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Casuarina (Ivy League)

As with the long-gone – but apparently on their way back soonish – Pernice Brothers, Sydney’s Hoolahan took the idea of a sabbatical a little too seriously. It’s been a decade since songwriting pals Tim Kevin and David Orszacky, with Harry Roden and Neil Bateman, last appeared, which these days is two or three lifetimes and a dozen hairstyles (or, indeed, hair) ago.

That ten-year absence is why I feel like getting to review this album some months after it was released isn’t the worst thing. After all what’s a few months between friends after 120 or so of them?

There is another reason to mention Pernice Brothers of course, and that is that Hoolahan are similarly inclined to a half-dream world of melodies for lazy afternoons, guitars which alternate jangle with light fuzz, harmonies which fall like drops of rain, organs which remind you of Rod Argent, and both a solid nod to late ‘60s & early ‘80s California, and a reverential nod to late 1980s South Island, New Zealand.

It is then, pop which almost goes out of its way not to impose and yet sneaks up on you after a time, the comfort of familiarity disguising the fact the hooks actually went in early. Ah yes, you say to yourself on the fifth or seventh listen, with a note of surprise, that song, that song is really really good, but then it always was.

While Casuarina isn’t stuck in a single mode or tempo, with A Wrecker’s Light and The Morning Roll for example fairly racing along compared with the gentle sway of We Only Seem To Pass The Time and City Rain, you can affix a sticker to the front of the record: pretty-as.

And I don’t just mean the velvety caress of Ev’ry Time You Go or the country comfort of Eleven Miles, both of which are capable of making you feel like lighting a fire on the beach and talking into the wee smalls is the only sensible idea. Or just the nice boys from Glasgow-ness of Country Doctor.

The blend of vocal and guitar melodies on Instant Gain, one of the more vigorous numbers here, keeps adding elements to charm without ever getting over-sweet. Sick Fizz offers hints of yacht rock in the languorous vocals and then fulfils the promise by the song’s mid-point so comprehensively that you practically demand the solo’s LA session smoothness before it appears.

Incidentally, if you’re going to make a record like this in Australia now you would want to put it out on Ivy League and have it produced by Wayne Connolly wouldn’t you?

Another reason why Casuarina feels right for certain listeners of a certain disposition, if not a certain age. Ain’t nothing wrong with that either.

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