Funk, disco, '60s pop + more come together in a psych package
Adam England
10:34 12th May 2021

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When you think of Australian psych, there are a few artists who come to mind. Sure, Tame Impala is the obvious one, but there’s also POND, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard all in or around the genre too - and of course Babe Rainbow. It would be doing the four-piece a disservice, however, to shove them into that category without a second glance, as they combine American, British and Australian influences together to good effect on new album Changing Colours.

‘Zeitgeist’ is a groovy statement of intent that’s instantly captivating with Latin-style rhythms and an arty indietronica vibe that brings to mind bands like Django Django, Parcels and even Peace, but it’s followed by the more melodious psych-pop and sun-dripped vocals of ‘The Wind’ and ‘Your Imagination’ - the latter featuring Jaden Smith. Both are pleasant to listen to, but don’t get going quite as much as the opener.

From ‘Ready For Tomorrow’, however, the record bursts into life for a second time. The funky beat again brings to mind the disco-influenced indie pop of Parcels, and it’s a resolutely cool slice of neo-psychedelia at home on any alternative dance playlist. ‘California’ is another strong track, beginning with soft rock strummed guitars and a '60s pop style that travels through some of the biggest pop rock bands of the era to modern-day Australia via some of the softer Oasis and Stone Roses numbers.

As a rule, Babe Rainbow are best when they lean into more funky, disco-oriented sounds rather than when they go for the slow, hazy feel. Take ‘Rainbow Rock’ for example: more baggy than blissed-out, it’s equally Second Coming-era Roses and vintage Happy Mondays - a little bluesy in parts but heavy Madchester influences make it something that would be right at home at the Hacienda three decades ago. 

‘New Zealand Spinach’ deserves mention for it’s idiosyncratic name alone. It might sound somewhat like an obscure strain of weed, but the track itself is a wonderfully discordant piece of music that combines harmonious vocals with jangling guitars and anarchic percussion.

In contrast, songs like ‘Curl Free’ are more gentle singalongs that invite comparisons with '60s surf pop. It’s easy to imagine the band sat on the beach in Byron Bay (or California like many of their ‘60s forebears) with a collection of acoustic instruments, seagulls flying above and waves crashing onto the shore. They’re easy on the ear, but aren’t as memorable as the music we get when Babe Rainbow branch out of their '60s psych-surf-pop mold a little.

When Babe Rainbow are good, they’re very good, and there’s a lot of promise here. As a cohesive record, Changing Colours ebbs and flows, but it’s fair to say that there are more ups than downs overall. 

Changing Colours arrives 14 May via Eureka Music.

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Photo: Press