Posts Tagged ‘Warren Zevon’

It was a couple of Byron Bay Bluesfests ago when I came across Glenn Cardier again. Seeing his name up, I had made a point of checking him and his crack band, The Sideshow in one of the smaller festival venues. I’m glad I did – apart from being up close to the band (I am quickly losing enthusiasm for the huge tents and screens), I was mesmerised by Cardier, in pork pie and shades, front and centre,  growling his strange songs, his acoustic guitar driving the band and the crowd.

I had been a fan in the 70s. Glenn Cardier always stood out to me, seemingly of a different tribe than the grizzled ‘young fogeys’ who made up the singer-songwriters of the times. Apart from the freak-cabaret whiff of his bowler hat, Lennon specs and waistcoat, his songs seemed wryly funny, yet dark. And always entirely original.

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After seemingly bobbing up on every festival bill and touring the world with that other existential jester, Spike Milligan, Cardier retired for 25 years. In early 2002 he returned to low key gigs, and now has given us his fifth album since his 21st century resurrection, Cool Under Fire.

Recorded almost entirely by himself, with the help of some heavy friends such as Sideshow (and everywhere else) guitarist, Rex Goh and country darlin’ Catherine BrittCool Under Fire is a rich helping of what we love about Cardier. The songs are wry and droll, many illuminated with a cinematic glare or dark-street noir. The humour is there – the hilarious pulp detective ‘A Case of Mistaken Identity’ and the everyman-Elvis of ‘Impersonation of The King’; a lot of it, of course, dark and world-weary, such as ‘Cold Light of Day’ (a Weimar gypsy lurch, tipsy as Kurt Weill). CUF-cov-400

There are the Pop smarts that raise a writer like Cardier above many of his genre: ‘Win Some, Lose Some’ is loaded with hooks and the harmony of ‘Welcome Home, Johnny-Oh’ is a darker shade of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. And of course, commensurate with Cardier’s novelistic approach to lyric, there is romance – the romance of rock’n’roll with its cars (gotta be Cadillacs, Jim), sexual heat and girls girls girls (‘She had bumper-bullets that would do a Cadillac proud‘) but also sweet, everyday romance of the sort that keeps your average, jobbing muso existential jester going.

‘The Day I Fell In Love With You’ is perhaps one of the loveliest, most unadorned love songs I have heard for a long time. Here, Cardier reminds me (not for the first time on they album) of the late American singer Warren Zevon. Cardier, like Zevon’s in his tender moments, is happy to drop artifice and cleverness if something needs to be said plain and simple. This country simple approach raises a smile in ‘Loretta’ and lifts the heart in ‘Rise and Shine’ – a song of hope.

But it wouldn’t be Glenn Cardier if he didn’t leave us with a wink, and a shadow-play and maybe a twinge of loss. ‘The Last Jukebox’ seems set in a post-civilisation Mad-Maxscape, all dust and empty desert winds. It seems dark, listless – with all hope fading out to a pale glimmer. And yet:

“Only one thing left to do –,
Only one thing left to do –,
Come on now, come over here,
It’s gonna be alright –, 
Only one thing left to do.

Dance.”

 

Cool Under Fire is released 1 August 2016.
For more information go to www.glenncardier.com

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Prior to reviewing any new music, I make a point of strictly avoiding reading any other reviews of it. I mean, objectivity is all, brother. Ob-ject-iv-ity.

But by the time I was accidentally halfway though a (bad) review of Luke Escombe‘s new CD, Creeper Vine – in a hip web publication mind you – it was too late. No matter, the reviewer just did not ‘get’ Escombe’s music and blew it off in a few short paras (using a few short words).

His loss. The scribe had obviously not really listened in. He also was, just as obviously, oblivious to the work of Warren Zevon, Kinky Friedman, Dr John, Donald Fagen (or maybe Walter Becker, who is the more ‘rock’ of the Steely Dan duo), let alone the masterworks of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the great blues dramatists.

For this is where Escombe’s music sits: in the tradition of satirical rock’n’roll, urbane jazz boogaloo, sardonic rockabilly and sharp post-modern blues.

escombe 1In my OrangePress review of Escombe’s 2012 album, Mantown, I wrote “At the very end of the liner-note thank-yous… 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.”

Creeper Vine takes this fire-and-brim-Stones vibe up a notch. It is almost as if he and his rip-roarin’ band, The Corporation, is trying to jam an LP’s worth of energy into this six-track EP. Opener ‘Drink More Coffee’ is hyper-ventilating rock’n’roll with guitarist Aaron Flower‘s solo popping all the buttons. Title track ‘Creeper Vine’ name checks both Westfields and The Taliban in a modern parable of quiet desperation. ’30 Year old Woman’ is a very funny tale of a man who don’t dig the bimbos and wants an older woman even though “she might have a coupla kids/Might be married to a cop”.

Julia Gillard is the object of Escombe’s red-blooded yet Left-leaning desires in “Julia” (“Come back, Julia”) and “Axe in the House” tells the tale – in a bone-chilling Dr John whisper – of potential mariticide by lopping tool. Scary but funny. Very funny.escombe 2

Closing track is the expletive-spattered ‘Industrial Action’ which combines the Australian tradition of boss-hating with the equally Australian tradition of swearing like fuck. Drummer Jamie Cameron and Harry Brus on bass blast the track – and indeed the whole album – along with glee and heft. Michael McGlynn‘s production throughout goes for a roaring, very alive and living, sound – a sound rooted in the wildness of early 50’s rock and rockabilly.

Creeper Vine is not only great fat rock’n’boogie but smart, funny and – virtually alone in the roots genre – original and literate. I mention Zevon, Kinky et al earlier only to place Luke Escombe in their ‘outsider’ company. Like them he is his own nifty little genre of one. And long may he run.

Luke Escombe and the Corporation launch Creeper Vine at Lazybones Lounge on Saturday April 4.

Published April 2015 on theorangepress.net

 

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