Music / Premieres
Terrible Signal - Look in the Water
Words by Michael Vince Moin
Friday 22nd November, 2019
Melbourne’s Terrible Signal are back today with ‘Look in the Water’, a glowing guitar-pop tune that toys with themes of melancholy, blame, but ultimately hope for the future. It’s the boldest and most forward pressing of any TS release yet, and we have the pleasure of premiering it for them today.
One of the best songs to come out of Melbourne this year was ‘Retire’, a track by Perth-born Vincent Buchanan-Simpson’s outfit Terrible Signal. The pace and guitar-driven energy of the track was enveloped by dread-fuelled lyrics that evoked imagery of empty oceans, vast journeys, going insane and, among other things, subtle reference to the existential crisis of Sisyphus. It’s these impressive imaginings where Terrible Signal’s strength lies - vocals that set free an empowered, unabashed confessionalism on the surface while exploring themes of universal humanity, albeit subtly, underneath.

This trait has never been more apparent than on their third and most powerful offering of the year - ‘Look in the Water’ - a song that shines bright, leaning closer towards Australiana in its vocal delivery than the project has before while swimming in a soundscape that is reminiscent of late 80’s Brit-rock. The common thread between ‘Retire’ and ‘Look in the Water’, as opposed to the act’s 2017 self-titled LP, is the emphasis of contrast to be found between Buchanan-Simpson’s evident fondness for English rock music and his fundamentally honest Australiana style of writing. It can be understood if not by the track’s cover art - a blue-on-red photograph of an English streetscape (presumably taken by Buchanan-Simpson himself) - than certainly by the song’s opening line that in turn alludes to the track’s eventual self-reflection: “You were on an aeroplane and I was walking through Market Street at night.”

Synthesizers and guitars move in tandem throughout, with a more patient rhythm than we’ve come to expect from a Terrible Signal track, buoying us ever closer to the song’s ultimatum: an effortless and resigned hook that declares “…when I was out there stranded in the UK… I looked in the water every day.” The guitars here are by no means easy-going, mind. These are riffs that have the capacity to move full rooms and festival dancefloors, while careful not to detract from the power and steadiness of the vocals. This is in part thanks to the production prowess of Lucas Harwood (King Gizzard) and Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring), whose influence on the track is audible. The layers and layers of guitars and synths have a lo-fi warmth to them but their clarity is never lost in the mix. 

There is a heightened self-awareness to ‘Look in the Water’, from its production to its swirling melodies and lyricism. As the track title suggests, there is a reflective and hopeful quality to the humorous and self deprecating tone of Buchanan-Simpson’s writing: “in a funny way, it makes you turn around and face the day… and feel like an idiot.” It's Terrible Signal at their most raw, pure and composed, and an exciting step forward from one of Melbourne’s most promising acts. 

Listen to 'Look in the Water' above, and head to Facebook to find out where you can catch Terrible Signal next.