Yet another band from the vibrant Melbourne scene, Screensaver dropped a demo back in 2019 and have been slowly but steadily putting out singles up until this, their debut album “Expression Of Interest”. Where better to release it than with Upset The Rhythm who have become the go to label for Melbourne’s underground. Claiming to be influenced by music released between 1977-1982, Christopher Stephenson (guitar/synth), Krystal Maynard (vocals/synth), Giles Fielke (bass/synth) and James Beck (drums) play a taut gothic post punk with that all important dash of chorus that gives this release the sense of having been pulled out of a time capsule.
They mean business from the off on “Body Parts”. The 4/4 beat, jagged yet spacious guitars and busy buzzy bass belong in the 80s. It’s catchy and dark yet has all the melodic simplicity of the Vaselines.The industrial new wave sounds continue on “No Movement”. Stephenson’s penchant for bent harmonics a la Modest Mouse backed by a relentless groove that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dry Cleaning song. Maynard’s vocals have a sense of urgency that, combined with the backing, suggest there will most certainly be movement at their live shows.
By this point Screensaver have set out their stall as groove merchants.
“Buy Sell Trade” has grooves in abundance. Like an 80s Neu! everything revolves around a simple 4 note bassline. The synths build to the point they absolutely smother the song while the thumping gated drums pierce through. It’s essentially a spacerock jam masquearding as post punk.
There’s no let up on the pace on “MEDS”. Frantic, Beck’s almost tribal drums rumble below the undulating and oscillating synths before exploding into a frenzy of snares. The cavernous industrial atmosphere shares much in common with the menacing FACS. It’s intense and claustrophobic.
“Static State” has a somehow slightly lighter feel by comparison yet it retains the darkness and intensity. Synth strings combine with the dirty guitar fuzz to create an edgy drama.
The album needs a change of pace at this juncture.
To this point it has been utterly frantic. Like label mates Es, this is a constant assault on the ears. Fortunately that break comes in timely manner with “Skin”. The drums skip subtly, the build up is gradual, the instrumentation more spacious “Attention Economy” continues this more commodious approach. Melodically it’s the grumpy goth sister to Broadcast’s “Pendulum”, particularly in the verses. Musically though, it has more in common with 70s/80s inspired UK contemporaries Lean Logic.
After the welcome change of pace “Overnight Low” pulls us back into their oppressive, tense and tightly wound alter ego. It rips like a more grandiose Sonic Youth, abruptly stopping to leave just the winding synths to fade out.“Regular Hours” has a powerful percussive industrial intro that lays the groundwork for a moody guitar line. It’s as dark as hell, exuding an extreme nervous energy that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
This frantic rollercoaster journey has to come to an end and “Soft Landing” is exactly that. The rippling thudding percussion, delayed bass and whistling synth create an abstract landscape, Maynard’s vocal, along with Stephenson’s guitar enter the fray, transforming this into a vivid dream pop song with skittering drums, closing the album on a gentle note.
With ‘Expressions of Interest’ Screensaver have produced a gloomy and intense retro-futuristic debut. Whilst it seems relatively easy to pick out their influences, it’s the sum of their parts makes them unique. A fine album.
You may enjoy this if you like Lean Logic, Dry Cleaning, FACS