RVG: Feral (Fire Records)
CD | LP | DL
Out 24th April 2020
Melbourne’s RVG return with their second album, a shimmering garage-pop record with doses of 80s new wave that brim with urgency.
Okay, will come right out off the bat with this. On their second album, Melbourne’s RVG have written a long lost Only Ones record and it’s fantastic. The record is built around a reverb-drenched guitar that pegs their sound to the shift from 70s new wave into 80s indie. Romy Vager’s guitar chimes with Johnny Marr’s classic sound as spellbinding arpeggios run amock with joy over the songs, while her voice calls to mind a young and driven Peter Perrett. The combination ensures that the songs are cemented in a style and sound that feels both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.
The light chug of Alexandra starts up the record, propped up from behind with a subtle acoustic strum as the band slowly drift in. The verses build up with intensity, but the subtle music belies the powerful message behind it: the hate and violence towards people in the LGBTQIA+ community, from both strangers on the street to families whose shame turns to hate. Fathers who threaten to lynch, grandmothers who fear the devil. However, there’s always the hope of youth to come that will break the prejudice. “Alexandra, little sister. Tell me. What do you think about me?” It’s a powerful opener and once the lyrics hook you, they have you to the end. It’s a plea for acceptance and a message of defiance, vocalising the need to escape and, as an album opener, hits you squarely in the jaw.
There’s an air of isolation in the songs, but rarely of despair as the verve and energy pulsate throughout. Christian Neurosurgeon kicks up more as the band roll as one from the beginning, although still the vehicle for Romy Vager’s guitar work and that affecting voice. Turning her gaze to the Christian preachers who flood their messages into the brains of the masses, there’s an attack to the song and the delivery that powers it through as she articulates the clash of cognitive dissonance, the individual over the collective. The added effect as the song closes of a saw cracking a skull hammers it home.
The songs are not always so tunnel-visioned in their ideas. They lyrically break free on songs like Little Sharkey & The White Pointer, probably the most Smiths-esque song on the record, which feels more personal than those that turn the personal into societal. The anxiety of youth and exploration comes through in spades. The personal reflection of I Used To Love You is beautiful and bruising. Concerned with a love that causes hurt, the relief is in liberation. Taken in the context of songs like Alexandra, it’s not clear whether Remy is aiming her lyrics outwards to another, or inwards towards a previous self. It is in that ambiguity that the song plays. However, Prima Donna, which pulses with more of a new-wave garage feel, hones its focus on that need to release oneself from history. “I’m paying for my former brittle act and everybody thinks that I’m a hack.” The sparsity of delivery over a jutting guitar that props up the verses, and the slamming down of a more distorted drive as the song comes into full force, harks back to classic Australian garage bands such as Hoodoo Gurus run through with the sinewy grace of The Sleepy Jackson.
On Feral, RVG have created a record that is political in the personal. The lyrics are full of metaphors focusing on the exploration of the individual within the collective, the search for self-freedom, and the release of finding it and rising up against those that try to push us into their neat boxes. It’s a record that is totally of its time and yet could have been written at any point in the last three decades. An oxymoron, a contradiction, dragged into a world of confusion though the road is clear ahead.
Buy Feral by RVG here
Watch the videos for Alexandra and I Used To Love You below:
All words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.