Rule #1 of music writing is never to start a piece with something as rustic as “Back in the old days”, in case by doing so you fail to connect with the highly knowledgeable target micro-niche of your choosing and as a result end up with some virtual L painted on your forehead.
Only an album as good as Hope Downs would be your accomplice here, a remarkable debut which takes the ancient 1980’s precepts of what was then known as College Rock and bolsters that naivette with a triple shot of Neoliberal-era succour. Produced by a quintet from Melbourne with a trio of guitarist-songwriters-singers in Tom Russo, Fran Keaney, and Joe White, it’s the sort of record that Real Estate often threatened to make but always fell a way short of, a completely gristle free fourty minutes of bliss that stands comparison to pretty much anything from a pre-Warners R.E.M or their much-loved fellow countrymen The Go Betweens.
Back up at surface level, the incessant jangle gives the songs here an accessibility and appeal regardless of your age of perspective. There’s also power; opener an Air Conditioned Man and Talking Straight are ripping, agitated and kinetic, whilst Sister’s Jeans and The Hammer are alt-singalongs that are equal parts surf and sand in your eye.
On it’s own in these sit-back times this sort of payload might elicit a reaction somewhere between a shrug and sigh; there’s also an undercurrent of disdain, be it in the alcoholic access-denied father on Bellarine, the plight of Mediterranean boat people in Mainland or glossy superficial cultural tourism of Capuccino City.
Back in the old days you couldn’t be in your local record store without albums like Hope Downs being around every corner. Now in an era where many things skulking under the banner of “indie” are simply reductionist trolling, they’re heady treats.