Review: ‘bby’ by Pool Boy

Words by: Michael Winsall

“bby” is the debut album by local Perth band Pool Boy. As far as first impressions go, this is a decent, if subdued, offering.

It’s hard being an electropop/new wave band these days. That particular blend of genres has been done quite a bit in the last 5-10 years in the indie music scene. To ensure I wasn’t talking out of my arse I listened to both double j and triple j unearthed simultaneously (for accuracy and effiency) and found they were both playing 80s inspired, new electropop wave for a few songs. And although this is the kind of music you want to play, there is a fine line you must straddle and occasionally whisper sweet nothings to in order to avoid sounding like everybody else out there. To this end, I feel Pool Boy has managed to carve out a darker, more broody version of this genre that I feel will only get better as they write more music and develop that sound.

The music on this album is very simplistic, often times quite soft and generally quite pared down, usually just featuring easy loops and synth, backed with some electronic drums. The real stand out is Beth Commons’ harrowing vocals, haunting but not too heavy. On a spectrum of haunting, she sits somewhere between the twins in Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining and the first half of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (not the second half, as that movie nosed dive into nightmare territory at the drop of a hat).

The album moves quietly and steadily through the first few tracks, letting the feel of the music settle in, before reaching my favourite track, “thermophile”, which is decidedly louder than the rest of the album and has the ability to startle those caught unawares. After this things settle back down and a chilled out listening session can resume unabated, moving through tracks that sound (amongst other things) vaguely reminiscent of acts like Angus and Julia Stone.

Pool Boy describes themselves as Young Marble Giants on Quaaludes, and that is the best way I could describe them as well. If late 70s post punk bands on sedatives intrigues you, as it does me, then I recommend checking this one out. Best served on a Sunday session with a few friends or after a cruisy music festival starring some of the darlings of the Australian indie scene from the past decade.