Music Reviews

The Griswolds – High Times for Low Lives (Album Review)

Written by Scott Russell

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For the past several years, The Griswolds have been setting up a nice little corner for themselves in Australia’s indie scene. Now, with the release of their latest album, High Times for Low Lives, they’ve decided to change up the game a bit. Injecting a healthy dose of electro-pop and dance vibes into the mix, the band has carved out a fresh sound for themselves that may divide audiences, and while a lot of the tracks sound a little samey there’s no denying that these guys can lay down a groove or two.


The Griswolds

Click above for your copy of The Griswolds’ “High Times for Low Lives”


The band plays up their new direction pretty heavily right from the get go with their opening track Role Models, a groovy number with a big beat that’s bound to fill some dancefloors. The following track and lead single Out of My Head is probably the most reminiscent of the band’s back catalogue, a straightforward and steady indie rock anthem with a big gang vocal chorus that’s gonna get lots of crowds singing along. Birthday brings it back to a nice slow jive, and after a brief interlude, track five YDLM throws some 80s synth pop your way with a little bit of funk thrown in for good measure. It’s at this point where things start to slip, however.


From here the album begins to devolve into a middling progression of samey hooks and anthemic choruses designed to pump up the crowd and get everyone chanting in unison, encased by mostly forgettable verses, which are only there to buffer the choruses anyway. There are lots of good ideas to be found here, it’s just that none of them are ever pushed to their full potential. Lookin’ for Love, for example, is a strong number that always feels like it’s about to burst into something really climactic and surprising, but never does. In each chorus vocalist Christopher Whitehall sounds as though he’s almost hitting his peak, but he never quite gets there. It happens often throughout the album, but this song in particular is a prime example of how you often expect these tracks to really build upon their foundations, and instead they simply reiterate them.


That said, despite not taking them far enough, the ideas presented on High Times for Low Lives are all fairly solid. As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of numbers that will get you grooving; a lot of this album has a very Justin Timberlake kind of feel to it. Considering this new direction the band is taking, their choice of producer was pretty spot-on. Andrew Dawson, who in the past has worked with Childish Gambino, John Legend and Kanye West, has done an excellent job here, making every note sound clear and crisp as can be. Diehard pop enthusiasts will surely be overjoyed at how nice and rich the synth sounds, or how deep the bass is. Regardless of how you feel about the new style they’re aiming for, there’s no denying that Dawson has done the absolute best with what the band has given him.



The Griswolds

The Griswolds @ The Gov (c) Bronwen Caple


In short, High Times for Low Lives will probably divide fans, but invite new ones. It’s an obvious departure from their previous album, and one that sounds like it’s trying perhaps a little too desperately to be radio-friendly. This is the kind of album that you could probably use as a playlist at any party ever, and everyone would dance and get down to all the songs and have a great time, but as soon as that playlist ends … it’s forgotten. That’s not to say that it’s a forgettable album per se, only that no song really stands out too far from the rest. But it still makes for a good party playlist.




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Scott Russell

December 3rd, 2016

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Scott Russell

I'm a performer based in Sydney who's written for Kill Your Stereo in the past, but my main passion is on the stage. At the moment I'm playing saxophone in a funky little band called Red Wine Roses, but when I'm just listening to tunes it's mostly heavy stuff. I've been playing a lot of different music for a fairly long time now and I'm looking forward to expanding more on my writing with AMN.

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