The Changing Same: Creative Evolution (Powertools)

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Favourite Clown
The Changing Same: Creative Evolution (Powertools)

Outside of the folk tradition (and maybe Don McGlashan every now and again) there's not a great lineage of songs which gently and often lovingly skewer specific places and people's mores in this country.

On this new collection by the band helmed by Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings, Dribbling Darts of Love, the Weather, One Man Bannister and solo albums) there is a delightfully lightweight paean to Dunedin, his former home.

It opens with this cleverly referencing couplet: “Said so long to Grey Lynn, bye Dominion Road” (which is funny if you know he played in McGlashan's band for a while) then he sticks his thumb out . . . and the song changes tense to him reflecting on what it would be like if he were in Dunedin where everyone drinks Speights, where he'd be a Southern man who drinks tinnies and crushes them in his hand, a place where you can look upon the stars (Flying Nun pop stars?), you can catch a chill there (a Chill?) and where he's heard women don't wear lipstick or perfume . . . and so on.

It's funny throwaway in one sense, but in its folksy-cum-Celtic swagger it's also neatly pointed and, that rarity in Kiwi pop-rock, humorous.

There is such wit elsewhere too but let's turn attention to the underplayed folk-influenced pop-rock on display here as on the slightly brooding Fringe Dweller about an outsider/insider, a bad loser, a bank teller, a show stopper, a grasshopper which has got to keep moving, someone who lives on the refuse we leave behind . . .

Those seeming non-sequiturs, the downbeat tone and chipping guitar add up to sense of urban unease; and a more personal and emotional uncertainty also infects the following track Favourite Clown (a Tears of the Clown sensibility in which “you think I always smile but you should be me for a while”). It's a song which soars on the back of a brittle minute-long guitar-rock outro of the kind you wish would go on forever as it surges upward and more angrily.

Sheila Diva is a post-Byrds jangle-folk-rock gem but grounded in that world where the writer warns the subject of his affection is unobtainable and while you can be part of her world she won't let you be a part of hers; Look Ahead at the end has the easy roll of a late Sixties/early Seventies Dylan/Harrison/lo-fi McCartney album track of the domestic kind you return to more than you think you would.

Although sometimes the vocals of multi-instrumentalist Bannister – guitar, mandolin, piano etc – stretch a little thin in places (as the edgy and desperate quasi-desert blues of 2016 Blues which seems inspired by the Trump election), he and his small band here keep things tight'n'tidy over nine songs in little more than half an hour.

This is suburban pop-rock (check the “patience people” message for stressed folk on the breezy It All Comes Right) which sprinkles in delightfully low-key love'n'difficulties songs alongside the aforementioned wit and stark rock.

“We're going to party like it's 1984, we've got a limited time” he sings on the brittle 2016 Blues. That's kinda funny.

But dark, right?

Powertools Records have an interesting and extensive catalogue: check it out here

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