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Lucksmiths - Where Were We?

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 10 / 4 / 2002

Lucksmiths - Where Were We?
Label: Matinee Recordings
Format: CD


Collection of "quality melodic pop songs' from various compilations, vinyl singles, demo tapes that have not yet made it onto an album from the almost consistently excellent the Lucksmiths

They must be putting something into the water down-under. There are so many Australian artists making great records, which, thankfully, are making their way abroad. One thing these bands and artists have in common is an ear for melodies and a talent for capturing the pop/rock sound perfectly, sometimes with just the right dose of country thrown in for good measure. The Lucksmiths, a Melbourne based trio, have been releasing records of quality melodic pop songs since 1993. Last year’s ‘Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me’ was their best to date, seemingly capturing the band at their peak, and, chock full of their trademark catchy tunes, coupled this with smart but humorous lyrics. So how do they follow that? Well, they haven’t really, not yet anyway, and not with this album. 'Where Were We?' is a collection of tracks from various compilations, vinyl singles, demo tapes and songs that, until now, have not made it onto an album. It compiles all the loose ends from the last two years. These songs are, however, far from being throwaway B-sides or songs best left forgotten though. Despite the songs being recorded in various places, England, America and Australia, and at different times, the songs on the album fit perfectly together. It sounds like, well, an album, where all the songs were intended to be grouped together. Very much in fact like their ‘Happy Secret’ collection from 1999. Only one track, the closing ‘Mars’, disappoints and considering that the vocals were recorded down a telephone line from London to the house where it was being made in Australia it’s hardly surprising. Interesting as it is to hear tracks in their demo form or as ‘works in progress’, a better produced version of that track would have been nice to hear. But it’s a minor quibble as presenting these tracks as they are was the intention of the album anyway. Tellingly, Jonathan Richman showed his fondness for the band during their last tour of the States and they wound up supporting him for some shows. It’s obvious what attracted Richman to the Lucksmiths. They share his ability to pen catchy pop songs with that indie feel. But where The Lucksmiths really excel is in the knack they have of combining humour into their thoughtful lyrics. The core trio of Marty Donald (guitar and vocals), Tali White, (vocals and drums) and Mark Monnone (bass) is helped out by Pam Berry (Black Tambourines, The Shapiros and The Pines) on backing vocals and the glorious Ladybug Transistor on one track. Elsewhere Darren Hanlon, who also helped out on ‘Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me’, lends hand on piano and organ. Ther album opens with ‘The Cassingle Revival’, which features the aforementioned Hanlon on organ and some nice but all too brief slide guitar by one J. Walker. It’s a typical slice of thoughtful indie pop and a perfect start to the collection, setting out their stall nicely. Apart from the expected catchy melody, it’s the opening line of, “Another summer’s slipped away, without me noticing”, with Tali White’s vocals at their forlorn, affecting best which captures the attention. Their way with a clever lyric laced with humour is also evident in this first track. How many break- up songs end with a verse like this; “And your loyalties have divided between digital and vinyl, but I’m biding time ‘til the cassingle revival, ‘cause you promised when it happens you’ll return”? Then we get the touches of organ and steel guitar to add to the heartbreak. You can tell in White’s vocals that he thinks it’s going to be a long, long time before we see singles on tape again. The following track, ‘Myopic Friends’, is a bouncy song with the Lucksmiths expected catchy tune and funny lyrics, this time with Mark Monnone adding some melodica to the song to make it even more appealing. The track where Pam Berry contributes backing vocals, ‘A Downside To The Upstairs’, is possibly the best track on this collection. Pam’s haunting vocals add a further dimension to the song as does the harmonica played by Tali White, lifting the song above being an average indie pop song. And so it goes on, track after track of glorious catchy pop music topped with humourous but thoughtful lyrics. Fourteen of them, each one (with the exception of 'Mars') worthy of repeated playing. ‘T-shirt Weather’ for example sounds as a song should with a title like that.-a summery pop song which bounces along with lines like, “ 'Maggie May' on the jukebox and, hey, things are okay”, raising a smile. An uplifting sing-a-long tune, it sounds like Morrissey fronting a band made up of ex-Housemartins and Monkees; Mention should also be made of the digipak which houses the C.D. Featuring artwork with photos taken during their recent USA travels it compliments the music beautifully. But is that really someone sleeping in the canoe?

Track Listing:-
1 The Cassingle Revival
2 Myopic Friends
3 A Downside To The Upstairs
4 Can't Believe My Eyes
5 I Prefer The Twentieth Century
6 T-Shirt Weather
7 Tmrw vs Y'day
8 Southernmost
9 Even Stevens
10 The Great Dividing Range (demo)
11 Friendless Summer
12 Goodness Gracious
13 Welcome Home
14 Mars

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