With a handful of singles this year, a successful debut album last year, and by far one of my favourite Triple j’s Like a Version covers ever (“When You Were Young” – The Killers), Melbourne garage-punk act Press Club are back to kick some ass again. The Brunswick four-piece have constructed their second full-length release, Wasted Energy, in Woodstock Studio, Balaclava. Between huge tours, radio features, album releases and self-producing, I honestly have no idea when these guys sleep. With twelve tracks clocking in a little under forty minutes, I find they’ve even nailed quality and quantity with their latest effort.
Kicking off the album is “Separate Houses”, a powerful and raw plead for answers. The immediately emotional grip the song has on me is much owed to vocalist Natalie Foster’s passionate performance. It’s an authentic display that is replicated a number of times across the album’s eleven other offerings. Delivering honest and vulnerable lines like “I’m insecure and I’m scared now. We both sleep in separate houses.”, it’s made very easy to side with Foster from song one. With cadence reminiscent to that of Gang of Youths’ David Le’aupepe, it wouldn’t surprise me if this expressive, personal ballad also finds its way into the halls of great Australian music. The song winds down with a fantastic display of coordination between the band’s percussion and guitars, coated with the painful words “I keep on pretending that I am getting better.”
“You told me all your friends were either dead or dying.”
Leading the album with such a strong start, it’s hard to imagine there to be any ceiling above. That’s clearly not the case as Press Club continue to raise the bar with “Dead or Dying”. Clocking in at just around half the runtime that the previous track had, not a single second is wasted. The track starts with another exercise in honest, gritty storytelling; showing us the side of life that is less than glamorous. “You told me all your friends were either dead or dying.” One of the many lines that paints this pseudo-antagonist in an unfavouring light. It was hard for me to completely understand with no context but it’s very clear that this person wasn’t to be trusted. Whatever the case, they helped birth an incredibly riveting track that has me wearing out the replay button.
The third song is a familiar one. “Thinking About You” is the second single released in the lead up to Wasted Energy. Funnily enough, it is actually the track that filled me with the need to hear this album. The track is inspired by nothing less than a stalker, adding a layer of unsettling reality. I find with the fun and upbeat rhythm the song’s meaning could easily be lost unless close attention is paid; making it a fun and flexible track suited for many repeat listens. The vocals have toned down somewhat for this performance with everybody else ramping up. Something that stands out to me is bassist, Ian MacRae’s killer playing really laying a solid foundation for the track to progress; it’s the engine driving this song home. I also can’t go past Greg Reitwyk’s hypnotic guitar melodies, especially so in the song’s last half.
Speaking of bass, I’m finding myself reminded of legendary Descendents’ bassist, Karl Alvarez on the fourth track “Chosen Ones”. A very familiar punk sound truly cemented in the culture by Alvarez. The pace is back up and it would appear we are running off from the previous creepy encounter. The talk of a man writing letters to women he calls his ‘chosen ones’ has me questioning. However, it seems like we are just observing a person who applies the same value to his romantic partners, uninvested truly in them as individuals. The way Foster describes the relationship, it seems as though it was never one destined to last. He does claim the album’s title as someone who is ‘wasted energy’; a title I’m not sure if I’d want personally.
Partnered with the rolling momentum from MacRae, I really value Frank Lees’ ear for percussion as I feel the song is truly tied together by his skill, especially that showcased in the song’s bridge. “Chosen Ones” feels like a half farewell, half middle finger track but either way I’m finding it held as one of my favourites.
“Obsessing” is another one on Wasted Energy that has me in its clutches right from the opening words and refuses to let me go until we’re done. It’s a wailer to put it in brief terms, the car radio is going up so I can’t hear myself belt out this one. This emotive piece is played like the band’s lives depend on it. The post-chorus wind down in my opinion is the album’s strongest point. I feel like I am in this body, dealing with these feelings and trying to make sense of it all. “It doesn’t scare me when you tell me what you’re thinking.” The lines deliver this huge impact that without fail gives me goosebumps every time. We’ve all obsessively obsessed over something with someone, so it provides a relatable anthem for fans to cling onto.
The album’s lead single “Get Better” sits smack bang in the middle of the album, which I find to be a nice place for probably the most played track to date. I love the message that Press Club place on the audience with this effort. The lines “Not everybody’s asking for it” not only close out the song but haunt me each time. The words rattle through my bones. We hear the frustrations induced when people preach one set of behaviours and hypocritically counteract against them. It urges people to simply be good to one another.
