MANILA -- Olympia Maru’s second album, "Golden Age," is a darn good example why music works best on vinyl.
First off is the black-and-white cover of a church in the middle of Iceland’s frozen tundra with a woman outside gazing atop its spire is cause for wonder. It makes for a powerful photograph, and as the cover for "Golden Age," you could actually frame it.
You can’t help but fixate on the photo and wonder about the its title -- except it’s not just some throwback.
And second, it’s an ironic, wonderfully eccentric album that sounds well.
Traces of '90s Brit rock and shoegaze textures here and there, Olympia Maru has retained its muscular sonics a la American post-rock bands like Interpol.
The dramatic “Closer” with its lovely British Sea Power ode, opens the album and lifts you up in the air with vocalist Ahmad Tanji’s unintelligible warbling in true shoegaze fashion.
However, "Golden Age" finds its legs in the third track, the mysteriously named “Pterodactyl” with the propulsive drumming of Shinji Tanaka taking you like a night flight in the big city with all its lights (think of Iron Man taking to the skies in the first film). I love how the band opted for a fade out on this song with the guitars of Siops Chua and Bryan Kong wailing away like on Tears for Fear’s “Goodnight Song.”
As we pointed out earlier, Tanaka’s drumming gives the band a backbeat that was noticeably missing in Olympia Maru’s first album, "Sky Falling," where they used a drum machine.
I have always been a fan of Tanaka’s drumming wherein he does right for the song, nothing overly fancy. Simple steady, solid, and pronounced stick work.
Such as on the Side-B opener, “Crybaby,” an Oasis-type rocker with Tanji showing amazing dexterity.
All that is on display as the band alternates their rockers with songs that take you back. “Candle” is Beatlesque and Oasis-like, like an outtake from the latter’s "(What’s the Story) Morning Glory" sessions.
“Still on the Phone” is a raunchy twanging cut out of a Pretenders’ songbook, while the title track nods to the Railway Children and the Smith’s Mike Joyce (“Reel Around the Fountain”) and ends the eight-track LP.
Along with a more coherent and tighter approach to the music, Olympia Maru has pulled off the surprise gem of an album of this most difficult 2020.
Thematically, the album is a reflection of adulthood in this day and age that is equally rewarding and challenging. Elaborated Chua: “I don’t want to overanalyze having kids as it has been part of the human experience for thousands and thousands of years. It is visceral and surreal at times and you at times question your reasons for being. And that for me, I guess, is the golden age of my life -- watching my kids grow and make the most out of the sacrifices parents make to mold and prepare them.”
And Olympia Maru’s second album, the best of their lot thus far, does break that mold.