Violent Soho are the sort of band for whom it’s easy to look at and wonder how they’ve been around for as long as they have. It’s not because they’re precisely bad, but in the stakes of Australian garage-rock that never seems to get any more interesting the deeper you dive, they’ve been one of the more recognisable names without a whole lot to back it up. There’s a certain ubiquity to them that’s easy to appreciate, but when that hasn’t translated to the overall quality of music which, up to now, has floated around being decent at best without much in the way of standout features. But credit where it’s due – they’ve clearly tapped deep into the well of their appeal to be up to their fifth album, and with Everything Is A-OK being their debut on Pure Noise, there’s at least some intrigue about what the could do for the sound. After all, the punk that typically comprises Violent Soho’s work is a lot more ragged and often less palatable, so moving more in line with the sharper sounds that are more commonplace in their new home could be good for them.
And not only is it good to see that Everything Is A-OK is indeed a sharper and more ably focused listen, but the improvements that have been made are pretty palpable from front to back. It’s comparable in quite a few ways to what Dune Rats did earlier this year on Hurry Up And Wait, except Violent Soho present a more engaging form of rock that isn’t so overpolished, and captures the aura of half-nostalgic slacker-rock with a bit more development. It’s not particularly mind-blowing stuff, mostly because the more rigidly-defined branches of rock that Violent Soho inhabit don’t allow for that too much, but it’s probably the best they’ve ever sounded regardless, and for the oncoming summer months (that may or may not be worth looking forward to), Everything Is A-OK serves as a perfectly likable soundtrack.
It’s mainly because there’s such a familiarity to the sound that come from how smooth the blend of influences that Violent Soho create is, rather than just aping acts that had come before them. The bases of grunge, punk and alt-rock mesh really well here, making for a sound that’s indelibly ‘90s in execution but feels so comfortable at working within that sound. There are obvious touchstones, like Luke Boerdam’s vocal passages on Vacation Forever that can sound uncannily similar to The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan (something that the very breezy, approachable melody only helps to foster in a vibe similar to a song like 1979), but on the whole, there’s never a definitive branch that Violent Soho are proceeding down; it’s all blanketed by a ‘90s mood and execution as opposed to honing in on any one particular act. If anything, Everything Is A-OK would probably feel most at home among a band like the Foo Fighters in their halcyon days, such is the onus on music that’s straightforward without yet succumbing to being middle-of-the-road. There’s a nice sense of tension to Pick It Up Again and Shelf Life that fall in a classically-styled middle ground between grunge and power-pop, while the touches of New Found Glory in the melody of Easy help solidify that sunnier sound that, overall, just radiates from what Violent Soho are doing. It’s a case where going too far with complexities would be to this album’s detriment, instead coming across as resolutely simple in a way that the best of this sort of classic alt-rock was without being lazy or overly basic. It’s a solid foundation in which the melodies stand out with production that’s chunky and anthemic, but with the edges frayed to such a degree that there’s still something organic there.
It’s the fairly classic ‘simple-but-effective’ mould that’s always been prevalent within alt-rock, and Violent Soho’s lack of meddling with the overall formula that can still yield solid results shows how effective that can be. There’s a similar broadness that’s carried over into the writing, with the desire for freedom and unity holding fast against the backdrop of uninspiring suburban landscapes. It’s not trying to be ambitious, especially with a track like Lying On The Floor that holds steadfastly on to the slacker-punk mindset of previous albums, but the desire for escapism on Vacaction Forever and Canada have the sort of drive that matches the execution really well, and more contemplative moments like Slow Down Sonic and A-OK are the necessary pauses amidst the energy and restlessness. As a theme, there’s no chance it’s unrecognisable in any way, but the defter touches in word choices see Violent Soho embrace a smarter, snottier side that allows everything to progress with more speed. It might feel standard in essence, but this isn’t an album that’s weighed down by that.
If anything, the lightness of Everything Is A-OK is probably the greatest contributor for what makes this Violent Soho’s most accomplished work to date. They’re still able to lean into their nostalgia, but emboldening it and cleaning it all up makes for a much smoother ride. What’s more, for a simplistic to the bones as this album is, it’s pulled off in a way that’s really likable and endearing, and to an extent where the simplicity isn’t watered down to where it’s basically meaningless. It’s just a good, solid rock album that has the potential to stand the test of time, something that’s never really been a factor for Violent Soho at any point. By straightening themselves up they’ve raised the bar for themselves by a noticeable increment, and even if it’s not a classic by any degree, it’s a lot of fun all the same.
For fans of: Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Pile-Up
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everything Is A-OK’ by Violent Soho is released on 3rd April on Pure Noise Records.