18 Nov 2023

Review: The Giant's Lawn by Wurld Series

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 18 November 2023

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Wurld Series

Photo: Melted Ice Cream

Christchurch alt scamps Wurld Series have been releasing swollen LPs of scrappy guitar music since 2017, before a review on tastemaking website Pitchfork gave their 2021 release What’s Growing an unexpected boost. 

A few years later they’re back with an even more sprawling and ambitious collection called The Giant’s Lawn, with songs that, in the best indie rock tradition, toe the line between heavily invested, and cheerfully tossed off. 

‘World of Perverts’ is just one of many head-turning titles here, a song that’s amicable up until that unnerving, 80’s inflected synth and vocal lead. 

The band orbits songwriter Luke Towart, who continues to show he’s a dab hand at instantly catchy riffs, and melodies with some substance to them. His writing still has an American indie bent, but that track is one where you can hear the British psych-folk mentioned in the band’s bio come to the fore. 

He’s joined by Ben Woods, himself an accomplished solo performer, on multiple instruments, Brian Feary on drums, primarily, with Ben Dodd showing up to provide bass on some tracks. Going through the liner notes makes clear that, on tape at least, this is a studio project rather than a traditional band, with everyone switching roles and chipping in where needed. 

Although on tracks like ‘Lord of Flies’ they do snap with the energy of four people in a room together. 

There are comparisons to be drawn, from Guided by Voices in the focus on hooks and brevity - the longest song barely scrapes over three and a half minutes - and luminaries like Pavement in the slightly aloof sprinkle of irony. The influence of multiple Flying Nun artists is here too - the blistering leads of The 3Ds, The Clean’s devil-may-care performance style, and Chris Knox and Tall Dwarves scrapbook-style assemblage. 

There’s also the plethora of bands that surround them in Christchurch, many of them signed to Feary’s Melted Ice Cream record label. 

The real throughline to my ears is knowing when a song’s finished, even if that means it, for a moment, seems to be dissolving into nothing. ‘Alive With Flies’ floats over minimal acoustic and percussion, then lets Reuben Derrick vamp on saxophone for a while as everything else falls away. 

The next track, ‘Illustrious Plates’, shows the band can nail a good riff, with production touches like a massive ringing snare drum aiding the feeling of rock swagger.

Towart is largely happy to stay in one conversational register throughout The Giant’s Lawn. That really doesn’t matter though, as his vocal lines are eminently hummable, and the approach always suits the songs.

As an orator you get an idea of where he’s coming from in those ornate song titles, with other entries including ‘The Cloven Stone’, ‘A Fanciful Assault Vehicle’, and ‘The Pugilist’. The track ‘Not the Muscle of the Heart’ features the line “Neither sprig nor star could hold me back, I’ll wait until my branches turn to bone”.

Maybe he just likes the way these turns of phrase sound, or maybe there’s an arcane bigger picture he’s alluding to, but regardless, combining archaic prose with scruffy fuzz pop stays interesting. 

It’s a seventeen track collection that’s satisfyingly sprawling, but more importantly, each song is a trove of melodic nuggets waiting to be uncovered.