New Zealanders Garageland recorded Do What You Want, their second album, in fellow countryman Neil Finn’s home studio. It’s a choice that makes perfect sense when you hear the group’s love of pop structures and harmonies, and a number of cuts on Do What You Want definitely dwell in the shadow of Finn’s more aggressive and dynamic work. There’s just as much allegiance, though, to guitar-centric indie bands like Pavement and The Pixies, and when Jeremy Eade’s vocals and guitars intertwine with Andrew Claridge’s guitar work, it’s a convincing argument that both worlds can coexist. But that seems to be the way of the best bands from Down Under—take what you need, but don’t forget who you are or that you come from somewhere just a little bit different.
Do What You Want starts off strong out of the gate, with the almost jaunty interplay of guitar and organ that leads into “Love Song”. As Eade intones, “This is just a love song / a very sick love song,” the mix of off-kilter humor and aggression raises the track above your typical alternative fare. “Trashcans” is a bit more standard in execution, but boasts great harmonies in the chorus as well as surreal lyrics about an ocean full of “trashcans of devotion” (whatever that means). The third track, “You Will Never Cry Again”, is the standout—an acidic kiss-off featuring Crazy Horse guitar bluster and fierce, almost primal drumming. The romantic and pining “Good Luck”, with its alternating plucked and soaring strings, flirts with a doo-wop sway, and “Get Even” boasts a guitar line to make The Church proud. The frenetic (but clean and precise) punk vibe of “Jean” even proves that word of The Sex Pistols reached New Zealand loud and clear. The album closes with “The End of the Night”, a short but enigmatic instrumental with delicate guitars, strings, and jazz-flecked drums. There’s room for a fair amount of variety in Garageland’s world view.
The only downside is that Garageland’s indie-rock allegiances occasionally result in the time-tested and tiresome tradition of a guitar keening for days over the same rhythm part. Thankfully, those moments are few and far between, and despite the occasional generic track, Do What You Want showcases a band with a sizable amount of talent and the restraint to keep things from getting excessive. Garageland could have fallen into two traps: they could have let technique and smarts suck the soul out of their music, or they could have rocked the subtlety into oblivion (there’s already far too many bands in both camps, thanks). Either method would have had its fans, but the middle ground that they find here should satisfy anyone who loves intelligent and well-crafted power pop.