Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Album Review: Painted Blue by Austeros (by Emma Prew)

Austeros are a three-piece band from the west of England (Cheltenham and Bristol) and they release their first full-length album, Painted Blue, this week on the mighty Specialist Subject Records.

The album gets going with By Now and what I want to describe as a 15 second guitar solo (is it a guitar solo if it’s not in the middle of the song?), which is soon joined by pounding drums. It’s an upbeat track and a perfect example of pop punk, akin to early Green Day, with a happy-go-lucky feel that you can’t help but nod your head along to. A great album opener.

Next up is Superpowers, one of two tracks that I’ve been streaming a lot over the past couple of months as they were released ahead of the album. And I’ve been streaming it a lot because it’s really good! The melody is catchy, the lyrics are catchy and you’ll probably have it stuck in your head for days. ‘You can read me like a terrible book, A look in my eyes is all it took. And I wonder, Is everything crystal clear?’ 

The third track on the album is the other track that I’ve listened to previously and it’s just as good, if not better. In Orbit is another lively track to get you moving and features some highly relatable lyrics about personal insecurities. ’What’s it like to be everything you want to be?, Not be tormented by inadequacies.’  (I struggle to say the word ‘inadequacies’ let alone sing it, so good going there!)

Here We Are Again slows the pace down a bit and allows vocals to become the main focus. Jeremy doesn’t have most typical of pop punk-style voices but I love it – he reminds me a bit of Steve from The Sidekicks. I could be wrong but I’ve interpreted this song as being about decisions made by higher powers. ‘We didn’t want this, Most of us didn’t want this. So tell me how is it fair? It’s not a question of how it directly affects me, But I care for the wellbeing of everyone I meet.’

The next song on Painted Blue is entitled Shit Sticks and is about dealing with all the ‘shit’ – not literally, I hope – that gets thrown at you in the form of words. ‘All the shit you threw, Stuck to me like wet sand.’ Shit Sticks features some great melodic guitar, particularly about two thirds of the way through the song.

The tempo picks up again for Fraction Of Time, another lively pop punk tune. This song reminds me of label-mates (at least for their latest EP), Woahnows, as it has a similar intensity to some of their songs. I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing Austeros live yet but I can imagine a song like this being played with a lot of energy.

The next song, We Seem OK, is a song with a big punk rock sing-a-long chorus – ‘Oh, oh, oh, oh, we seem OK. Oh, oh, oh, if you don’t look closely.’  And, as you might be able to gather from the title of the track, it’s a song about a person or a relationship seeming ‘OK’ at first glance but that perhaps not really being the case. I mentioned guitar solos at the beginning of my review and this song definitely has a great one.

Don’t Wanna Know kicks off with one of my favourite guitar riffs of the album – and I’m a sucker for a nice bit of guitar. ‘We just wanna get to where we wanna go, Without enduring the highs and the lows. That’s why, We don’t wanna know oh oh.’ followed by further woah-oh-ohs – after all, what’s a punk rock album if it doesn’t have some woah-ohs. With the risk of sounding like I’m repeating myself, this is another upbeat and lively track! The thumping drums will certainly have you tapping your feet along.

As the album draws to a close, the penultimate track Sorry Sight sees Jeremy’s heartfelt vocals take priority accompanied by some simple guitar chords. ’I’ve never been so unsure of myself, Dragging my feet just so I don’t keep still. I’ll pick up the pieces when I’m ready and well, But until then I’ll put myself through hell.’  The song doesn’t stay stripped back for long and the rest of the band soon join in. The rhythm of the song has an almost folky or country feel to it – think Defiance, Ohio – but the pounding drums and frantic vocals keep it very much punk rock. 

One Way is the last song on Painted Blue and it finishes the album much how it began – with pure energetic pop punk. Musically it sounds quite light-hearted and carefree but, as with many of the songs on the album, the lyrical content is not perfectly positive. ’I need a break and I don’t mean a week in the sun, woah-oh-oh-oh. A break from being me just to see how I get on. I’m always finding something wrong.’ A great song on a great album.

You can purchase Painted Blue, in various forms (the split vinyl looks pretty) from the Specialist Subject store. And you can also like the band on Facebook here.