Wed, 10 Nov 2021
Read in 5 minutes
The best band from Marrickville is back
Sydney’s Golden Fang are indie rock darlings with whom us Vortexers are intimately familiar. In 2020, Golden Fang released Here. Now Here., which placed #8 (out of 2,020 albums) on my year end list, where I said, “the songs are tight, the production is crisp, and Carl sounds better than ever.” My One Thousand Deaths buddy ferday had them at #9 (also out of 2,020 albums) and proclaimed it was the “#1 coffee bean cleanser in between shitty metal EP’s” and my fellow vortex factotum Dr. Verinen had them at #10 (from a measly 327 albums) noting how easy it is to come back to. Just over one year on, Golden Fang are back with Man with Telltale Scars, their fifth album and second during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The album starts with the soft and slow “Sweet Dreams”. Gentle finger picking gives way to Carl Redfern’s distinct voice as he rhythmically assures the listener that sweet dreams will get them through. The song is instrumentally minimal compared to songs on previous albums and other songs on this album, which matches the tone of the song, eases the listener into the album, and foreshadows a more laid-back style that is explored further on in the album.
First single “Breathe” comes out of the gates with a traditional alt-rock riff and serves as a perfect Australian backyard anthem. It is upbeat, full of guitar hooks, and contains positive messages like “be kind to yourself” and “let yourself breathe”, delivered with sincerity and emotion; messages that many people needed to hear during their covid hardships. The second half of the song turns post-punk as guitarist Teo Treloar weaves intricate guitar leads and Carl looks forward to holding hands, cold beers, and live music. The song and overall sound are quintessentially Australian, but the message is relatable to everyone, something that many artists may struggle with, but Golden Fang have nailed here.
In a big deviation from previous albums, Golden Fang have included two songs over 7 minutes in length. First up is the moody second single “Don’t be that Way”, which is awash in drowsy psychedelic guitar passages, driven by a steady drum beat with moments punctuated by the smooth “Ooohs” from guest Donna Amini. Despite the length, it never feels like it overstays its welcome and the more exploratory ‘jam’ sections don’t feel out of place due to the excellent work by drummer Joe Parkin and bassist Justin Tauber keeping the song focused. Throughout this song, and the album, the band make excellent use of feedback and reverb to drench the listener in a lush soundscape. This is thanks to the excellent recording job by Jay Whalley (ex-Frenzal Rhomb) at Pet Food Factory, the mixing by Russ T Rokk (The Mix Barn), and mastering by Don Bartley (Benchmark Mastering) where every instrument is allowed to shine in a raw, primal way. It feels like the listener is in the room with Golden Fang, probably all enjoying several of Marrickville’s finest craft beers.
Album closer “Polymers are Forever” brings everything together. The verses are driven primarily by the bass and vocals. The pre-chorus builds with guitars before breaking away in the chorus to leave a gorgeous harmony between Carl and Donna, with a gentle cymbal gallop rhythm and minimal ethereal lead guitars. The almost 8-minute beast ebbs and flows between these verse/chorus combinations, guitar solos, driving and building drum lines, and even “old-man yelling and mumbling at the clouds” vocals (that works surprisingly well). When each instrument is interweaving and bouncing off each other, Golden Fang are at their best, something which is achieved often on the album. Each note is measured and purposeful, even during the exploratory sections, Golden Fang never get carried away with faff and their head’s remain safely outside of their respective asses.
There aren’t many negatives about the album. The song “Teo’s Day” features a memorable main riff and vocal hook, more lovely supporting vocals by Donna, and my personal favourite line on the album “all the baby jellyfish are coming out to play”. However, it suffers as a 5-minute song that immediately follows the superb “Don’t be that Way”. Furthermore, Carl displays an impressive vocal range, using sustained and huskier vocal deliveries in some songs, but these are under-utilised across the album, as are the vocals by Donna*. I would have loved more of the husky vocals from “Dreams Gone Bad” and a whole verse by Donna rather than being relegated to back-up duties. The album isn’t ground-breaking, but it is tight, uplifting, and uniquely Golden Fang, which helps it stand apart from other indie-rock/post-punk lead guitar heavy bands and stamps them at the forefront of Australian rock music and often positioning them ahead of their influences and contemporaries.
Man with Telltale Scars is Golden Fang’s longest (just) and best release yet, growing on me with every listen and surpassing the much enjoyed Here. Now Here. “Polymers are Forever” is ear-worm worthy and the album breezes by with each listen. The experiment of including longer songs has paid off with the two 7+ minute songs being the best on the album. Old fans will find more of what they like on the album, with every song being more measured, considered, and tighter than ever before. Man with Telltale Scars releases independently on November 12, 2021, and can be purchased on Bandcamp here: https://goldenfang.bandcamp.com. Their single “Don’t be that Way” can be streamed below.
*Noting that difficulties with COVID-19 meant that Donna could not record with the band, instead having to work collaboratively online, a process that took several months to manage.