Date: June 14, 2003
Author: Bernard Zuel
Publication: The Sydney Morning Herald
Headline: Neapolitan pop

If It Was You (Vapor/Shock)

This isn't the best album of the year. It isn't even the best album this week. But it has a spirit and an energy that marks it out as special, as something reminding you that the familiar can still excite if it's done with freshness.

Teenage Canadian twins Tegan and Sara Quin released a quasi-folk debut album three years ago that wore its Ani di Franco influences lavishly.

But there's no mistaking If It Was You as folk. That is pretty clear from the foot-stomping first song Time Running, with its choppy guitars, Clouds-like sway-and-snarl and even a hint of (say it quietly) Pat Benatar in its chorus.

And that impression is confirmed by You Went Away and I Hear Noises, both great little slices of fuzzed pop that could be the now long-forgotten Primitives or even the Hummingbirds.

The folk hasn't gone away. Living Room has banjo, a skipping rhythm and an everyone-together-now doubled voiced chorus; and the acoustic guitar-driven And Darling could be delivered in a herbal cafe without raising eyebrows. But there's a bustling now throughout the album, with the 21-year-old sisters mostly successful in balancing the smarminess of the smart kid with the temperance of a getting-wiser-all-the-time adult.

Sure Terrible Storm does fall into an Alanis Morissette hole in its choruses but there are sneaky little Robert Fripp echoes in the snaky guitar of Want to be Bad to balance it. And while City Girl leans on some pale reggae, Underwater opens up into a big-hearted pop chorus.

And then there's the pick of the album, Monday Monday Monday. This sounds like a Spector girl group discovering guitars, a persistent groove playing against off-hand vocals delivering lines such as "your house or mine/I don't really care about it anymore".

So yes, it's familiar - and if you're looking for the previously untouched you should look elsewhere. But if you like your pop songs delivered with spunk as well as tunes, stop here a while. BZ.