At the very end of the liner-note thank-yous of his new LP Mantown, Northern Beaches singer Luke Escombe adds the names of Keith Richards and the Rev. Gary Davis. If he hadn’t thanked them, I would have – the music here takes so much snake-hipped groove from the former and more than a little pulpit-shakin’ drama from the latter.

And did I call Escombe a mere ‘singer’? He describes himself as a ‘musician, comedian, MC, pimp, chronic illness ambassador and “Sydney’s sexiest man voice”’. I stand corrected.

After spending most of 2009 at home on his couch recovering from a serious chronic illness, Escombe returned with two live EPs in Chronic Illness and Live in the Studio. His renewed style of music mixed funk, pop, comedy and hip-hop into something called “Flip flop”.

His “flip flop” musical comedy show “Chronic” played at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April 2011, with The Melbourne Herald Sun describing him as “a stick insect dressed like a pimp”.

Are we expected to take all this (or Luke Escombe himself) seriously?

Yes, and no. I was won over from the first song ‘I Drop Tha Bomb’ and the immortal couplet “Bad dog drop tha bomb on the lawn/The word bomb means dog turd in this song”. Those more grown-up might also enjoy the song’s menacing Peter Gunn groove and the muscle of Escombe’s band on Mantown, The Corporation.

The Corporation is Aaron Flower on guitar, Kevin Hailey on bass and Jamie Cameron on drums – jazz heavy hitters to a man, yet they rock-and-soul as if they were bred for it. Flower is well known as a jaw-dropping player with progressive country leanings and he particularly sizzles throughout – providing slithering Motown whispers on ‘iMan’, Telecaster sparkle on ‘Confidence’ and blues howls throughout.

Heavy friends such as Hammond go-to guy Lachy Doley and singer Chris E Thomas help round out Escombe’s clean and direct self-production. With the almost obscene amount of talent lying around the studio he wisely has not let anything get in the way of the songs.

As it should be – they are such strong, idiosyncratic songs: Escombe’s heavy-lidded, sometimes blues-barked delivery reminds me of the late Warren Zevon’s sardonic baritone. Like Zevon’s rendering of his own left-of-centre lyrics, Escombe’s often hilarious and bizarre word-images are sung by him with great drama and, yes, a wink.

Another fun line from ‘I Drop Tha Bomb’ says “There’s a sign on the wall for all to see/It says WE TAKE JOKES SERIOUSLY”. Luke Escombe and The Corporation take these jokes and songs very seriously indeed and have produced a cracker.

Luke Escombe’s website is here.

Published September 2012 on theorangepress.net

 

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