100 for 2000 – #39. Amy Rigby – Til the Wheels Fall Off

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.

2003 – #9. Amy Rigby – Til the Wheels Fall Off
(Spit & Polish)

I loved a whole bunch of country-ish female singer songwriters around this time. Lucinda Williams, Laura Cantrell etc. But I’ll distill it down to one, because one rose above the pack. Amy Rigby’s Til the Wheels Fall Off.

I have since learnt her history. She was married to Will Rigby of the DBs, and made an acclaimed solo album called Diary Of a Mod Housewife (it’s great). But I found her on this record, after Laura Cantrell covered her song Don’t Break the Heart.

My insatiable appetite for music at this time led me to her newest album, without a note heard. She is a fiery, female, funny Elvis Costello. The songs are interesting composition wise, but her lyrics are always clever, and she’s always got her heart out.

Another reason I love this record on a personal level was it let me dwell in the confusion of relationships and love. It seems being a 22 year old boy and being a 44 year old single mother had a lot in common. The other sex was still confusing.

It’s those batch of, I guess I can call them, WTF songs that really hit home. It opens with Why Do I? – a largely spot on assessment on not being comfortable when I should be, not being happy when things are going great. Even better is Shopping Around, about how the generation before us never met as many people as we did – no wonder it was easier for them to choose someone.

There’s The Deal – a doomed agreement between two lovers to leave the baggage out of it, done as a note perfect Bacharach pastiche. O’Hare compares the wasting time of circling planes to the long drawn out waits between courtships.

Then there’s the rocking Are We Ever Going To Have Sex Again? Ok, so maybe not my life, but a great song about the passion going out, done with such wit that it is still a mainstay in Rigby’s sets today.

The music is pretty great. Bit of rockabilly, a bit of garage rock keyboards, plenty of cool guitar work. It might not be everyone’s sound, this sort of gritty, rootsy rock. But by damn it sure is my sound.

Amy Rigby is having fun on this record, while still talking about big subjects. Sometimes you just sit back and think of your problems and just throw your arms in the air, laugh, and say, this world is mad. And that’s what this record is good for.

(And then the next record was even better…)

100 for 2000 – #38. The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music

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.

2003 – #8. The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
(Lost Highway)

Yet another last album. What was with 2003? The Jayhawks had suffered so many indignities, and it looked like they were finally on the right label (roots rock hitmakers Lost Highway), with the right record – Rainy Day Music.

It was touted as a return to country rock form – but that isn’t strictly true. Taking away the commercial pop leanings of their last two albums, Louris did return to acoustic guitars and simple, low key tunes. But it has little country – it’s a folk album, with a fair bit of power-pop.

Louris gave us some of his best songs in this collection. All the Right Reasons, Save It For A Rainy Day, Come To the River, Stumbling Through the Dark… it’s worth noting that this year’s best of, Music From the North Country, had as many songs from this album as Tomorrow the Green Grass and Hollywood Town Hall.

The album got rave reviews. It was on many best of the year lists, especially in folk and country circles. Yet, they still couldn’t get their career to the next level. It must have been so disheartening, and by the end of the year, the band have gone on ‘hiatus’.

The Jayhawks I think still exist, technically. Whether there will ever be another album under that name is a different story.

100 for 2000 – #37. Gillian Welch – Soul Journey

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.

2003 – #7. Gillian Welch – Soul Journey
(Acony)

Yeah, this is a pretty obvious one. Gillian Welch’s fourth album took on a wider palette – drums, organs, electric guitars – and some of her best songs. Sad though, in that it’s seven years since Soul Journey was recorded and with no new album in sight, I’ve pretty much written her off.

How great it was though, when I first put this album on. From a career full of impossibly beautiful songs, this album opens with Look At Miss Ohio, a song it seemed that people started cover almost immediately. It started off as classic Gillian Welch, but then a minute or so in, there’s drums!

Looking back, all those additional instruments aren’t that shocking. They serve the songs, and they weren’t missed in a live setting. Wrecking Ball, Wayside – all worked well with or without drums.

The two best songs are not only without drums, they are mostly without David Rawlings, her long time guitar player/producer. The Welch only recordings – No One Knows My Name and I Had A Real Good Mother And Father – share a theme, alluding to Welch’s own life as an orphan. Then there’s One Little Song, as much a manifesto as anything she has ever written.

