I never expected this album to be as good as it is.

But really, when you consider the quality of work on Bluejuice’s second venture, Head of the Hawk, I’m just shocked more people haven’t discovered this album. Well in fact, “Broken Leg” was voted no. 5 in the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100, but the Hottest 100 does have a very particular audience which isn’t necessarily indicative of mainstream opinion.

Which is what did surprise me; not to play the genre card, but nothing on this album really sounds “indie” or “alternative”, as they’re so often billed. Instead, Bluejuice have created what I can only describe as impossibly 90s-sounding, in the best possible way. From their tight harmonies (I counted perhaps four lines in the entire album not sung in major thirds), heavy ska influence and general up-beat nature, it’s as if Smash Mouth suddenly lost twenty years and stopped writing novelty pop. Not to mention the most prolific use of the Hammond organ since Emerson, Lake & Palmer. As a solo instrument and riff-maker, the keyboard dominates the entire record.

 Which creates a somewhat retro sound, even if the album itself is far too energetic to be a pure throwback. It doesn’t matter that lyrics such as “it all comes down to you, it’s all on your head… are you going to get up, or are you going to stay in bed” have been sung in some variation in songs since the early 60s. The songs on the album are too well crafted for the occasional cliche to become irritating. They aren’t cashing in on some 80s vibe (despite the Broken Leg film clip) simply because none of these songs sound old.

What’s also a pleasure about the album is just how damn short it is. None of the songs even hit four minutes, with the eleven tracks clocking out at slightly over thirty minutes. In a world where every schmuck’s album is fourteen tracks and seventy minutes long, Head of the Hawk stands out, offering a clear, concise work devoid of any pretention. And as such it really delivers. I look forward to reviewing the new album that’s just been released.

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