Salad Boys, “This Is Glue”

Salad Boys
This Is Glue
TROUBLE IN MIND
8/10

We have Australasia to thank for some of the best jangly alt-rock of the last several decades, beginning with The Go-Betweens in the ’70s and ’80s, and more recently with the likes of Courtney Barnett, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and Salad Boys, whose debut album, 2015’s Metalmania, was a remarkably confident first effort carried by sunny-sounding tunes and a laid-back yet upbeat attitude.

Their follow-up, This Is Glue, introduces a new bassist and drummer, with frontman/guitarist Joe Sampson remaining at the helm. Like Metalmania, the new album was recorded by Sampson when Salad Boys weren’t touring New Zealand or Australia, which they do extensively and often.

The music on This Is Glue isn’t as catchy or poppy as what we’re used to, and it’s no longer coming across as quite so carefree. Opening track “Blown Up” is loud and insistent. Salad Boys are growing up and getting restless. The lyrics deal with a healthy amount of angst and dread, with song titles like “Scenic Route to Nowhere” and “Going Down Slow.” They’re observational and thoughtful, taking careful stock of their surroundings. The album is full of references to hills, the moon, the sun, roads. Much is made of direction and being on the edge of somewhere, a part of something larger. On “Under the Bed,” Sampson sings, “Lifted my arms, stuck in several jars / There’s a map on the ceiling and I’m picturing home.”

The refrain in closing track “Divided” goes “On the cusp of relief, I carried myself.” That’s where it feels like This Is Glue exists. Something needs a resolution, but we’re never quite sure what, because our narrator doesn’t seem to be, either. There are shades of anxiety and disbelief and discovery. This uncertainty is a universal feeling—one that’s been presented in far worse packages than This Is Glue. The lyrics may be a bit obscure, unsure of where they’re going, but the music certainly isn’t, even if the destination is nowhere fast. Wherever it is, all this nervous energy makes for an enjoyable ride on the way there. 

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