EG weekly album reviews
The Flower Lane, Ducktails.
The Flower Lane
THE fourth album for Ducktails opens with Ivy Covered House, a piece of classic indie pop whose chiming guitars and lingering melancholy will be familiar to fans of Matt Mondanile's other band, Real Estate. But The Flower Lane is, thereafter, out to distance itself from its past; from both Real Estate's autumnal jangle and Ducktails' beachy chillwave. Backed by Big Troubles, Mondanile has made an album steeped in the slick indie of the early 1980s: in Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout. There's honking sax, wah guitar, clean synths and special guests; from electro nerds Ford & Lopatin, to guest vocals from Future Shuttle's Jessa Farkas and Cults' Madeline Follin. Each appears for a duet: Follin's serious pipes serving as emotional counterpoint to Mondanile's bashful mumbles on the soft-rockin' Sedan Magic; Farkas and Ian Drennan singing a sleepy-eyed devotional over the languorous romance of Letter of Intent. Making radically different records can run the risk of alienating listeners, but The Flower Lane will likely achieve the opposite: the disc priming Ducktails for a bona fide breakout.
Ready for Boredom
Bed Wettin' Bad Boys
THE thing people forget about Guided By Voices is that they never aspired to be a scrappy lo-fi band - they wanted to be the Beatles. Likewise, Sydney's Bed Wettin' Bad Boys arrived a couple of years back as a beer-soaked "party band", but that soon gave way to a desire to write riffs as big and direct as those of Kiss and Cheap Trick. They don't quite get there on debut album Ready for Boredom - who would? - but it's fun listening to them try. Singer Nic Warnock (R.I.P. Society label boss and record store clerk) strives for those notes on the desperate opener Devotion, or even Sally and its nod to classic rock. Rock'n'roll may be the Bad Boys' raison d'etre, but it's also at the heart of this record's gnawing frustration. "I just want to live a stress-free life," Warnock sings on Bite My Tongue, articulating that moment when the chaos of your early 20s dissipates and normalcy begins setting in. But it's welcomed by Warnock, who'd much rather "stay at home and get things done" than "go out for a good time". Or so he says.
Signed and Sealed in Blood
IT'S too easy to say that this album's opening lines, ''The boys are back/And they're looking for trouble'' are a statement of intent, but it's undeniable. Boston-based Dropkick Murphys' eighth album is a return to their rollicking blend of Celtic folk and punk rock and it's delivered with a big heart, a menacing sneer, and the occasional cheeky grin. These hell-raisers are at their best when all three characteristics are present in one song, as on Rose Tattoo; raucous rebel songs such as The Battle Rages On and Out of Our Heads; and the defiant drinking song End of the Night, which makes that commercial-radio staple, Closing Time, seem like a lullaby. There's always the risk that bands as stylised as this could slide into self-parody, but this album avoids that fate by delivering taut, sharp-edged songs that ring true from every angle. Their ode to the broken family Christmas, The Season's upon Us, is the even more dysfunctional blood relative to Paul Kelly's How to Make Gravy and will be a highlight of their April Australian tour.
(31 Tigers Records)
WHEN country singer Elizabeth Cook's father was jailed for the third time for running moonshine, he used his prison time to learn the welding trade, hence the title of Cook's most recent record, Welder. Released originally in 2010 but only recently given Australian distribution, Welder traverses the myopic happiness of teenage love (All the Time), life lost to nefarious pursuits (Heroin Addict Sister) and the rekindling of adolescent passion (Girlfriend Tonight). With a nod to Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, Cook walks reluctantly away from fading romance in I'm Beginning to Forget and proclaims undying affection in Follow You Like Smoke. On Snake in the Bed she might be simply recounting a freakish rural encounter, or maybe it's a metaphor for a drunken night gone horribly wrong. But it's on the gloriously rocking El Camino that Cook truly hits her straps: the iconography is American; the dirty-blues attitude and bogan attitude universally understood. Elizabeth Cook tells a damn good story.
Into the Woods
MELBOURNE group Into the Woods begin with bright '60s guitar pop and carefully venture towards melodically thought out variants on their deceptively nuanced debut album. The band doesn't have the fetishistic, stylised feel of out-and-out revivalists, although occasionally they come close as on Modern Girl, and thankfully the inherent pleasure of these tunes inform the world they sketch, keeping Into The Woods removed from the current chatter popular in Melbourne. Frontman Wayne Cross has a clipped urgency to his best vocals, reminiscent of Stephen Cummings back in the Sports' day, and it helps elevate the likes of Black Dog, where the pitch and pull of the jangling guitar and the melancholic keyboards aptly sums up the emotional entanglement the song's protagonist struggles with. The moody verses and desolate twang of I Mark the Day is the closest the band comes to transforming its aesthetic, approaching a desperate finality that is effectively suggestive. "Down the hole and away we go, into our private world," promises K Kids , and that's where they happily stay.
Anything in Return, Toro y Moi.
Anything in Return
Toro y Moi
IN 2010, Chaz Bundick unveiled Les Sins, a dance-floor alter ego who contrasted with the slippery, slurred, sleepy-eyed bedroom funk he made as Toro y Moi. Anything in Return, his third Toro y Moi LP, makes the distinction unnecessary. Though he has riffed on new jack swing and disco - especially on 2011 EP Freaking Out - here, Bundick sets the tone with Harm in Change, the piano-house opening to his slickest, brightest, most upbeat disc. Bundick's chillwave past persists, however: even the most 4/4 of songs are dense productions. The increase in fidelity shines a light on the compositional strangeness once buried under claggy tape sheen. Studies touches on sunshine pop and soft rock, but feels like a robotic approximation. Day One's deep funk disappears down a rabbit hole. Cola stumbles, haunted by pitched-down vocals. Even the most uncluttered moment, Rose Quartz, has a persistent melancholy that clips the peaks of its disco beat. It is, in short, Toro y Moi on the floor: too sad to actually dance to.