It is the time of the year when the summer song is unleashed upon sugar-deficient ears. Yet, no matter the gooeyness of any particular pop hit about summer sun and short shorts, some of us would much rather stay indoors, listening to sounds that are somewhat musty yet wholly satisfying. Even the hottest days cannot stifle the greatness of a deceptively sunny-sounding song about heartbreak. Australian band the Apartments is punching in its long sad days of summer entry with Drift, a reissue of their second album, originally pressed in 1992.
The Apartments, whose only consistent member is Peter Milton Walsh, began as a contemporary of indie pop masters — and Australian treasures — the Go-Betweens; Walsh even spent a brief spell in that band, a tenure which bore the Go-Betweens song “Don’t Let Him Come Back”. It should be of little surprise, then, that many Apartments songs sound like Go-Betweens b-sides covered by a less than arresting vocalist. Paired with muffled production values, Walsh’s tactic of emoting without getting anywhere may have something to do with the Apartments’ lack of notability. What’s more, while the Apartments’ sound is comparable to indie pop heavyweights such as the Smiths and the Go-Betweens, the competition for most deft lyrics is a non-starter. If a line like “Rachel / changed her hair from blonde to black” makes an appearance in a maudlin indie-pop song (as it does in Drift‘s “Places Where the Night Is Long”), there is quite a healthy chance that no looking back is going to factor in.
Another reason why the Go-Betweens are well known and loved, while the Apartments found success in France and few other places may have to do with Walsh’s less than prolific release rate. Drift was released seven years after debut The Evening Visits… and Stays for Years. However, Drift proves a worthy follow-up by taking that album’s signature indie pop sound (it was released on Rough Trade) and introducing it to the early ’90s. As indie pop couldn’t be heard as clearly above the din of grunge and shoegaze, Drift… well, drifted into obscurity.
Listening to the re-issue of Drift doesn’t exactly make apparent the need for the album’s rescue. As mentioned before, the sound is fuzzy and Walsh’s voice is unmemorable. Yet the record is far from being vacant of delights. “Over” is in contention for one of the bounciest ever songs about a girl who can’t turn back, while the title of “All His Stupid Friends” says it all (without saying it too mopily). Some songs even come off as influential, with bonus track “Calling on Jean” having elements of an extremely stripped-down version of an early Strokes song.
For some dejection and summertime misery, Drift makes a strong case for being the go-to album. However, going full-throttle and reaching for the superior and perhaps lonelier albums that came before or after it — The Evening Visits… and 1995’s A Life Full of Farewells, respectively — seem like more appropriate choices. Still, those who desire both charmingly lo-fi pop hooks and thinly veiled misery should find more than a little to love about Drift.