14 Steps To A Better You (Chugg Music/London Cowboys)
The Glow (I Oh You)
These albums are at #1 and #2 in Australia this week. That means something.
What exactly it means depends on where you’re standing.
We can set aside the idea that a top-of-the-charts position matters that much in real – as in practical – life. The sales needed to get to #1 in most weeks are so low those numbers once would have been considered a poor week for an indie chart act, and radio is more likely to care about your social media numbers than your chart numbers. So materially, nothing really changes.
And for one of these bands, Lime Cordiale, their ticket sales – sold out shows in decent-sized venues in the days when people filled venues of any size – already showed their support was strong. So much so that anything less than coming in at 1 or 2 might have been a bit of a disaster.
Therefore it’s a kind of residual or legacy prestige these days, and that prestige works its way through the band themselves (#1 is better than #60 no matter what narks like me say; their heroes got to #1), the label/management (it’s an achievement they can point to; it’s a way of showing they have done their work), the media (it’s a hook for the next story) and the fans (even if they didn’t buy it themselves, preferring to stream it, share it or just be happy to maybe hear it on radio, that’s still “my band”).
How about the fact that it is two Australian bands vying for the top position on debut? That’s no small thing to be fair, as, despite the champagne and fireworks by ARIA on each occasion, it still doesn’t happen all that often that a local band is a real contender. Ok, it might be a quiet week – timing is everything, of course – but no one is going to knock it back at the end of the year when ARIA hand out gold star certificates for each local #1 on any and every chart they can identify.
Maybe what it tells us is where the mainstream tastes have settled in this decade. If so the answer is a curious one. Maybe even a disappointing one, if you still have that naïve notion that charting albums are a sign of the quality or variety of any particular musical moment.
We can say that DMA’s show that pedestrian guitar bands with one eye firmly fixed, still, on the mid ‘90s, and the other on support slots in rooms hosting legacy rock acts overseas (if they ever are allowed to get back there) may never go out of fashion.
DMA’s plough a very well-tilled path of retro rock made to be sung along by groups of blokes as sluiced as they are juiced – especially if they are backpacking Brits or people who missed out on Eskimo Joe’s return a year ago - enlivened by lightly danceable beats that wouldn’t ask too much coordination of said juiced blokes.
Treatments on the voices are “trippy” in a mild way, with harmonies solid rather than enlivening; rhythm tracks are four-on-the-floor except when occasionally a song goes two-hands-in-the-air (at which point there’s the suggestion of something electronic being waved over the mixing desk); choruses enter with the surreptitiousness of a postman and leave with the lingering farewell of a Mormon door-knocker.
The variations, even the improvements, on the trio’s third album, are incremental. Melodies seem a little less recycled – maybe only twice used rather than fourth generation; dancing is a smoother operation and often even feel natural rather than stapled on; some guitar lines are closer to the likes of (the far superior) Holy Holy than your standard Manchester tropes; and the lyrics are moving closer to some genuine connection than their early painting by numbers.
That they still proudly quote the imprimatur of the junior Gallagher brother, a man who has never comfortably changed style or thought and berates the senior Gallagher for his thought crime experiments, may say everything you need to know, for good or bad.
Lime Cordiale, even before pipping DMA’s to #1 were the bigger band after building on the moderate success of their 2017 debut to have four songs in the top 40 of triple j’s hottest 100 this year, getting the backing of Post Malone and scoring millions of streams.
Their secret? Maybe being the Sticky Fingers you can have without needing to apologise to any women, people of colour or sensible people in the vicinity.
Like the Fingers (the Stickys?), Lime Cordiale are resolutely the kind of group who would actually enjoy being called a good time band. The type who even four decades on might volunteer to be the opening act on a Jimmy Buffet tour.
Two shots of holiday Monday pool cocktails, a splash of beachside barbecue reggae, more the dope-smoking than pill-popping end of Manchester’s second summer of love, a tall glass of Yves Klein Blue/Hungry Kids Of Hungary-style Brisbane pop, a twist of Alex Turner’s mannered observations with a slight nod to The Cat Empire’s Latin leanings, and bit of acid-tipped ska.
The result, if it isn’t already clear, is a set of amiable songs presented through gentle hues of afternoon sunshine where you can lie down and float away as easily as lope through your dance moves, where nothing sticks to you but nothing disturbs you either.
If DMA’s don’t ask anything new of themselves, Lime Cordiale don’t ask anything of you. That sounds rather soul-deadening to me, but take a look at the charts, if they mean anything this is just how we want it.