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Terry - I’m Terry Music Album Reviews

The Australian quartet both epitomizes and transcends the indie-pop aesthetic on an album that balances lighthearted wordplay with serious political commentary.

Good indie pop is tricky to pull off. Go in too hard and the music can turn precious or juvenile, but keep your distance and you risk coming off cynical, as if you’re making fun of your own music. To sound breezy and effortless, you have to strike a delicate balance—and Australian quartet Terry have become highly adept at threading that needle. Throughout the ten songs on their third album, I’m Terry, they display a healthy sense of humor without ever undermining themselves.

Terry’s way of avoiding excessive earnestness is more about absurdity than apology. Take “The Whip,” whose lyrics read as pure wordplay: “The whip of wealth/The whipper wheels/The whipper feels it’s fine.” But the music is so sharp and energetic, the song ends up sounding more like an exhilarating workout than a Lewis Carroll verse. Even more invigorating is “For the Field,” a punk-leaning sprint in which singers Al Montfort and Amy Hill indulge a fondness for alliteration: “Filthy neds fill the field/Filthy frames for the fakes/Filth for phonies filth for filth.”

For all its playfulness, I’m Terry steers clear of cartoonish inanity. Many songs touch on serious themes, but without flattening the band’s ideas into slogans. “Crimes” plays with repetitive rhymes and rhythmic consonance to make a case against the penal system. Terry find an ever bigger target on “Under Reign”: their home country. Over a climbing melody, Hill and Xanthe Waite proclaim, “This is bleak/This is A-U-S.”

Terry’s ability to balance humor and seriousness matches their openness to just about every kind of sound associated with homemade indie pop. They’re equally comfortable opening I’m Terry with the nursery rhyme feel of “Carpe Diem,” pushing out jangly guitars on “Jane Roe,” and melting a retro, doo-wop-style chorus into the austere jaunt of “Oh Helen.” Even though their songs are pretty simple, Terry have keen ears for texture, layering in a range of tones and tempos that make the album unpredictable enough to encourage multiple listens. The deftness with which they subtly shift sounds from track to track is an object lesson in the undersung richness and diversity of the indie pop aesthetic.

As familiar as the music on I’m Terry will sound to anyone who’s followed indie music over the past three decades, they pull together so many different strands from that era that the result is too distinctive to simply be filed away with a particular genre. They also have a knack for making their idiosyncratic songs so catchy as to feel universal, a rare talent they share with global comrades including New York’s Palberta and London’s Shopping. Even the band’s own conspicuously generic self-presentation (their first two albums are titled Terry HQ and Remember Terry) suggests a disinclination to subsume their music to any larger label. From now on, we can call their style simply “Terry pop.”

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