There is something about certain Australian bands and records: The Go-Betweens‘ 16 Lovers Lane, Paul Kelly and Coloured Girls‘ Gossip, the Triffids’ Born Sandy Devotional, the Church‘s Of Skins and Heart, the Lucksmiths‘ Warmer Corners, the Saints‘ I’m Stranded, Twerps‘ debut, Eddy Current Suppression Ring‘s Rush to Relax. A diverse set of albums, but all them have something about them that sets them apart and makes them distinctly Australian. They have a sense of urgency and isolation, a poetry about them and a way of sounding laid-back while singing about intense and decidedly unlaid-back topics in their songs. Yes, you could argue that the Saints and ECR don’t sound laid back, but the Saints brand of punk had a sense of space and playfulness about it (especially on their second album) that set it apart from your typical punk band of the day.
The Boomgates debut album released earlier this month on Bedroom Suck deserves to be included in this list of great Australian records.It’s a ray of sunshine, a faded photo, a favorite tattered shirt, a perfect companion and a kick in the pants. So good, I had to go track by track to review it.
Flood Plain – could be about a relationship, the downfall of our civilization or simply about how some people inexplicably build their houses in flood plains. The take-away of course is don’t think it can’t happen to you because the next 100 year flood is right around the corner.
Layman’s Terms – This gets a dust off from last year’s 7-inch, but even I, who listened to this song way too many times on a 7-inch have not grown tired of this beauty that harkens back to the Go-Betweens beauty.
Cows Come Home – This one reminds me a little of a Bats or Magic Heads song (“Hold all the butter till the cows come home” anyone?). Steph Hughes voice is so sweet on this, Huntly’s spoken word part lends some gravity, and the line “Because I’m a hundred years old” lends a sense that this was written by an old soul
Natural Progression – The guitar riff sounds like a super slowed down ECR song. “I got stuck in a lift went down”. Huntly and Hughes sing the entire song together and there are parts where it sounds like he’s dominating and parts where she does. There are some great harmonies that remind me a little of Free Design and Veronica Falls. Self-doubt ensues, “I’m making mountains out of mole hills”
Cartons and Cans – A song about recycling? No, of course not. “There are so many things I should do that should have already done.” The whistling is flawlessly done. Any band that can incorporate a whistling part and not make you cringe is operating at higher level.
Whispering and Singing – Side two kicks off with a freight train through the bedroom. Huntly sing’s “Don’t know when you’re leaving” and it sounds like a train whistle while the rhythm section chugs along. Firehose wrote a song called Whisperin’ and Hollerin’. Whispering and Singing probably has nothing to do with Firehose, but it reminds me of them and this is a good thing. Boomgates are ragin’ full-on here.
Hold Me Now – Not the Thompson Twins song. This is a nice one, but it’s kind of a break from the full-on, no let up that this record has been to this point. Even a lesser song by the Boomgates sounds pretty good. Expertly sequenced to allow for a rest, and quite a nice siesta it is.
Hanging Rock – Jangly into. “I gave it all with my genuine leather, you gave me more with your 100% cotton blend.” Friends become lovers, pull their socks up to picknick at a Hanging Rock and then fall apart. Infatuation and those first moments. Newness and the constant search for that initial feeling. Fleeting. That’s why it’s so great. Anything that good and intense will never last. Well maybe it will if you pull your socks up and keep listening.
Everything – “All the dishes keep piling in the sink”, reminds me of my college days. Living with five other guys and no one would do their dishes. Man, it made me feel like dying old. The drums keep building and building while the guitars get more intense. Finally either someone dies or does the dishes. I’d like to think that he did the dishes before he died.
Any Excuse – Every album needs a great closing song. Actually does it? Does anyone listen to a record all the way through in a sitting. I do, and I appreciate it when a band has the sense to put a song at the end that sounds like it should go at the end. The guitar sounds like it was directly lifted from the Velvet Underground which is no bad thing. It also has a little bit of a honky-tonk feel to it. Huntly ends up in a two minute refrain about turning the soil, watering your garden, giving it love, and watching it grow. Amen!
The Boomgates album is out in Australia. If you live there hit up Bedroom Suck. In the States head to Goner or Amazon if you’re looking for mp3’s.