Carb on Carb Dig Deep and Get Personal on Sophomore Release 'for ages'
Late last year, I was fortunate enough to meet and book a show for indie punk duo Carb On Carb. Hailing from New Zealand, the band's recordings immediately grabbed my attention. Seeing them live was a whole different story. Vocalist/guitarist Nicole Gaffney and drummer James Stuteley exuded confidence on the stage in front of a couple dozen strangers in a foreign country. When they told me they were going to be releasing a new record in 2018, I knew it was going to be amazing.
for ages opens with the song "Fake Meat/Real Friends". At first it's just Nicole's guitar, playing those choppy emo chords interrupted by the sparkly guitar licks we all love so much. The rest of the band comes in, and BAM! There's this riff that just makes me want to get out of my desk chair and dance.
The first song segues right into the first single off the record, "It's Been A Rough Year". If someone were to ask me, "hey Sammy, what's Carb On Carb sound like?" I'd probably show them this song. It's got grand catchy hooks, lyrics that simultaneously bum you out while giving you hope, and a frantic driving rhythm.
"Home Again 2" eases you back into the record with careful, sliding guitar parts before hitting you with staccato punches of "I am! I am! I am! I am!" in-between saccharine lines like "playing with my favorite bands, going to Disney Land." The song ends with a verse about the expectations of being a woman instead of a touring musician: "you want me to settle down, find a house, a husband, have a child." Any of us who are centering our lives around music, especially those with feminine expectations are getting hit in the gut by this line.
The themes in "Man Says" seem to contrast with the themes of "Home Again 2". The lyrics are written from the perspective of a younger Nicole who just wants to grow up already. She bleaches her hair and listens to Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory to fit in with her friends, while simultaneously wanting to distance herself from mainstream society. The lyrics also tackle with the fact that subcultures are not counter-cultures, and only reflect the rest of society, including their views on race and gender. "Man Says" is an anthem for all of us that had a scene phase we like to pretend we grew out of.
"Nicole's Express" was the second single off the record, and it was promoted with pictures of Nicole and James on the band's instagram drinking coffee in various places. Right now, for me, it's crunch week at college. Every professor is trying to cram the rest of their curriculum into a single week. "Only half a page, seven coffees deep" is way too accurately describing my life. The song's pacing is so dancey and energetic as if it's also full of caffeine. The song closes with a chorus of voices harmonizing "don't forget to breathe" like a tiny choir of tiny angels in my headphones reassuring me that this semester is not permanent.
Originally appearing on their split with For Everest, "Ma" is a heartfelt song about Nicole's grandmother. It hints back to themes of "Man Says" with lyrics like "I really sucked as a preteen". The lyrics to this one are really vulnerable, you can feel how much they hurt in Nicole's voice.
"Ma" flows right into "Overcompensate", which has some of the best musicianship on the record. There's a fantastic, syncopated guitar riff with harmonics, and the drums are just so rapid, with perfectly timed fills. The syllabic stress placed on the chorus of "Over-comp-en-sate!" sits odd, but is super fun to sing along to.
The first line to "Annual Leave" has me on the edge of an existential crisis. "In the articles I've, a common thought on the deathbed is 'I wish I didn't work as much.'" Holy shit. This song reads like an anti-capitalist critique, discussing things like missing important moment with your family because you have to go to work. Nicole and James really bring their A-game on this track in terms of rhythm, the cadence is really interesting and ear catching.
Things slow down a little on "Extended Family". It's a quick and gentle song with just Nicole, her guitar and a little bit of cello, giving you a moment to breathe near the end of the record.
The album closes with "Mitimiti", a song that crawls at a slow, grinding pace towards the end of the record. When I met Carb On Carb, they told me a story about how before shows, they take a moment to say a tiny prayer of sorts, to acknowledge that the land that they are playing on was stolen from a people who are long gone or just holding on. Apparently, almost every band did this when they played in Australia. They acknowledge that in this song, with the lyric "gather on stolen land/a few a days unplanned/on this wild west coast".
Getting to see your favorite bands when they're in town usually happens once or twice a year when they're from your country. With a band like Carb On Carb, who live on the opposite side of the planet from me, getting to see them could have been a once in a lifetime opportunity (but hopefully they'll come back to North America soon!). No matter where on Earth I call home, I'll always have their beautiful records with me.