Every few years, there seems to be a sudden draw towards looking Down Under for indie’s next decent crop – everyone can, unfortunately, remember the bandwagons behind The Vines and Jet. This has been happening again recently; from the arrival of Tame Impala to coverage of Adelaide Festival in the UK press, attention has once again been drawn towards Australia.
People may initially think of Australia as being home to average indie bands plus long term UK resident Nick Cave‘s offerings, but the land of Oz has a deeply rich and inspirational indie heritage: The Go-Betweens, The Triffids, The Moodists and Laughing Clowns to name but four. More recently, (one of) Bad Seed Warren Ellis’s other concerns Dirty Three, as well as Architecture in Helsinki and DZ Deathrays, have also done their country proud.
Another Aussie act now vying to add themselves to this list is Melbourne’s Bored Nothing, a solo project from Fergus Miller. Despite being his debut album, it’s being described as “a best-of record”: Miller initially recorded the album’s tracks as a teen onto tapes, adopting a “Daniel Johnston-esque approach” and while apparently having no fixed abode. Now settled in Melbourne, Miller has re-recorded his favourites from the tapes, playing all the instruments in the process (bar two brief collaborations) – nevertheless, Miller is adamant his solo project is growing more into a band, thanks to recruiting some friends to play with him live.
Album opener Shit For Brains has a rough-edged indie pop guitar shimmer accompanied with stripped-down and basic drum rhythms, while following track Popcorn is a deeply satisfying lo-fi salute with high-tempo, driving bass and the same shimmering guitar going against a more thrashing, high-pitched equivalent and gentle, female backing vocals. Just Another Maniac slows things down somewhat – again, stripped-down and rudimentary bass lines feature prominently – with the track briefly sparking into anthemic life before quietly slipping away.
What becomes clear early on is how Miller sees himself as a bit of a Bradford Cox figure – Miller’s vocal is akin to Cox’s, albeit with a slight Australian tinge. In fact, Miller’s overall approach isn’t too dissimilar to Cox’s: his work as Atlas Sound was initially inspired by recording onto tape through a karaoke cassette machine. There is a Deerhunter influence running throughout the record as well – Wish You Were Dead would fit particularly nicely on Deerhunter’s last one, Halcyon Digest.
The album’s structure is an interesting one, with it running “backwards in time” and the earlier tape-recorded tracks coming later: no dwelling with the past on this “best-of” or understanding Miller’s journey towards the present day. Yet his earlier songs are far more captivating and rewarding; Echo Room 2 has a Teenage Fanclub power-pop sensibility to it, Let Down has an appealing garage rock tint and album closer Dragville, TN is a charmingly catchy lo-fi pop song. It’s a shame these weren’t brought to the front of the order but Miller’s logic is understandable and, in some ways, quite applaudable.
Miller has done a decent job here; there’s nothing particularly striking or eye-opening about the album or its songs, but their simplicity and Miller’s all-round talent suggest some real promise. Indeed, perhaps that was the point about this album; with these songs judged as Miller’s favourites, this debut may not necessarily be about showing off his originality, but to show his raw talent and invite others to scrutinise it. Now he’s seemingly transforming Bored Nothing into a band, the input of band members and wider music buying public – his Bandcamp is, apparently, “famed”, but this is the first time anything has been officially released – may well hone and develop his talent further. We shall see.