This isn’t to say that they’ve not been critical darlings -their debut single was feted by John Peel and Moby, and they’veshared bills with Low, Yo La Tengo and the MountainGoats. They’ve even been named as one of the most relevantAustralian bands since the Go-Betweens.
However, fey guitar picking is bloody difficult to getright, as countless bands from the Kings of Convenience downcan testify, and for every Jose-sodding-Gonzalez, there’s a band likeSodastream eating pot noodle in a tour bus somewhere wondering whatthey’ve got to do to sell a few more records.
Third album Reservations is a step up in terms of production, ifnot melody, from their previous efforts. Gone is the scratchy,home-recorded warmth of their debut, Looks Like a Russian, replaced byFrench horns, stand up bass and viola, and Karl Smith’s lyrics andvocals seem far more assured than the sometimes barely audiblemumblings of the past.
What hasn’t changed is the focus of the songs, introspective, with a whole dollop of heartbreak permeating all butthe jolliest tracks. Trouble is, this is what stands out – Sodastreamhaven’t really pushed the boundaries of their craft in the pastdecade, and it’s frustrating. It’s like picking up the new MountainGoats album, of which this is a close companion piece, and realisingthat while it all sounds very nice, he’s just doing what he’s good at.
It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with that, and thereare some genuinely heart-stopping moments here, Tickets to the Fighthas the same brass-horn beauty of Badly Drawn Boy’s TheShining, and the title track raises the tempo somewhat with theintroduction (gasp) of percussion, a sweet love song begging a girl to”Come back my way now, It’s warm here… There’s sunbeams andreservations now.”
However, it’s the lovelorn balladry that is reallypushed to the forefront – hell, the protagonist even manages to gethimself arrested in the subtle Firelines, after he “came here tolisten, but you sent me straight to hell.” Life in their sunnyhometown of Perth can’t be that bad, can it?
Similarly, the violin-led Anti mentions “Rain soaked mornings” and “Days getting too heavy” – islike arch-miserablists The Red House Painters setting up shopdown under.
Sodastream often show their capacity to create gorgeousmelody, even in the darkest of songs, however, too often they letthemselves become overwhelmed by melancholy, stifling an otherwiseencouraging album.