Soon enough we will see a new album from Megan Washington, once again performing under the solitary name, Washington. One of the great songwriting talents in the country, with whatever name she chooses, she sits comfortably at the top table – even when radio wasn’t sure what to do with her and half the industry got excited by someone more boring but more pliable.
A decade ago, when this show at a mid-size room on a university campus was reviewed, a debut album had just appeared, the ARIA Awards were ahead, but some things were already visible.
Manning Bar, Sydney University, September 10
Megan Washington is a star. Not in waiting, not in theory but already and in practice.
A star without, for the moment, the mass market, cross-cultural recognition - though the mix of uni-age and middle-age in this audience suggests those Spicks And Specks appearances have had as much effect as those triple j spins.
But a star already in possession of a couple of not insignificant elements: the songs, the personality and, oh so crucially but oh so often forgotten, the brains.
Brains is what you hear behind a song such as Teenage Fury which both mocks the overreaction and relishes the intense drama of the titular event; you can hear it in the undertone of The Belly Of The Whale (about singing a man to sleep to put him off his imminent conquest); and it’s what you feel between the lines of Rich Kids, with its part attracted/mostly appalled response to what could be any “in” group.
Brains too is what you hear in the way the newest song in the set, Plastic Bag, takes a folk song tune (rather reminiscent of Laura Marling’s Rambling Man actually) and seamlessly shapes it into a rising and rousing piece of rock.
That Plastic Bag stands out says something about its quality as it has more than enough competition in this set. The solo version of Underground finds the tenderness inside the potentially self-absorbed subject matter, while Navy Blues is jerky pop, dance pop and then just great pop. Sunday Best almost, but not quite, hides its eroticism under a pushy New Wave nudge to dance, while a slowed take on the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself goes the other way and eschews any attempt to bring dignity to what is a very silly song by revelling in the erotic silliness.
And standing amidst this, usually playing piano lines which owe something to Steve Nieve’s busy inventiveness, is a compelling character who doesn’t exactly do intense but always seems to be coiled. Megan Washington is only 24 and is going to write better, funnier, sexier and undoubtedly bigger selling songs in the next few years. But she’s already impressive, already a star.
The rest of us will soon know it.