It’s Alright, It’s OK, Satellite Commander, the debut album from Australian folk rockers Stereoflower, is altogether compelling and entertaining but unfortunately is also often rough and disjointed. The character of this work begins and ends with the vocals of frontman Alex Elbery. His veritable howl of a voice vacillates between passionate and folksy—earning him well-deserved comparison to Conor Oberst—and deranged, a la McCartney belting out “Helter Skelter.” His presence provides both the most exciting and climactic moments of the album and the most grating qualities of the lesser tracks, and several tracks, especially “St. Clements Day,” sound like they just missed the cut for the aforementioned Oberst’s recent album Outer South.
While it is easy for one to become mired in the clichéd indie sounds of “We All Think You’re Dreaming,” the corny sound effects of the quasi-biographical “Marko Remarko” or the general melodrama of the closing track “What Goes Around (Gets Lost),” this album shows numerous flashes of promise for the future of this young group. Beginning with the energetic refrain of “The Cocaine Bebop,” Elbery demonstrates a charisma that few frontmen can boast, especially in a studio. Another common denominator among the various tracks that stand out to me is the presence of the soft, soothing female complement to Elbery’s wailing vocals, provided by drummer “Dr.” Blythe Weightman. Her presence on the combination of the flighty, acoustic duet “I Love You Like Lost Time” and the bluegrass-infused “If Wishes Were Horses (Then We’d All Be Cowboys)” make for a strong middle of the album, which perhaps accentuates the disappointment brought on by its conclusion. Still, precious few debut albums are without flaw, and while I am not prepared to dub Stereoflower the next Bright Eyes, any group that shows this level of passion, diverse instrumentation, and grand (if possibly misguided) creative vision has earned themselves a second listen in my book.