Though risen from the ashes of Melbourne indie pop icons The Sugargliders, The Steinbecks have usually tended towards more of a full-band power-pop slant than Josh and Joel Meadows’ more delicate, Sarah Records-signed earlier band. But their new single harkens beautifully back to those old Sugargliders days, from the influence of Aztec Camera (think ‘We Could Send Letters’) in the guitar and vocals to the conspiratorial closeness of it all. The lyrics are plenty resonant too: “Break my little heart, dear, when you tell me true/That I am just a dust mote drifting in the blue.” Named for a landmark in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, where ancient cave paintings depict vibrant signs of life, ‘At Arkaroo Rock’ “draws inspiration from the place and the aeons of history it holds. The song links the layers of a landscape’s history with the layers of a relationship,” according to the presser. The Steinbecks have used that approach before, the presser adds, in the songs ‘Geology’ (1994), ‘The Lighthouse Act’ (1998) and ‘Bye Bye Baby’ (2007). ‘At Arkaroo Rock’ was recorded in the Meadows’ current base of Castlemaine in central Victoria. The single version is a four-minute radio edit, whereas a longer version will appear on Kick to Kick with the Steinbecks, due out later this year through Popboomerang Records – the same label who released last year’s Sugargliders retrospective in Australia. The album is being mixed later this month with Gary Aspinall, formerly of Aussie pop bands The Odolites, The Somerfields and The Killjoys. The album was mostly recorded in Castlemaine, with some parts recorded in fellow regional centre Kyneton. ‘At Arkaroo Rock’ is out now in a 500 run of hand-numbered 7” vinyl (and/or digital) from the band’s US label, Matinée. It’s backed by two exclusive tracks: the label calls ‘All Desires Known’ arguably the Meadows’ “most fragile, stripped-back recorded moment” since The Sugargliders’ 1994 swan song ‘Yr Jacket’, while the more energetic ‘Cabin Fever’ has been likened to The Monochrome Set. --Mess and Noise
When the Sugargliders' "A Nest With A View" primer came out last year, we got so excited that we listened to it over and over again, forgot about everything else in our lives, stayed up through the early hours writing a somewhat over-earnest review and then fell asleep on the sofa. You'll be relieved to hear we have no intention of doing the same this time: our only goal (a Longmire goal, natch) is to try and convey how overjoyed we are that this new single from the brothers Meadows exists, and to meekly apologise for how the mighteous Steinbecks featured only as a footnote in that previous review, with us sleepily mumbling that we hoped they would one day get their due before we clicked on "publish" and turned in for the night (although for those of us a certain age you must forgive us fleeting imaginings, on listening to this 3-track 7", of how it might have looked as a Sugargliders EP for Sarah, perhaps with a label showing Baltic Wharf, or the bus from Temple Meads...) But back to the present, and "Arkaroo Rock" taps at the window, smiles, flutters in and nestles happily in the pulsing folds of your heart, just as you'd expect from artists whose music has been delighting us for a quarter of a century. Moth-delicate, with gently cascading vocal lines and a glistening spun web of guitars, it's a song about how we all stand so small when we set ourselves against the long passage of time, and it operates at a dizzying level of exquisiteness, somewhere on the plane of the Butterflies of Love, or the Steinbecks' Australian cousins the Lucksmiths at their brittlest. Indeed, to the extent that we suspect that the single's slaloming gorgeousness is not going to be properly recognised by an ungrateful world, it reminds us of the latter's underpraised and equally pretty "Get-to-bed Birds" 7" swansong on the same label. The optimist in us insists, though, that these records' brilliance *will* one day be unearthed and treasured by future generations, just like the cave paintings at Arkaroo. Ahem. Middle track "All Desires Known" picks up where "Yr Jacket" left off (the Steinbecks, like the Sugargliders, somehow sound more brutal when they strip slow songs down to bare bones) before the excellent "Cabin Fever", the feistiest song of the three, injects harsher guitar tones and some increasingly anguished falsetto. Our review of the Steinbecks' "Recorded Music Salon" set, a frightening number of years ago now (you can p'raps get a sense of just how long ago by the fact that we took the opportunity to slag off our then-bête noires the Verve, Starsailor and the rightly long-forgotten Alfie) opined that it proved: "not only is there life after the Sugargliders, but that life is rich, rosy and - despite occasional flaws - full of possibilities." We'd hazard that, for once, we were right. "At Arkaroo Rock" emerges unblinking and proud from that wonderful, foggy swirl of possibilities, making us feel like the richest people in town. In this ghastly summer of royalist sycophancy, this torrid spell of unflinching and unnuanced heat, this is a single that comes as fresh and thrilling as rain. And so we fall in love with them, all over again. --In Love With These Times, In Spite Of These Times
