A wry view of life for the world-weary

I’ve Been Happy Before, I Can Do It Again


Everything’s A Thread – The John Steel Singers

A muso friend of mine recommended I check out The John Steel Singers and as I generally trust his opinion I did. First things first – the album cover is great, although the sleeve notes, printed in red on a black background, are so small as to defeat the best efforts of my elderly eyes. Shame really, as I enjoy the background information you can glean from the doodlings to be found there – perhaps, I am betraying my age and a longing for the piece of art that was the album gatefold cover.

I ripped the album which comes with a bonus 6 track EP – words that normally fill me with dread – on to my MP3 player and settled down to a listen on my commute up to the smoke. After a few minutes listening I had to check the name of the album on the display of my player because in my half alert state I thought I was listening to a derivative of the Stone Roses with a dash of MGMT thrown in for good measure. Nothing wrong with that but the music had a bit of a familiar feel about it – driving rhythm, guitars operating at the high end of the scale and ethereal vocals somewhere in the background – but soon veered off into unusual and interesting sonic directions. State of Unrest (I wish!) – there are two versions on the set – was sublime with the eponymous track and Happy Before running it close.

The John Steel Singers are a six piece band from Brisbane, formed in 2007 and this is their second album, following on from their 2010 debut, Tangalooma. Their name is a bit Radio 2ish, putting me in mind of that stalwart Sunday radio show, Sing Something Simple, featuring the Cliff Adams singers – remember it? – but owes its origins, apparently, to the band’s toy horse. I don’t know what it is – maybe the British music scene has been destroyed by the commercialised karaoke muzak promulgated by the X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and the Voice – but the last vestiges of a pioneering spirit and a willingness to take risks seems to reside with Aussie bands.

There is something really uplifting about this album and its mix of hippy, trippy psychedelia. You can imagine that it is the end product of an idyllic lifestyle – too many days in the sun and too plentiful a supply of weed. I beg to disagree with one of my favourite bands, the Alabama 3, that “there ain’t nothing worse than some fool lying on some Third World beach wearing spandex, psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope pretendin’ he getting’ consciousness.” If albums like this are the end product, then more power to their elbow.

I see they are playing live in London in October. May check them out but music which is this uplifting and demanding of sunshine may struggle on a damp, dank autumn evening in the metropolis.

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