MAYDAY - Andrew Bunney (Lone Wolf Records)
This solo album from the former Exploding White Mice rhythm guitarist is far poppier (power pop that is) than you might expect from his past associations. Seeing that the actual CD label had a picture of someone playing an acoustic guitar, I'd reduced my expectations accordingly, but it's almost all electric, though generally lighter and more "sensitive" than most of the Mice's canon. There is no copyright or production date anywhere on the packaging or the disk itself, but since I got this as a Christmas present from my brother, I'm assuming it must have hit the Adelaide shops fairly recently.
The songs themselves are a bit of a mixed bag and Bunney's voice has got a real chameleon quality to it - I continually hear echoes of a variety of other vocalists. The opening "Like A Waterfall" is a cheerful number which starts out sounding a little like Al Stewart attempting some variations on "Jesse's Girl", before quickly turning into a bouncy tale of love, loss and learning from your mistakes ("I changed my tune... into a song").
"Please Louise" sounds a lot more like what you'd expect from a former Mouse (you can hear that Ramones influence distinctly), though not as harsh or in your face and with a touch of Jeff Dahl in the vocals.
"Twelve Years" is an acoustic number which sounds almost like it could be a Cat Stevens outtake from around the time of "Tea For The Tillerman". At first it seems to be about being in prison, but then it turns out to be about being in school.
"Solid Ground" is a catchy, countrified number that gives me visions of an upbeat Working Class Ringos, but with a Hammond organ supplying fairground hurdy gurdy keyboards like the "Seachange" theme tune meets late period Happy Hate Me Nots (I'm thinking particularly of "Am I Included In Your Plans?").
"Freedom Fighter" is the hit single of the album, or at least it would be if this sort of music ever got a decent run on radio these days. With its proto-anthemic chorus ("My girl is a freedom fighter/She ain't no Barbie doll/My girl is a freedom fighter/She's in love with love and rock'n'roll") I am assuming that this would have to be a highlight in the live set.
"Heartdead" is another song that happily acknowledges the Ramones' contribution to twentieth century music, though once again in a restrained, dignified fashion.
"Jesus Was An Anarchist" takes an ambiguous, but rockin', approach to organised religion.
"Derailed" is a nice blend of country and power pop; let's call it pastoral pop. Okay I made that up, it's not a real category... yet. However I seem to have encountered so many power pop bands adding a country twang to their sound, either through a bit of pedal steel guitar in the background as here, or through some Saturday night hootenanny fiddle and banjo, that I'm sure it's going to become a recognised category any day now.
"Cowgirl Of My Dreams". Wow, now this is seriously country, with just the merest hint of pop.
"Miss Macintosh, My Darling" is a soft song of reminiscence and regret in waltz time; acoustic guitar, some light brushwork on the drums, Hammond organ in the middle distance and a touch of resonant cello wafting through on the breeze. The title has been shoehorned into a line of the chorus; it doesn't quite scan, at least not to my ear, but the song has momentum enough to carry it to its conclusion anyway.
"H.D. Holden". First P76's "Me & Her, The Road And Our EJ" and now this. Once it was just the legendary FJ, but pretty soon there won't be a single Holden model that doesn't have at least one song it can call its own. However this song is a little less complimentary than others ("Down Wilunga Hill at 200 Ks/But going up it takes three days"). Following in the tread marks of the classic car songs that precede it, this one itemizes the features of the vehicle (and rust appears to be a major feature), all to a beat that makes no attempt to hide its debt to Chuck Berry. Perhaps not surprisingly, the song ends with the lament "I want an H.R./It's a much better car".
I guess if Andrew Bunney is out making records on his own now (this is actually his second solo offering apparently), it must mean that the Mice definitely are no more. It will be interesting to see if any of the other members surface in time. In the meantime, this is an enjoyable and diverse album to be going on with. - John McPharlin
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