17 Jan 2021

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The Finalists - Album Review: First

03 Dec 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

The Finalists may be currently based in Sydney, but ¾ of the guys are actually from prominent Auckland bands with guitarist Robert Young (Semi Lemon Kola), bassist Chris Familton (Fontanelle, Thorazine Shuffle) and drummer Matt Brown (Shaft, {SLK)) joining forces with singer/guitarist and songwriter Mark Tobin (Scarlet, Panic Syndrome, The Black Halo). The coming together of these musicians has resulted in jangly guitar-based indie rock, with elements of psychedelia, power pop, shoegaze and post-punk. In many ways it is almost as if the late Sixties and early Eighties have managed to miss the 70’s altogether and instead have brought together a group of styles which seem so very much at home. This is all about the music which never outstays its welcome, coming in and making an impact, and then they move on. If The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Lemon Clocks, The Byrds, Midnight Oil and Jeremy Morris had released an album together, then it would sound something like this.

It feels both dated and ageless, as while one feels there is an affinity with all the great bands coming out of the San Francisco garage scene of the Sixties, it is almost impossible to define this album in terms of eras. It could have been released at virtually any time in the last 50+ years, paying attention to what has gone before but also very much standing on its own, letting fashions come and go and refusing to pander to any current trends but instead doing its own thing.

The opening song, Ignore All The Hate (On Your Telephone) commences life with acoustic strummed guitars, with electrics noodling over the top, a rhythmic pattern on the drums, electric piano, and it is no surprise this was a successful single. This is the one which is most like Midnight Oil, and from this I was convinced I knew what the album would sound like, deep and meaningful with powerful musicianship and vocals, yet also containing great hooks. That is true, but Learn To Live Without You is far more Beatlesque and we are taken firmly into the Sixties, and I soon realised that one of  the joys of this album is the sheer depth of styles they bring to the fore, and this is way more than just picking the influences. I mean, this song ever features double handclaps! It has been a while since I have come across that.

One of the delights of their debut is the way they tailor each song, so not everyone will have a guitar solo for example, not all of them feature heavily double-tracked vocals, and while they are more than happy to have songs more than six minutes in length they can also knock them out at less than half that length. The ten songs in total are just 38 minutes long, which these days seems somewhat short for an album, but that was often the standard length when I was young, and this is a perfectly rounded release. The very first time I played this I hit repeat as soon as it finished, and the sheer variety of styles ensures this is something which can be played time and again.

All we need now is for the bubble to be set up and for some Aucklanders to make their way back home and share this in the live environment, but until then this is an album which those who enjoy any of the aforementioned styles will do well to discover.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About The Finalists

The Finalists are the musical amalgamation of singer/guitarist and songwriter Mark Tobin (Scarlet, Panic Syndrome, The Black Halo), guitarist Robert Young (The Wednesday Night, Semi Lemon Kola), bassist Chris Familton (Charlie Horse, Thorazine Shuffle) and drummer Matt Brown (Charlie Horse).

With a sound that draws on the group's collective music history playing in a number of bands in Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, they’ve concocted a blend of jangly guitar-based indie rock, with elements of psych-rock, shoegaze and post-punk threading through their debut album.

You can hear the ghosts of Factory and Flying Nun Records, the evocative strains of The Go-Betweens and The Smiths and other Antipodean contemporaries such as Underground Lovers, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and RVG. On First, the twin totems of melody and melancholy course through the sparkling, shimmering guitar lines. The tranquil euphoria in the interplay between the guitars of Tobin and Young is a defining aspect of the band's sound. On songs such as Hunting Knife, Hollywood and Ten Seconds they chime and spiral in sublime unison above atmospheric keyboards. One minute they're immersed in acoustic reveries (Cool Keith, Harder Than You Think), the next they're taking flight in Sonic Youth-inspired six-string explorations (Misery).

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Finalists


Year: 2020
Type: Album

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