The amount of music floating around on the internet right now is verging on the incredible. About 12 hours of audio are uploaded to Soundcloud every minute. For the consumer, this is a pretty neat deal – there really does seem to be something out there for everyone these days. Plus we’re seeing unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and cross-fertilisation.
For musicians trying to pursue a career in pop music, however, there’s a serious problem: namely, how to get the attention of bloggers, DJs and other industry types who are, more often than not, clique-y and fatigued from sifting through reams of one-sheets for bands they don’t really care about.
Marketing, I’d like to think, can only get you so far. More importantly, you’ve gotta be able to write and produce a track that cuts through pretty much immediately. Of course, this approach is kind of a blunt instrument. There are always going to be songs that deepen significantly over repeated listens, and bands with more experimental or cerebral aims. For music like that, isolating a core audience is probably the most important first step. To really break through, though, something more dramatic is going to be required.
In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. Kicking things off is Jackson Rumble (in a step up from his last attempt to review a track without having listened to it at all), with his take on ‘Sandy’, the latest release from Melbourne band Oh Mercy.
Straight outta the blocks you can tell this comes from a place that worships at the altar of respectable modern rock tropes. Driving kraut rhythms, tremolo’d guitar, analog strings, girl’s name for a title. And whatshisname of Oh Mercy has a timbre to his voice and a way with a lyric that actually makes you listen to what he’s saying. Two lines in and I kind of want to know what’s going on, and why this chap is so terrified of being alone.
There’s tension here, as we wait for the War on Drugs-style, head-out-the-car-window, flying-down-the-highway payoff. As he beckons her to “come closer”, begs her not to leave – the rhythm motoring along – I’m waiting for the payoff: in which Sandy either walks out the door or crumples into his arms.
But I feel like the song takes a mis-step in the bridge, applying the brakes rather than launching into the stratosphere, as the best Springsteen-esque guitar chuggers tend to. Nevertheless, it kept me hanging on, eager to know how it would end. And in fairness, the song resolves like most things in life probably do – with a wheeze rather than a bang.
You can catch Oh Mercy playing the Newtown Social Club in Sydney this Wednesday, 22 April, and Melbourne’s Gasometer Hotel on Saturday 25 April.