Album Review: Iowa Never Saw It Coming

25 April 2012 | 10:27 am | Chris Familton

What makes Iowa’s debut such a visceral and engaging experience is its sonic qualities.

The boom in popularity of psych rock, from Tame Impala to Wooden Shjips, has well and truly filtered down to the emergence of new local acts such as The Laurels and Melbourne's Iowa. For a genre so firmly rooted in guitars and hypnotic rhythm sections, there are surprisingly few bands who can take that simplistic template and create something unique and impressive. Iowa prove with their debut album that they know exactly what they are doing, from their destructive edges to the calm of the eye of the storm.

The touchstones for Iowa are generally of the American variety. From an overwhelming Dinosaur Jr feel that permeates the entire record there are also tips of the hat to Hüsker Dü and Englishmen such as Swervedriver and Ride. From the brilliant opening double shot of Complete Control and the turbo riffage of Panic Attack, it is clear that the trio likes nothing more than mixing sweet melodies in a bath of distortion, an approach that builds textural depth into their songs. The drums are tight yet relaxed, the guitars chop and churn with just the right amount of jangle and crunch while the bass playing of Jordan Barczak rolls and weaves with that melodic curiosity essential to all trios.

Vocally it is hard to discern the words and meaning from most of the songs but in the context of this type of music it is that wasted drawl and tone of Dylan Stewart's voice that is the most important aspect. He can sound like a somnambulistic Mark Lanegan on Good Advice and then hit sweet, higher notes on Same Solution, reminiscent of a band such as 78 Saab. What makes Iowa's debut such a visceral and engaging experience is its sonic qualities. Even at a low volume the songs claw their way out of the speakers with a collision of anxiety-fueled urgency and laconic restlessness. Never Saw It Coming grabs you and never lets go.