So we can only imagine how this new sound could have evolved. This year we got a debut album by Dave Rawlings, which gave us some clues. It would be so great to hear a new album, but word is they aren’t even close to starting.

100 for 2000 – #36. Soap Star Joe – Tell Her On the Weekend

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.

2003 – #6. Soap Star Joe – Tell Her On the Weekend
(Laughing Outlaw)

Soap Star Joe were a wonderful band from Sydney who never got their break. They were my friends, and I was a big fan of the band. But they always seemed to struggle, and shortly after this album came out, the band broke up, and most of the people involved in this album I never saw again, and we seem to never talk about it. We didn’t use the word in such a context in 2003, but I look at this record and I feel – fail. Which is a shame because Tell Her On the Weekend was not terrible, and is in parts pretty great.

When I first saw Soap Star Joe, they had a different line up, but the singer/songwriter/guitarplayer was still Mick Wilson. Of all the musicians I’ve had the pleasure to meet in this time of my life, Mick was one of the best – and most interesting. He was always such a fun guy, always seemed a little mad, but not in a look-at-me eccentric way (like having an afro at an indie gig of 20 people). No, Mick was very natural, he seemed out of step with the indie pub rock world. But he was writing fantastic songs.

They had a few self funded, cheaply made EPs (which I loved) and finally found a home at Laughing Outlaw Records, run by local rock scribe and record man Stuart Coupe. The first release, an EP called Handstands For Love, was excellent. Yet for some reason, radios in the country weren’t blasting Met Drunk In the Corner – a hit single if I ever heard one. They continued to struggle for gigs and make their mark.

They released another brilliant single – Ziggy Niszczot (Never Played Guitar) – named after the South Sydney Rabbitoh’s player, about an era when the club was being sold after a few years of big business blunders. Who was writing stuff like this? Mick Wilson was. He was brilliant.

Time came for an album. They certainly had the songs. Talking to the guys at the time, they all seemed excited, but they also seemed tired. They had been playing these songs for a long time, for little reward. And it’s very important to note how old these songs must have felt, because they decided to try and be more creative in the studio.

But no one seemed to agree on what that new thing was. Managers, labels, producers, friends, fans – everyone had an opinion. Saul gave me these mixes with an electronica, bubbly mix that he thought was brilliant. It sounded unrecognisable. It didn’t seem like anyone had a vision – or had the ability to speak up for one.

I remember sitting around with some of the guys and some friends one night, talking about album names, and how it was just a joke by then. There was a couple of serious suggestions that were made fun of immediately. Otherwise, it was write-off. The title used eventually – Tell Her On the Weekend – was flat, unmemorable, and the product of a committee. It was the one everyone could live with. Heck, I would have preferred the serious suggestion of ‘Sunglasses’. At least it was weird and striking.

It’s the story of what I felt happened to this record. I still know many people involved, and no one ever seems to discuss it. But it was a fail because no one could agree – and more crucially, too many people were involved. It seemed everyone had an opinion about what the band should do, and Mick kind of fell by the wayside. He was never the loudest person in the room in the first place.

Tell Her On the Weekend lacks some of the sparkle and weirdness that made their EPs so great. That’s all I want to say because anything else – well I’m just doing what everyone else was doing. It should have been this, it should have been that. It’s how it turned out and actually what we have is still pretty great.

And it’s great because of the songs, some of Mick’s best, were not lost. Bus Stop, which opens the record, greets you with one of the best opening lines in rock. Raguletto, Kosheree, BBQ Police, Sega Master…songs about things that only Mick Wilson could come up with. Have you ever seen songs with such titles?

There are three real winners on this record. She Will Shine, the single, is them at their pop best. And who can beat a line like ‘High rise construction keeps popping up like Mormons…”. Not a Mick Wilson song, but Stuck In Traffic is the saddest song they have.

Finally, If I Were A Telescope. I think it’s their best song. It’s certainly my favourite. A love song that mentions 2sm coffees, Nick Cave and Sandra Sully.

