10 Track, LP (2010, Other Tongues)
Related: 78 Saab.
For its fourth album, the long-running Sydney quartet 78 Saab has reunited with Tim Whitten, the producer who helmed their first two: Picture a Hum, Can't Hear a Sound (2000) and Crossed Lines (2004). Whitten knows exactly what the band is going for – timeless power-pop as familiar as comfort food – and helps realise the wintry, melancholy potential of these bristling songs. The results fall close to what another group of alt-rock survivors, New York’s Nada Surf, accomplished with its last few albums: heartfelt tunes both rousing and bittersweet. Singer/guitarist Ben Nash’s vocals are wise and wounded but also clean and open as the band dishes out big guitars, ringing tambourine, and easygoing choruses.
There’s poignant slide guitar tickling ‘Never Gonna Be’, while an acoustic strum and keyboard warmth herald the morning-after croon and Oasis-ish guitar of ‘Whatever Rules You Break’. But nearly all of it works well – even if the songwriting can be a bit pat. Though not a Brian Eno homage, ‘Warm Jets’ uses the line, “Here come the warm jets”, to mark the passing of time and loved ones. “A bailout to cover your greed/Never learning, time and time again,” sings Nash with little subtlety on the GFC lament ‘Avarice’. ‘Chasing The Light’ then references a few Dylan albums in a way that’s not unlike Nada Surf’s ‘Blonde On Blonde’.
Nash doesn’t shy away from cliches – “You can roll the dice/Start again,” he observes on ‘Hold You’ – but universal themes fit the band’s time-worn, fashion-blind delivery like a glove, and the album actually gets better as it unfolds. Its final two songs – ‘Situations’, with its fluffy keyboards and twang-y guitars, and ballad-turned-rocker ‘Small Things’ – are among its best.
As it stands, Good Fortune is a durable, straightforward collection of songs. It also makes for an excellent companion to Lazy Susan’s Places That Made Us, another recent album by an august Sydney quartet that’s still hooked on the classics.
by Doug Wallen