Neither strangers to previous bands and projects, Amber Fresh and Matt Aitken come together to form North Perth’s the Gulls. Their speciality is soggy, dreamy, amateurish pop. And they’ve got a sense of humour about it, as proven on this unusually plotted double album. The first half consists of five sprawling, transformative cover versions stamped with Fresh’s often distant yet fairly cute vocals.
Thus, System of a Down’s “Lost in Hollywood” becomes wavering and lo-fi, and the Mamas and the Papas “California Dreaming” a nearly unrecognisable stretch of shoegaze-y ambience. The Gulls similarly deconstructs the Perth band Bermuda’s hooky “Golden Days”, setting it slowly adrift. Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” is stretched to eight minutes, while Blink-182’s “Dammit” is given the same sort of woozy, arcane treatment. Yet it reveals the original’s ballad heart.
While the second half is devoted to originals, those are actually more kitschy and less creative than the covers. They range from shambling keyboard beats and melodies to primitive loops and guitar strumming. There’s an incidental quality to it, but again by surprise, the instrumentals are more appealing than the vocal tunes. Namely, “Flight of the Crystal Dingo” is modest yet diverting drone-pop that nearly recalls the Clean.
This is indie pop of the fringe-dwelling sort, part damaged twee and part slacker experimentation. It’s wildly inconsistent, but there are a handful of moments that make the rest worth exploring.