You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost (Templebears Records/MGM)
LOW CUT CONNIE
Private Lives (Contender Records)
Here’s a chance to catch up with two albums - one local; one American - which have mostly slipped by public consciousness in the past couple of months because even though they feel enthused and fresh, they sound nothing like any of 2020’s more fashionable styles.
And, let’s be frank, because none of them look like they are in the first flush of youth, even if You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost is the debut album from The Electorate.
It may be the first record from this all-singing Sydney trio but not only are bassist Eliot Fish, guitarist Josh Morris, and drummer Nick Kennedy experienced hands from their time in bands such as Big Heavy Stuff, Knievel and The Apartments, but this lineup, and some of the songs, go back more than a decade to when they were known as Templebears.
The territory here is a kind of classic Australian indie: occupying space that enjoys choruses immersed in pop and verses comfortable at a slight emotional distance, rhythms that spring from quickly shuffling feet rather than loose hips, guitars that wind their way through rather than impose themselves and vocals which nonchalantly lean into songs rather than lead them.
Balancing on those elements as a listener can be more fun than you realise. It’s why you can find the tense verses of The Wrong Way Round Up opening up into a dose of California sunshine in the choruses and it feels natural; how the shifting rolls of the drums in Decades In A Day modify the impact of the simple la-la-la-las; why Lost At Sea feels like it might be a step or two away from the forest (or, A Forest) but turns its moments of heaviness into supports rather than threats; and it explains why the dirtiness and the danceability of A Good Man feel like odd but comfortable bedfellows.
Like Nature Strip, another Sydney band whose roots go back decades but whose appeal is constantly renewing, when The Electorate set their sights on attractiveness, it can be quite a sugar rush.
Enormous Glorious Girl begins with vibration and then bursts out with harmonies, a hook which glows, and all the pleasures of fine power pop; Hercules suggests a blend of The Kinks and Fun Boy Three; and If I Knew has the slightly bent angles that once would have competed with all the bands hoping to remake Pavement in their own image.
There is weirdly enough something very debut album about this decades-in-the-making debut. That’s a very good thing. Kids eh?
It’s a different matter when we cross the Pacific. The standard media description for Low Cut Connie, the decade-old vehicle for singer/songwriter Adam Weiner, is some variation on Bruce Springsteen, including the quaint “like Bruce Springsteen after he discovered literature”.
Much of this can be put down to Weiner’s big screen-ready stories of small lives theoretically not usually covered in song. Except of course in Springsteen and Springsteen-like and Springsteen-influenced songs, which is not exactly a small subset of rock ‘n’ roll, even before you get to a century of American literature and quite a few decades of American film.
There are small town hoods and dealers, inarticulate men and difficult to understand women, people for whom escape is a ride downtown and others who aren’t looking for anything more than the joy of company, a few beers and nothing to worry about until tomorrow morning.
And some of it is down to Weiner’s attraction to – and male music critics’ love for - the emotion-barely-held-back rock songs which allow singer and listener to metaphorically throw an arm around each other and just express those feels safely.
Because the comparison with Springsteen mostly doesn’t hold musically, with Weiner’s preference being for a more rhythmic soul spin on rock that swings more easily than the E Street Band does and takes these tracks closer to (admittedly, Springsteen-related) Little Steven and the Disciples Of Soul.
Actually, the best Australian comparison would be the various incarnations of Mark Lizotte/Diesel or his brother-in-law, Jimmy Barnes. So much so that if you were to tell me that Diesel had already recorded the honky château, It Don’t Take A Genius, and Barnesy had dibs on the rugged rouser, Tea Time, I’d readily believe you.
There is a sense of a smoking little band in a room gradually overheating as beers go down ever faster, piano and saxophone or brass punching, two or three backing vocalists doing a little shimmy between gospely wails, and a rhythm section that isn’t fussy but also isn’t fucking around (see the barroom blitz of Nobody Else Will Believe You or the slow burn blues of Wild Ride).
The singer is clutching the microphone stand like it’s his best friend (in earnest drivers such as Charysse and the highway boogie If I Die), leaning on it in the stripped-back ballads (such as Look What They Did and Run To Me Darlin), swinging it some in the groove-conscious moments (like the title track and Now You Know). And if he doesn’t have a cigarette or a bottle in his other hand, it’s just a further sign of how OH&S, political correctness and the goddamn nanny state is just ruining rock ‘n’ roll man.
That’s old. And new.