Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Jingle, Jangle Morning

Some mixed fortunes this week for people who like their music intelligent and sporadically jangly…

Sadness because this is the week we say goodbye to
the Lucksmiths, one of my favourite Australian groups. Being one of Australia’s best bands they, like the Go-Betweens before them, have sold bugger all records and as a result this weekend’s duo of Melbourne concerts will be their last.
The Lucksmiths were the first Australian band I ever saw and the first band that I saw with Mrs Custard. She put Smokers in Love on the first mix-tape she ever made me. Aw, bless. They were playing at the Hopetoun in Sydney and reminded me of the Housemartins. Through them I heard about other Candle Records acts and discovered a whole new world of indie down under.

In particular the Lucksmiths have a distinct and quite lovely way with words. They capture the joys of the pleasurably mundane (crosswords, reading the paper in in bed, smoking, sitting around on rainy days) better than most. This flows into their sweet and realistic love songs which are always high on romance, nostalgia and longing with healthy sprinklings of unrequited-love scattered throughout. The objects of their affection often have quirky habits and back stories so you find that you're listening to a story as much as a song. Travel and geography are also important aspects of their lyrics, with the great distances required both to get to Australia and to travel within this huge continent used metaphorically to describe the pains of being apart. Like the Go-Betweens before them, the Lucksmiths world, whilst universally understandable, is very much set against a backdrop of their Australia - and for that read the trams, cafes, street corners and record stores of Melbourne.

I left Australia not long after seeing them that first time at the Hopeton. Flying out of Melbourne I did a quick whistle stop of the record shops to get some music to take back to the UK. I ended up in Polyester Records and innocently asked the person behind the counter if they had heard of a band called the Lucksmiths and did they have any records of theirs. They were very friendly and pointed me towards a surprisingly healthy amount of stock. I nattered on with them for a while about how I really liked them and then bought a few singles and albums to remind me of my trip. I found out a few months later that Polyester is basically the home of the Lucksmiths and at least one of the band works there. It's hard to imagine many other bands as good as the Lucksmiths being so unassuming in that situation.

The Lucksmiths are playing with the Smallgoods at the
Thornbury Theatre on Friday 28th August. Tickets are still available so it’s still not too late to come along and give them the goodbye they deserve. Their last ever show is at the Corner Hotel in Richmond on Saturday 29th. Quite rightly it’s been sold out for months.

More pleasant and not totally unrelated news, given his propensity for an intelligent lyric and a jangly chord, is that Lloyd Cole is returning to our shores in November as part of a very quick jaunt around the world. He will also be playing at the Thornbury Theatre for the Melbourne leg, as well as the following dates around Australia:

Friday 6 November: Hepburn Springs, The Palais
Saturday 7 November Brisbane, Powerhouse Theatre
Mon 9 November Freemantle,
Fly By Night Club
Wed 11 and Thu 12 Nov Sydney, The Basement

He’s also taking in the west coast of America, New Zealand, Singapore, Paris and England before finishing up in Glasgow as part of promotion for his four CD box-set of rarities, Cleaning out the Ashtrays. Dates and booking details for all shows are available on Lloyd’s website.

If you haven’t seen him do his solo acoustic thingy I can heartily recommend it whether you’re a fan or not. The evenings are usually pretty intimate; you could hear every hushed word during songs at The Basement a couple of years ago. Lloyd himself is pretty comfortable in his own skin and pretty adept at playing up to his grumpy young man (but getting older) persona.

I know from personal experience that this is mostly slight of hand, as he’s actually an exceedingly nice chap. He signed some records and a set list for me after a gig in Toulouse and then he and I got done at babyfoot (table football) by some local fans who were clearly semi-professional. I told this story to my disbelieving French friend who came with me when Lloyd played the same venue six months later. Sure enough Lloyd was up for a bit more babyfoot. This is my friend on the right casually kicking Lloyd’s arse…

It’s worth saying that Lloyd has many, many songs equally good if not better than those on Rattlesnakes – his most famous album with the Commotions. His first eponymous solo effort (also known as ‘X’) is one of my favourite albums and used to make me feel like the oldest 15 year old in town. Check out Don’t Look Back and Undressed for a hint of the times to be had in November.

And finally, whilst we’re talking front men gone solo,
Jarvis Cocker is also returning to Australia to play songs from his new album Further Complications. Strangely Cocker is only two years younger than Lloyd Cole yet their imperial phases stand well over a decade apart. It’s unlikely that Jarvis is ready to dip back into the Pulp catalogue but no matter, because Further Complications and 2007’s self-titled contain more than enough songs to entertain.

Jarvis is playing as part of
the Meredith Music festival as well as the following dates around Australia:

Sat 5 Dec Brisbane (Hi-Fi Bar)
Mon 7 Dec Sydney (the Metro)
Tues 8 Dec Freemantle (Metropolis)
Thu 10 Dec Adelaide (HQ)
Friday 11 Dec Melbourne (the Forum)

Tickets are available from
Ticketek as of... (wait for it...) NOW!

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