If Gen Z has a “sound” – what grunge was to Gen X or EDM to Gen Y – it has yet to emerge. Pop albums that have attempted to capture the spirit of youthful malaise in recent years have been remarkably varied in tone: Lorde sought communion with nature on his pastel-toned 2000s comeback, Solar Power, while ‘Olivia Rodrigo lamented her “fuckin’ teenage dream” to the scintillating sounds of emo and pop rock on her debut album Sour. On their second album Here Comes Everybody, Western Australian indie stars Spacey Jane take a different route, using bright, jangly indie rock to explore Gen Z fears around Covid and the climate crisis.
Coming two years after the release of their first surprise blockbuster Sunlight – the gold-certified Aria album that spawned the Hottest 100’s second-best booster seat – this album is the result of the quartet’s conscious attempt to tackle the fleshy and hard-to-discuss generational anxieties: “I wanted to reflect on the last five [to] eight years…Covid gave me time to not just sit down and think about myself, but to be more outward-looking in some ways,” frontman Caleb Harper told Triple J. address this as much as possible.
“As much as possible” in this context, however, still seems to mean “very little”. Although it may attempt to speak of a universally young Aussie experience, Here Comes Everybody’s sights still seem fixated intensely on the navel; Harper’s comfort zone expresses a vague grief or a vague disaffection, and he almost never leaves it. Most of the songs here hit the same beats over and over again: their protagonists constantly descend and fight with soon-to-be exes; drive around thinking of some amorphous “she” and hoping things will change tomorrow, but knowing they won’t.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but Harper’s songwriting is often painfully sophomoric, relying heavily on banal truisms and uninspiring turns of phrase. Here Comes Everybody is named after the working title of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s beloved indie record of the early 2000s, and you have to laugh at the sheer hubris of choice: there’s a cheerful simplicity in this record which is miles away from the provocation of this album. darkness, his mind blackened.
On Clean My Car, Harper “always sees your name in the sunset”, trying to “fill this you-shaped hole in my heart”; Lots of Nothing paints the portrait of a couple who “falls in love to fall immediately, and separates without a sound”. Pulling Through, the record’s offhand attempt at an uplifting finale, features lyrics worthy of a high school graduation speech: “If it feels like a failure, it’s probably good for you.”
They’re songs about growing pains that lack all the awkwardness and invigorating tension that comes with growing up – the kind of pizzazz and urgency that has made Hatchie’s Giving The World Away and Rodrigo’s Sour such recent albums. who have addressed similar topics without resorting to this level of cliche. , so endearing.
Occasionally, Harper will hit a raw nerve in a rather noticeable way, compared to the rest of the album. On Haircut almost emo, he offers a real pearler: “I tattoo my arm just to prove that I’m changing, but I can’t even fool myself.” There’s a devastating sense of inertia captured in this single line, a world of ambient stress and alienation that’s more alive than anything else here. The rest of the record could have used such details; instead, the line is a single lifeboat surrounded by a vast ocean.
Here Comes Everybody is hardly helped by the fact that, musically, it resembles so many other records released by Australian indie bands over the past decade. In a playlist, his songs would fit in perfectly with the hits of Little Red and San Cisco and the John Steel Singers and Hungry Kids of Hungary. But its overwhelming cleanliness, its profound absence of any kind of chaos or disharmony, matches the emotional content; it’s a record that slips freely and easily from memory, so platitudinal are its lyrics – less the sound of Gen Z than a shrug, an attempt at empathy that inspires little more than the ‘apathy.