We’re on the B-side now with track number seven, “Behave”. It acts as such an awesome statement against society and its continuous expectations set, especially against people with their own platform. “Behave, behave just like you should. Behave, behave just like a woman.” The chorus chants over and over, sarcastically mimicking the demands encountered on an everyday basis for some. This is Press Club giving themselves a pass to be whoever they want to be and live up to no expectations, the way life should be.
The third and final single ahead of Wasted Energy is present with track eight, “New Year’s Eve”. It is quick, punchy and not here to fuck around. That feeling is truly amplified by the killer riffs thanks to Reitwyk but strengthened by Foster’s angry vocals. “I’m getting thinner every day. I don’t give a shit about you babe.” It is a line that strikes me in two ways: The narrator is getting thinner every day which we can appreciate as weight loss through stress, but could also be seen as their patience wearing thin and desperately wanting a release. Either way, it’s a massive kick to the teeth.
Track nine, “How Can It Not Be Love?” is one of the shortest tracks, if not the shortest, running by quickly at two minutes flat. Addressing themes of love, as much of the album does, in a way that makes the emotion undesirable to say the least. Life is ugly and love is far from perfect. I appreciate everything Press Club does to show those things without being overly cynical. There’s not much to say about this one, as it’s less of a musical showcase and more of a statement from the band. With that being said, it won’t be getting a skip any time though.
We’re closing in on the home stretch sadly, but the good news is we’ll soon be able to go back and hear those initial songs yet again. “I’m In Hell” doesn’t hide much. It’s fairly clear what kind of mood they’re going for on this one. The low and grumbling bass stirs up a feeling of dread which contributes well to the overall tone. Foster tells us she’s “Not alright yet” over and over which reminds us of the core reason music exists; self-expression. This album is a huge expression of depression, anger, lust, and self-discovery. Tracks like this one work for me to invest in Press Club as people. I care what happens, and because of this I can’t pull myself away. That, and the chorus is kickass.
“Same Mistakes” is the penultimate track and it opens with a very sombre tone discussing a funeral. Foster’s vocals are toned down again, almost to a point of softness. “It’s not enough for me” roars as the song thumps with a harsh passion. It eventually stays stuck in my mind as the day progresses. “Same Mistakes” is a song for when you’ve had a few drinks and a bad day. It’s the cure to feeling like garbage. The guttural backup vocals are impossible to sit through without joining in. Perfect for relieving some stress. It’s a song of situation and definitely not to be oversaturated, but the right kind of friend when you need it. A metaphor that is very fitting to Press Club entirely.
“My best friend, he died at twenty-three”
The end of the album is here but we’re not going out like that. “Twenty-Three” is here to pull us out of that rut and kick us from behind, like that friend who shoves you into a circle-pit. You need to get up and go or you’ll be left behind. A panic is placed upon us as the narrator recalls someone’s feelings of confusion and fear brought upon by a mystery substance. “My best friend, he died at twenty-three” is one of those gut-punch lines that gets your attention if it didn’t already have it. The lyricism reminds me a lot of bands like The Smith Street Band, Camp Cope, and Tired Lion; direct, specific and unafraid of the consequences. It fills the listener with a dose of anxiety, wondering ‘Has this person taken something lethal? Had his friend who died at twenty-three?’ It’s a fun-sounding but equally haunting way to close out the album. If Press Club wanted to be remembered, they’ve done so in an effective way.
This album is one that sat with me for weeks: I thought about it in my spare time, I sung it in the shower, I sat and studied what things meant. I just couldn’t shake it. It grew to be a part of me and with that sort of connection, I don’t see it hard for others to feel the same. The instrumentation was stellar to the point that I wanted to write almost entirely about that. The problem with doing that would have been the hard-hitting lyrical content and themes that would have gone right out the door. Sometimes you can’t say enough, sometimes you shouldn’t say too much. Wasted Energy is a perfect example of art that can stand on its own and make an impact by itself. I haven’t come across something so personal in a long time and I thank Press Club for sharing it with the world.
Great runtime, tracks end before they can get old. Fantastic musical skill. Well-developed voice, each song is clearly Press Club. Vocal performances that could tear a house down. Lyrics are engaging as well as being brutally honest.
Theme of love/breakups comes close to being repetitive.