It’s a little ironic that the feel-good album of the summer is finally seeing release on American shores now that the leaves are turning color and the air’s starting to get that nippy bite to it. For Scorpio Righting is a record custom made for being blasted at top volume whilst cruising down the highway in midsummer, windows down, face to the wind. For their third album, New Zealand rockers Garageland have crafted a batch of candy-coated rock songs that go down smooth as ice-cold lemonade on the hottest day of summer.
“I’m living on the edge of a sword, and it feels so good”, drawls Jeremy Eade on the album’s kickoff track, “Life is So Sweet”, before casually admitting “I know I’ll fall off, I know I’ll lose you”. The chorus of the song gives us a lyrical shrug of the shoulders — “Sometimes life is so sweet / Sometimes it’s just a joke” — before lapsing into one of the most addictive sha-la-la-la parts you’re likely to hear this year.
These songs are overflowing with meaty, substantial hooks, like the one on “High Way” that’ll have you singing “Show me the high way/I’m feeling low/do do do do do do do” before the song’s even half way through, or the delicious little guitar hook that anchors the tale of restlessness that is “Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”. “Carry Me South” is just so damn lovely that it could be a lost Crowded House song (save its blustery bridge), and “Gone” is probably the most radio-ready single I’ve heard all year, with its choppy guitar riff and typically singalong verse.
Unfortunately, a few songs on Scorpio Righting take the radio-ready hooky pop song formula a little too far, and come up empty-handed as far as originality and creativity go. Some of these tunes get by on lyrics that would be embarrassing to candidates in a high-school creative writing class (take the chorus to “Been Around”, please: “I’ve been around / I’ve been upside-down / I’ve been lost and found on a homeward bound”), while a few songs skulk along with some pretty half-assed musical ideas in tow, such as the main riff to “Crazy”, which is nothing if not the most blatant rip-off of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” I’ve ever heard. That song also sports another rather ham-fisted lyric for its chorus: “I’m goin’ crazy / You should come too”.
However, for the most part, Scorpio Righting sees Garageland hitting the pop nail square on the head. Although quite a bit more polished and commercial sounding than their previous releases (especially when compared to their debut EPs), this glossing over of the band’s sound has thankfully diluted surprisingly little of the band’s charm. If it’s not quite up to par with last year’s masterful Do What You Want, Scorpio Righting is still one of the finer slabs of pop-rock you’re liable to cross paths with this year. And if the changing seasons have gotten you in the mood for something a little more mellow and introspective, by all means, pick up the new Low record instead. However, be sure to remember Scorpio Righting on that first shorts ‘n’ T-shirt day next summer. It’s quite possible that it’ll be just what you need.