THE MCCLYMONTS Endless (Universal)
There is a continuing fascination for me with the McClymonts. Not exactly a morbid fascination but definitely one based more on curiosity than enjoyment of their highly stylised country pop. The three northern New South Wales sisters are decidedly successful locally and eminently exportable, exactly the kind of product an efficient record label wants. If they didn’t exist, someone would have created them (and sometimes in my musical sugar fatigue I harbour a suspicion they are neither sisters nor real but in fact a brilliant scientific experiment). That’s not just because they sing so well and present so well - which they do, let that never be in question - but also because musically they are so compliant and pliable. And refinable. Each McClymonts album has improved on its predecessor in terms of narrowing the range of things that could go “wrong”, by which I mean things that might put off a potential listener in this congested country pop marketplace. This is hardly new: that is after all the essence of “pure” pop music in all its forms for a century. Nor is it unusual in Australian country: take a look at all the blokes, most either called Adam or wishing they were called Adam, we’ve pumped out in the past 15 years AK (After Kernaghan) and note their ability to smooth out any differences or points of conflict. But what is impressive about the McClymonts is their willingness to completely subsume their individuality - as separate people but also as three regular women from a regular town in a regular country that isn’t the USA - into a package that could be broken down, packed up, shipped off, rebuilt and restaged anywhere, anytime with no seams showing. They are the universal pop group and that is impressive in its own way. It takes sustained effort to not just find but then sell songs which contain within them not a kernel of truth, if truth could be defined here as something that pertains to this singer as distinct from another. Endless says a lot about how “nothing good comes easy” even under a “midnight summer sky [where you] can see for miles and miles”. It reminds us that “to make it to the end takes more than hope and pretend” though “everybody has their faults”. But it’s worth remembering that that they going to “take the high road [even though] sometimes I’m going to feel real low”. Yes, it is a cheap shot singling out their lyrics, even in the generally superior Don’t Wish It All Away, which refers to their own experiences of being a mother, looking back at their childhood and thinking about wasting time and the wisdom of others, but feels not so much universal as indistinguishable. It’s a cheap shot because lyrics are not their main problem, if problem it is for them or anyone around them, nor their main concern. Do no harm, by expressing a thought previously unheard or unbidden, is the guiding principle here. More reasonably it should be acknowledged that once again every single song on Endless could have turned up on another one of their albums or on another artist’s album, at any time in the past decade or in the next year or two. This was not an accident. From the straight gloss hooks of Chain Smoker, which could be transferred to pop quartet Little Mix with nary a change, to the piano balladry of When We Say It’s Forever, which if it had been a solo single by guest vocalist Ronan Keating no one would have blinked an eye, the evidence of planning and perfect execution is strong. You have to admire that kind of bloodless, ruthless efficiency. If it were easy every one of those Adams would be selling into the USA like the McClymonts do, but they aren’t. Instead they, and naysayers like me, will watch the sisters leave us in their dust once again.