Water is essential to life. Unfortunately, ‘The Water’ is not. On their third full-length album, Australian quartet San Cisco forego both the guitar-driven indie rock sound that characterized their 2012 self-titled debut, and the psychedelic, dream-pop atmospheres on 2015’s ‘Gracetown,’ to wholeheartedly embrace funk and electronic elements to minimal success. While this approach offers a plethora of danceable hooks, one cannot overlook the album’s lack of lyrical substance.
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Opener ‘Kids are Cool’ features a groovy bassline, voice modulators, and a sassy riff, each providing interesting musical textures; however, Jordi Davieson’s lyrics feel bland, disjointed, and superficial. After brushing off criticism surrounding San Cisco’s major label status, Davieson sings, “You do you and keep them guessing / Or you’ll be another cog in the machine.” During ‘That Boy,’ Davieson encourages a love interest to leave another man – or, boy – who is breaking her heart. Rather than being genuinely concerned for her well-being, though, Davieson proposes, “Maybe we should give it a shot.” On ‘Waiting for the Weekend,’ Davieson thinly veils his love for ecstasy by singing about a girl named Molly.
Throughout ‘The Water,’ one wonders whether Davieson wanted to say anything of actual value. While his voice remains distinct, Scarlett Stevens plays a minor role. Instead of the witty back-and-forth of ‘Awkward,’ San Cisco drowns listeners in dull, repetitive choruses. Sadly, returning to ‘Fred Astaire’ for comparison, it seems as though Davieson has always been a subpar writer. In the past, San Cisco did enough musically to make up for this shortcoming, but that isn’t the case here.
Beyond Davieson’s brainless lyricism and nauseating clichés, the album breaks little ground musically. The refrain on ‘SloMo’ sounds like it was taken directly from Passion Pit’s ‘Gossamer.’ Bastille could have written ‘Sunrise.’ ‘Make Me Electrify’ sounds like San Cisco just ripped off Justice. Fortunately, ‘Hey, Did I Do You Wrong?’ buoys the album, its relatively basic, pleasantly sunny structure developing organically.
What is perhaps most frustrating about ‘The Water’ is that San Cisco has solid execution. Sure, these songs may be forgettable, but the band isn’t musically inept. On the contrary, ‘The Water’ is technically sound, its various textures beautifully layered. The potential is there; listening to ‘The Water’ one wonders why the record isn’t better. Maybe you can blame BMG for album’s shortcomings, but maybe San Cisco was never that good. Well, whatever – at least ‘The Water’ makes for a great summertime record for the masses to consume.
‘The Water’ is out now via Island City Records.