Listening to The Goon Sax can feel a little overwhelming at times. Not because they’re cluttered or clichéd: quite the opposite. The Brisbane teenagers’ debut album ‘Up To Anything’ – an endearingly simple and quietly profound telling of a suburban adolescence – is near-flawless guitar pop.
All aged 17 and 18, the trio are disarmingly honest, finding poetry in the mundane and frustrating parts of growing up. They’re so fiercely real, so unapologetically themselves to the core, and it’s incredibly refreshing. It feels as though there are no outside influences for the group, no pressure to perpetuate a certain trend (though perhaps they do fit the conversational, lackadaisical Courtney Barnett-esque mould). Though their band name divides opinions – a goon sack is the silver bag of booze you’ll find inside a cheap box of wine, and the beverage of choice for most Australian teenagers – it seems a particularly astute reflection of their personality and music: witty, a little bit tongue-in-cheek, and with an undeniably Australian identity which runs even deeper than their Brisbane accents.
Most of the time their frontman, a lanky Alex Turner-quiffed guitarist and singer, is Louis Forster. He’ll hate the constant references, but it’s almost impossible not to mention that he’s the son of the Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster. The quick-witted but defeated lyrics, the near-spoken baritone, the jangly riffs are certainly not falling far from the tree, though by no means are The Goon Sax living in any washed-up ’80s shadow. The three teenagers share the songwriting credits, with bandmate James Harrison occasionally taking lead vocals from Forster. Drummer Riley Jones, who joined the band after the two boys after just a month of music lessons, provides sweet, melodic backing vocals on ‘Boyfriend’, a charmingly teenage lamentation on needing a boyfriend (“or just anything real”), that are beautifully complementary to Forster’s.
The record takes tokens of a typical Antipodean growing-up – ice-cream cones, shitty haircuts from your mum, the sweaty hand-holding of early relationships and even Target (an omnipresent department store) – and deals with the vulnerability and frustration of that teenage suburban bubble-like existence with a wisdom that seems to extend far beyond the band’s years (two of them aren’t actually allowed to drink goon yet).
Mixing adolescent awkwardness with this teenage world-weariness (it’s not quite cynicism, but the very first taste of disillusionment), ‘Up To Anything’ is a perfectly astute and almost laughably accurate image of those heightened youth sensations: the first time you feel all-consuming and sickening love, misery and helplessness, but told through incredibly smart, mature and perfectly-structured pop. It already feels as if we’re growing up with The Goon Sax. If their high school years continue to produce such authentic and uncontrived observations, these three will really be onto some kind of magic.