The Sky’s In Love With You - Ups and Downs (Basketcase Records)
Sure sounds a lot like ‘em. Has it really been 31 years since their last new release? That question’s rhetorical, by the way.
Ups and Downs were a Brisbane garage-pop band that was swept up in the signing madness of the 1980s, captured by a major label and transplanted to Sydney where they enjoyed fleeting success. All these years later, they’re more or less intact, but it's an accidental and organic reunion.
The back story is that brothers Greg and Darren Atkinson had been working up another record for the Worker Bees, their duo, when a few songs starting taking on familiar textures. John Flade and Peter Shaw were recruited - Flade punching in his guitar parts from Brisbane - and Ups and Downs were back in business. New bassist, Alex Ronayne, rounded out the line-up.
While the songs sound like Ups and Downs - Rickenbackers with a touch of melancholy, brotherly harmonies and walking bass-lines - there are differences. The production is thankfully free of the '80s polish that weighed down their records (and conversely helped them gain airplay.) "The Sky's In Love With You" is vital and bare in parts, with a solid acoustic base to many songs.
They're strong songs that tend to sneak up and make their mark without brash pop hooks - a lot like the latter-day GoBetweens. This is melodic pop, often quite subtle in its approach.
"True Love Waste" rolls forward on keen harmonies and driving guitars. "Disco In My Head" is Church-like in its tone and textures. Flade's guitar is the distinctive element - and of course Greg Atkinson sounds nothing like Steve Kilbey.
The shimmering "Gideon" is Britpop with an Australian twist, with the hooks are buried too deep. A lost opportunity, maybe. "Bride In a Car" cajoles rather than carouses, with lilting guitars and a sunny feel. "Fire Amongst Us" and the sparse "She Stole My Idea" are real growers. The record's book-ended by moody companion pieces called "Some Sleep" that tie it together and sign-off with cello.
The sense of intimacy here is something that many bands strive for but few attain. You won't hear Ups and Downs on the Top 40 anytime soon, but you will envelope yourself in this, if you're a fan.
They have a Dad joke in the album title. They done grown up.