WE WUZ CURIOUS - The Lurid Yellow Mist Featuring Dave Graney and Clare Moore (Illustrious Artists/Fuse)
Chances at this stage of the game are that you'll either be curious or have your switch flipped permanently to "Off". If it's the latter it's a pity because Graney, Moore and Co continue to come up with interesting ways to work outside the straight-up rock idiom, doing it very much on their own terms.
So there. I said it. It's not Rock. Well maybe just a bit. Mostly it's a mix of lounge pop, psych-funk, jazz and outright weirdness, all blended in a cocktail shaker of lyrical intrigue. In fact, Dave Graney's words are so ironic that he risks giving Socrates a run for his philosophical money.
Whether it's in the stinging "Punk Dies" ("Real punks go down fast...real punks life on cough medicine") or the reflective "I Needed Someone To Find Me" where he muses he could have "paid more attention to my major mask", it's an autobiographical outing for Dave Graney. The Lurid Mist, his band of four years, is up to the task and in perfect sympathy. They're all seasoned players bringing a tremendous amount of skill and musical input to the party but for me, it's the bass-playing of Surrealist Stu Thomas and drumming of Clare Moore that deserves the spotlight. Unobtrusive but masters of their groove, they lay an impeccable bedrock.
If the "major mask" was the persona that fronted The Coral Snakes, the long-serving Graney band that produced an Australian mega-charting album like "You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel", who's doing the talking these days? There's probably scope for a thesis or two there. Who calls a song with a title like "Let's Kill God Again" a "crowd pleasing radio single"? And releases it just in time for Australia being invaded by 200,000 Catholic "pilgrims" for World Youth Day? I'm anticipating the traffic chaos that's about to grip Sydney and praying it was deliberate.
"I'm In The Future Now" and "Let's Kill God Again" almost present the band as the Choral (sic) Snakes with big choruses and lush feels. Production was undertaken at Melbourne's Sing Sing Studios so you know it sounds great.
"Bring My Liar" couples a gentle Moore-Graney harmony refrain to a big bassline and jazzy guitar and keys, while Sir David spins a self-referential lyrical web over seven--plus minutes
"We Wuz Curious" goes all sorts of places. "Junk Time" sounds like Soft Cell electro-pop and stands apart from the wah-wah funk of "I Like To Be Haunted". While there's not much of the driving rock of Graney at his commercial peak, there's no reason the bulk of his audience from those days shouldn't pick up on this. The intellect and humour that was always inherent is shining even brighter. Europe might be the place to take this (The Lurid Yellow Mist are fresh from a jaunt through those parts supporting Nick Cave) in the immediate future. - The Barman
KEEPIN' IT UNREAL - Dave Graney & Clare Moore featuring Stu D...aka Comte d'Alucard
Rock and roll might have been where Dave Graney used to hide but he blew his cover years ago. After tasting mainstream beer barn and festival success in the mid-'90s, the chameleon of Australian rock 'n' pop cast off his leather coat of many colours and his musical muse headed for musical byways less travelled, where it was harder to put pigeons into holes but they could subsist on their own terms. "Keepin' It Unreal" is just one more excursion on that strange trip.
The latest finds Graney and musical muse Clare Moore farming their grooves in stripped back mode. This time it's Sir David on acoustic and 12-string guitars with his partner eschewing drums for vibraphone, for the most part. Filling out the line-up, which spent the time in residency at a club in Melbourne and then on low budget road trips around the country, is boss bassman Stuart Thomas, on six-string bass.
The 14 songs are a mix of familiar and some lesser-heard Graney compositions or co-writes with Moore and others, plus the odd cover (sometimes "odd" is the operative word). The whole album was cut in a day at Dave and Clare's Pondersosa home studio, so you know it sounds great.
OK rock pigs, let's cut to the chase: No-one ever claimed vibraphone to be a rock and roll staple. There's not one screaming guitar solo to be heard. Graney may own a fuzzbox but he's not going to use it. This is lounge-blues, richly anchored in warm acoustic sounds but topped with Dave's unique vocal stylisations. So if you pick up this CD, give it a spin and find yourself lost for descriptors, don't do a Favio and say "I can't believe it's not rock". There's more goodness in his disc than some mass-produced slab of laboratory margarine.
