Wastelands is everything you always liked about the Eskies, it’s just dressed differently. Instead of ‘Black Fingernails’, it’s animal onesies. Instead of ‘Red Wine’, it’s vodka mixers. Eskimo Joe have finally made an album as fun as their name.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard tunes this bright and bouncy from the WA trio, maybe since 1998’s ‘Sweater’. But the gulf between their debut single and this release is wide, deep, and filled to the brim with 808 drum beats, sawtooth synth waves and dreamy melodies. Yes, Eskimo Joe have gone electronic.
Electro Joe? EDM Joe? I know there’s a joke there, but it feels lazy. And it’s lazy to call this a dance record. Make no mistake, this is still the Eskies. If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll find your beloved intricate guitar work on opener ‘Running Out Of Needs’. And you’ll get plenty of Kav’s unique vocals; from his long-missing falsetto showcased on single ‘Got What You Need’, to his sombre baritone on ‘Disgrace’.
The album was made possible thanks to crowdfunding by fans, and it seems designed for those fans to have a good time listening to it. But more importantly, it sounds like Eskimo Joe were having a great time recording it. And upbeat tracks such as the neo-disco ‘What You Want’ running headlong into the calypso groove of ‘How Was I To Know’ leave no doubt that this is a party record.
If you’re familiar with the band’s early work, you won’t be surprised at the giddy energy. In fact, parts of the album share DNA with 2001’s Girl. But if you’re mostly aware of their late ’00s work, this will take some getting used to.
BY CAMERON JAMES
Wastelands is out now through Dirt Diamonds/Inertia