Tag Archives: Rob Clarkson

366. Various Artists – “Feast”

This resides also in the until now ignored F ‘Various Artists’ section.

We’re going for a Candle Records double feature.  This was the  label’s 2002 collection of 20 songs from 10 acts in the stable.

As with most of these compendiums, the tracks were pretty much all previously unreleased.  Many would never see the light of day elsewhere.  These weren’t throwaway b-sides, but rather genuine nuggets of gold from the usual suspects (and a couple of fleeting follies).

It contains a true classic from the Ruck Rover lads. Mortgage is the first in their eventual bookend grizzles about the inanity of conversations with couples. It contains some of the most biting and perfect lyrics in songwriting history (“Was your deposit really that large? Were the bank fees really that low? Are repayments really that flexible? Bugger, me whatta you know”).

Darren Hanlon delivers his usual poignant tale of romantic inadequacy on Yes, There is a Slight Chance He Might Actually Fail, and Tim Oxley debuted his brilliant House Husband. A few of the less known Candlites Weave, and the once off D.O.P.H. manage some passable pop.

I was captivated by the album when it came out, and it’s been fun revisiting.

File under: More meat than Masterchef

206. Kimya Dawson – “Hidden Vagenda”

I may be stating the obvious here, but the world of popular music is pretty sexist. In particular, there is enormous differences in the expectation around vocal ability. 

Album Cover Hidden Vagenda Kimya DawsonWhile Dylan, Richman and many other dudes can get away with close-to-atonal stylings, we expect a female vocalist to sing like an angel (with this simile premised on (i) angels existing and (ii) said angels being perfect in diction and pitch).

Kimya Dawson thus sticks out like an ailing thumb, with a voice that breaks, crackles and splutters throughout.  Many of you will be familiar with it as the defacto “voice” of Ellen Page from the Juno soundtrack.

Here we hear Dawson in full swing, delivering fourteen lyrics-heavy numbers. Many of them thrill me, overburdened as they are with oddball imagery, memorable phrases and insane couplets. 

Dawson occupies a parallel universe to most folk and melds the cynicism of Rob Clarkson, the naivety of Jonathan Richman and the perversity of The Magnetic Fields.

This album contains enough gems (the first 3 tracks are fantastic, Parade pure summer joy) to overcome the slide in quality in the back half.

One final notes, this album benefits considerably from headphone listening…

File under : Surrender to her Vagenda

174. Rob Clarkson – “Zone One”

In the wake of the retrospective “Shirts & Skins” release, Rob Clarkson reunited with himself and hit the stage and studio as a single singer-songwriter again.

Album Cover Rob Clarkson Zone OneThe single bit is not just a description of his stage set-up but also his social status (it would seem).  So much of this album is a lament to the life the regularly dumped.

Indeed, if this album is autobiographical, it would seem the intervening decade had not been particularly kind to Rob.  He’s now hanging at bars constructing witticisms and witty japes (Thought Bubble) and avoiding mementos of lost relationships (Photo and Audio). He’s still trapped in share houses with the associated risks (The Housemate who Brought a Moaner Home).

Life has gone on for his friends, now entrenched in baby-making (the eerily accurate What did we talk about (before you had your babies)?).  I’m reluctant to quote lyrics, but this one’s a ripper:

“You perpetuate the species
But do you have to mention faeces?”

I’m a little torn on whether I should feel guilt in Clarkson’s melancholy and wallowing. But, in the end, he’s is still a fantastic songsmith, constructing even trickier lyrical twists than in his younger days. It is a shame he won’t ever be a fucking rockstar (that’s another quote).

File under: On track

173. Rob Clarkson – “Shirts and Skins”

A sad reflection on the taste of Aussie music buyers (and labels) is that Rob Clarkson’s afore-reviewed album disappeared from the shelves and catalogues far too quickly.

Album Cover Rob Clarkson Shirts & Skins andThankfully Candle Records cobbled together this “best of”.

