Song of the day – 111: Songs
This song is a couple of years old – and this is newer material available – but have you any idea how hard it is doing a Google Search on the word ‘Songs’?
I’m motivated to put this one up today for a couple of reasons.
1. This Sydney band’s self-titled debut long-player I nominated as my favourite Australian album of 2009. Not that music is a competition. Something to do with the way it draws on a rich Brisbane and Dunedin heritage (particularly The Go-Betweens and The Clean) and something to do with the fact I never fell out of love with the dream-pop as practised by former American sweethearts Galaxie 500 anyway. (I’ve written about Songs on this blog before.)
2. The Deadnotes + The Legend! are playing I Used To Skate Once with them at the Zoo tonight (Thursday) and, all things being equal, that means I should finally get to see them play live. Man, I’ve been looking forward to this one for about a year now. Come along if you’re in town! We’re playing in the car park at around 10pm, Songs around 11pm, and I believe it’s free to get in.
So here’s the song. It’s called ‘Keeping It Clean’, and it’s lifted from their 2008 self-titled debut EP.
And here’s an edited version of the review I wrote of Songs for The Vine last year.
The debut album from Sydney four-piece Songs pushes all the right buttons as far as I’m concerned. Two guitars, two vocals, bass and drums played with mesmerising precision and passion. We’re talking echo-drenched, guitar-burnished, dream-time pop. We’re talking lengthy explorations into sound and texture, with cymbals that crash like far-off waves and guitars that drone and distort and bite deep. We’re talking some of my most beloved bands of the past three decades – that ’80s Dunedin bunch (The Clean, The Gordons and Straitjacket Fits), for starters. We’re talking about a band that’s not scared to keep playing a riff or a drone once they’ve got hold of one, and keep playing, and keep playing, until they see what develops.
We’re talking about music that causes everything else to fall by the wayside. So yes, I guess we are talking John Cale and a more minimal Sonic Youth (particularly on the languorous, Lee Ranaldo-esque, ‘Something To Believe In’) and every band that was inspired to pick up a guitar by Tom Verlaine and Robert Forster and (sigh) The Velvet Underground. (Indeed, I was initially a fraction wary of this album because of the way lead singer Max Doyle owes such a debt to Verlaine on the opening ‘Farmacy’…until I became overwhelmed by the song’s – by the Songs’ – sheer gorgeousness.) And please note: these comparisons are not supposed to denigrate, only enlighten. Songs are so their own band it almost hurts.
So yes, we are talking about Melbourne band Beaches, and their psychedelic wash of post-No Wave guitars: only a more naked cousin perhaps. And we’re not talking nudity, either. An obvious difference would be, I guess, that Songs really have got songs – not for them the Animal Collective trap of concentrating on the sound to the detriment of everything else. This band knows the importance of the performance, the sound and The Song.
The vocals (male, Doyle, and female, courtesy of bassist Ella Stiles) often sound like they’re coming from far away down a distant bush highway, or perhaps trapped inside your own imagination: chants, rambles, tangential asides that lead nowhere and make you want to stay there. The vocals ache and linger.
On the show-stopping, 11-minute long ‘Just An Idea’, guitars shimmer and shiver and blossom and spread into a blissful, torpid summer haze, the same way guitars once did on Galaxie 500’s climatic version of Jonathan Richman’s ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’.
As great as this song is, it’s not even the finest moment here – right now, that honour goes to the chugging, organ-fed, part-instrumental ‘My Number’ which so could be lifted from (much-missed former Brighton UK band) Electrelane’s 2001 debut Rock it To The Moon, it pains to type these words. Or perhaps that honour lies with the tumultuous place-holder ‘Oh No’, or the churning, soil-destroying, Brave Words riffs on ‘Retreat’, or the Daydream Nation-like torpor of ‘Clouds’, or…
Again, I’ll say it. These comparisons are not supposed to denigrate, only enlighten. I have few other mechanisms available right now for expressing my delight.
So: would I have bought this album with my own money had I not received a free copy? Fuck yes.
Songs is the Greatest Album I Have Heard This Year…and quite possibly this decade. Not that music is a competition, you understand.
Ten stars. A hundred stars. A shimmering, cascading universe-full.