The Joup Friday Album: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs


Radio is my preferred method for listening to music. I love not knowing what song is coming next. An iPod on shuffle is not enough – I know everything I put on there. Streaming services try to figure me out, but make too many near-misses and end up throwing too many repeats at me to satisfy my need for musical surprises. In my teens, Chicago’s WXRT was in a golden age and kept me happy most of the time. In my twenties, an internet station called Desperate Radio was programmed by a man from Washington DC whose musical taste matched mine perfectly. In my thirties, British music paper NME hosted an internet station on their website that fulfilled my needs. And now, I end up flipping between a handful of satellite stations in my car.

It was on the Indie satellite station that I first heard Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. When that name appeared on my screen, I thought it must have been a data input error and that they had combined the band and album name into one field. But no, that’s really their name. In my head canon, two members wanted to call the band Rolling Blackouts, two wanted to call it Coastal Fever, and the fifth member broke the tie by suggesting they put them all together. I will henceforth be referring to them as Rolling Blackouts CF, as they do on their album cover.

Rolling Blackouts CF caught my ear because they play good old-fashioned jangly guitar indie, along the lines of the Feelies, the Go Betweens, or Close Lobsters (look them up – they’re great!). “Talking Straight” is the second track on Hope Downs, the first single, and the song that I first heard. It’s a great introduction to what they do, because none of the songs on this album diverge too far from its formula of multiple guitars layered over a rollicking beat. They’ve found what they do well and they’re sticking with it. And it’s a sound I like quite a bit.

Honestly, the only complaint I really have about this album is how homogeneous the sound is. I could take a sentence or two to talk about each song, but I’d just be saying the same things about each of them – pleasing, mid-tempo guitar indie. I was mulling about this album at work one day this week, thinking, “Which song is the one that sounds kind of like ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ by the Buzzcocks?” and when I turned the album on in my car on the way home, I realized that the answer is “all of them.”

I don’t particularly care to analyze lyrics and I get the feeling Rolling Blackouts CF are A-OK with that because nothing jumped out at me as particularly deep and meaningful on Hope Downs. If anything, lyrics jumped out at me for their sheer dopeyness. The album’s final track, “The Hammer,” features a chorus that consists of the line “Big boy bring the hammer down” repeated four times. On first listen, I thought, “Man that’s dumb.” But it’s also catchy. This is the song that I find playing in my head more often than any other on Hope Downs.

I don’t have much else to say about this album, than declaring it entirely adequate background listening. I sometimes forget that that’s OK, desperate as I am for a new band to come along with a cataclysm that lights my world on fire. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever isn’t that band, but their polite tap on the shoulder is just fine while I wait for the cataclysm.

Tagging Shawn!

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    GREAT write-up. If this opening track is any indication – which sounds as though it is – I dig this a lot!

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