Getting in on the ground level of a band that you go onto love is both good and bad. On the one hand, you get to see them develop from their scrappy beginnings, going from struggling with a couple of chords to unprecedented levels of success. On the other hand, there’s that risk of the band developing further and further away from what made you like them in the first place – The Westerberg Effect, if you will. This is the crossroads that I find myself staring at with The Gooch Palms, one of my all time favourites – on their second full-length album, where they going to make a Let It Be or an All Shook Down?
Newcastle’s Kat Friend and Leroy McQueen have made extraordinary progress since their humble beginnings as proud Novos flogging a Ramones covers EP on Bandcamp; it’s been crazy to see them go from support slots in Frankie’s Pizza to the Enmore Theatre. Their success is well deserved – since relocating to the USA and amidst a near constant touring schedule, their stage presence, (which was already full of Beavis butt tattoos and Twisted Sister covers) has been honed into them realising their potential as one of the most reliably entertaining bands to have called Australia home. So yeah, the live aspect still rules, but what about the new album? Have the Yanks diluted that ragged garage pop spirit that drew in so many eager punters like myself?
NOT AT ALL! Are you kidding me? You doubting piece of shit! Why the hell would you think the Gooch Palms would suddenly lose their magic? Listen to “Tiny Insight” above – that song fucking rules. That track is the equivalent of a 2 Dollar Tequila Night – two minutes, and you’re covered in sweat, shivering and intoxicated, delirious on the elixir of something sweet and jagged at the same time.
Fans of that driving, gonzo punk that propelled The Gooch Palms to cult status will not be disappointed – Introverted Extroverts is full of songs like “Living Room Bop”, “Eat Up Ya Beans”, “If You Want It” and “Sleep Disorder” that showcase that distinct Gooch Palms sound. Cutthroat riffs and throat-shredding chorus’ pure bred for an adoring crowd to belt back into the faces of the two disciples of the Church of Reatard. It’s colourful, inhibition-obliterating stuff – alcohol, with none of the calories and twice the flavour.
However, what’s really precious about Introverted Extroverts aren’t the mad dashes of lunatic garage but rather the ballads that sit pretty amongst the insanity. The songwriting chops of Kat and Leroy have been significantly expanded – although their debut Novos had highlights in the slow-burners “Don’t Cry” and “You”, but the fourth quarter half court shots of “Long Gone” and “Don’t Look Me Up” force you to look at the Gooch Palms in a whole new light. Not only can these guys slow their songs down, there’s none of the holding-up-a-flickering-lighter-anthem strength that coated their debut’s softer moments – these songs are naked; songs of stand alone incredibility.
I don’t think you’d ever apply the word ‘matured’ to the band with a frontman that constantly relives Andrew Johns’ Greatest Hits every time he’s onstage, but I don’t think I ever want The Gooch Palms to ‘mature’. I want them to keep that rawness, that screeching element that forces anyone to drop what they’re doing in fear and excitement. But I also want them to build as a band, to never put out the same records twice. And in Introverted Extroverts, the Gooch Palms have done that. They’re not the same band that I first saw – they’re better. The Gooch Palms have evolved in the way that you want a band to involve: without abandoning their roots but building upon them. And in that, they’ve swayed from the Westerberg Effect and landed squarely in the Husker Du Hypothesis: keep the fuckers pleasantly surprised with more the same unexpectedness. Mission accomplished.
Introverted Extroverts is out now through Gooch Palm’s own label Summer Camp Records, and available here. They’ll be swinging back through Australia in a few months time, playing Oxford Art Factory on August 20th, tix here.