The Goon Sax – Up to Anything (Chaper Music)

It’s slightly late, already past 9, so the night has to start happening soon. I know there are people who are doing fun stuff or will do pretty soon and I’m trying to find out where they will be. So for now I am sitting alone in my room, playing songs all of which are just to downbeat to get me excited, waiting for those people to text me back. The feeling is not loneliness and don’t get me wrong, I love staying in and reading in bed with a cup of tea. No, this feeling is more difficult. It is a weird mix of anticipation and disappointment, because I realise this time is lost, nothing to do but to wait, and with every ticking minute I am afraid it will be too late to go out.

That’s The Goon Sax for me. Their Up to Anything has all the right ingredients, among which are the lazy way of singing that breathes teenage misery and the sloppy manner of playing the guitars that says I’m bored and I don’t care. The title is a clue. “I’ve got nothing to do tonight. Yeah, I’m up for anything really.”

The lyrics are clues too. Most of these are about awkward love, but better are the sharp observations and sarcastic self-analyses. I like this bit from ‘Up to Anything’: “I’ve had the same pile of books next to my bed for months. […] I want people to wonder about me.” I also like the way the single ‘Boyfriend’ (which is super catchy!) starts with the line “And if I had a boyfriend I’d treat him so right“. It’s the ‘and’ here that does it, signalling that this is merely a part of an ongoing complaint against life. A bit later ‘Sweaty Hands’, a heartaching break-up song, opens in a similar vein with “Now this is the worst“. Oh how I wish I knew The Goon Sax when I was experiencing the torment of being 17. And I especially like the narrative monologue in ‘Home Haircut’. “I wanted my mom to cut my hair for me. She said Louis, we don’t need these kind of problems in this family. But now I’m feeling so unhappy, unhappy with my hair“. (As a former long-haired boy this is especially relatable.) Talking in songs always calms me down. It’s not just the steady cadence of spoken word, it is also the matter-of-factness of it. And at the same time it makes the singer much more vulnerable, dropping the disguise that melody gives. (And let me just mention one more thing: I love that the last song is about eating ice cream on your own. I find it very hard to eat ice cream on my own. How did these teens from Australia know!?).

The music then. The Goon Sax is an eternal ‘the teenage version of’. The teenage version of Galaxie 500, because their uncertainties are too common to be as chilling as the despair of say ‘Tugboat’. Or the teenage version of Ought, because The Goon Sax’s sarcasm does not match their pitch-black cynicism (but a sentence like “I don’t like you I’m just tired of feeling this way” from ‘Sometimes Accidentally’ could have been written by Ought too!). Then there’s the same innocence as label mates The Twerps or Jonathan Richman (especially Richman!) or even the early Beatles – holding hands is an important theme on Up to Anything. How innocent and pure. But no, that does not do them enough credit at all. Age does not matter except insofar it is part of the identity of The Goon Sax. These comparisons don’t really matter except to give you an idea of who they are. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the music is all that matters. And this music, if I wasn’t clear enough, is absolutely GREAT.

So with this music I can kill the time that is wasted waiting. Well that sounds like it’s good for nothing else but let me say it this way: if there is that nagging feeling of unrest that makes me uncomfortable sitting at my desk, and if The Goon Sax can put me out of that emotional state into another one that’s more peaceful even though a bit melancholic, then that is the magic of music happening right here and now in my room.

-- Caspar Jacobs, March 10, 2016