Sunday, April 22, 2012

Song of the day

"Pulls Me Like A Tide", by The Nearly Brothers.

For some years now, I have been lamenting the absence of recorded material from Mark Snarski. What I didn't know was, back in 2010 he put a band together, recorded an album's worth of songs and then some (more about that below), and released it under the name The Nearly Brothers, to, as far as I can tell, no acclaim whatsoever.

Such is life, I guess. Snarski is blessed with one of the biggest, most soulful singing voices in modern music (you might call him the Australian Mark Lanegan, but you also might not), and has a great ear for a tune, but seems to be destined to fall forever beneath the zeitgeist-radar. The new album, now I have my virtual hands on it (legal, like), shows no drop in quality or intensity from his days in The Jackson Code, all of whose albums are essential listening, if you ask me. His songs of romantic obsession / jealousy / calamity continue to be matched with stellar playing and clever, sympathetic arrangements. They may not win points for artistic originality, but, as (I think) I have said before, quality craftsmanship never goes out of style.

Did I mention the band? Aside from the Irish guitarist, TB Allen, with whom I am not familiar (and nor is Discogs, aside from this album), all of the crew will be in your collection. Martyn P Casey you know from The Triffids, The Bad Seeds, and/or Grinderman. Mick Harvey, on production duties, hasn't yet been elevated to the sainthood notwithstanding my efforts. And on drums we have one Bongo Fury, who may or may not be the same person as Mark Dawson, known to you, if nowhere else, from yesterday's blog post (he has worked with Ed Kuepper on and off for a long time and was also the drummer in The Jackson Code).

This song, a long, slow-burning number that mostly works its way around a couple of chords for five-odd minutes, is the perfect ending to a fine album. Or it would be. Which brings me to the "and then some" referred to above. This album seems to have fallen victim to the not uncommon idea that, because a CD can hold a lot more than a "traditional" album's worth of music, it makes sense to add a few songs at the end and call them "bonus tracks". Which means that we have four songs tacked on after this ostensible "big finish", which, no matter that they are perfectly good Snarski songs and could just as easily have found their way onto the album proper, serve to diminish the impact of the album. It has never seemed to me like a winning move. Tom Waits CDs in this country have tended to have "Australian only bonus tracks" stuck on the end, to no great purpose (and anyway most if not all of those eventually turned up on "Orphans"). Wilco did it right on their most recent album, some copies of which came with a second disc containing four songs, a couple of which were alternate versions of songs on the album and one of which, "I Love My Label", was a very perky cover of a Nick Lowe song. Oldster bands like Swell Maps and Beat Happening occasionally used to throw in a vinyl seven-inch single or flexidisc with their LPs. (To bring us back to somewhere near where we started, Ed Kuepper's other other band The Aints did this with their ultra-lo-fidelity live album "SLSQ". Which may have stood for Special Low Sound Quality.) So it can be done in a way that doesn't attack the integrity of the thing the bonus songs are supposed to be an appendix to. End of sermon.

Here's some YouTube of The Nearly Brothers playing, it would appear, in Sydney a mere couple of weeks ago, with keyboards replacing the strings of the recorded version, and someone looking suspiciously like Mick Harvey himself attacking a bass guitar in the background. Snarski misses a couple of notes, but that only makes him more human, innit?

(Note to uploader: handheld cameras make some of us woozy. Go easy.)