Sub Pop – SP1360 (2020) US
After enough time away from home, even the familiar starts to feel foreign. For guitar-pop five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, returning to Melbourne after long stretches looking out at the world through the windows of airplanes and tour vans lead to dislocation, like being the knot in the middle of a game of tug-o-war. Their second record, Sideways to New Italy (Sub Pop), sees the band interrogate their individual pasts and the places that inform them. In clicking the scattered pieces back into place, they have crafted for themselves a new totem of home to carry with them no matter where they end up.
Lead by singer-songwriter-guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney (and rounded out by bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie), the band began grasping for something reliable after emerging from relentlessly touring their critically regarded debut Hope Downs.
Home, for Russo, manifests in different ways: there's Melbourne, where he and brother Joe grew up, but also Southern Italy where the forebears of their family originated. As members of the band individually visited the Mediterranean and returned home to Melbourne's inner-north, where waves of European migrants forged a sense of home since the 1950s, they realized the emotional distance between the two was minuscule. The prominent and romantic Greco-Roman statues that sit outside tidy brick homes in Brunswick represent, for Russo, an attempt to "build a utopia of where your heart’s from."
The same can be said of this record, where White’s early attempts at writing big, high-concept songs were abandoned in favor of love songs ("She's There," "The Only One"), and familiar voices and characters filter in and out, grounding the band's stories in their personal histories.
There’s something comforting, too, in knowing the next time they’re buffeted from stage to stage around the world, they’ll be taking the voices of their loved ones with them, building a new totem of home no matter where they end up.