Originally starting as the DIY home recording project of Angus Lord and Claudia Serfaty, The Stroppies have now evolved into what some might call a “proper band”. Following on from their 2017 demo cassette and a sling of singles, 2019 saw the release of their debut LP Whoosh!, a studio-based affair that evolved The Stroppies sound, underpinned with a newly discovered melodic classicism. Look Alive!, their latest effort which was recorded only months after the bands return to Australia after their second European tour of 2019, represents a marriage of the two different styles of Stroppies recordings and rounds out an incredibly productive twelve months for the group.
If Whoosh! glimmered and sparkled with tight production and succinct pop songwriting, Look Alive! is a somewhat darker shade, employing a more diffuse, impressionistic sonic palette and a more obvious penchant for experimentation. Tracked by the band and long time friend / collaborator Alex Macfarlane (Twerps, The Stevens, Hobbies Galore) at home and then mixed and mastered direct off the tape at Phaedra studios in Coburg by John Lee, it’s also a somewhat collaborative project, drawing in influence and inspiration from myriad sources.
Such means of production are evident in the resulting eight songs. The title track sees acoustic pianos duel with synthesizers over Pavement-esque guitar wig outs, whilst The Aisles of the Supermarket employs tape loops to forge loose ambient foundations. Though these ideas may reflect the band’s noted “stream of consciousness creativity”, remarkably the songwriting remains as sharp as ever. Album opener Burning Bright gallops forward with the propulsive energy of ‘77-era Talking Heads and is transported by a casually brilliant chorus delivered by shared vocalist Claudia Sefraty. Elsewhere, lead single Holes In Everything presents the band at its pop best: "If I could disappear into the atmosphere, I would be around you all the time" sings Lord, before swiftly throwing shade on the sentiment in the chorus, "It's always frightening what I think". It's this penchant for push and pull of light and dark splashed against the backdrop of trepidation and humour that make The Stroppies records so endearing and open-ended. Though undeniably pop structure orientated, the bands propensity for re-inventing and re-appropriating their recording and writing process ensures that nothing starts to fossilize. Indeed, Look Alive! is that most intriguing of records precisely because it represents two ideas at the same time - the sound of a band in flux, but also the sound of a band becoming more sure footed as they walk their crooked line. For fans of Guided by Voices, Pavement, Terry, The Chills, The Clean and The Verlaines.
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