Good Talk’s Eponymous LP is an Endearing 90s Guitar Rock Throwback

by Joel Greatbatch

Good Talk

What defines “good talk?” Chatting at the cooler with colleagues? Discussion on the way out from a TED talk conference? A euphemism for breaking up with somebody? In the case of Good Talk the band, their definition would most likely be four guys who know how to well define nineties tinged alt-pop into nine bouncy tunes.

Good Talk’s self titled debut LP is one of those not-too-long, not-too-short albums, focused on keeping things simple and fun with a classic two guitar, bass and drums arrangement. Hit play on opener “Heart Attack” and within five seconds you’re introduced to what you’ll experience for the following eight tracks– nice chiming lead guitar notes, lightly overdriven guitar strums and a casual but arresting vocal melody that lingers long after. Follow-up “Sunny Ray” gives you the impression you shouldn’t be here right now but instead be driving in a convertible down to the Santa Cruz beachfront with a blonde haired dude named Ray who is so cool you’re quite happy holding his surfboard for him. It’s a great song and shows off some nice guitar work, with the solo becoming not-so-solo as the band happily sing na na na in sync with each note played.

The rest of the album flows with authentic Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh elements, while the cutely worded “Favorite Things” is like the hippest, most peaceful Christmas shopping season ad you’ve ever heard. Things gel with “Chill Hill,” a song that doesn’t seem to have a dedicated chorus, but still takes you on a memorable journey before culminating in a bit of a Fall Out Boy headbanging outro. Fun stuff.

Something that comes to attention is— and it might just be my Southern Hemispherian ears— the words and phrasing sound like a New Zealand or Australian indie band accent rather than typical US diction (just hear him sing chill, hill, high and up halfway through “Chill Hill”). In a way it recalls Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices in that he might technically be from Ohio but sounds like he’s in a Brixton basement in London. So Good Talk’s Jack Lauterstein makes himself a distinct vocalist, which is always a huge bonus for bands aiming for the radio.

If to be critical I found the first few listens of the album from start to finish to be a bit too familiar with every passing track. Each seems to have similar guitar riff and tone (play the first few seconds of “Heart Attack” then “Chill Hill” back and forth and it’s near identical), drum hits which pause for a split second; just cue spindly lead guitar moments, and repeat. But give it a third listen, a fourth listen, and the personality of each track begins to work its way out. It fulfills the old cliché that an album which seems ok on first listen will become a favorite you’re happy to let run through each time you play it.

The track I found myself returning to the most was “The Tide”, a ditty that has the best bass intro I’ve heard in a while and though it’s something New Order would initially want to sue you for, Peter Hook would give it a thumbs up and you can return to business. It keeps its cool with each instrument having a memorable hook and an understated chorus that never leaves your cranium. Its lyric “Every captain knows his course” is a reassurance to you that they know what they’re doing, know their nineties indie guitar strengths, and created something you’re happy to talk about with those interested in good local music.

Joel Greatbatch is a Kiwi, but please don’t eat him.