We don’t really talk about Soap Star Joe anymore. They broke up shortly after the album. I don’t keep in touch with the guys. Every so often, I see someone who was there, like Worth, and we have a moment of regret, what could have been.

(Oh yeah, obviously no film clips for this…)

100 for 2000 – #35. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

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.

2003 – #5. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
(Spunk)

I did not discover Belle And Sebastian until some time later. So although I was aware of Dear Catastrophe Waitress (and there were some big fans in the Reservations), this was the last album of theirs that I ever picked up, when I eventually went back. This is one of their very best albums, and Belle and Sebastian are one of my top 5 bands, easily.

I’m always interested in the diaspora of records that leads to someone being a fan. But here is how I met, and fell in love with Belle And Sebastian.

As if I didn’t have enough going on in my life, I was also writing music and DVD reviews for a friend’s film magazine – Filmink (they call themselves Australia’s Best Film Magazine and I have to agree). One of the things I was given to review was Belle And Sebastian’s Fans Only DVD.

Of course I had heard of B&S. They seemed unnecessarily twee and whimsical, girly and – this is an odd one – very Melbourne. There’s this invisible unsaid musical divide about Sydney and Melbourne. There was a twee scene that existed in Melbourne that could never happen in Sydney. You would be killed. So, I’m pretty sure I resisted B&S for the same reason I avoided all those crap twee Melbourne bands in colourful stripey bonds t-shirts. I had no time to pretend I was still a kid.

If you’re not a fan of B&S, you might have a similar view. But, I’m on the other side now – a die hard fan. Almost all of my preconceived notions were wrong. They did, however, inspire many terrible bands (mainly from Melbourne).

So, back to this DVD. I put it on and set about writing a review. I barely knew anything about this band. I skipped over some of the more boring bits, and odd film clips for songs I didn’t know. There were some nice, fun moments on the DVD (a collection of film clips and home footage – it’s more scrapbook than story).

Then came the moment.

Right at the end of the DVD, there is footage from Glastonbury. Stuart Murdoch introduces the song, and quietly launched into The State I Am In. It’s beautifully shot, and sounds great. And the song – like many people before me – blew my mind.

I mentioned this to Paul, who surprised me actually when he told me he was a big fan. An ordering t-shirts from a faraway website type of fan. He made me a mix CD – a best of essentially. It hit all the big songs, and I liked a lot of it. Around this time, they toured Australia for the first time. Someone had a spare ticket and I snapped it up.

That first gig, I was still a novice. Plenty of songs I didn’t know, plenty from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, an album I still didn’t own. I did pick up the b-sides and EP collection, Push Barman To Open Old Wounds. It had the State I Am In on it, so I was happy with that.

As I fell more and more in love with the songs I had, I started again at the beginning. Tigermilk, Sinister and so on. I realised that there was a guy behind this band, Stuart Murdoch, who wrote the best songs. The more twee stuff (especially the terrible songs written and sung by Isobel Campbell) came from an era of the band when they tried to be democratic. That was over and Murdoch was largely in control, and writing almost all the songs again.

By the time I was up to Dear Catastrophe Waitress, a new album was out (more about that later). On the tour for The Life Pursuit, I was a hardcore fan, I had every record and knew every song. I was up the front and sang along to every one.

This album effectively marks the beginning of B&S version 2. Production values went up, with Trevor Horn as producer. Playing live became a priority, and the band sounded full and rich.

It has my second favourite Belle And Sebastian song (after The State I Am In) – If You Find Yourself Caught In Love. It’s a major work – and I loved that when Murdoch was on NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewer Terry Gross asked him about this song in particular. It is something very special. Piazza New York Catcher was recently used in the movie Juno. There is an awesome Thin Lizzy inspired I’m A Cuckoo.

Where did you learn to love music? It’s an odd thought I have sometimes. No one teaches you. It’s something you pick up along the way. And it can happen so randomly, and so quickly.

If you like what this band does, then chances are you’re already charmed by this album.  And although they are still relatively new to me, I find it hard to imagine a time when I didn’t love this band.

100 for 2000 – #34. Josh Rouse – 1972

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.

