From the moment that I first heard Amandah Wilkinson shrieking "I've been doing your DIRTY LAUNDRY" on album opener, 'Zero Zero', I knew I was listening to something pretty special. It wasn't just her voice (coming in somewhere between Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Courtney Love in her Hole heyday). Nor was it Wilkinson's huuuuge riffs, nor Taylor Henderson's jaunty violin, not even Sarah Gardiner's Killers-esque synths. No, this was something else. This was the sound of a band who just seem to click. Quite simply, Operator Please make sense.
And I've listened to pretty much nothing else for a fortnight. 'Yes Yes Vindictive' is an astonishing album for a band who only formed a couple of years ago on the Gold Coast of Australia in order to enter their school's Battle Of The Bands competition, and who are all still young enough that none of them were alive when Kylie and Jason first hit our UK TV screens. It's a slice of fizzing Aussie pop-punk-rock sunshine, and it's completely engrossing from start to finish.
Current single, 'Get What You Want' bubbles up to the boil as Wilkinson breathes "I wish I could feed you some Ritalin so maybe I could get a reaction or maybe even some facial expression", but it's the third track, 'Leave It Alone' that seems to be the statement of intent. The violins get more forceful, more danceable, and the chorus bursts through, and sticks. I've had that chorus in my head for a fortnight now. I can't get rid of it, but I'm not sure I want to. 'Leave It Alone' is an immense indie-pop song, not far from Rilo Kiley, yet commercial enough to have the potential to be a chart-topper, no hyperbole.
The pace is relentless, with 'Cringe' and then their most famous song to date, the short, sharp 'Just A Song About Ping Pong'. Clocking in at about two minutes in length, Wilkinson spits out the non-sensical lyrics (about table tennis, hence the title) at breakneck speed, whilst a classic rock riff rifles through the background. The album finally slows down on 'Two For My Seconds', before Operator Please put the foot back on the gas for another album highlight. '6/8'. A slow burner, it's probably my favourite vocal performance on the album. Wilkinson manages to sound sultry and seductive, yet angry and rebellious simultaneously, whilst another fine violin performance soars above her vocals.
Next up is the album's title track, and it displays lyrical maturity beyond their years, as Wilkinson sings "just out of curiosity can you tell me how old you think I should be". It's a close partner of 'Just A Song About Ping Pong' - rapid-fire lyrics, heavy guitars, an indie dancefloor filler. There is another change of pace for 'Other Song', which sounds like it would have fitted well on the Juno soundtrack - a clear nod to Kimya Dawson in the style of tune. 'Terminal Disease' is another sub-two minute spiky punk number, Wilkinson declaring that she's "built tough, road tested, professional terminal disease". And the album closes out with the synth-led 'Ghost' (featuring some great backing vocals from violinist Henderson) and another slower number, 'Pantomime', as Wilkinson ditches the shriekiness that has preceded it for a softer, more gentle vocal.
You'll note that I've not mentioned the drums of Tim Commandeur (great name, incidentally, and from photos, he appears to be about 6 years old) or the bass of Ashley McConnell, but that's intentional. They are unquestionably competent musicians, but Operator Please are all about the glam of the three girls up front, not the professionalism of the two guys at the back). Sarah Gardiner's keyboard playing creates the melodies, Taylor Henderson's violins offer something different to the more traditional riot grrl acts, and Amandah Wilkinson's vocals and guitar dominate proceedings. At times, she plays and sings so frantically that you could imagine her having been an integral member of a band like Slayer or Motorhead. But then, just to demonstrate the variety, she slows everything down, and it's as if she's flirting with you, the individual listener.
I know I get over-excited about my music from time to time, but in this instance, I truly feel justified when I say that we have a genuine album of the year contender here. If you like your pop punky, if you like your indie rocking, and if you like your riffs with added violins, then you'll love Operator Please.