Bursting through the gates over the past years have been Perth’s newest powerhouse of pop punk, Sly Withers. From a 2016 debut record that criminally flew under the radar, the West-Coast punksters return with a whip-cracking sophomore album. Gardens brings together existentialism, broken relationships and all things early-20-anxiety tightly together in a powerful, emotive and sonically searing record.
Living in the sonic frat house of Luca Brasi, Ceres and Dear Seattle, Sly Withers deliver the Aussie twang - via co-vocalists Jono Mata and Sam Blitvich - to the nostalgic tones of punk-pop. They deliver the freshness and excitement of new-wave Aussie punk pop but keeps that deep seeded nostalgia reminiscent of an early 2000s Blink-182.
“Can’t write an opening line to save my life…” an ironic opening to one of the tightest and boisterous releases of the year. Though the true irony being in just how technically polished these boys are whilst singing about being a mess. A familiar tune (landing #187 on last year’s Hottest 100), ‘Cracks’ opens the record with laying all their cards on the table. Honest, powerful and god damn catchy.
If we’re placing bets on 2021’s Hottest 100, we’re going in with ‘Clarkson’. The soft beginning allows for an incredible build into an anthemic tune for the ages. It soars, it stings, and it demands to be heard live - or screamed out of a car window.
‘Constant Wreck’, another stand-out of the record, uses a similar style of song writing. That soft opening, a siren song luring you in, only to bite back. It punches and knocks you off your feet. “I want to kiss you sober/ I want this shit to be over” brings a happy-go-lucky, “love is messy, and we’re going to revel in this” mantra. All I want is to go out, get drunk, make some mistakes and come stumbling home with this blaring through my headphones.
Gardens feels big; bigger than itself. The layering of instruments, and the tightness in harmonies really show off the lads’ technical proficiency, but also pushes that emotive angst that allows each track to soar even higher. Each track truly feels like it deserves to be heard on the Splendour amphitheatre.
Despite the overall punchy and visceral sound, there are some creepers lurking in the waters. ‘Keys’ and ‘Glad’, fill in the shadows of an overall vociferous record. Whether it’s (respectively) dancing with glistening harmonics, lamenting for better times or heart-wrenching song of loss, these moments are tender, both in pen and sound. Perhaps these quieter instances highlight a ‘you gotta have the bad, to realise how great the good is’ mantra or perhaps I took my year 10 English teacher a little too seriously – either way, these dark moments shine bright.
It’s this casual honesty showcases how baring it all doesn’t need to be earnest. It can be emotive and catchy, it can be angsty and sincere. Sly Withers have crafted a record that reads like an open book but feels like a ‘dear diary’ moment. These relatable earworms have wriggled into our head in straight to the hearts.
Gardens is an immediate hit. Sly Withers have gone above and beyond with their second record, cementing their position on the Australian scene, deserving of the mainstage spotlight. It’s a record that draws out all sort of feelings – whether that is a tug on the heart strings or an itching to dance – Gardens is by no means a passive listen. It’s gritting, guttural and a god damn good time.
They are currently on tour in celebration of the album, with some rescheduled Melbourne dates in the mix. Have a listen, and go see the show live, because after one spin, it’ll be all you want to do. All details over on their website!