Who woulda thunk New York noise-and-menace merchants Suicide would have their "Diamonds Fur Coat Champagne" re-birthed as a driving acoustic piece that's still edgy in its own oblique way? Or that Clare would vocally tackle "Parchman Farm" (credited to Mose Allison but I know the version by John Mayall's Clapton-populated Bluesbreakers best) and infuse it with warm understatement?
Of the re-worked Graney originals there's none better here than "There Was a Time", which is stripped of its Mack truck engine room to propelled along by something more lithe and exotic. "Biker in Business Class" and "Lt. Colonel, Cavalry" also sound radically different to their alter egos.
The one departure from what passes as the norm is the closer (which is to say it has drums). A self-confessed Francophile, Graney gives an English language spin to French artist M's "Who of Us Two?". No idea how the original goes but in his and Clare's hands it's a jaunty slice of unmistakably Gallic pop (and, unsurprisingly as it sounds out of place, was recorded in a separate session.)
I was talking to a Melbourne muso about the musical place where Graney and Moore live and we were both stumped for an adequate name for it. It's not defined by conventional record company strictures but in its own way it's a more subversive existence as they've led in the past. Old fans will still make a connection.
Anyway, if you approach this album don't do it with trepidation. It mightn't get you to spend the rest of your life on the lounge but it does us all good to get out of the garage, occasionally. - The Barman
HASHISH & LIQUOR – Dave Graney & Clare Moore (Cockaigne/Reverberation)
Wasn’t it alleged cock flasher Jimbo Morrison who dropped the line “I’ll always be a wordman/Better than a birdman” on the out-of-it (and very posthumous) “American Prayer” spoken word album? Rhetorical question, but it fits right into a review of a double CD set from Australia’s Royal Family of Pop, Dave Graney and Clare Moore. After all, they’re the folks responsible for the best (only?) ode to the Australian Doors Show tribute that you’re ever likely to hear.
Speaking of wordmen, we’re often justifiably accused of being Birdman acolytes at the I-94 Bar, but even a staunch rock and roll soldier needs diversionary listening material after a long stint in the trenches supporting the War Against The Jive. Which makes “Hashish & Liquor” such an enjoyable and off-beat pleasure.
Hopefully it’s not too much of an over-simplification to paint Dave Graney as the “wordman” of his partnership with drummer/wife/muse Clare Moore, but it’s the lyrical musings on “Hashish” - about the nature of stardom, being stoned (in the many senses of the term) and all parts in-between - that get me every time. It’s not so much a ‘drug concept’ album as a ‘life concept’ piece, breezy enough for the casual listener but rewarding if you’re up for a challenge, too. So put that in your hash pipe and smoke it.
The music ranges from deft, jazz-tinged rock interspersed to diversions into folky and neo-country byways. It feels all warm, like it was produced your lounge room – which it probably would have been, in part, if you lived with Dave and Clare at their Ponderosa. The usual range of recent suspects that makes up The Lurid Yellow Mist play various instruments, supplemented by Melbourne jazz pianist Mark Fitzibbon, who’s now also part of the live show.
There’s a consistency in the run of recent Graney albums that makes you glad, in a way, that he no longer carries around a major label AustraliaCard in his knapsack. He’s free to do whatever he likes - and you’re also free to listen. It ain’t Detroit rock but it’s fascinating. As the man says, his schtick weighs a ton.
There’s a neat commentary that explores the rationale for dividing this package into explorations of infinity (Dave) and the abyss (Clare), but you’ll have to buy the CDs and pore over the liner notes to be up to speed. What you can expect when you spin the second album, Clare’s “Liquor”, is the unexpected.
“Liquor” is a dazzling trip into various musical dimensions, where the drinks are served straight up and the language is glam, sequenced beats, psychedelic sounds, strings and woodwind. It is also seriously out there and, at times (“The Town Bike Song”), fairly rocking. Tales of lust, boredom, love and cane-wielding nuns.
One of the most interesting and arresting packages to defy classification in 2005. - The Barman
THE BROTHER WHO LIVED - The Royal Dave Graney Show (Cockaigne)
The critics who've dubbed this "lounge pop" aren't listening hard enough. There's a chance they never made it past the opening "I'm Seeing Demons", where an edgy vocal should have given the game away. Not lounge, more like doing laps around the sunken island bar of a very whacked-out nightclub where rock dinosaurs once ruled the world.
