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Take these things into account before I explain why There Are No New Clouds may be the best new rock album of the year. Firstly, their music has been featured on Dawson's Creek. Secondly, this, their first full length (composed of two earlier recorded Ep's) was recorded by Wayne Connelly, the mastermind behind your favorite Silverchair recordings. And, here's the clincher, as a quickly thrown together high school outfit, they decided to originally bestow upon themselves the unforgivable moniker of Firehosereel.

Now those are certainly difficult qualities to overcome, especially when smug writers are going to scrutinize every last superficial element of a band simply because they have generated "buzz," a term that cooler-than-thou, disporting journalists have ruined by associating it with everything other than the music itself. (I'm not a critic you see, just a fan who writes and hopes to promote good sounds. Writing for free, I only choose to write about music I like.) But I remember when buzz was a good thing and at 26, I'm not an old guy at all. Buzz wasn't something that instantly made indie kids sneer; it didn't necessitate pools of warm saliva in a corporate A&R guy' s mouth, dollar signs in his eyes. It meant copying a tape as soon as you got home. It meant getting tickets before the show sold out - and it always sold out. And Ides of Space are definitely a band that would have been in the buzz bin.

Ides of Space is what many people have been waiting for for the last few years - guitar driven, superbly written melodic pop. The ten tracks on this record represent a paean directed towards all of the best bands that dominated the alternative underground of the late eighties, early nineties, yet for a record that inspires instant nostalgia it still seems surprisingly new. Perhaps the state of present day music, with its ever expanding genre classifications and the ease in which quality recordings can be successfully achieved at home, has thrown so much forced and contrived music my way that I've forgotten the power of solid, emotive rock. I now navigate a landscape that includes drill n' bass, alt-country, white trash hip-hop, afro-tech, screamo and minimal techno. These things didn't exist ten years ago. What started out as a varied musical interest has now become full-on sonic schizophrenia and I'm going fucking crazy trying to ingest it all.

And a record like There Are No Clouds is the fucking safe and certain stomach tonic that keeps me straight. If you think "Star Sign" is the best Teenage Fan Club song then you will like this record. If you feel Swervedriver's Raise was never recognized as the epic album it is, then you will like this record. If you find yourself placing My Bloody Valentine at the center of your heliocentric rock world, you will like this record. But it certainly will also appeal to anyone who doesn't have a clue what I just spent the last three sentences describing.

Having only released two Eps, it is absolutely amazing that the five Australians in Ides of Space - Mark Ayoub (guitars), Martin Barker (keyboards), Patrick Haid (guitar, vocals) Anthony The (drums) and Dave The (bass) - can pull off the consistency that binds this stellar collection of songs. They've abandoned the pretentious noodlings of star-obsessed rockers and the annoying, contrived indie tendencies to fuck with perfectly good songs in favor of pure song writing acuity and the optimistic sobriety of execution. It's impossible to believe that there truly was a demise in guitar driven pop in the mid-90s, yet it happened, its place fortunately filled by equally talented math and emo outfits.

At times, the soaring melodies and densely meshing walls of evocative ambience may yield comparisons to British shoegazer staples like Ride, Curve, Slowdive or Pale Saints. And you can even hear traces of Teenage Fanclub, Eugenius and The Wonder Stuff. Yet as wistful and detached as Haid's vocal melodies may seem there is an classic pop urgency buried underneath reminiscent of American indies like Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo. The combination amounts to a matured early nineties sound, bittersweet yet richly fulfilling. An execution of a sound delivered with a complexity that often belies the fragile nature of its melody. Met with considerable enthusiasm (read buzz) both here and abroad, Ides of Space have released one of the more promising debuts in quite a long while. There Are No New Clouds is as refined and rousing a record as any released this year. Perhaps there are others, yet without the buzz, how will I ever know?

-- Steve Marchese

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