Arts, Features

REVIEW: ‘Confident Music for Confident People’ unique but perhaps too strange

Australia has become a breeding ground for some of modern music’s quirkiest figures. In 2017, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released five albums (no joke), combining psychedelic rock instrumentals with lyrics about spiders and rattlesnakes. In 2016, The Avalanches released “Wildflower,” an album with more than 3,500 samples.

This trend of weird Australian musicians is far from finished, thanks to new acts like Confidence Man. The Brisbane band consists of musicians from other local groups Moses Gun Collective, The Belligerents and The Jungle Giants. To add to their allure, the band members use the pseudonyms Reggie Goodchild, Clarence McGuffie, Janet Planet and Sugar Bones.

Their first full-length album “Confident Music for Confident People,” which comes out this Friday, has a title that screams “this will not be normal.” This holds true. It’s tough to explain this album, but that’s a good thing. It may be an eccentric record, but it is undeniably unique.

Confidence Man explores so many of pop and alternative rock’s subgenres on the new album. The producers used everything in their bag of tricks.

One of the album’s lead singles, “Boyfriend (Repeat),” is a fun fusion of electropop and dance punk. The resonant arpeggiator offers a surprising complement to the organic drum pattern.

Another single, “Better Sit Down Boy,” features the same electropop tones but with a mix of upbeat indietronica. Then “All The Way” comes on and the listener gets a taste of LCD Soundsystem’s musical tropes. Confidence Man put a lot of effort into making songs with surprisingly nuanced and clean production.

The production is helped by the basslines. From the first track, “Try Your Luck,” it’s easy to tell that Confidence Man didn’t just pick four plucks of the bass. The producers tried and succeeded. Every track is groovy and bouncy from front to back. As a result, the album has a nice flow.

The highlight of this album’s production is “Better Sit Down Boy.” The pounding drums, bassline and masterful sound mixing come together perfectly. It’s just as energetic as the songs that precede it, but it has that special “sing-along” quality that makes you want to jump up and join the band. There’s no doubt fans will go crazy when this song comes on at a concert.

The lyrics are what make the album so different. They’re all over the place. Singer Janet Planet alternates between singing and speaking about failing relationships to how much she wants bubblegum. She makes her cynical and blunt demeanor clear from the start. Her first lyric is “I must confess / I’ve been sleeping with your ex / Cause I heard he was the best.”

Her delivery is monotone but her attitude, like the music, switches up constantly throughout the album. The sum of these parts is songs that sound like they were made by an indignant Kero Kero Bonito. Sure, it’s weird, but she develops her character in a very engaging manner.

While the album is certainly captivating, it’s tough to pinpoint what Confidence Man’s target market is. In an interview with NME, band members said their music “is about dancing and getting down.” The key word there is “about,” because dancing and getting down may not be what the music is “for.” If the lyrical themes were more innocuous, Confidence Man’s could easily fit in dance halls in the ‘80s or ‘90s, but it’s doubtful that clubs will be blasting “Confident Music for Confident People” anytime soon.

There’s also the juxtaposition between the odd lyrical themes and consistently upbeat instrumentation. Maybe someone could listen to this album as general “pump up” tunes on their way to work. Maybe Electronic Arts could put Confidence Man on the soundtrack for the next FIFA video game. At this point, it’s hard to determine what realm Confidence Man is really in.

“Confident Music for Confident People” is out of left field for a pop-style album. There’s a lot of uncertainty there because it’s hard to pigeonhole this album in a single genre. What is certain, however, is that this album is enjoyable front-to-back. It’s another example of how Australian artists are some of the most incomparable artists in modern pop.

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