The latin rhythms and acoustic guitar that underpin most of these tracks mask a dark heart and a hovering rock influence. These are the usual Graney musings and observations - Rock Star as the Great People Watcher. While it would be tempting to attribute this to recent forays with the Moodists - the old band for Dave (or David, as is his current preferred moniker) Graney and drummer Clare Moore - it would also probably be wrong. It doesn't pay to try and second guess royalty.
"Heavy entertainment" reads the subtext on the CD slick, and in some ways this album IS at least a mirror image of 1995's "The Soft 'n' Sexy Sound", whose lush textures were more Bacharach than Birthday Party. They're not altogether missing, but on cuts like the title track and "There's the Royal Troll" the guitars of Bill Miller and Stuart Perera give proceedings a rocky edge, against the always nimble rhythms of Clare Moore and bassist Adele Pickvance.
Variety remains a watchword: "All Our Friends Were Stars", for example, takes things back to the loungeroom, but "Like a Millionaire" is a jaunty walking blues and "I Am Your Humble Servant" an exercise in folk narrative. The various incarnations of Dave - sorry David - Graney pre-date the lounge music fad by several years and many shades of powder blue safari suit, so let's dump the labels (except those inside the collars of shirts that say "Polyester-rayon: Do not iron") and listen up.
There's no pretending that this fare is going to satisfy every I-94 Barfly but those who know the Graney muse will be well pleased. We'll be giving it more than the odd late evening spin. - The Barman
HEROIC BLUES - The Dave Graney Show (Cockaigne)
Barfly Simon Li will have a fit but I have to admit to being a bit of a Dave Graney fan back in his Coral Snakes days, catching his brand of wry, self-deprecating grooves on more than a few occasions. With their intuitive and sometimes delicate playing, the Coral Snakes took rock 'n' roll to some strange places. For every rocker like "I'm Gonna Release Your Soul" there was an unclassifiably compelling foil like "Night of the Wolverine". And was there a sharper dresser with more Tai Chi moves than the gold-plated enigma at centre stage? And then, in spite of success - or maybe just to spite it - they went all soft and sexy and we parted ways.
What a surprise, then, to hear from the man himself recently with his own admission that he was a visitor to the I-94 Bar. (Maybe not that much of a shock seeing he's a contemporary of many of the people we've interviewed and, with other half and long-time musical collaborator Claire Moore, a former member of the Moodists back in the punk days.) Anyway, David Graney (like Farnsie he's also adopted grown-up nomenclature) now fronts The Dave Graney Show (who I suppose should become known as the David Graney Show from here on in). "Heroic Blues" is their third long player.
Exactly what sort of music it is remains open to conjecture. As Graney points out, he now occupies his own musical space, for better or worse. The strings are all but gone but the close-miked vocals, laidback feel and warm textures remain, due in no small part to the wonderfully deft guitar playing of Bill (The Ferrets) Miller and Stuart Perera. The wit's intact too, on tracks like the obscenely funny ode to inner-citydom "Clinging to the Coast" ('Who knows what horrors lie in the west?') and "Leaving the Mount". And who else but the former King of Pop would have thought of writing a song from the perspective of the fatherless offspring of Rod Stewart ("Son of Maggie Mae")? The familiar theme of "star removed from/in spite of reality" from "Rock and Roll Is Where I Hide" and "Morrison Floor Show" is back, this time on the title track where the singer does his damnedest to convince himself he's where it's at.
"Folk-soul" is the typically idiosyncratic tag Dave, sorry David, has given it. Undeniably organic, there's scarcely a track that rocks in the conventional sense here but it's not the elevator crooning of "The Devil Drives" either. Too coy to be grown-up, too "out there" to take the conventional road, "Heroic Blues" will find a place on the CD rotel late at night, when the smoke's cleared from the war against the jive and it's time for (quieter) reflection. No cocktails, thanks. Make mine an absinthe.
OK punks...we will review the new Moodists compilation when we get hold of it. We now resume normal transmission.
- The Barman
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