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Michael Carpenter - Rolling Ball

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 15 / 8 / 2004



Michael Carpenter - Rolling Ball
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD

intro

Summery new album from workaholic Australian power pop musician and producer Michael Carpenter, which "will keep the sun shining and the spirits up through the long winter months ahead"


There’s a certain chill in the evenings now and the midday sun is not as warm as it was just a few weeks ago; summer is sadly waving slowly goodbye to us for another year but with the release of this, Carpenter’s third album on Laughing Outlaw, he’s inviting us to share in the Indian summer that is ‘Rolling Ball’. Carpenter, a true workaholic, who when he is not sitting in the producer's chair for an ever increasing roster of bands is lending his considerable talent as a musician to an endless list of artists, has somehow found the time to release another superb collection of melodic pop music in his own name. That he has another 3 albums planned over the next 18 months also says something about his work rate. We’ve come to expect any record bearing Carpenter’s name to be something special whether it’s as producer or musician and the previous albums issued under his own name have never disappointed. The last such album Carpenter released was ‘Kings Rd Works’, which was not actually a solo album in the truest sense as Carpenter was backed by his touring band Kings Rd. Now having disbanded that group he is back on his own for ‘Rolling Ball’ albeit with help from a few well chosen friends from Australia’s independent music scene. Over his last couple of albums Carpenter has, while always wearing his influences proudly on his sleeve, injected more and more of his own identity and sound into his songs. There’s been a steady progression of this "Michael Carpenter sound" and it’s been increasingly hard to compare his sound to those who always used to be rolled out when discussing Carpenter’s music; The Beatles, the Byrds, Elvis Costello. There are still shades of these artists in his music but one has to dig deeper and deeper to find them. Take the most unusual track on the album for example, ‘The Day Before’; ahead of the usual catchy as hell Carpenter chorus, our musical genius presents us with his first psychedelic song, and the verses are the darkest, most disconcerting thing Carpenter has ever put to tape and released. Any of the usual comparisons are redundant here. Try to imagine a cross between a Troggs B-side and a track from the Deep’s ‘Psychedelic Moods Of…’ and you’ll almost be there. But it’s the classic, melodic Carpenter sound which prevails on the majority of tracks here, chiming, bright guitars, perfect harmonies and those melodies which stay with you from the second you first hear them. The album opens with the title track, one of the more up beat power pop songs which Carpenter seems to write so effortlessly, full of those trademark harmonies but with a rockier edge than a lot of his past work. Then Carpenter hits us with not one but three of his best compositions with the songs which follow. With Carpenter’s always excellent back catalogue that might seem hard to believe, but, believe it, these songs really are Carpenter’s best work. ‘Everyday’, the first of the three, has a country feel to it. If it was on an album by any well known Americana band it would be hailed as the classic it so obviously is. Carpenter’s longing, aching vocals are among the best he has ever laid down on this ballad and the unexpected almost psychedelic guitar break is simply beautiful. One is tempted on first listen to label the song as Carpenter’s best ever but then ‘Emily Says’ turns up. It harks back to the more innocent sounds of the 60's, both lyrically and musically. Carpenter almost races through this tale of young lovers but, and here’s where the difference between this collection and Carpenter’s previous work hits home, for all it’s 60's feel the song is pure Michael Carpenter. The structure of the song may be rooted in the 60's, but there is no doubt this is Carpenter’s sound through and through. It’s absolutely stunning, and one is feeling that even Carpenter can’t possibly keep this high level of song writing, playing and singing up when ‘Good Enough’ starts. Slowing things down again this tale, taken from the female point of view, of feeling inadequate in a relationship again features some of Carpenter’s best vocals to date. Forget the keyboards, the chiming guitars or the breathtaking harmonies, it’s Carpenter’s vocals which steal the limelight on this song. Again, forget the comparisons, the sound of those vocals is pure Carpenter and another indication that with this album Carpenter has finally defined his sound. Each of the 11 songs listed on the cover is worth a special mention, unfortunately space prevents this, but take one listen to ‘Nothing At All’ and see if you’re not humming it for the rest of the day, feel the pain in ‘The Ache’, which sees Carpenter lyrically updating ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’, while turning out some of his most inspired guitar playing, or simply shake your head in wonder that after all this Carpenter can tuck away a song as perfect as ‘You And Me’ at the end of an album. With less instrumentation than the other songs, this love song is really touching and is blessed with another catchy Carpenter chorus that’s going to take a trip to the local hospital to be surgically removed as it won’t leave your head any other way. Leave the CD in the player after the closing song, ‘On My Mind’ (all perfect harmonies, stunning guitar work and another melody to die for) for an unlisted song, showing a more rootsy, acoustic side to Carpenter than the rest of the album. What the song is called and why it’s unlisted is a mystery; just one question, is there more where that came from and can we hear them please? With this album Carpenter has really produced his best work to date. It’s puzzling as to exactly why the vocals stand out so much this time, but maybe we’ve finally realised what was there all along; Carpenter really does stand alone and produces a sound all of his own. His songs in the past have been so good we’ve been trying to work out where he must have lifted this bit from, what inspired that tune, but with this release we’ll have to face up to the truth; Carpenter is a major talent and one of a kind. For the time being this album will keep the sun shining and the spirits up through the long winter months ahead; come next summer it’ll be windows rolled down and this blasting from car stereos.One listen to the closing, unaccompanied harmonies of the last few seconds of ‘Emily Says’ will convince you of that.



Track Listing:-
1 Rolling Ball
2 Everyday
3 Emily Says
4 Good Enough
5 No One
6 Nothing At All
7 Let Down
8 The Day Before
9 The Ache
10 You & Me
11 On My Mind
12 Kindness


Label Links:-
http://www.laughingoutlaw.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/laughingoutlawrecordsandmanagement
https://laughingoutlaw.bandcamp.com/



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