When a band is celebrating their 10th anniversary and releasing their first album in four years, they can be forgiven for sharing a 17-track, 76-minute marathon. Check that! More bands should follow the lead of Melbourne quintet Beaches and use the milestone to unveil their most ambitious and expansive output to date. This is exactly what Second of Spring is. It is a monster of a record. Excuse us, it’s a monster of a double LP.
From psychedelic to noise-pop to post- and even doom, Beaches cover the entire rock landscape and then some. The album kicks off with the bombastic “Turning”, which features smooth guitars, groovy rhythms, and tribal-like chanting. There isn’t much lyrical content, but one wouldn’t expect to arrive at the Pearly Gates to a sermon. This is just the welcoming mat, and once inside the party gets started. The record kicks into another gear with the searing doom rocker “Void”, which is three-and-a-half minutes of joyous, psychedelic eruptions. Next up is the swirling psych-rocker “September”, which is like Wooden Shjips on Red Bull.
“Be” slows things down ever so slightly by offering a groovy, throwback garage-rocker. A Siouxsie Sioux and The Banshees vibe percolates throughout, from the deep echo of the lead guitar to the deadpan vocals. Following the reverb-drenched, instrumental “Natural Tradition”, Beaches uncork the gritty and melodic “Calendar”. It’s more of a slacker-rock tune than a full-blown psych number, but that changes quickly when “Contact“ arrives.
We have now left the party and started our ascent to another world. As the title suggests, “Contact” is a far-out, space trip. Methodical head noodling is on the menu for this track, as the pounding rhythms and transcendent guitars create a throbbing atmosphere. The trip, however, has only begun. The rip-roaring “Divers” is intoxicating, and it will cause plenty to showcase their best air guitar skills. Meanwhile on “Wine”, Beaches channel their inner Preoccupations and deliver a menacing post-punk blazer. The soundscape is stark and even frightening. The distant vocals and lyrics heighten the song’s suspense, and they reveal a woman searching for light. A woman seeking to be found.
When the light shines through, “Arrow” arrives. The shimmering guitar riffs, the head noodling rhythms, and dazzlingly hazy vocals combine to create a summertime vibe. This song, as such, is meant for long road trips, such as driving along the Great Ocean Road with the top down and feeling the cool breeze from Bass Strait blowing through your hair. The shoulder-shimmying continues with the ’60s-influenced, psychedelic-pop-rock gem “When You’re Gone”. It’s the one track on the album that might cause a bit of dancing.
Those two songs represent the zenith of the album, and the trip back home commences with the rapturous “Golden”. The fall starts slowly with this dark and majestic number, which is akin to the post-punk and industrial sounds that dominated the Manchester scene in the late ’70s. But as the laws of gravity dictate, a free-falling object accelerates over time. The velocity slightly increases on the stirring and sun-drenched psychedelic track, “Walk Around”, which includes the surprising addition of a saxophone.
This trip, however, isn’t a linear one. A detour is encountered on “Bronze Age Babies”, and the song is more akin to the India-inspired and quirky psychedelia of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Things get hazier with the gentile and melodic “Grey Colours”, which feels like a lullaby. The album, however, is far from finished. Instead, this song represents the slow descent that comes right before landing.
Welcoming us back is “Mothers and Daughters”. It’s not a joyous occasion, however, as the sound of sirens swirl in the background. The song starts off with a perilous attitude before easing into a post-rock anthem. It’s a mesmerizing number that is only exceeded by the album’s grand closer, “Mutual Delusion”. This nine-minute epic is a ride in itself, as a hallucinating one that is. As the song comes to an end, we ponder what we have just experienced. Are you back where we started or is this some sort of mind trick like the TV show Lost was? Whether this is reality or some alternate universe, this one hour and sixteen minute journey has been worth every second. So what do we do next? Spin it again and again because this album is like one continuous loop. Kind of like life should you believe in the afterlife.
Beaches are Allison Bolger, Ali McCann, Antonia Sellbach, Karla Way and Gillian Tucker.
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