the island, everything changed when a producer handed her a distortion pedal copy of Weezer’s ‘The Blue Album’. From here began an all-out obsession with US indie-rock and pop punk; spiky, punchy guitar lines the perfect match for Hibberd’s fiercely witty, idiosyncratic observations on small-town boredom and the instability of floundering into early-twenties and adulthood.
The latter is a recurring theme on Hibberd’s debut album ‘Garageband Superstar’. On the scratch-laden ‘Still Running’ – which wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on the soundtrack for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, and features Limp Bizkit’s DJ Lethal on turntablist duties– the musician sings of old friends leaving the island, flourishing in their new careers, and getting hitched while Hibberd feels directionless in suburbia: “All my friends got paid today,” she sings, “they’re all sipping champagne with their fiancés”.
In ‘Average Joe’ Hibberd’s narrative lyrics recall the dexterity and storytelling of Courtney Barnett as she envies a simpler life watching “Netflix Original” and seamlessly knowing how to pack a suitcase. Vaguely in the vein of Busted’s ‘Year 3000’ or ‘Beverly Hills’ by Weezer with a chaser-shot of reality, the record’s title-track playfully dreams of scoring a gigantic hit, soaring to overnight superstardom and getting accosted by fans everywhere she goes before thudding swiftly back down to earth.
On the guest vocals front, Hibberd enlists none other than Wheatus’ vocalist Brendan B. Brown – and it’s a canny choice. Despite releasing five albums since forming in 1995, the Northport band are primarily known for their brilliantly bratty outsider anthem ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. Presumably it’s both a blessing and a curse.
The Stateside influences here are potent, both in Hibberd’s drawling vocal, and direct, hooky writing that draws heavily from ‘90s West Coast pop-punk bands like Green Day, OPM, Alien Ant Farm, and Blink-182. It’s sometimes jarring to hear the Isle of Wight local affecting US turns of phrase – take ‘Step Mom’s Americanised stylings and ‘Rollercoaster’s “traaaash” – in the same breath as referencing the Megabus and a coolbox packed to the brim with with tinnies.
Occasionally you wish Hibberd would explore more of the latter, because when she steers away from pastiche and fully delves into cataloguing the mundanity, pomposity and sheer ridiculousness of grotty Little England, she’s at her best as a songwriter. Still, there’s no denying that the whole thing is a huge amount of fun anyway, whichever side of the Atlantic its heart lives on.
- Release date: August 19
- Record label: Virgin Music