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Coasting - You’re Never Going Back

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Artist: Coasting

Album: You’re Never Going Back

Label: M’Lady’s

Review date: Jan. 19, 2012

You’re Never Going Back, Coasting’s debut long-player, draws out a surprising amount of nuance from a limited palette. Coasting have one foot in the indie rock Grrl Group revival (drummer Fiona Campbell also pounds the skins for Vivian Girls) but their own approach owes more to the Motorik minimalism of Electrelane and the punchy post-punk of Sleater-Kinney. Madison Farmer’s elastic one-string guitar riffs, Fiona Campbell’s no-frills drumming, and occasional light washes of organ make space for the duo’s interlocking vocals, which are the real set piece. Farmer and Campbell’s natural vocal chemistry gives the music a conversational give-and-take, adding a compelling layer to material that occasionally suffers from clumsy execution.

Thematically, You’re Never Going Back deals in subtle, hard-to-capture shades: ambivalence, rootlessness, uncertainty. The trouble is, the music itself can sound listless and noncommittal. The album feels like a great EP padded out to twice its natural length. Songs that start strong lapse into stiff, repetitive structures. Interesting riffs and lyrics reiterated ad nauseum lose their pull. Coasting’s emphasis on simplicity and restraint is a noble ambition, but not entirely within their grasp. Much of the material feels too restrained, underdeveloped rather than deliberately open-ended. There’s just not enough.

When there is, though, it’s solid stuff. “Portland” is a tight, catchy tune that responds to youthful drift with pocket philosophizing (“Anywhere we are is hard”). “Pirate’s Cove” is a bleary, morning-after meditation whose wobbliness is half the charm. Album closer “Delusions of Grandeur” is delicate and enveloping, sustaining a mood rather than drifting pleasantly out of focus.

You’re Never Going Back is schematic in ways that are both frustrating and promising. In many ways, it addresses the idea of forging one’s own path, of doing things that are risky and challenging and unconventional. But often, Coasting sound like they’re … well, coasting — falling back on tentative gestures rather than pushing their songwriting into truly risky, challenging, unconventional territory. As a band, they clearly have momentum. I’d like to see what happens when the engine kicks in.

By Rachel Smith

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