100 for 2000 – #4. Darren Hanlon – Early Days

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2000 – #4. Darren Hanlon – Early Days
(Candle)

It was at a Sounds Like Sunset gig at the Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney. It was an early one, and in between the bands, a friend of the band got up and did a song. Just two songs – one between each of the three bands. Just two songs and they were both brilliant. The young singer songwriter was Darren Hanlon. He year or two later he would release his first CD, a 7 track EP called Early Days.

I’ve followed Darren ever since. He will pop up a lot over the writing. But this musical relationship begins here.

After that show, I asked him if he had a tape or anything to sell (a tape! So 90s). But I remember what those songs were. Beta Losers – which appeared earlier on a compilation – and She Cuts Hair. Both tracks are on here.

Darren comes from Lismore, and later I would find out he was a member of the Simpletons, a great band that I missed out on completely. He’s mainly acoustic, but had that Jonathan Richman/Belle and Sebastian vibe. Witty, clever – maybe a bit too cutesy. But these ‘early days’ of Darren were legendary. He was a storyteller in song, and became a story teller on stage.

His crowds got bigger with every show. Soon he was the biggest act on Candle Records. I went to every gig hoping to hear some wonderful new song. I lived out these 7 tracks.

Early Days opens with the title track, a short quick ditty about the stomach butterflies you get at the start of a relationship. Its a pretty good indicator of what Darren does – sweet songs, with wit and randomness. Beta Losers is about a guy who gets dumped, and feels like the superceded format of the Beta tape.

The big song was the only one I hadn’t heard before the EP was released – Falling Aeroplanes. By then his stock was so high that Triple J even played a song that was essentially a guy and a banjo. It was the only Hottest 100 song in that radio station’s poll not to have a film clip – some live footage was hastily cut together for the show.

It’s such a rush when you love an artist early – and every new song seems to be better than the last. Falling Aeroplanes was just that – the best song he had written up to that point. Based on a fairytale Darren had written, it tells of a boy who wants to give up writing songs because they are of no use. And a girl telling the boy how songs can be just as useful as a “box or a bad or cupboards or shelves”.

It’s very cutesy, but I have thought about that song a lot. I think of my Dad. He’s never written a song – but he can change a car tyre. What good are the songs I’ve written if we are stuck with a flat? I think of this song, even now, when I think of why any song should ever be written again.

I’m not sure how easy it is to find this EP. Maybe in Australia it’s easier. But Darren surpassed it all with his next record. But I still remember asking a stranger if he had a tape, and how I followed him for months, just because I was hoping to hear his two songs.

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