On of the cusp of becoming one of the biggest things in Australian rock, Tiny Little Houses release their first album Idiot Proverbs via Ivy League Records, home to The Vines and Cloud Control, to high expectations.
Following on from the success and air play of their songs Milo Tin and Easy from their first two EPs, the singles released ahead of this record, Garbage Bin and Entitled Generation, also went straight onto high rotation at Triple J and were quickly followed by the announcement of the band’s second ever national tour this March. The build of the Houses has been rather quick that it’s hard to imagine that just three years ago the band was just frontman Caleb Karvountzis’ bedroom project, and there were no other band members.
Idiot Proverbs is a solid record and a fair debut. Throughout, you can’t help but feel that Caleb and co. are holding back though, and, (as a relatively new band) are evolving as they recorded this record. There is plenty of talent, with impressive songwriting and lyricism on show, and the songs have come together rather nicely. There is a decent range of short, fast tunes and longer, slower tunes, but at the end of the day, the band do sound like a lot of other bands on this record.
First single Garbage Bin is 80% Weezer and 20% Pavement, as the band offer up a rather inspired and self-aware take on the slacker, fuzzed-up rock of the 90s. Karvountzis’ dynamic vocals, which range from conversational in the verses to an intentionally dead-panned roar in the choruses, drive the track through its paces and prevent the four-chord, quiet-loud-quiet structure from verging on the generic. Looking forwards, the anthemic chorus is bound to be greeted with both arms and mouths wide open as a festival singalong.
The same goes for Entitled Generation, which is a faster-paced number that finds Karvountzis breaking up his syllables into tunefully measured hooks. Generation has more in common with the 90s punk-pop of Jebediah and Ammonia, while maintaining an arty feel with angular, quiet-loud-quiet guitars. And as the song races by, you can’t help but notice that Karvountzis’ quirky, observational lyrics ensure the song has a deeper meaning.
Elsewhere, Team Player is a pop-fizzer with “ooh” back ups in the chorus. The cleaner guitars and melodic chords ring out, as Karvountzis delivers clever lines like, “I’m a real team player when I want to score.” Everyone Is slows things down, allowing the band to demonstrate that they have more than one mode and Nowhere, SA, a tale of having to get out of a small town to experience ‘the real world’, has a bit of a Sleepy Jackson feel to it, with reverb and slap back on the drums and the lead guitar taking on organ tones.
A real stand out is Short Hair. A slower tune, the song is about a wallflower at a party who is unable to talk to the girl he desires. There are similarities sonically to Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So with the song’s hooks, ballad verses and epic builds up within the chorus. There is ‘something more’ to the song though that at first take is difficult to pinpoint. The title comes from a story that Karvountzis was told by his girlfriend’s uncle in reference to a friend that was a little uptight, so therefore told to “let down his short hair”, and when this clever phrasing is combined with experiences that Karvountzis’ has shared in the press of not being a very cool teen and feeling out of place at parties, it appears that the ‘something more’ this song offers may just be a new level of authenticity and honesty that the band are able to capture on their recording.
As a result, while they may yet to have reached the peak of their abilities, and are far from being entitled to anything, the future does looks very promising for Tiny Little Houses.
MICHAEL D HOLLICK