Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Apartments - No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal

Peter Milton Walsh released his first album of new material in 18 years with this release in 2015.  The Apartments always had an exquisite, old fashioned aesthetic, black and white movies, sharp suits, art.  They never seemed particularly Australian.  In 1999 Walsh's young son died of a rare blood disorder and this prompted a lengthy silence.  It seemed to be the end for the band, which would have been understandable until Walsh regrouped as The Apartments in France for a radio session in 2013.

These songs, though at times almost unremittingly sad, demand to be heard.  The opening title track is somewhat reminiscent of Tindersticks, all piano, deftly played electric guitar while Walsh croons his way through it.  An almost Glen Campbell-like lush string part introduces Looking for Another Town, a slice of Go-Betweens on downers.  Black Ribbons, a duet with Natasha Penot almost lets some sunshine in before the desperately sad Twenty One.  Descending piano and guitar accompany Walsh's lament which is one of the songs which addresses the death of his son.  It's not exploitative, instead it comes across as heartfelt and raw.  You'll need to draw breath after listening to it. 

The music here is exquisite, probably Walsh's strongest collection of songs.  The brooding piano ballad The House That We Once Lived In is followed by September Skies and Please Don't Say Remember, intelligent indie-pop in a kind of 1980s way.  But the saddest song is saved for last.  Swap Places again addresses his son's death, Walsh expressing his desire to take the place of his son.  He sings "where's the God in all of this?" over downbeat yet comforting music.  It's lump-in-the-throat stuff. 

A deep and immersive album with songs that burrow deep under the skin.  Fine stuff indeed.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Beach Slang - Broken Thrills

Beach Slang burst on to the scene in 2014 with 2 EPs, compiled here on this album.  It opens with Filthy Luck which is fairly typical of the band's sound, a punch the air style rabble-rouser, with bawled lyrics about how "I'm a slave to always fucking up" or "turn the amps up to 9".  But it combines relatively cliched lyrics with all the right chord changes, which makes it really satisfying.  Done and dusted in less than two and a half minutes.  Foo Fighters-style drumming opens up Kids, while the mellow in comparison Get Lost features more glorious chord changes.  It's all so very sincere, not a drop of cynicism with lyrics like "these books, these bars and this honesty, they're all I've got".

The second half kicks off with All Fuzzed Out which is another utterly joyful, bawl along rocker with a rousing intro where Alex James sings "if there's heaven I have found it with you".  Strongest track of the lot might well be Dirty Cigarettes, with a riff and chord progression that really hits home.  The track heavily channels the Replacements as James does his best Westerberg, singing "I need the struggle to feel alive".  Final track We Are Nothing varies the formula, pacily strummed acoustic guitar but hits the same mood as the rest of this collection.

Sure it's highly reminiscent of The Replacements with a bit of Husker Du thrown in but highly enjoyable.