You see Rob broke up with himself in 1996 and thusforth played in bands of various names and quality.  This double-album brings together the standout tracks from his album and 3 EPs, including the very unattainable “Hellbent in Hobart” (if anyone has a copy they’d like to share, please contact me).  So here we find his biggest ‘hit’ Beautiful Girls and Beautiful Girls, plus many other gems.

In a perfect world the Tasmanian tourist folks would have embraced his Hobart City of Love as a jingle.

The second CD here are 9 tracks recorded live at the Punters Club in 1996, and this is where the true gold lies.  Finally I ended up with recordings of tunes that I’d learnt the words to from so many live sightings.  The standouts include the very wise Don’t Sleep with Your Best Friends, and the gay anthem candidate I Only Sleep with Boys Now).

These two tracks showcase his ballsy-ness as a songwriter and his wit. The recordings themselves perfectly capture the energy and intimacy of standing 10 feet away from him at venues as he strummed, sung and sniped his way through yet another evening.

The album finishes with the veritable golden fleece a track Rob couldn’t escape over the years, the ridiculously catchy Fiona and her Yellow Car. Pure brilliance.

Donning my critic hat (and my purchase advisor visor), I must say this collection is a little disjointed and there are a few tracks that don’t quite cut it.  If you could still get hold of his earlier album you should buy that.  But this is a fantastic substitute worthy of your hard earned.

File under: A winning selection

172. Rob Clarkson – “Off Your Faith”

Finally my attentions return to a CD that I’ve heard a lot of. Indeed it is has been a much-played member of my collection since it’s release in 1993.

Album Cover Clarkson Rob Off Your FaithBack then Clarkson was an angel-faced, girlie-voiced, singer-songwriter who belted out typically sarcastic, caustic and funny pop gems on his acoustic guitar on stages up and down Brunswick St.

These days, he is still most of things, but resides up Sydney way (last I heard) and doesn’t gig anywhere near as much. Which is a shame, as he is a rare talent.

This debut long-player is laden with pun-heavy, memorable tunes, many of which have been stuck in my head for the past decade and a half. Some have lost currency. Not many folks would now get the John Hewson sniping. And the passing of Freddie Mercury and Carry On star Kenneth Williams are pretty old news.

Most tracks still sound fresh and relevant however. There’s always a place for slacker procrastination (When I’m 29), bitching about exes (Human Equivalent of Penicillin), bragging about affairs (Subtly Blatant) and for mocking aspiring actors (Didn’t I See You In?).

This is a classic in my world and will continue to get heavy airplay.

File under: Worth believing in…

40. Various Artists – “Banter”

I just realised that I’d forgotten to look over in the ‘compilations’ section lately. There are a few banked up that I’ll chuck into the mix over the coming weeks (so as to break up the long streaks of same-artist reviews).

banter-candle-records-compilation-album-coverCandle Records was the home of Aussie acoustic pop from 1994-2007. This was the second of their compilation CDs. The neat thing is that they didn’t just chuck together songs fans probably already owned. Instead this release includes 22 tracks from 11 acts, none of which had yet appeared on recordings. In fact, this CD saw the debut of a few new faces, including one who would become the label’s biggest name (at least down under).

Part of the thrill of Candle for me was that these were bands I was very regularly seeing play around the pubs of Fitzroy (and sometimes even North Fitzroy). Some of the songs were familiar from live sets, others were little tasters of bands from far afield (Sydney, Brisbane, Perth). Songs were typically very well crafted, some with a strong humorous element, many earnest and daggy.

Highlights: the LucksmithsT-shirt Weather, the debut tracks from Darren Hanlon (especially the hard-to-find-elsewhere Funpark Fugitives) and country-chicks Fibrotown who sadly never graced another Candle release. One of my bugbears with Candle was that the artists often lost their vitality and uniqueness over time. These sampler albums are wonderful reminders of them at their freshest. It is sad the label is no more…

File under: A very tasty sampler