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There’s a line in Vacation Forever—one of the pre-release singles for Violent Soho’s long-awaited fifth album, Everything Is A-OK—that’s become infamous: “There’s a baby boomer across the street, and it won’t stop staring at me.”
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Written by guitarist/vocalist Luke Boerdam in a moment of childhood reflection, the line not only explained the sudden appearance of a hilarious billboard on the side of a Melbourne building but also achieved a sense of poignancy during last year’s bushfire crisis and the proliferation of ‘OK Boomer’ memes. And now, in light of world events, with the looming, grim reality of COVID-19 and the resulting panic surrounding a global pandemic, it’s a line that has once again transcended personal context to become eerily prescient.
Sonically, Everything Is A-Ok is evidence that it’s merely business as usual for the Mansfield quartet on LP#5. There’s high turnover in the riff department, as tracks like the aforementioned Vacation Forever benefit from a highly-infectious hook and earworm call-and-response choruses. Drummer Michael Richards and bassist Luke Henery deliver pounding alt-grunge rhythms, alongside guitarist James Tidswell’s churning, crunchy grooves and Boerdam’s attenuated Billy Corgan-esque twang. Other singles like Pick It Up Again and Lying On The Floor function as high-energy slacker anthems, tailor-made for misfits, mosh pits and even your casual hedonistic cynic. After bursting onto the national scene and crushing the ARIA’s with 2013’s Hungry Ghost and 2016’s WACO, Violent Soho have little left to prove. With producer Greg Wales (You Am I, Sandpit, triple J’s Like A Version) behind the boards this time around, it’s hardly surprising that the band sound self-assured and confident in their own skin.
Everything Is A-Ok is also a record about shifting social attitudes; how the reckless 20-something with the piercing hangover ends up becoming the inward-facing 30-something with serious adult concerns.
However, at its core, Everything Is A-Ok is also a record about shifting social attitudes; how the reckless 20-something with the piercing hangover ends up becoming the inward-facing 30-something with serious adult concerns. Canada finds the band slowing down for a mid-tempo ode to escapism, whereas the plaintive Slow Down Sonic pairs acoustic melancholia with reverb-heavy country. Throughout the album, Boerdam’s cutting lyricism shines a spotlight on introspection and self-doubt. The frontman wrestles with fleeting satisfaction on the cathartic Shelf Life, where the choral refrain chases the pain of middle-age with a shot of suburban nihilism (“Nothing ever matters/Nothing feels the same”). Similarly, the morose Pity Jar focuses on the precarity and impermanence of the rock’n’roll lifestyle (“I could never be that way/Feelings never stay the same/The furniture is falling apart”). It’s a familiar and relatable sentiment, albeit one that the album’s self-referential title appears to eschew by design.
But if anyone could make our impending doom and gloom sound triumphant, it’d be Violent Soho, and this sense of resolute optimism comes full circle on album closer and pseudo title track A-Ok. Soulful instrumentation combines with Boerdam’s poetic verses to echo the iconography of the album’s cover artwork: a suburban post-WWII home, a well-kept garden and an Aussie flag at half-mast (“Show the children empty lots/They can dance a bunker waltz/Everything is A-Okay”). And while it’s true that we’re all living in uncertain times, it’s comforting to remember that life goes on and Everything Is A-Ok.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Shelf Life, Easy, Vacation Forever
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