MR COCKING'S DESCENT - Green Circles (Off The Hip)
It's easy to rave about things being unjust and how universally lauded a band would be if the world was different. Green Circles not only struggle with the fact they're domiciled in Adelaide, a remote and near geographically featureless Australian city that makes Sydney look like a happening musical town, they're existing 40 years too late.
Translate Green Circles to 1967 and you're just about there. If they had geo-tagging back then, they'd be sharing an N10 postcode with The Kinks in Muswell Hill, Swinging London, and hanging out at St James nightclubs with Jimi, Eric and the Pretty Things. Named after the career path of the world's first unsuccessful parachutist, "Mr Cocking's Descent" is a swirling mix of jangle, muscly pop, keyboard wash and rock-psych that's all embracing that soars, not plummets. Odds are you won't hear it played at your hip flavour-of-the-week nightclub because the DJs would take one look at the cover art and think "Antique Roadshow". Fuck them. Start your own nightclub.
You'd cheerfully put Green Circles in the veteran class. They might only produce an album at times of the century when Mars, Venus and Jupiter are aligned and the long-haired Tibetan timber elk is in heat, but it's worth the wait because they're ensemble players. They listen to each other without getting too complicated. Mark Gilbert holds sway at the mic with a commanding vocal that switches from serious pop contender to doom-tinged psychic warrior with ease. The engine room does its job (admirably well) and Andrew Piper (guitars/ukelele/organ, harp) applies sonic layers on top.
"Descent" is strong all over the park but really comes into its own in the second half. I'm looking at the ultra-catchy catchy "Semaphore Girl" here. "Where's Charlie" gets its pop smarts on in the singalong style of Ray Davies. "Baby You Flirt" is a declamatory pop gem with a rise-and-fall melody line. "Tin Toy" is a surreal psych sway, the sort of track The Soundtrack Of Our Lives used to lay on us with regularity.
"Martin's Wild" is a driving instrumental with organ and stabbing sax placed front-and-centre. "Watermelon Sugar Blues" is the showstopper, a 13-minute trip that holds guitars in check so Piper's keys and Glibert's vocals can weave a beguiling web, before morphing into a "Town and Country" Humble Pie acoustic coda at the death. Wow.
Retro psych pop with depth. Colour me mightily impressed. - The Barman
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TAVISTOCK STREET - Green Circles (Off The Hip)
It's the Festive Season and everyone's meant to be full of the spirit of good cheer, with peace on Earth and goodwill to all men part in evidence all over the place. There's no place for cranky editorialising, just happy thoughts. Yeah, right. So here go.
It's 2008, we (Australians) have a well-established, national new music network (Triple Jay) whose mission is to bring sounds to your ears that you'd normally not hear outside the big label-dominated syndicated commercial stations, yet there's no place to play music like Green Circles? You know what they'd say: They're too '60s. Their sound is too "noisy across the boards" (a phrase some gormless bottom-feeder actually used on me in a previous life). You don't have some hired hand "presenting" your album to the people who "program" the "playlists" at our station. No-one would like it. Pull the other leg, it plays Jingle Bells...
Sad fact that it has to be hip hop or the spawn of indie hipster tools barely capable of plugging in let alone writing a song to make the grade, but that's reality. Rock and Roll gets short shrift at most commercial radio stations. So how's anyone going to find out that a band like Green Circles (and scores others of their ilk even exist), let alone produce albums as fine as this? Hang around low-life websites like ours, I suppose. But you already do. So you have to tell a friend. Better still, play this album to one. Or two even. Here are some reasons:
- Green Circles are a four-piece.
- They have three albums to their credit.
- They play poppy rock and roll that's fresh and catchy.
- This is the toughest these still melodic Adelaide boys have sounded and these are the best songs they've recorded.
- They still have pop hearts that used to beat inside the chest cavities of bands like The Creation, the Small Faces and the Who but they've crystalized their sound nicely.
Someone who plays in punk bands once told me a certain sound was "too '60s" - despite the roots of his own bands' sounds lying squarely in those parts. He wouldn't like Green Circles. They have that vibe that makes you think you're stumbling down Carnaby Street circa 1965 with a headful of bennies and a heartful of hope, but the songs are deft and dynamic enough to lift them well clear of accusations of mere revisionism. So if you liked the second Rhino "Nuggets" box set, you'll love this.
Nine originals here and for mine the roughhouse "21st Century Blues" and driving pop smarts of "Five Blue Moons" are the pick. "Don't Start" is a R & B monster with Pretty Things swing. "Long Live Sivananda" is a cover but a damn fine one (you may have heard this 1969 Aussie psych classic by The Inside Looking Out on the "Forest of Goldtops" complie) and shuts down proceedings stylishly.
It's a fragmented musical world with lots of diversity and a dizzying range of acts and genres to wrestle with. So it's a shame that anyone not operating in community radio or on the zine/website fringes doesn't seem to give a fig about anything not falling within their own narrow field of perception. The only thing for bands like Green Circles to do is play on and all you and I can do is spread the word. Some things - like "Tavistock Street" - are worth the effort. - The Barman
GET ON THE OUTSIDE OF THIS - Green Circles (Sexy Diablo)
Didn't have much time for mods, generally. Growing up in Sydney in the heyday of great , Birdman-inspired music in the 1980s, their thing seemedmore contrived than anything else (although, in retrospect, there was a great deal of energy in evidence on the Sussex Street scene, when it occasonally crawled up the stairs and seeped into the Trade Union Club.) The Green Circles are a mod-influenced band from Adelaide, and the good news (for me) is they're more V-6 than Vespa.
Appearances can be deceptive and the cover art made me think these Green Circles were more Monkees than Music Machine. The cartoonish "Get Billy to the Gig on Time" game on the slick, as well as the montage of 45 picture sleeves on the inlay tray (featuring the Green Circles in poses ripped off from a collector's dream bargain bin), produced more confusion. So too the pictures of bric-a-brac that included a Small Faces badge, Kinks ticjet stub and Three Stooges key ring (that's where it went!)
Fears of another overt nostalgia act were, thankfully, swept away on the first listening. This is pop with a determined beat/garage bent. "Get on the Outside" sounds fresh and Mark Gilbert's sometimes snotty vocals keeps it going too close to polished. Sure, the Circles dips their collective lid to obvious precursors (The Creation being an obvious one) but they manage to just stay ahead of the game.
"Pocket Full of Nothing" is a bitter tale of love's rejection, nastied up with stinging guitar. "9:50" is a cute cover, "Wunderkind" a Pete Townsend cop and the organ-and-tremelo-fuelled "Make the Night" (which manages to rhyme "Vespa" and "whisper"!) strike a chord. A couple of the ballady cuts lose me ("taste of Black", "She Breathes") but think how far you'd need to go to hear a band work Australian football analogies into a relationship song ("Wooden Spoon".) I could do without the sampling of crowd noises and commentary, but that's just me.
Just when you had them pegged as potential supports to The Innocents, The Green Circles pull out a tune like "Averted Eye Girl", where an Asheton-esque "Funhouse" guitar line spars with "I hate you/I love you" lyrics that give way to some nice lead-work by Andrew Piper. "Stephanie Comes" is no Velvets slight return but a fully-fledged psyche work-out where vocals duck in and out of the droning mix, underpinned by acoustic guitar.
An energetic disc with lots of variety, much of which has roots on the UK side of the Atlantic. They even did it with the assisstance of a government grant! You could do much worse than give it a spin. - The Barman
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