UNDERGROUND LOVERS A Left Turn gets 8/10

Underground Lovers
A Left Turn
Rubber Records


Melbourne indie/electronic/shoegazing legends Underground Lovers return here with their 10th album, and their third since reforming almost a decade ago. Much loved since the early 90s, their sound is still totally distinctive in Australian music – a mix of late 80s Factory records, hazy dream pop and repetitive motorik futurism (Kraftwerk, Can etc) that still sounds like it could only have been made here.

After the heavy guitar focus of their previous two reformation albums, A Left Turn moves back in an electronic direction. Several songs here are constructed around tight drum machine loops with layers of distorted guitar and otherworldly vocals on top. This time singers Vincent Giarrusso and Phillippa Nihill more or less divide the songs between them, their contrasting styles floating over the top of a bunch of disparate pieces that still flow together.

Each song feels like an impressionistic painting. Bells is a chiming blissed-out rush of spacey minimalism and tripped-out guitars, while lead single Seven Day Weekend uses a New Order-style surge with an anthemic pop chorus to make a Marxist political point that is totally of the moment. Elsewhere, Dunes conjures up a trip to an empty beach on a rainy day, filmed on a grainy super 8 camera, while closing song Rocky Endings muses on a troubled relationship, a metronomic epic that builds towards a darkly euphoric sunrise at the end.

Usually when much-loved, classic bands reform what you get is a tired rehash of former glories and old ideas, a one-way ticket to the past. Three albums in, this reunion feels like the opposite.  There’s a clear sense of picking up where you left off, refining the vision and this time really getting it right. The widescreen production by long-time collaborator Wayne Connolly is close to perfect, like the sun shining into a dusty room at exactly the right time of day, everything captured at once for the camera eye.

If this album reminds me of anything it’s New Order’s totally assured Music: Complete from a few years ago – the sound of a band who have nothing left to prove to anyone but themselves.  While A Left Turn isn’t quite a career high, it still feels like a classic pop record and at least as good as any other shiny artefact that the year 2019 has given us. At the end of a decade broadly defined by the resurgence of electro and synth-pop, it’s kind of a fitting triumph, even a vindication. It turns out that futurism wasn’t such a bad idea after all.


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