2003 – #4. Josh Rouse – 1972
(Ryko)

Josh Rouse has always been a sad sack. His three previous albums all had lovely moments, and were sadly sighing singer songwriter affairs. But on his fourth album, he decided to have a little more fun. Taking inspiration from the year of his birth, he seeked to recapture the feeling and moods of the era. So he travelled back in time to 1972.

It takes a lot of cues from lots of music I love – Carole King, ballad-y Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, those early Paul Simon solo records etc. There is also a fair bit of soul on this record. Like 5th Dimension, but by a short white guy.

A bit like Lisa Miller’s Car Tape, this record brought me closer to some golden, olden age of music. I didn’t really care for what bands were on the cover of magazines at this point. I was digging deeper into older, weirder stuff.

This is the place to start with Josh Rouse. Musically, it’s tremendously accomplished. The smooth basslines, the keyboard sounds, the trumpet and strings stabs – it’s beautifully recorded. The songwriting is equally great – looping into harmony laden break downs and huge, soulful chorsues – he pulls off exactly what he trying to do.

The album is, like most of 70s soul, about sex and love (in that order). Under Your Charms is Rouse at his most seductive. The young lovers in 1972 and the playboy in James… all paint a picture of the lonely streets in the 70s. It feels like they are characters from some blaxploitation flick.

Oddly though, in recent years this album has fallen off my radar. Several lackluster albums has dulled the magic of this one. Although I have strong memories of this album for Sydney. And that wonderful show at the Annadale Hotel where he played Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio and Neil Young’s Harvest.

100 for 2000 – #33. Fountains Of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers

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.

2003 – #3. Fountains Of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers
(S-Curve)

It’s so great when you think you couldn’t love a band’s albums any more than you already do, and they go and drop an album that just knocks you out. It’s even better when you have written that band off completely. In fact, we all kind of thought Fountains of Wayne had broken up. But they got back together and created a killer album – Welcome Interstate Managers.

There is a loose thread running through the record about office work. There’s only really three songs about that, but they loom large of the record. The best two are Bright Future In Sales – showing FOW had not mellowed out, and were still as witty as always. And then there’s Hey Julie – a gorgeous, touching love song sung by someone stuck in a crap job.

Of course, yes, this is the album with Stacy’s Mom on it. And hey, if it weren’t so over exposed, it would still be a great Cars pastiche. As the years pass, I find myself being able to enjoy this song more.

Perhaps it was the extended break. It seemed like every song was a winner – potential single. Mexican Wine, the album opener and second single, is a brilliant bit of nonsense. All Kinds Of Time, a surprisingly sweet song about a quarterback, has been used in ads and TV shows. No Better Place seems like it could have been a smash hit.

(Katy Perry herself covers the heartbreaking Hackensack on her new live record. I wonder why she chose that song. Sure it’s great, but I wonder if she sees herself in the song – the displaced small town girl turned super star.)

As they recorded it in their own studio, on their own dime, they throw in some fun throwaway things. Hung Up On You is honky tonk country, whereas Halley’s Waitress sounds like a perfect 70s power ballad.

Yeah the record is a bit long and could probably lose a couple of songs at the end. But at the time, before Stacy’s Mom became a hit, we didn’t know if was going to be their last record. And even the last four tracks, the weakest on the record, are still pretty great.

This record turned them into career artists – not a one hit wonder anymore (I’m talking Radiation Vibe). And set the pace – 4 or so years between albums. They are all busy with side projects, but at least they have money and rumours are they have started to play new songs…

100 for 2000 – #32. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow

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.

2003 – #2. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
(Sub Pop)

This album is one of my very favourites. Yet, oddly, I came to the Shins very late. I owned their first album and liked bits of it, but with Chutes Too Narrow, I fell in love with them.

I think this one is an easy sell as well, right? This was a huge record at the time. Washed up in that whole Garden State publicity, this was a mega-hit record. Ubiquitous use in soundtracks, TV shows, bookshops and coffee houses – this is the soundtrack to the 00s. That jangly guitar, oblique lyrics, pretty repetitive melodies… seen a mobile phone ad on TV lately? Chances are it sounds like the Shins.

What set the Shins a step above all the other indie bands of the time (and now) is James Mercer. His unique expression – both vocally and lyrically – gives this band an extra trump. Because, at the end of the day, the guitar playing is not great, the drumming is not out of the world, the bassplaying is pretty bog standard. It is really, really, really, really an album about the songs.

