Bringing sunny power pop all the way from Sydney, Matthew Shacallis fronts a three piece band on his 2014 EP ‘Reach The Stars’. It’s a record that conveys a natural sound while still retaining the kind of well-crafted production value you’d expect from his chosen musical niche.
With a sixties twang and nod to seventies pop delivered via nineties revivalist eye, ‘Summer Sun’ weaves a strong melody around an unfussy bassline and ringing guitars. That ringing edge is absolutely essential in making this tune a sure-fire winner, with tones of Teenage Fanclub running so deep through its centre. Staccato guitar riffs and a walking bassline on the verses give way to a bombastic drum line filling the chorus, all the while a strong vocal melody can be heard carrying everything. An instant ear-catcher, this is the very essence of retro power pop…and despite hundreds of people mining such a style for inspiration, with a keen ear for a hook and an even keener guitar-based melody, Shacallis manages to make everything sound inspiring. A similar mood colours ‘Tell Me Girl’ – a kind of Matthew Sweet driven, nineties power pop homage to the Turtles – with strong guitar lines pulling influence from San Franciscan pop with multi-tracked vocals adding a sun-kissed feel throughout. Beyond the tune, Shacallis’s vocal style isn’t always as perfect as such a tune would usually demand; his overall delivery is rather naturalistic, with an Aussie accent that’s particularly obvious in a few places but, once you’ve tuned into that, there’s much here to love. More of the same powers ‘Nothing To Show’, a tune with a particularly striking guitar intro and even more ringing sounds throughout. Shacallis turns in a joyous performance and while the chorus hook isn’t quite as strong, the work from the rhythm section is stellar: the drums have a constantly classic flair while the bassline – constantly vying for attention beneath those wonderful guitars – is extremely confident. For those who love Teenage Fanclub, a bit of 80s college rock and a shameless Byrdsian chime, these songs should provide much enjoyment.
The final pair shows a different angle to Shacallis’s song craft. Stripping away the poppier edges and going straight for the basic sixties pop sound, the reverb drenched ‘Do You Love Me’ presents a hard twang and driving solo, the overriding mood presenting a fine homage to the British Invasion. The echoing drums give a classically live sound, the slightly distorted vocals hark back to the hugely influential Flamin’ Groovies, while the vocal melody – absolutely essential in making this track work as well as it does – is a nod to The Zombies, albeit delivered without the plummy public school accent. Those looking for a slicker 10cc/Jellyfish angle from their pop mightn’t be especially taken with this tune at first, but it’s a fine example of the style. The title track is a short and thoughtful acoustic workout that’s just about stark enough for the fussier listener to be distracted by Shacallis’s chosen delivery, but the tune’s simplicity is one of the songwriter’s strengths; his Antipodean accent, meanwhile lends the charm of a Crowded House demo recording. A nice downbeat way to finish, even if the fully formed pop of the EP’s first half undeniably presents this artist in his best environment.
The EP length gives a great insight into a budding talent without leaving too much room for either excess or filler. While a few of the harmonies might not be as tight as they could be – the end results are often more Brendan Benson-esque than capturing the sheer perfection of Jellyfish or David Myhr – this is a fantastic collection of songs, almost guaranteed to please those looking for something that carries a timeless yet retro appeal.