BLUE - Andrew McCubbin and the Hope Addicts (1am Records)
Context is everything, hipsters. Saturday night, I went to the footy with Dad and Ben, we got a bit overwrought about what Paul Roos is doing to the Swans, saw one great team – pity it was Geelong – then I jumped on my murdersickle and took a long roundabout ride home, diving through traffic gaps that weren’t really there, at some terrifically illegal pace.
On my way home I ducked into the pub and grabbed a bottle of wine, no, better make that two bottles, just in case. Safely ensconsed in my attic, I played several records that The Barman has sent me, in the expectation that I’ll write reviews of them – hardcore American punk, hardcore English punk,'60s garage pop – and wrote emails, a post to a footy forum (oh, wasn’t that one controversial) and so on, and so forth. I like writing when I’m drunk.
I reckon I must’ve been deep into the second bottle of semillon sauv blanc when I heard this. My notes read: “Dreary Leonard Cohenish dirge.” Well, that was my first impression and I was pretty drunk and wired. Second listen tonight, I like it.
Yeah, there is a touch of the Leonard Cohen about it, especially in the vocals. But it’s beautifully done. The songs are carried along with an accoustic guitar, upright bass and brushed drums. The occasional distortion guitar rings in and (perhaps for the first time in I-94 Bar history) a “twin cello attack” fills out the sound. Cellos are by their nature beautifully suited to a certain strain of melancholia, which is mostly what this record is, and those cellos are matched by some classically haunting woman backing vocals.
It’s a concept album in a way – the lyrics read like pages from a diary. As my first listen was way out of context for for this record, I won’t quote any, they don’t work in quotes, they really do work in context. Andy’s singing is quiet, restrained, yeah, maybe in a Leonard Cohenish way, that carries these diary pages of love lost, love gone wrong, of caring and feeling and being lost, feeling an empty space inside of you that once that perfect soulmate used to fill.
I don’t know if I’m on the right track with the Leonard Cohen thing, I don’t know enough about him. Maybe it’s more “Astral Weeks”. I’m not up to speed on my cello-driven melancholia. But I do like this a lot. I like the semi-spoken vocals, like Andy knows he aint a great singer but has figured out a way to make his voice work in the context – and it really does work. There’s a warmth and a sense of resignation that I really like.
By the gods, I just glanced at the booklet, this was recorded in Melbourne! Shit, I’d had this vision of Andy and his Hope Addicts (and having just listened to the entire album, I get where that name is coming from) all getting together in some remote Welsh cottage to make this record. It has that kinda feel to it.
I’m happily single but I have been to some of the places described on this record. It’s beautifully done. And maybe there are worse things to be addicted to than hope, but most addictions are straightforward – you just go and feed the craving. But hope, fucking hell, it’s often someone else’s choice to feed your addiction or not, hope can really fuck you up. You listen deep to this record and there’s a bit of that there, too. It’s a chapter of a man’s life, done with care and craft and skill and one of the best new records I’ve heard in a long time. - Earl O'Neill
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