So I have listened to this record hundreds of times (probably) and I still don’t know what half the album is about. But I know what it means to me. Kissing the Lipless is all about the end of a relationship. Mine’s Not A High Horse is about arguing philosophy with other bands. So Says I is a slightly un-Shins-y lyric about…um…the collapse of civilizations? These are all guesses, I actually have no idea.

The open-to-interpretation things is great. And so rare these days with everyone trying to make a point. For a songwriter who is obviously very clever, Mercer doesn’t make a point of it. He goes for mood, not brains. Oblique metaphors aside. But even lines like “Your sheets were growing grass out of the corners of your mind” – that sets a mood. You don’t think – great metaphor James! Good one! Clever lad!

This is another well lived record. I must have listened to this album several times a day for a year straight. It is, like all albums abused in such a way, wrapped up in girlfriends, friends and enemies I had at the time. High Horse in particular – fuck there was a lot of high horses in Sydney at the time. When Mercer sings about the girl “making tea in your underwear” in Those To Come, there is one girl that comes to mind. As for Gone for Good – I know who I wished would go back to their home town and stop fucking around. It’s that kind of record.

Sure, there are more highlights, but I will just be listing them. Turn A Square, Pink Bullets…there’s not a bad song on here. And there’s only 10 of them! I took that to heart very quickly as well.

Two last things about the Shins. I know I’m very much a lyrics guy, and Mercer is like the Hendrix of lyrics. He is just masterful, and taught me so much – when to be direct, when to be guarded, when to play with an image, when to say less. I still try to learn from him. Songs I wrote before this album seem somewhat – simple.

And lastly – when they finally toured, my friend Adrian’s band got to support them. I had guitar tech-ed a little for them. So I got to meet the Shins, they signed my records and that was a blast. But AMAZINGLY, they asked if they could use a guitar if one of theirs broke a string or something. And Adrian used my Fender Mustang as his spare anyway. So there was a wonderful moment when I saw this band play Saint Simon with my electric guitar. That is an odd, happy sensation.

100 for 2000 – #31. The Sleepy Jackson – Lovers

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.

2003 – #1. The Sleepy Jackson
(Capitol)

I love this album. I’m so wrapped up in it on so many levels that I had to spend quite a while thinking about how I would approach this piece. This would be one of my favourite albums of the 00s, if not my life. The Sleepy Jackson. And the aptly named Lovers.

There is several things I want to say here.

1) I had a friend named Michael Lock. He was a beautiful man, a wonderful writer and a one of the kindest souls I have ever met. I met him a few years earlier through friends. He was a bit of a hellraiser in his youth, but had moved from Perth to Sydney to get away from drugs and bad influences.

He introduced me to a lot of great music, all that good stuff people are amazed I know at all. I got most of it from Michael. And even though he was older and knew just about every great musician (both locally and internationally) I could ever hope to meet, he and I became really good friends.

The very first band gig I ever played, he was the only friend who gave me some truth, not blind support. Just before he died, he told me that I was in a great band. Sheepishly, I replied to the compliment with something like, well, I’m just trying to be Australia’s Tim Wheeler. I remember, vividly, near the smoke machine at the Hopetoun Hotel, Michael saying to me – you can shoot higher than that. Be the Australian Jeff Tweedy. Or be the world’s Danny Yau. Anyway, that’s probably the best thing anyone has ever said to me.

Michael died just before this album came out. After a long period of being clean, he bought some heroin off some fucker, and went missing for a few days. Michael worked at Red Eye Records at the time, and we had a standing meet up on Thursday nights. I would hang around and we would shoot the breeze about our week, records and whatever. One Thursday he wasn’t there and hadn’t called in sick or anything.

A few days later his body was found in the back streets of Cabramatta, one of Sydney’s dodgiest suburbs. He had OD’d.

A week before that, something that still chills my spine happened. It was the last time I saw Michael. We had been discussing some records – Townes Van Zandt’s Flying Shoes (with No Place To Fall), and Dylan’s Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 in the long box that was hard to get. And out of the blue, one day, he called me up and said, hey, Danny, do you want to buy my copies?