Also out on Matinée this month is a new single by long-lost legends The Steinbecks. Not seen around these parts since the mid-2000, 'At Arkaroo Rock' might have been borne out of the recent fantastic Sugargliders retrospective. This is green, lush introspective pop music with inch perfect guitar phrases, and the usual love of nature that comes through on all Meadows brothers recordings. 'All Desires Known' barely exists, and has an almost mediaeval air about it, whilst 'Cabin Fever' is the most instant song here, and shambling ode to drunken camping trips. We've all been there, sweetheart. --A Layer of Chips
Sometimes we keep things that over time become more and more fragile, that we have to take extra care over. I have this family bible that was given to me when my Grandmother died. The births, from my father’s generation backward for about a hundred years are all written there, along with the cities and occupations. I’m painfully protective of it, and try to make sure that it stays in as healthy a condition as possible. Melbourne’s Sugargliders were made up of brothers Josh and Joel Meadows. Forming in 1989, with both of the boys still teenagers, they played a bunch of shows, released ten singles, six of them on the legendary Sarah records, and one compilation record before disbanding in 1994. What this short career showed was that they were capable of writing captivating and delicate pop music. Since then the brothers have recorded as The Steinbecks. This has seen a handful of releases on a number of labels, including Summershine and Drive In, and leaving us those little perfect pop gems along the way, records such as Geology, 2-Star motel and The Lighthouse Act. At Arkloo Rock sees the band return for the first time in six years, since their Far From the Madding Crowd’ album, for a limited edition of 500 7inch vinyl, although it is available for download. More information is here at the Matinee Records home page. The title track takes as its inspiration the site of ancient cave paintings in Australia. It’s immediately memorable, those brothers having this innate ability to find tunes that pull on your heartstrings and have you fall for them all over again. The guitars chime and jangle, with this warm bass sound constantly moving, agitated but never taking over. On the b-side of the single are two more tracks, firstly All desires known. Its ore introspective than its flip-side, more stripped down, more downbeat, but no less beautiful. Final track Cabin fever skips happily along, all funky bass and agitated guitar interjections. It’s an in your face, but only there to make you smile sort of track, and it worked. The thing is, The Steinbecks have been around, in need of extra special care and attention, for nearly 25 years. So that’s another thing that’s all fragile and needing looking after, especially with the prospect of a new album to follow, called ‘Kick to kick with The Steinbecks’. After listening to At Arkaroo Rock, I know it’ll be worth it. --Backseat Mafia
It's been a whopping six years since the brothers Meadows' last release with The Steinbecks, and the Aussie veterans haven't taken the obvious route of returning with slap-in-the-face mammoth of a tune, but that's never really been their style. Instead 'At Arkaroo Rock' reminds us of their talents in a more subtle manner, gradually permeating your brain with its delicate charms and simple melodies. It's a measure of the band's cult status and also of their confidence that they're able to take this approach and pull it off in style. Crystal clear vocals, a wandering bass and gently meandering guitar lines are all present and correct and ensure that, although it doesn't knock your socks off instantly, 'At Arkaroo Rock' is a quite beautiful song. The two B-sides both tell different stories, with 'All Desires Known' stripping-down even further. It sounds so intimate that they could be sat in the same room, singing the track just for you. What it lacks in fizz it more than makes up for in masterful songcraft, telling a tale of the passing of time and the sadness it can bring. It's an upbeat song they finish with though, and 'Cabin Fever' is possibly closer to the indiepop you may expect. However, it may be upbeat and electric but The Steinbecks don't add anything that doesn't need to be there. So there are no sweeping strings, no grand arrangements, just a good track, purely and simply. The news that there will be a new album, 'Kick To Kick With The Steinbecks', to follow later this year is, needless to say, something to look forward to. --Sounds XP
I don't like cricket. I'm not bothered about rugby. I've met some genuinely awesome Australians during my travels across the planet. Put all that together and I really don't get the rivalry that's supposed to exist between the English and the Australian people. Needless to say, The Steinbecks are an antipodean bunch and, apparently, this is their first release in over six years so what took them so long? Well, 'At Arkaroo Rock' is a gentle, lilting, meandering song with dreamy, Chris Isaak guitars and bass line that waitresses will simply have to wiggle their bums to. There is a sunset feeling to this song that could only have been conceived on a warm summer's evening after a few beers by a band of good friends who are either in love or just goddamn happy. Which is kinda sickening but then the melancholy undertones save the song and everything is alright again. --Listen With Monger
