Melbourne synth-driven post-punks screensaver have released their second full-length, Decent Shapes, out now via Poison City/Upset The Rhythm (UK). Decent Shapes follows on from the band’s critically acclaimed 2021 debut, Expressions of Interest.
In their latest release, screensaver delves into the essence of living amidst an ever-expanding mountain of material desires, constantly seeking the novel, the pristine, and the glossy. In a realm dominated by materialistic pursuits and superficial corporate interactions, behind-the-scenes machinations reveal a starkly contrasting world that yearns for absolute control and dominance as the means to financial success.
“The themes for Decent Shapes could read a bit like a shopping list of all the things that are wrong with the world: corporations, climate change, energy vampires, materialism, mental health, the housing crisis,” says vocalist Krystal Maynard. “Sonically, it’s a high energy record and one that we hope will make people think – but also get up and want to dance.”
The music reflects modern life’s simmering tensions and escalating frustrations, with detachment and dissociation serving as necessary shields against this onslaught. The group’s music is defined by a palpable sense of urgency, a dedication to encapsulating the essence of post-punk, and a willingness to embrace new wave and electronic experimentation. We hear a myriad of influences on their sound, including Bush Tetras, Gang of Four, Lene Lovich, Suburban Lawns, Sparks, Devo, Giorgio Moroder, and PiL.
The album opens with Red Lines. “Red Lines is built on a groove-laden bassline replete with spidery guitar lines, and a New Wave key line that stitch together to create a song rich with dynamic,” says Maynard.
Next we encounter The Guilt, a track that harkens back to the sharp New Wave bass undertones reminiscent of the B-52s, complemented by a vocal style evoking the essence of Martha and The Muffins and Devo alike. The song crescendos with an invigorating chorus and an exhilarating rhythm that pulses at its core and a funky breakdown with shooty space-laser synths.
“Life is competition, life is bargaining and negotiating to get what you want and working out who will give it to you,” Maynard says about Party Interest. “It’s keeping your cards close to your chest to make sure only you know your real motives and no one else knows the game you’re playing. It’s a dark and danceable synth-driven song and my personal favourite on the record.”
Drainer embarks upon a realm rich in textured synth harmonies, exuding a palpable sense of foreboding and immediacy. The vocal cadence distinctly recalls the timbre of Lene Lovich, all set against a backdrop that is both frenetic and irresistibly rhythmic, urging one to move to its beat. Echoes of a Lovich-inspired vocal intonation gracefully transition into Severance Pay, a piece punctuated by its vivacious percussion and undercurrents of darkly tinged guitar strums. “It wouldn’t be a screensaver album without a song purely dedicated to anxiety, riffing between the physical sensations and the cognitive behavioural patterns of the condition,” Maynard says.
Following suit is Direct Debit, a track infused with the sun-kissed resonance of surf guitars and an upbeat tempo. Drenched in the vibrant hues of New Wave, it boasts an irresistibly catchy chorus that practically beckons one to belt out its verses during a spirited car ride. Segueing seamlessly, we encounter Cancellation Notice, which commences with a deliberate, methodical synth line before erupting into a formidable surge of guitar. The track’s cadence conjures the intricate rhythms of prog rock while intertwining with choral configurations reminiscent of a classic Devo composition.
In the standout track No Vacation, there’s a stark dominance of minimalist synths that conjure an unsettling ambiance. The track transitions to a spoken word soliloquy, a fervent discourse on the relentless inundation our minds face in today’s relentless societal tempo. It’s a chilling musical commentary on the all-too-familiar spectre of burnout…something that makes us all run screaming in terror.
Concluding this musical journey is Signals, ushering in a more expansive sonic palette. Its commencement is marked by synths that cry out, reminiscent of distant sirens, only to transition into the compelling resonance akin to the scores of 1980s police dramas. Serving as a fitting anthem for contemporary dystopian times, it’s a track to be amplified, particularly when the realities conveyed in news broadcasts become overwhelming.
Listen to the album below, and order here.
Recorded by Julian Cue (CIVIC, Gut Health, Bitumen) Decent Shapes is a 10-track sonic excursion through an atmospheric soundstage, humming and mutating as a palette of angular guitars, dark synth and electronic experimentation distills into a moody, textural potion.
After spending three years in an incubatory state, screensaver began as a trans-Pacific collaboration between Christopher Stephenson (Spray Paint/Exek) and Krystal Maynard (Bad Vision/ex Polo) in 2016.
By 2019 Christopher had relocated to Melbourne and the pair recruited Giles Fielke (ex LowTide) and James Beck (Personal Touch/ex Rat Columns) on bass and drums. The band began playing locally in late 2019 and made a short run in the US opening shows for Wiccans and Timmy’s Organism. Despite the restrictions in Melbourne due to Covid-19, in 2020 the band produced their debut single “Strange Anxiety”. This was followed up with “Living In An Instant”, an agitated post-punk track that featured on Blow Blood Records’ ALTA 2 (A Long Time Alone) compilation.
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