During the first track on Go Easy, vocalists Daniel and Sarah Spencer double-up in what could be an ode to their musical history. “Guess I’ve been acting kinda strange,” the two sing over a fiery backdrop. It’s apt, because Go Easy is the least strange Blank Realm record to date.
‘Acting Strange’ sounds like it could be all over in a minute, but in true Blank Realm fashion it’s a five minute affair. The song feels both urgent and dangerous, threatening to careen off the rails into an oncoming petrol tanker. The fast-forward guitar reminds me of a cut from Naked On The Vague’s Heaps Of Nothing.
Over the course of Go Easy, Brisbane’s Blank Realm have apparently dipped their fingers into the 21st century Australian alternative music canon – breezy lead single ‘Cleaning Up My Mess’ plays as if the band took a vacation to Melbourne’s inner suburbs (where the populace themselves had just returned from a vacation in New Zealand).
Out of the gate, bass guitar plays an integral role on Go Easy. Previously its part has felt like a mere accompaniment: stage dressing at best. Here though, it occupies space as a heavy fixation or a staggering melody. Meanwhile, memorable guitar riffs and distinguishable lyrics elevate the album to a point of accessibility previously untouched by the band. There’s a fidelity to Go Easy never afforded to their earlier releases.
Just as the strident ‘Acting Strange’ so smoothly slides into ‘Cleaning Up My Mess’, there’s a thread of complementary duality all through Go Easy. The dark throwback of ‘The Crackle’ is split into two parts: ‘Pt 1’ is incensed, ethereal punk rock, while ‘Pt 2’ shows an odd percussive listlessness, eschewing the directness of the first half for classic Blank Realm playfulness.
The nearly nine-minute ‘Pendulum Swing’ escalates into the kind of full-bodied psych-out the band are known for, before again switching down gears for the closing title track. ‘Go Easy’ appears to be where all the weight of previous incarnations have come to lay; they’re not heavy burdens, but they apply a gravity to what feels likes an already unsteady amble.
It’d be easy to give Go Easy a sticker that read “Blank Realm does pop!”, but that’d be an oversimplification. Since 2010’s standout ‘Full Moon Door’ (from Deja What?), we’ve known of the band’s romance with obscured pop, one that’s been peeling back the ambiguity by way of last year’s 7 inch Falling Down The Stairs. Finally on Go Easy, that trend reaches its logical conclusion in a variety of suits.
Still, Blank Realm haven’t fully done away with their psychedelic ways and nor have they turned into a guitar pop band. Paring back the psychedelic sleeves (or perhaps growing out of them), Blank Realm have offered an unexpected clarity with Go Easy. It’s less about evocation through obfuscation and more about bringing the developed songwriting to the fore. By their own standards, Go Easy isn’t much of a strange beast, but it’s hard to deny that it’s their best yet.