KICKING INDIFFERENCE - The Pictures (High Spot)
The title could be a shot at past management or a comment on the state of rock and roll generally, but it sure does infer a large degree of bitterness. Which is not entirely unjustified after The Pictures were woodshedded against their wishes only to see major label interest peak and wane.

Who knows what might have been? There are two sides to every story and those deals might have been thinly-disguised golden handcuffs. At least they got to Abbey Road.

Fame is an elusive concept and a doubled-edged sword: Principal member Davey Lane would be rolling in cash if he had a dollar for every time his status as a moonlighting member of You Am I was mentioned in the Australian music press (or what's left of it.) So you can't say they're not well-known in their own backyard. The question is whether this album's going to make them heard and most mainstream radio programmers are too cloth-eared to tell a good song from their employee participation share incentive program.

The Pictures (really the two-man core of guitarist Lane and bassist Luke Thomas with a cast of helpers) seem to have been around since Keef was a boy. It's actually less than a decade but this is only their second real album. "Kicking" sounds like a band busting out yet failing to work out who they really want to be.

"Kicking" isn't a bad album by any means; it's just dragged down by some drifting ballads and the odd blob of distortion in the mixes. For the would-be arena rocker like "Better Let Go" with its George Martinesque flourishes, there's a cranky little rocker like the superb "So Long My Friend" or the psychedelic horn-flavoured "Give It Some!"

"Cabin Fever" seems to last considerably longer than its 3min35sec indicates and is one of those "let's be soulful so they can hold up lighters/iPhones" moments that producers of bands like Oasis insert at the halfway point of their albums. It's two-thirds of the way through this one and The Pictures would get away with it, except it meanders into the well-intentioned but well-named "Nowhere" and the pastoral Kinks-iness of "Maisie Rose", which strives for a big finish but falls flat.

"Can You Hear It" is the opening song but the title must refer to that cloying, overloaded sound at both ends of the sonic spectrum that Joe Meek-inspired freakbeat bands of the '60s used to load into their singles (which were played on the radio, regardless.) In the digital age, it just makes my car speakers rattle.

"So Long My Friend" nails what we should all know and love as the classic "Pictures Sound" with wah-wah squalls over a rock-solid backbeat and an acoustic bed rhythm bed. More of this, please. – The Barman

 

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THE FANTASTIC SOUNDS OF THE PICTURES - SELECTED TRACKS 2000-2005 - The Pictures (Illustrious Artists)
The Pictures main man Davey Lane is perhaps best known as the second guitarist/referee for enduring Aussie icons You Am I. The Pictures themselves have been around for seven years, producing a string of singles and an album. This collection compiles some of their rarer output, along with demos and different mixes.

Think of The Pictures as a beat band - a damn fine one - and you can't go wrong. Sometimes they cross over into freakbeat/psych territory (like The Creation), otherwise they come across as an Antipodean version of mid-period, Keith Moon Who. The latter's a tag they might duck these days but there's no mistaking those fills on "Run & Hide" or chords on "Don't You Wanna Know" (which could have benefitted from a little backwards-played guitar.)

I was told The Pictures "real" album ("Pieces of Hate") was top heavy with the Who but I've never heard it so i can't say. But as far as "The Fantastic Sounds..." is concerned, variety is a byword. "How Do You Feel" actually recalls Super K's "Recurring Nightmare". Since "A Thousand Years" and "Silence" are positively Lennonesqe and "Little Brown Bottle" is a dirty garage rocker. Pigeonholing The Pictures isn't a fruitful exercise.

There are some great moments here. Lyrically nonsensical it may be but "I Dealt A Rollercoaster" is a great little single in anyone's language. "You'll See" rocks with an English sensibility (must be in the strings and harmonies) that recall the best output from Abbey Road. "Skinny Ass Bop" and a couple of other rockers keep it down and dirty. "You Don't Care Much" and "Downhill From Here" sound like they would have been fine singles if the EMI affiliate The Pictures had been signed to hadn't gone belly-up. (There's also the occasional intriguing shot across the bows of past management in the liner notes which tend to reinforce some scuttlebutt that had been kicking around.)

Asa you might guess, given that some of these songs are experiments or demos, production is up and down but it really doesn't matter much when the band hits its straps and you turn it up loud. The Pictures' love of what they do is palpable - and your love of what they do should be be similarly manifested by putting down your heard-earned for a copy. – The Barman




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