27 Jul 2021
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Will Saunders - Album Review: Hopeful Objects

27 Jul 2017 // A review by Peter-James Dries

Straight to VHS: a pejorative term to the normals, but a sign of a cult classic for circles too cool for you to be in. I see the negatives of the term. It can be over-simplified to “bad” but that is only “bad” because it is different when compared to what the normals think is normal. When you’re a square in a box, you don’t think outside of it to appreciate that not everything has to be glossy, spray-tanned, and polished to be “good”.  

Straight to 8-Track: No such thing. But there should have been. 

Imagine coming across an 8-track from an unknown band who are good enough to listen to, but not popular enough to afford the marketing, on a park bench or a thrift store and then going home and trying to find an 8-track player to play it... It seems more rewarding than sitting there pressing next on a Spotify playlist in the toilet cubicle of your office. That’s not how I found Will Saunders’ new album; I don’t use Spotify. Or 8-Tracks. I found it on Bandcamp...

But this album, Hopeful Objects, feels like an artefact from that old era of Straight to VHS, where you had to actually exert effort to do anything in life. You know, the Old School era.

The place and time that people who don’t believe 1992 was like 25 years ago pine for. A time where you actually had to play instruments to get a crowd going, or at least fake it. Not a time where you stand on stage, press play on your laptop, then dance around the stage clapping your hands, while your mate pretends to be twisting knobs in the shadow. (Let’s ignore the existence of Milli Vanilli for this cynical analogy).

If it wasn’t for the relevant lyrical content that Millenials can relate to on the track Let There Be Light, I could shut my eyes and believe these songs were coming from my Walkman, not my iPod. Pretend that I was back in those idealised times rebelling against nothing. Well, nothing compared to what we should be rebelling against, not ignoring or laughing at, in this modern time.

Because it takes effort to appreciate this album. A couple of listens to hear what it is, and what it isn’t trying to be. To find the hook in every song, and to experience the earworms the tracks create during your daily life. To give it the attention it deserves.

The style Will Saunders has captured on this album is what I’d call Psychedelic Retro-Futurist Punk. That isn’t what it is, but that’s as far down as I’m willing to refine my description. It sounds like if the British Rock Invasion period happened after Punk changed the face of Rock n’ Roll. Except the track Oil On Water. That isn’t like that.

The album is a sonic representation of how I imagine Wellington in the sunshine would have felt in the early 90s. Bright shorts and Whites T-Shirts, yuppies, sunglasses, skateboards and backwards hats. Except the track Oil On Water.

No, Oil on Water is like an Acid Trip in a Wigwam. Progressing upwards, towards nothing in some strange perpetual motion. It’s a downer like the track Bodyline in the chalk, well… no. Bodyline… is only a downer compared to the tone of the rest of the album. And it’s more of a Blues Rock / Acoustic Drum and Bass fusion which fits well between Turn It Down and Let There Be Light.

Oil On Water isn’t like that. It’s one didgeridoo away from a sojourn through the Dreamtime. Too weird to be fit musically with the rest of the album, too good to neglect. Pink Floyd. That’s what Oil On Water is like… It might be my favourite track, but then that's probably Let There be Light.

And there’s something about Will's voice… Except not on Oil On Water, where it is a hidden murmur. I don’t remember it being so unique or distinctive on the Pig in the Sweater album from the Lowest Fidelity, another outlet for Will Saunders. It’s kinda Bob Bowie, or David Dylan. It’s not Billy Corgan. But they’re all voices critics were quick to criticise in terms of their singing aptitude in a traditional sense, without considering how the voice fit into the record. I’m saying I can’t imagine a Will Saunders duet with Justin Bieber, but no other voice would fit this tangled, tangential, occasionally dissonant album either.

Actually, yeah. I hear a lot of Bowie-like vibrations on this album. Experimental, less-polished Bowie. Early Bowie. Not Laughing Gnome early. But you know, early. A busy, tangled album that hides some clever and relevant lyricism beneath the layers of over-dubbing. It’s good. It might take a few tries to get into, but once you’re in, it’s good.

There might even be a hint of a narrative; see how like everything is “sustainable” in Knowing You but like… everything is “unsustainable” in Mass Extinction Event. Then that song is probably more about not fitting into cliques, but then that not mattering anyway cause everything is screwed anyway…

But then again, I was a kid that constructed a narrative from the Mortal Kombat Motion Picture Soundtrack, without having seen the movie, or played the game, and having the cover art to go off, because it was dubbed onto a cassette by a mate. Maybe I should dub this album onto a cassette for a mate. Or leave it on a park bench so someone else can find it and give it the attention it deserves.

 

About Will Saunders

Will Saunders is a solo musician writing, recording, producing and performing his music live.

He has released four full length albums and ten solo EP's.

He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Auckland bands The Quick and the Dead, Bearhat and The Lowest Fidelity.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Will Saunders

Releases

Oh It's A Sound
Year: 2019
Type: EP
All That Has Ever Been
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Hopeful Objects
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Covers Four
Year: 2017
Type: EP
Nothing Wrong
Year: 2016
Type: EP

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