I said sure. I’ll grab them off you next time I see you. No, he said, I can come around right now. I was at my folk’s place in the suburbs – not really near anywhere. He said it’s okay, if I have the cash, he would come now. Strange, I thought, but OK, he said.

I got a call a little bit later, saying to come out and meet him around the corner. Sure I thought, maybe we could grab a coffee or something, I thought. I walked out and Michael gets out of a parked car with some other guys inside. He has the two albums with him. We barely exchange pleasantries, and I give him the money. He thanks me, and gets back into the car and drives away.

To this day I still don’t know if that $40 contributed to the heroin that actually killed him. I thought, wrongly, for a while I was doing him a favour. Right now, in 2009, that few minutes – I can’t think of a single bigger regret in my life. Something was very wrong here.

But I was just a kid. Michael seemed like such a super cool, together guy. How do you say, hey Michael, what’s going on man, when he was the guy who knew everything about everything?

If you look inside your booklet for Lovers, you will see a little post it note for singer Luke Steele. It’s a note saying that Michael Lock called – the two were good friends as well. Luke was busy in a film clip and never called back. He died before Luke could call back.

If it’s okay, I’ll just skip the moral wrap up, about drugs and what happened and what I learnt and all that bullshit. None of it matters. All I know is that the day we heard Michael died, it rained pretty heavily for the next two weeks. I barely left the house.

2) Lovers. This album makes me think of old lovers. Luke taps into something so easily – this brittle romantic thing. He is so open with his heart, and expresses himself so well.

I listened to it at sad times, and I listened to it at happy times. It said the words I couldn’t. So much about girls, about loneliness, and that very particular heartbreak felt by over sensitive boys with a pop slant. Good Dancers, This Day, Don’t You Know – my heart was wrapped up in all these songs.

When, in your twenties, and you’re listening to all the love songs, and you’re just getting to grip with what love even is, all that confusion was on this record. And, when it came to love, these years were fucking confusing times. I’m not sure if this album made it better of worse.

3) The music is amazingly eclectic. I know this was one of the reasons many of my friends did not take to this album. No two songs sound like the same band. But I loved this. Old Dirt Farmer sounds like a 1920s field recording. Vampire Racecourse sounds like the Soft Boys. Don’t You Know sounds like Boz Scaggs. A friends daughter sings Morning Bird.

This is such a brilliant album, and such a brilliant album to have in your early, confusing 20s. It’s still an emotional listen for me. But ultimately a happy one.

100 for 2000 – #30. Machine Translations – Happy

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.

2002 – #10. Machine Translations – Happy
(Spunk)

Machine Translations is the name of the project fronted by J. Walker. A reluctant performer and a fantastic producer, he made indie pop albums on a friends label when it took his fancy, and gigged very occasionally. I’d heard them and they were always too indie, navel gazing for me. Until Happy, an album full of great pop ideas that brought them into the heart of the Aussie alternative world for a brief minute, before they went back again.

I’m not sure what can be said about this album other than its the perfect mix of weird and pretty. All the chords seem to be wrong, but all the melodies seem to be spot on. Opener Acres sums it up nicely – a clanging, almost out of tune piano, and J Walker’s brittle voice singing one of his best melodies made for something quite exciting.

Released in the same year as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, these two albums made me think a little bit more about how songs could be dressed, above and beyond two guitars bass and drums. There are all sorts of subtle feedback, backwards tape, samples and things that add colour but don’t get in the way of the songs. In fact, Walker even played some solo acoustic gigs around this album, proving the songs stood up on their own.

And the songs are great. Two radio hits – She Wears A Mask and Amnesia, both inventive pop that had no right being on youth radio. Even better are Simple Shores, a bittersweet ballad, and Found, one of this band’s most blissful, summery pop songs.

It all ends with the 8 and 1/2 minute Be My Pillow. A gentle goodbye/lullaby of amazing tenderness. Walker performed this live once and it was the first time I saw someone use that neat trick of looping their own performance and building up to a mighty crescendo.

There’s not much more to say about this record other than it’s really good. Years later, I got to work with Walker on a record. This was the record I was hoping that record would sound like. It didn’t but that’s a story for later…