‘There’s these lines upon my face/ that tell me something’s about to change/Just another cold embrace/I don’t feel like I did yesterday/If you wanna stay/I will never miss you while I’m away.’ As a lyrical opener on If You Wanna Stay, it’s hard to beat, and The Griswolds’ singer/songwriter Chris Whitehall doesn’t let up from there. This is alchemy in action turning the darker parts of a relationship into pop gold. The most recent single from The Griswolds’ 2014 LP Be Impressive is everything a big breakup tune should be: damaged, exultant and hugely infectious, with a modern production aesthetic that redefines the kind of sunny, guitar-driven pop music I was scared might disappear in 2015. Maybe it’s the combination of killer musicianship, memorable melodies and the total commitment to writing killer 3 minute tunes, but this NSW Central Coast band feel like my home team.
The new single from indie-pop heartthrobs The Griswolds If You Wanna Stay crams a whole lot of walloping guitar-driven pop into just 2 and a half minutes.
But let’s talk about the single. The opening is a blur of delay and synthesiser melody before a chunky arpeggiated bass line thumps in. It’s actually 11 seconds before we even hear a vocal, but the melodic hooks at work means the short intro is never boring. When Whitehall glides in, we get a sense of how capable a vocalist he is. It’s all pretty high up in the register, and the vocal sounds like a single take unassisted by doubles or harmonies.
The vulnerability and effort in Whitehall’s vocals hints at the plaintiff quality of the tune itself. The singer is rising to meet some kind of redemptive moment out of the chaos of his romantic life, and the band articulate his struggle perfectly. Moments of tuned drums and epic percussion additions flash around the vocal. Fibrous toms beat out a military tattoo behind insistent high hats and kick drum, while glockenspiel and metalophone notes grace the spare verse with some melodic detail.
Whitehall worries aloud about the moral course his relationship is rushing down, and his changing feelings, and then the chorus just explodes into a bouncing football chant. And I mean, it’s so close to perfect in terms of commercial guitar pop that I actually can’t say a bad word about the song. It’s ideal.
With bands like 5 Seconds Of Summer reinvigorating power pop with songs about teenage abandon, The Griswolds bring pathos to the propulsive grooves and singalong melodies that dominate the genre, without sacrificing the commercial appeal of big, bouncing melodies and rhythm dynamics.
They are the adult 5 Seconds Of Summer, and deserve a huge audience. There are enormous hooks in every single section of this tune. The band snaps off each one, fleet and thrilling, before the next another crashes in. And just listen to the heavyweight team of bassist Tim John and drummer Lachy West as they power toward the chorus!
It’s unpretentious like a classic boxer might be tough, direct, and dangerous; The Griswolds hit so much harder for not making any unnecessary movements. The keyboard additions are vital to keeping things modern here, and multi-instrumentalist Dan Duquez does a remarkable job of marrying disparate synth backing to the guitars in the foreground.
It makes sense this Australian group, so recently overlooked by Triple J, are converting many young fans in the US to their version of power pop. Wonderful, catchy melodies extend across the whole album.
Good luck to them, and be advised The Griswolds don’t care if you think they’re ‘cool’. This is a classic indie pop band, and the pure energy, composition and hunger of this single make The Griswolds an irresistible proposition.
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