A Mosaic of Sounds
There are stressful, hellish moments in life that heel forward without stopping. You may find yourself working overtime at the office, crushing though expense reports, filing papers like a mindless drone. Or you might be in the midst of exam week, cramming for tests that are unfairly weighed to make-or-break your GPA. Total Control, the five piece band from Melbourne, offers a fitting soundtrack – an antidote of sorts – for these hair-pulling instances. It’s all found in their latest release, Typical System – a 40 minute exploration of tension, rhythm, and aesthetic.
The last time we heard Total Control (on their album Henge Beat), they proved to us that they’re hard to categorize. They gave us garage rock and indie rock, then sprinkled bits of new wave and pop onto their creations, making it hard to decipher. Not to say this genre-confusion is bad; it’s admirable the way they pull from different influences. It’s this ability to switch between classes that defines them.
There’s no doubt that Total Control is armed with an array of sounds: from jazzy saxophones, drum machines, synths, to their more familiar punchy guitars, these five Aussies take post-punk and add their own flavor to the genre, pleasing fans of artists such as No Age, Destroyer, and Liars.
This album is essentially a showcase of their diversity. On the track “Flesh War,” bass drums churn a beat, moving the song forward in a cold bobbing motion – the kind of beat you need to burn though calculus equations at three in the morning. Then, at the chorus, multiple sounds unfurl before our eyes (ears?): starry synths joined by guitars that blink and glow. They pull similar tricks on the track “Liberal Party.” The song pries open like a Miami sunrise: tropical, airy drum machine clicks with the saxophone signing alongside. They switch gears after 50 seconds, lead vocalist Dan Stewart singing “”Broken porch light / Shattered sense of worth,” dryly. There’s a battle between celebration and struggle – and this back and forth tension between the two narratives is what keeps listeners on their toes, stimulated.
These guys aren’t set on strumming the same three chords. They’d get bored of playing a repetitive hook, just for the sake of it’s catchiness. By bringing other sounds to the table, they change the mood. They create small, decorative instances that make us grin and temporarily forget that we’re even working or stressed in the first place.
While all tracks tell a different story, Typical System is united by a common theme: solidarity. Whether it be James Vinciguerra’s steady drums, or the baselines of Zephyr Pavey that seem to provide a railing for the guitars to balance on, there’s a type of cohesion that shows these songs are tightly woven – not frayed and messy. They exhibit control – something evident in the band’s very name. There’s a lot to learn from these guys, so youngsters, listen up.