The $4.99 budgeted video to classic Jebediah single Leaving Home features a caped crusader nonchalantly protecting the vibes of Perth. Kevin Mitchell has kinda maintained that role over the years, adopting an alias in Bob Evans with which he can spread out with more laid back pop music whilst still rocking out in his day job as frontman of Jebediah. That Familiar Stranger is his fourth Bob-bing album shows that it’s grown to be more than a simple side-project and refreshingly it sounds so effortless.
While his first three solo albums explored suburbia, here, Mitchell’s looking all around. He’s personal but not whiny; in wonder but not milquetoast. Sitting In the Waiting Room, for example, is fearful but not melodramatic while Don’t Wanna Grow Up Anymore is a much sweeter take on Blur’s Coffee & TV, pondering maturity with a lot less self-pity. Occasionally, as in To Let You Down, he sounds strikingly like Julian Lennon who also seemed so effortless in his breezier moments. Recorded in Melbourne with luscious production from Dean Reid (Marina & the Diamonds), even when he’s agitated at old demons dragging him down (In Another Time), he still manages to sing with such loveliness in the cosy surrounds of a restrained string section. And while Jebediah were always passionate supporters of Perth’s local scene, it’s delightful to hear San Cisco’s Scarlett Stevens voice on the upbeat Go.
As Bob Evans, Kevin Mitchell seems freed by a lack of expectations usually meted out to “side projects”. Thus, Familiar Stranger seems more organic and accessible than, say, some of Tim Rogers’ solo-stuff away from You Am I. Like the Leaving Home superhero, it’s comforting to have him around.
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