Have 808s & Greatest Hits just released the most surprising Aussie psych record of 2019?

Have 808s & Greatest Hits just released the most surprising Aussie psych record of 2019?

Photo: Blake Anthony Ross
Words by Augustus Welby

Welcome to ‘Turning Heads’, a new column designed to spotlight every emerging and underrepresented act you ought to know about. For week one, we’ve got a killer new record courtesy of Melbourne favourites, 808s & Greatest Hits, titled Cabin Vibes.

Originating as a bedroom project for Melbourne musician Skube Burnell, 808s & Greatest Hits’ first couple of singles came out in late 2015. The project has since evolved into a five-piece band, but Burnell is still at the helm.

While some of the songs on Cabin Vibes date back to 2012, Burnell and the band entered the studio for a full day’s recording 12 months ago. Only half of what they recorded made it to the album and everything underwent further mutation as Burnell moved parts around and made space for psych and prog departures.

The finished product is rich in woozy textures and full of songs that deconstruct midway through, contradicting the project’s name by shoulder barging the pop formula.

“I’m into long songs that go on an adventure,” says Burnell. “I love Television songs like ‘Marquee Moon’ and ‘The Dream’s Dream’. They do the obligatory verse, chorus, then it gets more interesting.”

For instance, the beach gothic ‘Tidal Wave’ and mind games examination ‘Jealousy $trikes’ gradually abandon their foundations to usher in rambles of tricked out guitar and repeating chord progressions. There’s a sufficient supply of catchy melodies and lyrics too, but the impressionistic sequences ultimately define Cabin Vibes.

“I like starting with a song I’m invested in and letting it unfold and grow rather than putting the same energy into a new song,” says Burnell.

Burnell cites The Doors, Television, Broadcast, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and John Lennon as some of his influences. The record includes a cover of Dirty Beaches’ ‘Lord Knows Best’, and it’s an inspired choice.

Dirty Beaches songs often sound unfinished, inviting re-arrangement. Burnell cleans up the instrumental and hands lead vocal duties to his band mate, Maddie Felton. With the vocals occupying a more central position, the underlying longing is palpable.

Cabin Vibes saves its best for last, however. The album’s final triplet of ‘Gloomin’’, ‘The Fear Remains’ and ‘Public Scrutiny’ manipulates the soft tissues of the body, while offering up Burnell’s strongest lyrics.

‘Gloomin’’ is a song about “going overseas and recognising the small bubble you were living in before you left,” says Burnell. ‘The Fear Remains’ sounds like post-Beatles George Harrison and aptly relates the feeling of imposter syndrome at a new job.

‘Public Scrutiny’ is a wonky pop song about stage fright and anxiety. It brings the record to a close with an excitable jam that eventually caves in on itself, indicating it’s time to leave the cabin and see the world again.

Cabin Vibes is available now via Our Golden Friend. The official launch goes down at the Gaso on Friday November 1 with support from POPPONGENE, Purr Usual and Turtle Wave. Tix via Moshtix.