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The Goon Sax are endearing in their vulnerability and their Melbourne show consolidated that

The Brisbane outfit delivered plenty from their stunning 2018 LP, We're Not Talking.

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Joshua Martin

“I was told to distance myself from a situation when it makes me nervous.” This lyric opens The Goon Sax’s ‘We Can’t Win’, a breakthrough moment of sophisticated songcraft from the Brisbane band’s 2018 release, We’re Not Talking. The sentiment resonated during Sunday's sold-out matinee performance.

It might be a touch impudent to call The Goon Sax a nervous bunch – it’s understandable to feel exposed when performing heartfelt songs in front of a packed room. But although they employ a back to basics, guitar, bass and drums setup, the trio weren’t brimming with rock’n’roll swagger.

As the curtains opened to reveal the group of 20-somethings, co-frontperson Louis Forster dropped his bass guitar. This meant he had to fetch the band’s lone guitar tuner from the opposite side of the stage and frantically reset. Donning a broad smile of bemusement, fellow guitarist/bassist James Harrison let us know Forster was re-tuning.

Beyond that, though, there were no attempts at filling the silence. No “Hey we’re The Goon Sax, thanks for coming to say hi. It sure is hot in Melbourne isn’t it? I hope you’ve had a nice weekend.” Just an expectant and slightly awkward two-minute delay.

 
 
 
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You couldn’t describe the rest of the show as tight, but The Goon Sax embody the spirit of post-punk where technical prowess is a trifling matter. Each member possesses a charmingly offbeat musicality. The tempo-switching ‘Telephone’ and dynamic ‘Love Lost’ exemplified the band members’ belief in the strength of their ideas.

We’re Not Talking contains some strikingly refined songwriting. Forster, Harrison and drummer Riley Jones get occasional backup from a string section, drum machine and soft piano. It’s not overly polished or wall-of-sound dense, but it shows a progression from their 2016 debut, Up To Anything.

The album is greatly enhanced by the addition of Jones’ vocals. While Forster and Harrison both have a candid singing style, free from affectation, their droning baritones become far more compelling when juxtaposed with Jones’ high-pitched sweetness.

Forster and Harrison rotated bass and guitar duties throughout, while Jones was the stabiliser on drums. Harrison’s guitar playing left a little to be desired, but his melodic bass lines played a central role in the setlist’s dazzling final third.

The live renderings of We’re Not Talking highlights ‘We Can’t Win’, ‘Sleep EZ’ and ‘Make Time 4 Love’ were just as effective at sparking an emotional response as their recorded counterparts. Each song is encased in feeling and demonstrative of the potential for making empathetic connections when persisting through nervousness.