[sic] Magazine

City Calm Down – Echoes In Blue

Melbourne band City Calm Down have been active for around a decade now. Early releases pegged them as synthpop albeit with a range of discernible influences and styles. By the time the band released their debut album In A Restless House, myriad other influences began to show. Synthpop would no longer do. There were nods even to the likes of The National or compatriots Gang Of Youths (see ‘Rabbit Run’). Even the origin of their name (from an Architecture In Helsinki track) suggests taste.

Nice beginnings indeed.

Echoes In Blue is the Australian’s second long-player and it builds upon its predecessor’s heartfelt naivety. Just as its cover artwork implies, Echoes…. is wider in scope and ambition than the debut. ‘Joan, I’m Disappearing’ is a nuanced but surefooted opener. Friends were amazed by the rich and sonorous voice that emerges from the sveltely built Jack Bourke. My initial reaction was the same. Certain voices contain implications. Nick Cave, for example implies a level of debauchery that his material then delivers upon. Yet there’s a clean neutrality to Bourke that is highly suited to pop, particularly synthersized. Think New Order, White Lies or even something like A Flock Of Seagulls. Bourke’s vocal is a long, tall drink of water that really hit the spot for me.

I know that City Calm Down also get Icehouse thrown at them a lot. Indeed one bandmember has a parent who is a fan (see interview), but they prefer to put such comparisons down to their Australian–ness, i.e. that widescreen sense of possibility that punctuates many antipodean bands’ output. However, as mentioned, it isn’t all synths with these guys. And I equally see the lineage of Psychedelic Furs and Expatriate, as well as Chapel Club or even The Cure.

‘Blame’ is a solid piece of mumblecore that puts us right back in The National territory and is one of many highlights here. ‘Blood’ is another. Believe me when I say ‘Blood’ is a bigger anthem than its namesake by Editors. This is huge, celebratory and damn near impossible not to love. Yet, while many of these tracks surge with stadium ambition, the lyrical content betrays a sense of loss, struggle or bitterness. As hinted in our interview, the trials and tribulations of contemporary life inform much of this album. Jack Bourke seemingly struggles to balance his art and family life with the dreaded ‘day job’. ‘Blood’ is probably about this as, indeed, is ‘In This Modern Land’, perhaps the true post-millennium successor to ‘Great Southern Land’.

Whether indie, synth or whatever, City Calm Down are certainly doing their pop right. We’ve mentioned The National more than once already and if these guys follow a similar career path I tremble to think how good the next few albums could be. Peg them innocuous at your peril, dear reader. They might sneak up and suddenly become your favourite band.

Echoes In Blue is out now. City Calm Down are on the Australia/NZ leg of their tour. Catch them from June 15th in Melbourne.


Official website