I listened to this album walking to and from work over the past couple of days, and was all prepared to dismiss much of the album as lacking energy.
Yet, listening again this early morn at the desk in my study, the album seems much more vibrant and perky, and much less grating than the intermittent traffic noises in our streets.
There is quite a lot to like on this long player. Atko has penned two neat tracks that adopt cricketing parlance with aplomb: A Sporting Declaration and Girlfriend in Disguise.
In a more equitable parallel universe Brett Lee would record a hugely successful Bollywood version of the former, and 200 million rabid Indian music fans would chase up the original. In an even freakier alternaverse The Mabels would then become the multimedia megastars on the sub-continent and field a team of paunchy, bearded, cardigan-wearing music geeks that takes out the IPL crown!
Returning to reality, this album has two well-constructed psalms to suburban and intercity separation (Fitzroy-Abbotsford (I think), Fitzroy-Brisbane respectively), and more wheat than chaff. The back half of the album is a little slower and morbid than I’d like.
File under: Working from home
And thus begins our journey into the letter M.
493 reviews ago I wrote a pretty damning review of the debut solo album from The Mabels’ frontman.
Part of my disappointment stemmed from my affection for his earlier work. This, the band’s 1998 debut, showcases much of what they did best (although an earlier EP is possibly their peak).
Like much of the Candle Records’ catalogue this is a subtle, mellow grower of an album. The band construct tales of small town life, and inner suburban melancholia. The former material is more touching and captures a claustrophobic world not typically observed outside Tim Winton stories and country music.
The sexual politics (Filipino Bride, Small Town Charity Queen) are handled without purience, with a smattering of humour on the side (Tennis Player’s Girlfriends).
The more urbane numbers of the album contrast well, and lighten the tone, with occasional bursts of energy. Sitting in a Cyclone was a personal live fave, while Ecstatic showcases the combo’s ability to deliver a sense of fragility (and the horns are a treat too… as seen in this rare live footage):
If you are after a cosy, honest album that rewards mutliple listens, this is worth chasing up.
File under: Afternoon delight
A week’s a long time in football, and like dog years, in music-reviewing time a day is the equivalent.
While Naturaliste drew analogies to a tired, lacklustre football performance, this follow-up sees the band burst back on to the field with much-needed enthusiasm and zip, suggesting perhaps we’d experienced merely a Hiccup in our Happiness.
Horns are blown, babababas abound and I feel much…well…warmer.
The first three tracks on this album kick goals with welcome energy. Sure there is less experimentation, but I don’t mind. I’ve become the fan who wants to see the same old routines.
Well, I do for the first half. But by the time we’re done bragging about knowing folks in San Francisco, I’m starting to get a little restless again.
After the (very delightful) twee² of Sunlight in a Jar, my teeth are starting to ache from excessive sweetness, and I yawn distractedly through the subsequent five tracks.
When all looks lost, up pops a closing track that ticks most of the ‘should hate this’ boxes (under-structured, no chorus, indulgent phrasing, glowing references to hipsters at parties with tattoos), but which I find mesmerising – Fiction. As a final instalment to my extensive Lucksmiths odyssey (I didn’t buy their last two albums) it is a wonderful surprise twist in the tale:
File under: Thanks for the warm fuzziness
I spent a very chilly and depressing afternoon yesterday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
I was there to support my football team of choice as they took on the powerhouse club de jour. We started well, in the sense that we scored first… but this was a false dawn, and the game was soon a massacre. I was left disappointed and disheartened.
Listening to this 2003 album sees me follow a similar trajectory. The album kicks off in a promising fashion. Camera Shy is one of strongest tracks from the second half of the band’s discography, with intriguing pacing and some deft writing (and a nice word of the day – heliolithic).
Soon, however, we are in a mess of mis-kicks and poor decision-making . The band gets bogged down in mundane variations on their least interesting, soporific balladry.
Beyond the somewhat promising Sandringham Line and the borderline sh*t- sibling Midweek Midmorning (possibly Darryl to T-Shirt Weather‘s Wayne Schimmelbusch), there is little to redeem this afternoon on the paddock.
To keep this awkward analogy going, this album should be seen as a one-time powerhouse team whose game-plan is looking stale and old hat trudging through a season with too little of their old spark and passion.
File under: Time for a clean out?
This is the 7th album in the Lucksmiths’ discography.
It isn’t a ‘real album’, however. Rather it is a collection of singles etc from a three-year period.
As such, it’s a surprisingly coherent opus, with a fuller band sound, greater use of horns, organs and other non-stringy instruments. To those who remember the simpler, early days this does mark a point where competence and musicality overwhelmed the sense of playfulness and ad-hockery we’d grown used to.
The world of ‘twee indie pop’ is really several (not mutually exclusive) sub-genres of the (i) low-fi/ anaemic (ii) brash acoustic powerpop (iii) layered and lush and (iv) the outright pretentious.
I would argue that the Luckas typically steered clear of (i) and (iv), but certainly shifted away from (ii) (to (iii)) over time. It’s a shame but understandable. Their last gasps of unashamed pop are wonderful – see T-Shirt Weather:
The more tranquil tracks are still admirable and catchy takes on nostalgia (Cassingle Revival, I Prefer the Twentieth Century), boardgames (Even Stevens) and domestic roadtrips (Southernmost, Great Dividing Range).
Moving further and further away from the band’s last live efforts, I’m surprised how languid and loungey their albums feel. The urge to sway is defeating any memory of dancing and jumping… the passing of youth?
File under: Milestone or millstone?
Patient readers, I am alive, but lazy. Here’s my first review in over a month!!
In the very early days of courting my eventual wife, I purchased her this CD. Thankfully she liked it, as I was very into it (and this band) at the time.
As an intro to the band, this album works well, as there are still hints to their earlier playfulness and punnery.
Self-Preservation is poppy gold that certainly worked as an anthem for our burgeoning relationship. And in terms of wordsmithing, this could Marty Donald’s finest moment: “why don’t you let go of your boy and see you’ve lost none of your buoyancy?” (Synchronised Sinking).
This is principally a slow, delicate album, with few bursts of energy (it probably marked the point when their gigs become a lot more about swaying than jumping around). At its best, this style is mesmerising, such as on the heartbreaking heroin tale First Cousin. At times in can be a little too twee and dull however.
In the end, the high points of this album far outweight the more meandering. If you kicking of a romance in the coming weeks, feel free to copy my strategy and pop this in the mail for your suitee…
File under: Coquettish?
I’ve never found there to be much of a correlation between the length of an album and it’s quality. If anything a meandering album is often a sign of miscalculated confidence or an inability to cull.
This is perhaps the shortest of the Lucksmiths albums, with only ten tracks over 27 minutes. And it’s songs weren’t even conceived or recorded in an album setting (collecting as it does songs from singles, b-sides, and a couple of compilations), yet it is close to their strongest release thus far.
Gone are all allusions to literature and history, with the songwriting focused on the everyday, on seemingly effortless wordplay, and on a diversity of song structures (yet devoid of too much noodling).
The album opens with a classic exercise in all the above-mentioned arts, with the punny title Untidy Towns:
What follows are tales of depressed friends (Pin Cushion), in depressing jobs (Edward, Sandwich Hand), who leave housemates hungry (The Art of Cooking For Two), but who have excellent driving skills (A Great Parker).
I’ve always delighted in the rambunctiousness of Beer Nut, and imagine being scribbled from within a cracking hangover.
I enjoy this album as a rainy afternoon listen (and have enjoyed seeing some snowflakes out my window during this review).
File under: Tell your friends