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Widdershins - Good Songs 1987-1989

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 28 / 4 / 2006

Widdershins - Good Songs 1987-1989
Label: Select Label
Format: CD


Appealing 19 track retrospective album from under-rated and long broken-up 80's Australian indie rockers the Widdershins

One of the best songs on the recently released Laughing Outlaw compilation ‘Inner City Sound’ was the Lighthouse Keepers ‘Springtime’. Like a lot of the artists on that double CD the Lighthouse Keepers were a well kept secret outside of their homeland of Australia. Now Egg Records have released a 19 track retrospective of the Widdershins, a band that was formed by Greg Appel and Juliet Ward, both major players in the Lighthouse Keepers, after that band folded in 1986. Again it’s a more than a pleasant surprise just how good this band is and also leaves us wondering why they didn’t receive greater acclaim before they called it a day in 1990. Greg Appel wrote ‘Springtime’ so it’s good to see he also wrote the bulk of the material on this collection. Apart from a cover of Buffy Saint Marie’s ‘Codeine’ and guitarist James Cruickshank appearing in the credits a few times, this is Appel’s show, at least when it comes to composing. But what really sets this collection apart are the vocals of Juliet Ward. Juliet’s vocals are an amalgamation of all those female fronted indie bands of days gone by with a little of Natalie Merchant thrown in for good measure. With the chiming guitars on the first two songs on this collection, which are also the earliest songs here, 10,000 Maniacs, therefore, would seem a fair comparison. It’s almost unbelievable that one of those songs, ‘Dishwashing Liquid’, was, in fact, originally tucked away on the B-side of the first song on this collection, ‘Now You Know’. The song is nearly 20 years old and still sounds fresh today. It is, simply put, a perfect pop song. Full of chiming guitars offsetting those plaintive vocals, just the kind of song you want to be driving along to on a warm summer evening. And it was hidden on a 7” single 19 years ago! The following five songs were originally a mini-album titled ‘Bottle Man’s Wife’, and show a completely different side to that shown by the band on their first single. The cuteness displayed on the first two songs is abandoned for a more melancholy sound. Apart from Juliet’s distinctive vocals these songs could have been made by a different band. By ‘March Of The Green Men’, where Greg Appel sets up for the vocals, the sound is stripped down and there’s a distinct blues feel to the song which is miles away from the pure pop sound of those opening songs. This sound is also carried through on the Widdershins' version of ‘Codine’. There’s a menacing sound running through these songs many which artists are using these days, a kind of gothic Americana, which also shows that this band were perhaps a little ahead of their time. The final 10 songs on this compilation are all from the 1989 album ‘Ascension’, and the band again shows their diversity. ‘Waterfall’ shows the lighter side of the band once again and also highlights Appel's talent at writing melodies which stick around long after the song has finished and his knack of wrapping pretty tunes around darker lyrics. Some songs have stood the test of time better than others, I’d take the jaunty ‘Return Of The King’, which is a return to the sound of those first two tracks, over the more thoughtful ‘Driftwood’ any time, except maybe for those more reflective, lonely times the song conveys. This collection is so strong that if it had been titled ‘Excellent Songs’ rather than merely ‘Good Songs’ than no one would have had the right to complain. Just one listen to ‘Demons’ which again displays all that is good about this band ; melodic pop with intelligent lyrics and the added bonus of Juliet’s sweet vocals which sound as fresh today as when the band cut the songs all those years ago proves the point. The album ends on a high point ; ‘Levitate’ has a gorgeous melody and finds Appel finally feeling at least a little optimistic about the future after all the love gone wrong songs preceeding it. This is a fine collection of songs, and highly recommended to those who wanted more of the same having being smitten by the Lighthouse Keepers over the last few months.

Track Listing:-
1 Now You Know
2 Dishwashing Liquid
3 King Ben
4 Foxtrot
5 March Of The Green Men
6 Railway
7 Codeine
8 Bugle Call
9 700 Miles
10 Chainsaw
11 Waterfall
12 Driftwood
13 Return Of The King
14 Killing Time
15 Ascension
16 No Stopping Now
17 Crownmaster
18 Demons
19 Levitate

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