Formed in high school by guitarist-vocalist Amandah Wilkinson to enter a battle of the bands competition, Operator Please are five teens from the Queensland Gold Coast. Their clatter of sludgy guitars, synthesisers and helium-pumped vocals have garnered them a dedicated following and support slots for acts including Arctic Monkeys, The Go! Team, and Jack Peñate. All of which should give you a fair idea of where their debut album, Yes Yes Vindictive, is coming from.
So far the band is best known for cult single, Just a Song About Ping Pong. At two minutes 17 seconds it’s a slap in the face of effervescent nonsense. The sneering lyrics spat out at breakneck speed seem to be largely about ping-pong, but also contain a line about beef jerky, are sprayed over handclaps, tribal drums, and a casiotone take on the Ace Of Spades’ guitar riff.
Ping Pong sets the tone for much of the album, although tracks such as Zero Zero and Cringe don’t quite hit the pace and seem to wallow in their extra minute. Darker and more driven by guitar, bass and synths, these tracks, and others littered about the album are familiar teenage angst ground, but done with style reminiscent of defunct art punks Pretty Girls Make Graves.
But Operator Please has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Two for My Seconds is delightfully quirky keyboard-led pop that breathlessly switches pace for a sting in the tail.
On tracks such as Terminal Disease, Wilkinson’s vocal swagger creates and air of Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the moshpit. And the savvy use of strings and synths in otherwise ordinary teenage rock, such as Yes Yes the almost title track, makes the youthful posturing palatable. Time and again, a sense of pop saves the band from teenage angst cliché.
Other Song and Leave it Alone are smart, literate, and tinged with sarcasm disguised beneath a glistening punk-pop veneer, recalling Rilo Kiley‘s less saccharine moments. And closing track Pantomime, is a drawn out dirge in the finest sense of the word. The sentiment of the line “paint my face right, so that I can be a pantomime”, may be a bit emo, but Wilkinson’s style and conviction and the affecting strings make for a superior indie ballad.
Yes Yes Vindictive is not going to set the firmament alight, but the confidence of Operator Please renders this a superior offering from among the current crop of youthful purveyors of indie rock. Not least, the album is one of music for teenagers made by teenagers that captures the conflicts of independence and the desire to simply have a good time, while only rarely sounding juvenile or naive. And best of all, the album reminds anyone in danger of forgetting, just what it’s like to be looking the rest of your life head on.