As promised, it’s been a remarkable week for our friends at Matinée Recordings. Already with two new releases under their belt, they return with a new 7″ from the Steinbecks…the band’s first release in six years. It’s a preview of what’s to come when the band release a full-length later in the year. From the moment this track opens, it’s the vocals that take the focus, with the accompanying music sitting politely in the background. Lyrically, it’s got the classic touch of great indiepop, referencing personal sentiments throughout. It’s hard not to fall in love with a song like this playing on your stereo; you can make that happen by heading to Matinée now! --Austin Town Hall
Fans of the indie guitar pop of Josh and Joel Meadows received a welcome present last year with the release of the retrospective of The Sugargliders (review here). However, until this week The Steinbecks -- the band that The Sugargliders were disbanded to specifically form -- hadn't issued a recording since 2007. In my view, the Melbourne band's return to the studio displays the same craftsmanship and inspiration that earned them fans in previous decades. Yes, fans will not mind the wait for the three-track At Arkaroo Rock 7" at all. One of the delightful things about this band is that they have the confidence to eschew the big "we're back" statement. The record begins with the relaxed vibe of the title track, a gently-voiced but melancholy relationship commentary over a sparse guitar and bubbling bass accompaniment. "All Desires Known" changes the atmosphere with a dark-tinged folk arrangement. The record closes with "Cabin Fever", the most upbeat and pop-oriented song of the batch. An insecure band might have started with "Cabin Fever", but it seems that The Steinbecks know their audience. At Arkaroo Rock 7" is released by Matinee Recordings, and is available on 7” vinyl plus mp3 download (limited to 500 copies) or as a digital download. And there is a bit more good news for fans. A new LP, Kick to Kick with The Steinbecks, is planned for release later this year. --When You Motor Away
Ve li ricordate gli Steinbecks? Sono stati un formidabile gruppo australiano dei ’90. Be’ sì, non c’erano solo Triffids, Go-Betweens etc. ma anche Sugargliders (ex Steinbecks), Pencil Tin, Summers Sun, Stolen Picassos, Palisades, Hummingbirds e Steinbecks (la lista potrebe anche continuare…). C’erano pure loro in quel marasma di gruppi che tentava di esportare certo indie-pop (fortemente influenzato dal kiwi rock neozelandese) in giro per il mondo. Erano tornati nel 2007 con un nuovo disco, Far From The Madding Crowd ed oggi ritornano in circolazione questo singolo At Arkaroo Rock dedicato al centro culturale indigeno australiano in vista del prossimo lavoro sulla lunga distanza Kick to Kick with the Steinbecks. Se i nomi citati non vi dicono nulla ve ne faccio qualcuno di più famoso: Brilliant Corners, Monochrome Set. Altrimenti il pezzo lo sentite qui sotto. --Frigopop!
Che la Matinée Recordings fosse adorabile, beh, credo non ci sia mai stato dubbio. Sul fatto poi che potesse metterci letteralmente KO con trittico di uscite ravvicinate, beh, forse questo non era previsto, visto il lungo stop che l'etichetta si era presa. In rapida successione ecco i nuovi singoli di Bubblegum Lemonade, Math and Physics Club e ora The Steinbecks. Capite bene che siamo nell'olimpo del pop. Abbiamo già parlato nelle nostre news delle due precedenti uscite, recensendole ottimamente, e ora tocca ovviamente a questo 7" degli ex Sugargliders (fondamentale la raccolta, uscita sempre per Matinéè), ovvero i fratelli australiani Josh and Joel Meadows, fermi ai box dal lontano 2007. C'era nell'aria la voce di un possibile ritorno, ma insomma, fino a quando non si vede non ci si crede. Ma ora possiamo gioire veramente e ovviamente anche affrettarci, visto che il 7" uscirà il 6 agosto in edizione limitata di 500 copie. At Arkaroo Rock, gentile brano con fascinazioni Aztec Camera, si muove morbida e malinconica, come le onde di un mare al tramonto che bagna ripetutamente la sabbia una spiaggia ormai deserta. Voce e chitarra per All Desires Known, toccante e vibrante, da ascoltare in assoluto silenzio e raccoglimento. Il terzo brano del 7", Cabin Fever, è invece sostenuto, coinvolgente e brillante, con quel falsetto nel finale che diventa esaltante. Poco da dire. Tre uscite imperdibili. Punto e basta. --Troublezine
El retorno de los veteranos australianos The Steinbecks se produce con Matinée Recordings, ese sencillo titulado At Arkaroo Rock, un precioso tema de Jangle-Pop algo lascivo y tenue. Lo acompañan dos temas extra: la acústica All desires known y la más festiva pero no menos popera Cabin fever. Un regreso que seguro promete una continuación más extensa en forma de álbum.