Album Review: John Steel Singers ‘Tangalooma’

Brisbane’s John Steel Singers have been around for nearly five years now, but with their debut album ‘Tangalooma’ they have produced by far their most satisfying music to date that will no doubt see them find the much larger audience that they deserve.

Personally, I’ve loved the band ever since I saw them at last year’s Falls Festival, where they adorned horse masks on stage and played a staggeringly good set. I’ve seen them live several times since, and they have never disappointed.  At the time of Falls they only had a handful of EPs to draw on, but they already had quite a selection of catchy.

I mention this, because many of these songs make an appearance on ‘Tangalooma’. Evolution, which was also on their record ‘The Beagle And The Dove’ (which I guess we have to call an EP now), is one of the standout tracks of the album, and will be instantly recognisable to any fan of the band.

Likewise Masochist has become a live favourite since it was released as a single last year, and it is a relief to see that the band haven’t tried to mess around with the studio version for ‘Tangalooma’. Rainbow Kraut is also here, completing the trio of already well-known songs on the album.

To the band’s credit however, none of these songs are the sole standout of the album. Instead, probably my favourite track of the record is a new song (at least in studio form), Overpass. It has already been receiving a lot of airplay in the leadup to this album’s release, and you have to appreciate the fact that the John Steel Singers weren’t content to let their older songs take center stage alone on their debut album.

So what you have is a very solid base for a great album. And the rest of ‘Tangalooma’ certainly doesn’t let the record down. The opener Your Favourite Perversion shows a bit of a different side of the band, driven more by melody than drumming and brass like a lot of the John Steel Singers’ music.

However as a whole the aforementioned brass is absolutely brilliant on this album. It is so great to see a band like this feature trumpets and trombones so prominently, and it really does create a unique and memorable sound. See Toes And Fingers, a six minute track that perfectly encapsulates everything that is great about this Brisbane outfit.

The first half of the album is most certainly stronger than the second, however Great Divided Self is an oddly captivating ballad-esque song that, despite lasting less than a minute and a half, is a pretty cool interlude.

“Tangalooma’ is an album worthy of the John Steel Singers’ live show and extensive EP efforts. More than that, it’s one of the best Australian records I’ve heard all year. The record is diverse enough to not grow monotonous, but it’s better moments are always defined by that galloping drumbeat and powerful brass that anyone who has seen the band live will have come to know and love by now.

There’s just nothing not to like about this music.

One Response to “Album Review: John Steel Singers ‘Tangalooma’”

  1. Thanks for this review. I have loved Overpass and am keen to hear more of their stuff.

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