2. Darren Hanlon – Fingertips And Mountaintops
I only barely got this record before I left Australia. And it only just missed out on being number one. It’s got everything, beautiful songs, insightful lyrics and also one of the last Australian musicians who to write about Australia.
The towering highlight is Elbows, a simple story that unfolds so carefully unfolds about dancing at a club next to a movie star and touching elbows. From it’s man-walks-into-a-bar type introduction (“On a warm night in March, on a dark disco floor/I danced up a storm like I never before), through to the punchline (See we only touched elbows, it’s the plain naked truth/And I can’t even back up my story with proof), all the way to how we all bump and knock eachother all the time, then back to the dance floor, then the wonderful conclusion – “Some take others home, waking up to regret it/We only touched elbows and I’ll never forget it.”
It’s Hanlon’s way with words, and he’s getting more expressionist by the minute. He’s turning into a great song writer, and his jokes are turning into charm. The album even opens on the sad note of Hold On, followed by an almost angry People Who Wave At Trains (They way they pass through every moment/with nothing on their brains/Like the people who wave at trains). Manilla NSW features school hall piano, the title track sounds like the Modern Lovers and Fire Engine doesn’t have Darren singing on it at all.
Two things hold this record back. One is Couch Surfing, an amazing song by all accounts, but it’s so jokey that it’s going to do nothing to save Darren Hanlon crowds. Last few times I’ve seen him, when Hanlon sings one of his new ballads, the crowd stares like they are waiting for a magic trick. And the slightest whiff of a pun or wit is greatted by a loud cheer. Anyway, I find his shows almost unbearable these days, and a song like this doesn’t help. It’s like the squash song on his last record. Some dumb fuck will yell out “squash” all through a gig.
The other is the production. It’s fine but not great. Imagine the production of a Youth Group album on these songs! If only. And what’s with the cover?
Still, I’m completely in love with this record. It’s completely subjective, but I can’t stop listening to it. So many great lyrics, great musical moments, and so varied and never boring.