The Big Issue : Edition 556
MUSIC 36 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 23 FEB–8 MAR 2018 If there is a cycle of hits and misses in David Byrne’s vast catalogue, this is surely a miss. An of fshoot of his Reasons to Be Cheerful project, American Utopia occupies some strange liminal world between sincerity and satire, where lyrics like “the brain of a chicken and the dick of a donkey” are delivered in camp, sonorous, overripe tones to a breezy calypso beat. The former Talking Head is searching for a deeper philosophical truth through endless quirky truisms and clichés, and in that respect his creative project is the same as it ever was, but the melodies are so hammy and strained here that it’s difficult to believe he’s not kidding. Maybe he is kidding, and it’s way over my head. Who knows? Yet there is something beautiful in the ageing of Byrne’s voice, a fragility that pop music rarely reckons with, but as a whole the album is a one-man version of his Imelda Marcos musical: awfully interesting, mostly awful on the ears. SIMONE UBALDI AM ERICAN UTOPIA DAVID BYRNE After a pair of albums relishing acoustic instrumentation, Sydney’s Sarah Blasko made a dramatic departure with synth-driven Eternal Return (2015). She continues in that direction on Depth of Field, only more stripped-back and downbeat. These songs are fascinating exercises in restraint, with the slinky melodies and rhythms often orbiting Blasko’s smouldering voice at a generous distance. That yields a slow-burn listen, but it does make it all the more striking when she breaks out vocally. On the more propulsive opener ‘Phantom’, she pours herself into the line “I’m gonna fill my lungs with you” before strutting through a series of rhythmic exhalations. ‘A Shot’ mines romantic betrayal against a distinctly 80s backdrop, sounding like a Heart power ballad from that era. But after Blasko belts out the climax of the third track, ‘Never Let Me Go’, the remaining songs settle into an extended simmer. Despite regular arcs of shivering strings, the album loses some of its initial thrill from there. DOUG WALLEN DEPTH OF FIELD SARAH BLASKO ON 26 JANUARY upwards of 40,000 people flooded the streets of Melbourne. The Invasion Day protest – and similar ones held countrywide – c alled for equal rights and for Australia Day to be moved to another date or be abolished altogether. It felt like a seismic shift in public opinion. That, finally, as Wurundjeri man Bill Nicholson, who gave the welcome to country at the Melbourne demonstration, told The Guardian: “People are starting to connect, people are starting to understand.” It is in this climate that Melbourne doom duo Divide and Dissolve release their second album, Abomination. Guitarist/saxophonist Takiaya Reed and drummer Sylvie Nehill make music designed to decolonise, dismantle white supremacy and empower people of colour and Indigenous people the world over. It is dark, guttural and all consuming. Opening with the hypnotising title track, over the course of eight mainly instrumental pieces Nehill and Reed draw you under the covers into a suffocating reality; their lived reality. And it is here, in the humid shadows, that we encounter the resistance. It comes in many forms: the haunting ‘Assimilation’ recalls the ongoing trauma of colonisation; the potent words of Venezuelan- born artist Minori Sanchiz-Fung on ‘Reversal’ speak to the power of survival. On Abomination, Divide and Dissolve don’t let you up for air, and the result is something quite extraordinarily powerful: a soundtrack for the times. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor The Breeders’ fifth album All Ner ve is their first in a decade, and reunites the members (Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson) behind their second – and arguably most successful album – Last Splash (1993). But All Ner ve is not another Last Splash. It doesn’t have a youthful, idiosyncratic hit like ‘Cannonball’, but it’s an important album nonetheless. All Ner ve is loaded with emotion and rawness. It’s grittier than its predecessors, often intertwined with dark content – look no further than ‘Walking With a Killer’. There are repeated references to running, sometimes defiantly, like when the title track declares “I won’t stop, I will run you down”. While at other times it’s unfulfilled and anxious, as in ‘Nervous Mary’, which tells us, “She runs for the exit, but she never got away.” All Ner ve is 11 tracks that mark almost 30 years of The Breeders, revealing all the joy and hardship experienced along the way. ISABELLE TOLHURST ALL NERVE THE BREEDERS CD DOWNLOAD VINYL SYLVIE NEHILL (LEFT) AND TAKIAYA REED.