Record Reviews

Crosswords

Super Wild Horses seek authenticity through sound. As a band formed on a foundation of na’vet? and technical ineptitude, their positioning as part of that Melbourne milieu of coarsely constructed guitar rock – with the likes of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The UV Race and Twerps – was inevitable. Just as assured was the wistful glance backwards of their influences, across garage, Motown and psychedelia.

There are things that are pleasant about their approach; stripped-back, lo-fi recordings offsetting the sugary vocals and clumsy instrument swaps within a bare-boned drums-and-guitar two-piece. There’s also that tight-knit community spirit: DIY, impartial to global trends and an old-school [?scenius?](http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2009/07/09/brian-eno-on-genius-and-scenius) still based on geography. The idea is romantic, if the outcome variable.

Cue Amy Franz and Hayley McKee’s second album, Crosswords. It’s a compound sum of its parts, where the efforts toward keeping it real extend to going to the country, recording in a defunct butter factory and spitting out 22 songs in a matter of days. The minimal vibe of their sound and their setup remain largely untouched, aside from a vocal cameo from Twerps? Rick Milovanovic and some added instrumentation, as does the simplicity of their compositions. The difficulty, though, in seeing the record as a genuine, relatable form of expression is in its content.


Familiar though culturally alien references to ?Alligator?, ?Memphis? and ?Waikiki Romance?, presumably taken from a [tour of the US](/articles/4151261) and transposed to their blues and rockabilly leanings, do little to place the record. That’s exemplified by their cover of R&B performer Smokey Robinson’s ?You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me?, while the knocking jangle-rock number ?West Coast? confuses its origins through the use of a specifically North American vernacular – even if it is referencing Franz and McKee’s conflicted allegiances between their Western Australian origins and their Victorian-based present.

Combine that with a fetishistic engagement with musical representations they don’t represent and old time-y lyrical tropes that are incongruous with their context, and it all comes across as rather trite. There are divine moments of clarity and focus, where feminine vocals, earnest delivery and the spacious echo of ?Dragging the Fog? combine with lyrical clich’s like ?watcha gonna do? to generate a clear nostalgic standout. The whoops and bellows of ?Ono in a Space Bubble? resonate within wild vigour and a cavernous space.

But largely, as a band that has benefited from the steep learning curve of playing live pretty much since their conception, there’s only so far you can take the explosive energy of inexperience. Four years on, that reckless spark risks being snuffed out and a little evolution couldn’t hurt.