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These Shining Years (Simon Robert Gibson Bandcamp)

A DRUMMER, A SONGWRITER, something of an industry veteran, a colleague, a romantic and a sardonic observer, Simon Robert Gibson is most of all, and definitively, a fan.

On this collection drawn from three solo albums this decade (though he has been a working musician for some 30-plus years, going back to Disneyfist) his are songs which overtly or in inference respond and comment on a lifetime listening to music that thrilled, moved and changed him – “The bands you’ve loved throughout the years,” as he says in one song; “Giving thanks to the writers I know/Salvation’s found in a song,” as he explains in another – while at the same time taking up a position alongside them.

These are not necessarily songs saying “we’re as good as those better-known ones” – for ego is evident but hardly rampant, and it’s hard to be a cocky dickhead when you deliver in the dry, droll, everyday manner adopted by Gibson. But with delightful vocal and instrumental melodies up the wazoo, tempos at pointy-toe tapping, occasionally gearing up to bouncy and even nearly indie disco pace, these are songs happy to be in their company and offering contributions to the discussion.

Why? Because he just loves this stuff and this company, and that he can release this album on vinyl, as well as a book of lyrics with the same title. He loves the way songs can be so unprepossessing but mean everything; how a T-shirt that’s just right can flip your mood and a record can wrap you in sound; the joy and tears in a jangled guitar or semi-distant trumpet; the way vocal imperfections tell you more than the ideal, and an acoustic can say everything; how everything depends on how near you stand to me, but alone isn’t a settled sentence.

And the company? Go-Betweens and Apartments, Perry Keyes and Nic Dalton, Danny George Wilson and Alannah Russack, Adam Gibson and Caroline Kennedy, Tom Morgan and Jodi Phillis, Simon Holmes and Trish Young, Evan Dando and Morrissey/Marr. You get the picture?

The flag – amusing, pointed, but no less true for that – is planted in the ground from the very start with the jingling guitar over trotting rhythm drums Salvation opening the album with the lines “I’m not fit to smell your shit/Jeez that’s a great first-line/Hard to beat Tom Morgan/Much less make it rhyme”. A line which glide naturally, conclusively, into “A Grant McLennan chorus/Always melodies sublime/And Mick Thomas write songs/That I always wish were mine”.

You gotta smile, and nod in recognition and approval, if you too are a fan.

So, while we’ve got ‘em, let’s go at ‘em. In the way Follow Me Up has the bustle and sweet spot of The Hummingbirds in its happy/sad chorus and forward-pressing verses, and how The Old Ways holds its memories close and its future hope even closer in a very McClennan way. Or the way the light buzz on the guitars and rat-a-tat drums in Boudain offer the pleasure of travel while the backing vocals hint at what is to be lost, and how Alannah Russack (yes, she’s playing and singing all over this record) comes through the pall of misses and change in The Way You Look At Things with a clarity of tone.

If there is another message within these songs it is that the past isn’t over, it’s still happening – and that’s not a regret. Not in these shining years. Is this why Gibson maintains a degree of optimism about what will be that somehow avoids any dismissal of naivety? How even in Now Often Feels Like Then, where Beat poets and surfing, muted trumpet and instant coffee are carried on a languid flow that might at any second sink into ennui (but never does), “there’s plenty of life to be had”, and you believe him.

There are limitations of course. There are things that can’t be solved by a tune or a good rhyming couplet, and three minutes won’t give you the answer to everything, let alone a life explained. Still, in the album’s closing track, Song For Gyn, Gibson addresses that in the most songwriter and songwriting fan way as he looks over the signposts and byways of someone too special to be consigned to cliches.

“Songs can only say so much/Scattered thoughts on a short life lived,” he sings in the final seconds. “But it’s the best way that I have to say/I miss you, my friend/I miss you Gyn”.




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