Review: The Neptune Power Federation ‘Goodnight My Children’

Maybe it’s because the news is an endless parade of things going wrong or maybe it’s just me, but my first reaction on hearing that The Neptune Power Federation (TNPF from now on – my typing isn’t up to full names these days) was releasing a new album was a concern.

To provide some brief context: TNPF are probably my favourite band active right now and, for my money, their last album (2022’s Le Demon De L’Amour) was their finest work to date.

The Neptune Power Federation 'Goodnight My Children' Artwork
The Neptune Power Federation ‘Goodnight My Children’ Artwork

I did have a lengthy spiel prepared with Bobby Fischer as an example of the benefits of quitting while you’re ahead, but I’ll spare you that and just say I was worried that any follow-up to that record would be a disappointment, and who wants to be disappointed by their favourite band?

In my defence, my sense of foreboding wasn’t entirely without foundation as I wasn’t mad keen on the press blurb: ‘Inspired by the carefree and reckless Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Goodnight My Children finds The Neptune Power Federation leaning into the poppier regions of their sound (think the Sunset Strip merging with late 1970s radio rock).’ And while I wasn’t bowled over on my first few listens, I’m pleased to report that Goodnight My Children is another brilliant album and a more than worthy addition to TNPF’s discography.

For the uninitiated: TNPF are a five-piece from Sydney who’ve been fighting the good fight since 2012 and are definite adherents to the ‘more is more’ philosophy. If you fancy an unholy mish-mash of ‘70s and ‘80s rock and metal served up with a side of bombast and lashings of scuzz, then they are the band for you.

Replete with absurd stage names, led by the ever-charismatic Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch, and with each release lovingly decorated by guitarist/artist Inverted Crucifox, they are the sort of cult you really should join. I had a rare moment of eloquence in setting out their appeal last time around (if you have worrying amounts of spare time, you can read it here) which I can summarise as a knowing but unironic love of all the most ridiculous things about rock and roll.

Let Us Begin starts the album off with a bang. A track that would sit comfortably on pretty much any of their previous albums, it’s a foot-to-the-floor rager with squealing guitar solos, a big chorus and trademark vocal quirks. Lock & Key is next and definitely has a strong whiff of the sleazy Sunset Strip rawk referenced in the press release. It’s based on a staccato riff over a root-notes-only bassline, but with enough touches to make it unmistakably TNPF – I’m thinking of the handclaps over the verses and the band’s common trick of multi-tracking the Imperial Priestess vocals so that she provides her own backing. The chorus is very pop-flavoured and works a treat with the scuzzy guitars and another ripping solo.

It strikes a perfect balance between ‘70s boogie rock and ‘80s sleaze with a definite pop sensibility…

Twas A Lie is further proof that they weren’t kidding in the press release – the opening guitar line is naggingly familiar and, with the addition of some keys, it’s a four-minute trip into pure ‘70s radio rock nirvana complete with cowbell. As you’d expect, there’s another big chorus based around a choppy riff and, it being TNPF, you can enjoy the dark lyrics that are starkly at odds with a tune that puts you in mind of driving with the top down on a summer’s evening.

Woe Be Father’s Troubled Mind has an intriguing intro with a very ‘80s synth line, something that crops up later on as well. Once the track proper begins, we’re back in a land of big, grimy guitars, albeit with a darker atmosphere this time. It’s another belting tune, with a trademark spoken word section from the Imperial Priestess, but I am intrigued by what they would have come up with if they’d carried on with that synth.

Betrothed To The Serpent is another tune where I can only salute the honesty of the press blurb (something I very rarely do, and not just because saluting blurb is a bit weird). It strikes a perfect balance between ‘70s boogie rock and ‘80s sleaze with a definite pop sensibility. Evermore is another belting tune, half crunchy guitar, half sugary pop power ballad, that shows off the benefits of having a singer who can actually sing.

Hariette Mae starts off with another synth intro, but this time it is used throughout the tune and adds a thoroughly enjoyable twist to the classic TNPF formula. After a haunting first half, the track builds in intensity, before taking an about-turn and finishing with a minute or so of soaring stadium rock. The album finishes with the title track with TNPF working their magic on the timeless quiet-verse-loud-chorus formula with a wonderfully melodramatic vocal turn from the Imperial Priestess.

While there’s nothing on Goodnight My Children that’s quite as gloriously bizarre as Neath A Shin Ei Sun or We Beasts Of The Night, it’s still unmistakably The Neptune Power Federation and its (comparatively) subtle charms are many. It might have taken a few listens to really hit home, but it’s got me wondering whether I actually like it more than Le Demon De L’Amour. I can’t imagine it not being on my (and many other people’s) best of lists come the year-end.

Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Liam Blanc