The Big Issue : Edition 571
MUSIC 38 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 21 SEP–4 OCT 2018 After his rock band had stalled, Joe McKee made a gorgeous solo debut with Burning Boy (2012). Now living in Los Angeles, the English- born Australian reflects on his dislocation and newfound fatherhood on this worthy follow-up. McKee is still under the sway of Scott Walker and other visionaries, and his best work inches him closer to their ranks. This is an accomplished singer-songwriter album engulfed in otherworldy strings, horns, synths and piano. Mostly unmoored by drums, the individual songs can feel nebulous, but together they offer much to savour. And behind McKee’s dreamy singing and feathery folk guitar lie some powerful lyrics – ‘I Want to Be Your Wife’ examines his marital challenges from the reverse perspective, while ‘On an Amniotic Ocean’ finds him wondering, “ Why would I ever wish to be born into a country tangled and torn?” As McKee basks in such balladry, the closing line from ‘Outside the Flesh Machine’ promises, “I’ll dive into the astral plane, and start it all again.” DOUG WALLEN AN AUSTRALIAN ALIEN JOE McKEE Lasting for 25 years and a dozen albums is, in its own way, remarkable. But it’s nothing compared to what Low do on their 12th LP. Deep into a career categorised by slow, sad, achingly pretty music, the Minnesota trio – based around husband/ wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker – effectively explode their familiar sound. Double Negative is still slow, sad and achingly pretty, but the holy vocal harmonies and instrumental warmth are abandoned. Instead, voices, keyboards and guitars are so bathed in overdriven effects that they’re studies in distortion and decay; the frayed edges bleeding and browning out, individual instruments made indistinct. This spectral sonic soup is ambient music at its most uneasy: tense, bracing, agitated. It’s a seething sound used to evoke maladies political (‘Quorum’), social (‘Always Trying to Work It Out’), physical (‘Fly’) and spiritual (‘Disarray’). The horrors of the contemporary climate are turned into a dark 49 minutes of the soul. ANTHONY CAREW DOUBLE NEGATIVE LOW ON FATHER’S DAY this year, I marvelled at the “cool dad” gifts some of my mates received: tickets to gigs, rare vinyl, download codes! Growing up, music didn’t really form any part of my relationship with my dad (except for the moments when he would ask me to turn it down, of course). Whereas Mum talked about growing up with Beatlemania, and passed on her love of 60s British pop to her kids, Dad rarely spoke about what music, if any, moved him. Sure, occasionally somewhere between the Sandown races and ABC news hour that blared out of his transistor radio 24/7, there was some music, but I was too busy blasting Oasis on my Walkman to notice. So, it came as a complete shock to me in 2003 when, following the death of country music legend Johnny Cash, my dad momentarily welled up with tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he said plainly: “He was my favourite songwriter of all time. The greatest.” Being of a different era to the new wave of emotionally savvy dads that I see in my friendship group, he left it at that. We never spoke about it again. But from then on I did notice that, from time to time, Dad would turn up a Johnny Cash song on the radio, and sometimes even sing along. Now when I hear Johnny Cash, I remember my dad, and my connection with Cash’s music will be forever marked by this. Music defines so many of our relationships, sometimes in the most abstract ways. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor If you’ve spent time in the past five years stuck to the floor of Melbourne pubs, there’s a good chance the name Cash Savage means something to you. The singer-songwriter has developed a live reputation that some artists work decades for; an undeniable presence that oozes charisma and conviction. Good Citizens marks Savage’s second LP with her band The Last Drinks, and it’s clear from the outset that the focus is on capturing lightning in a bottle. Its nine songs range from Nick Cave swagger (‘Found You’), to kd lang slow-dance (‘February’), and even rousing post-punk (‘Pack Animals’). While Savage remains central, her cohorts are given plenty of space to work. The strings – guitar, bass, violin – mix urgent strokes with pure sonic discordance depending on the nature of the song, while the drums shift and swell beneath to match. Theirs is a chemistry that is unbridled and, as further listens of Good Citizens set in, unrivalled. DAVID JAMES YOUNG GOOD CITIZENS CASH SAVAGE AND THE LAST DRINKS CD DOWNLOAD VINYL JOHNNY CASH. DADS LOVE HIM. DAUGHTERS TOO.