SATELLITE NIGHTS - Modern Giant (Popboomerang Records)
A good pop song is more than just a catchy melody, a sympathetic voice and some sparkling hooks. It may not be a science, but it's certainly an art form – and like all art, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While pop music as a quality musical genre has been ravaged by the evils of overproduced commercial shite that have plagued the airwaves over the last 30 years, there are still artists out there trying to come up with good pop songs that will stand the test of time. And many of these artists know that a healthy dose of guitar power goes a long way to creating a classic pop tune.
Modern Giant's brand of pop is arguably more melodic than powerful, but it's quality pop nonetheless. "Satellite Nights" is a collection of well constructed songs dominated by soft harmonies and catchy hooks – maybe not the sort of music you'd expect to play in the beer drenched environs of this bar, but occasionally it's a good idea to drag your inebriated face out of the ashtray (or worse still, the urinal) and contemplate the happy aspects of life.
The opening track "I'm not broken" is so soft and sweet it could almost be lazy, if it wasn't for the complexity of arrangements and songwriting that can be found by simply scratching the surface. In contrast, "Hell is Other People" is definitely in the powerpop mould, with lyrics that are as intelligent and insightful as most factory produced pop songs are specious.
The album is produced by Simon Holmes, former vocalist and guitarist with early 1990s Australian powerpop band The Hummingbirds. Holmes' involvement presented no problem for the band in referring directly to The Humminbirds in "The Band's Broken Up", a spoken word lament (over a simple backing track) about seeing live music in the 1980s – with frequent references to The Clash, The Hummingbirds and Midnight Oil (three bands that I'd like to identify myself with at various stages of my music watching and listening existence – though I've never previously lumped them together) – and all the socially excited activities and post mortems that went with it.
"San Sebastian" describes love held enjoyed in that fantastic Basque cultural metropolis, all happiness and smiles, but suggesting a sense of loss of the moment. "Heartbeat" invokes some classically Australian imagery ("We met under the spit/of a mozzie zapper/In a Port Macquarie/fish and chip shop/Shaped bongs") to describe another romantic interlude. "Tie One On" is probably the hardest song on the CD, though the sweetness of the vocals betray a narrative that's about drinking to excess (but in company) to forget the dramas of the world. "I thought you were somebody else" is almost quintessential pop, a satisfactory marriage of The Beach Boys, The Partridge Family and Frente. The Frente thing is obviously no coincidence, as the final song is a personal celebration of former Frente lead singer Angie Hart, and her role in constructing an attractive vision of Melbourne ("furry hatted girls/who wear matted lipstick lips").
This CD isn't the standard fodder for this bar – but it's good pop music, and quality pop should always be respected. This is music to sit down and listen to, rather than shake your head like a psychotically deranged backroom punter. The lyrics alone are worth pondering over a few beers. They'll mean plenty to anyone who has spent too long in smoke filled rooms fumbling stupidly on romantic matters. Most of us try and forget those days, but Modern Giant have managed to take those experiences and combine them with good pop music.- Patrick Emery
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