Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Open New Sonic Doors into 'Endless Rooms'
Published May 04, 2022Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever sparked quite a buzz in underground circles with a sound that came off as a curious mélange of early R.E.M. jangle, '90s slacker-rock insouciance and 2000s indie effervescence. When they delivered on the promise of their early EPs with two albums of sparkling guitar pop, the Melbourne-based outfit quickly found themselves at the top of the indie rock hype heap.
Third album Endless Rooms is less about the thrill of jangly guitars and driving rhythms, despite pre-release singles being just as bouncy as their previous outings. Here, the band experiment with different tempos, timbres and instrumentation, moving past their most obvious influences (R.E.M., the Church, the Go-Betweens) and on to more modern ones (mid-2000s dance-rock and dream-pop).
Experimenting with different sounds is double-edged. At best, it makes the material fresh and unpredictable, both for longtime listener and the musicians themselves. At worst, it comes off as a grasp at anything that might sound new for fear of being seen as stagnant, or to cover up a bad song with window dressing. Luckily, nothing on Endless Rooms fits the latter, but there is a feeling of wasted potential in some of these tracks.
It's evident right from opener (after a brief instrumental introduction) "Tidal River," with martial drumming and War-era U2 guitar effects laying down a hypnotic groove for the carefree drawl of the vocals over top. Then, the song breaks into a pre-chorus that builds and builds and seems primed to explode but, sadly, never does. There are hooks – sharp ones, too – but they don't really fit together with any kind of cohesiveness. On "Caught Low," RBCF mine the more mellow corners of '90s alternative, with its lilting bassline, off-the-cuff vocals and polished guitar leads that just can't quite provide the poignancy they're clearly striving for.
On the flipside, there's "The Way It Shatters," which opens with a thrilling, chiptune-inspired keyboard hook. It would have been so easy to lean on the charm of it for the rest of the track, but the band only use it as a launchpad for the gooey-sweet centre of the song. Like the best pop music, it strikes a dichotomy between familiarity and excitement, similar to the thrill of seeing an old friend.
There are times throughout Endless Rooms when the switch to less upbeat territory yields stunning results. "Deep Dive" rides a relaxed groove copped from MGMT's "Electric Feel" to the album's most potent guitar hook and two consecutive cathartic climaxes — one by way of a dramatic Britpop-inspired bridge, the other through a noisy and exhilarating guitar solo.
The title track's airy keyboards, pointed lack of drums and moody atmosphere service a song that actually demands such dramatic restraint. Some of that restraint might have better served the tracklist as well, as Endless Rooms is the band's longest album to date. At 45 minutes, it's far from a slog, but the album doesn't benefit from the inclusion of '60s-inspired "Open Up Your Window" or the unremarkable "Vanishing Dots."
If earlier RBCF albums aimed to take you to the beach, Endless Rooms is the aural equivalent of an overcast day when you have no choice but to stay inside. It's warm, inviting, comforting and – much like a cloudy day spent indoors – always pleasant, sporadically stimulating and only noteworthy if you're paying close attention. (Sub Pop)