Floodlights: From A View

Floodlights are made up of guitarists/vocalists Louis Parsons and Ashlee Kehoe, bassist Joe Draffen and drummer Archie Shannon. NME have described Floodlights as a “jangle-pop quartet”, and there’s also an element of twangy indie rock, with a distinct modern punk ethos. Their music has a fresh and exciting spirit that recalls Uncle Tupelo or the Go-Betweens.

Their 2019 EP Backyard rightly pushed them towards a record deal (with Spunk Records), and airplay on community radio in Australia and larger radio stations around the world. With its’ spoken introduction by Uncle Bunna Lawrie, a Mirning Elder and Whale Dreamer of the Nullarbor coast, Backyard showed an immediate interest in social issues; standout track “Small Town Pub” was concerned that Australian life amounted to “stubby shorts” and “Shane Warne on the telly”.

Their debut album, From A View, continues to show a keen interest in more serious matters like identity, power and race; there is clear political and historical awareness (and the band acknowledge in the sleeve acknowledges the traditional owners of the land that the LP was recorded on: the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation).

The album is direct, with no excess – before you know it, the eleven short tracks have unfortunately whizzed by. The album was also made relatively quickly, recorded live with minimal overdubs using a 24 track tape machine over two days in November 2019 at Head Gap Studios (Preston, Australia) by Nao Anzai.  Parsons does most of the singing (sometimes half-spoken) in an appealing Aussie accent, and the playing is meticulously to the point.

From A View is firmly set in a wide-open Australia, and although the songs frequently address the downside of life down-under, it still comes across as an upbeat album due to the energetic music. “Water’s Edge” immediately sets the scene of the “corrugated road and a thousand cane toads/heat on the land like fever”, of being in isolation in the sticks, but with a “sense of something out there”. The youthful optimism is put into perspective by a warning from a tinkering outsider that the “country’s strong out here, with a possible metaphysical outcome:

Don’t you go where you don’t belong
Or you’ll feel it somewhere you didn’t know you had
Don’t do no wrong

The album has an adventurous spirit and explores the country’s culture in some depth. In “Matter of Time”, the national sense of competition obliterates good sense, when “all bells are ringing but no one’s listening/too many blinkers for the pole position”. We encounter prejudice in “Walk Away”, and the disappointment of bigotry in “It Was All Going So Well”. The country seems stuck, and can’t cope with change in “Don’t Pick That Scratch” – the character in the song wonders “what will it mean for me, and my understanding of culture/if things are rearranged”. To drive the point home – that there is more than a singular viewpoint, the chorus uses a dual male and female vocal, Parsons and Kehoe.

The band always sound like they enjoy playing which make their arguments to the listener more convincing. On “Tropical Fun”, they consider the problematic nature of foreign holidays, and the ethics of having fun in an environment of economic injustice – “carry my bags, lower the price/fetch me a towel, with some grog on ice”. The dark “Glory of Control” rails against the misuse of power in the office and at home, again making good use of two voices on the chorus.

When it comes to more personal matters, “Thanks for Understanding” addresses the idiosyncrasies of being human, of “speaking in cryptic”, being “a faulty appliance” which keeps “tripping the circuit”. The track starts slowly, but builds up into a great mix of breezy guitar, harmonica, and again incorporates an impressive dual vocal. “Proud and Well” comes to terms with an alternative route in life, of acceptance of being behind in a “career path”, but having the benefit of a different perspective.

“Shifting Shadows” and “Happiness” are also more introspective in nature, and both show some personal angst. “Shifting Shadows” details being in a sorry state, but opts for self-help. “Happiness” has a great sense of positive movement with dramatic guitar and vocal reflecting some deliberation over life choices. It’s a strong and convincing performance rejecting a conventional life of “shiny shoes” and “kind regards”, and the album finishes on a determined note for the future.

The resolute ending hopefully means Floodlights will return. In the meantime, this is an album which will bear repeated listening, as From A View is a great album.

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Label: Spunk Records
Release Date: 17 JUL 2020