Grouplove are relentlessly, illogically happy. Strutting, leaping and joyously bouncing their way about the Academy’s stage, the five-piece deliver their niche brand of hippie pop-rock with more enthusiasm than Morrissey has managed in a lifetime. Hell, if your other half just left you, your dog died and you accidentally spilled your vomit-coloured curry down the front of your brilliant-black shirt right before the show, this lot would still garner a grin.
It’s the energy that does it. With all five members engaged in the songwriting process, Grouplove have taken that same Greek island vibe that surrounded their fairy-tale formation and run with it, each member’s songs reflecting the most colourful side of their personalities. Be it happy couple Hannah and Christian’s weaving harmonies, bassist Sean’s fun-filled folk-pop outings, or drummer Ryan’s pre-encore close – which sees him smash out a beat, stood alone in front of the drum kit – this group couldn’t do beige if the council supplied the paint.
In the quieter moments, when the giddiness subsides (and there aren’t many), Grouplove’s musical class comes out. While ‘Colours’ – a track Christian wrote before the group had even met – remains a clear highlight, there’s a depth of songwriting on display that belies the band’s one-album status. ‘Itchin’ On A Photograph’, for example, might have lyrics that probably require group story time to truly understand (“I’m scratching on a thermostat…”, sure you are), yet it’s a compulsive singalong. The entire set has enough stick in its hooks to climb the Eiger.
The two big singles are saved for the encore. ‘Colours’ and ‘Tongue Tied’ feature requests for party locations from the stage before two of the most gripping (if slightly nonsensical) pop ditties of the past year are unveiled. But although they save the best for last, Grouplove don’t lack for set-long adventure, be it in the slow mid-set lull, featuring EP tracks like ‘Gold Coast’ and slower album numbers like the emotive ‘Cruel And Beautiful World’. When things quieten down, the energy fades briefly, but the tracks are delivered with raw vocal power and an inter-group love-in that we all feel invited to. Even ‘Lovely Cup’ – a song with lyrics that can be interpreted as a bizarre sexual euphemism or a frankly ridiculous soul reference.
At times it’s not exactly cunning, then, but Grouplove are the very personification of summer sunshine, and their performance prioritises fun above all else. Still better, they largely avoid those cheesy stumbling blocks. There’s something so joyously life-affirming about it all that it feels like, in a world of cringeworthy autotune and throwaway beats, Grouplove’s emotional fantasy-come-reality is a world we could all use a dose of. Watch out, pop world, this band’s brand of light-hearted indie might have left the beaches behind, but they’re ready to charge your citadel…
As published in AU Magazine, March 2012.
Photo by Kieran Frost