“Whoosh is a silly word”, explains one half of The Stroppies’ vocal duo, Gus Lord, ahead of the new album. “There is something completely nonsense about it, especially when removed from any kind of context. For me it conjures up images of something absurd and transient - two things fundamental in the experience of listening to or making good pop music”.
Although clearly picking his words carefully, it’s nonetheless impressive how exact Lord was with his summation of “good pop music” and, by extension, the aim with Whoosh. Preceded by the tracks “Cellophane Car” and “Nothing At All”, both of which were characterised by a retro, nostalgic feel and sound, the Melbourne quartet clearly set out their stall to bridge the exact notions of absurdity and transience referenced in the run up to the release.
This merging is undoubtedly best experienced on the two singles, particularly on “Cellophane Car”. A meandering track that boasts the yearning emotional indie of Pavement (Lord mentions Pavement guitarist/vocalist Stephen Malkmus as an influence), it sits both literally and figuratively as the centrepiece of the record. “First Hand” and “My Style, My Sub” are further examples of the breezy instrumentation and effortless sharing of vocals between Lord and The Stroppies’ second vocalist, Claudia Serfaty, culminating in a sound that is weighty but light, joyous but concerned, confident but incredibly self-aware.
Rarely does this affecting combination abandon The Stroppies’ sound, even finding some solace within the post-punk feel to “The Spy” or the especially vintage closer, “Switched On”. There are moments, however, where they seem to let their self-awareness go wandering, resulting in them sounding unsure as to how to redress the balance. “Pen Name” lacks both of the qualities Lord noted as necessary for good pop, a song that’s lost both the plaintively beautiful melodies and distinct sense of purpose found elsewhere. “Entropy”, meanwhile, sounds like a lacklustre Porches tune, synth-led and slightly morbid but never really getting off the ground. Gone is the eccentricity and the heart that tracks such as “Cellophane Car” have in abundance, and it’s undoubtedly the worse for it.
Returning to Lord’s quote, it’s hard to argue that The Stroppies haven’t achieved, by and large, both notions of absurdity and transience on their debut. What Whoosh does best, however, is provide the missing context to his two main tenets, removing the nonsensical element and making them rich with meaning. There is an innate silliness to the tight, jangly instrumentation, though it is littered with sincerity, creating a sound which resonates without losing its charm. Which, at the end of the day, is what makes really good pop music.