dan kelly and the alpha males – sing the tabloid blues

checkout cutie’s whistlin diamond sea

here is another stellar reason to revisit the collection. i seriously forgot how good this album is.

dan kelly is the nephew of well known australian muso paul kelly. generally speaking, australian bands have been really good at sounding like other bands and other times. we do 1960s reverent rock so well. but if it’s not done well it just sounds like a rip off and actually very irritating (sorry to all the people crammed onto the tame impala bandwagon).

dan’s writing and performing have never suffered from this. they manage to be irreverent, humourous and damn good all at once. i am disappointed that he didn’t garner greater success, because he’s definitively his own muso. he doesn’t actually sound like anyone else. he doesn’t sing like anyone else. he doesn’t write like anyone else. but i think he’s humble.

the guitars are not the only sounds that stand out here, though they do some spectacular things. dan’s singing runs in parallel. it really is like another instrument that off-sets the mechanical sounds. this is one higher-pitched voice i actually fell in love with. and another who himself respects malkmus… this is a dawning realisation that pavement played a significant part in creating a second generation of a particular style of modern rock music.

the songs themselves are largely all great standalone stories. there are cultural and product references that aren’t about selling (out) any kind of credibility. these are things that people talk about in real life, as though music and the artists that make it are usually removed from reality. this is a distinct thought from bands shilling their music for corporations… but i’ll write more about that elsewhere. i’m pretty sure dan would not have been paid by rio for mentioning their socks.

for his humour, take the eponymous song, which is entirely about tom cruise. it’s both subtle and blunt. how can anyone write music like that and not seem confused or contradictory?

the best song here is human sea which expresses a malaise about how people relate to each other out there in the world, just in everyday life as you walk down the street or into the building in which you work. and because of that indifference, you become apathetic yourself. the music sways with a wooziness that matches the mood brilliantly. dan’s voice sounds like he’s in a room with no furniture. i’m sure it’s metaphorical.

the album also finishes with a couple of fantastic pieces of melancholy that belie the rest of the compositions. pregnant conversation is similar in some ways to pro-(your)life by arab strap from the previously subjected elephant shoe. another amazing talent to drive an entire beautiful melody with essentially just a voice and a quiet acoustic guitar (with a bit of slight background electric).

river o tears by its name sounds too obvious, and it must be admitted as a great song for singing out loud to some dick head who hurt you but you’re just ploughing on in spite (think sang in reverse). it has almost cat power-like guitar qualities, the opposite of the song above – a main lilting quiet electric with oooos and plucking of some acoustic strings. what a way to end.

i think the main reason i love this album in particular is that it’s so familiar to me because of the references. they make sense; i know them. it makes me feel like i know him. [and okay, maybe i have had a crush on him for years]

shoot, you’re even alone with the dirty three

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