The Single Life: The Verdict On The Latest From The Lemon Twigs, Mojo Juju & More

12 July 2018 | 1:16 pm | Ross Clelland

"The eternal coming of age tale of a chimpanzee raised as a human boy."

These are the days of shorter attention spans, shorter cycles of fashion, and often shorter careers. Used to be artists wouldn’t clutch for that often desperate way around a creative speedhump of the dreaded ‘concept album’ until about their seventh or eighth effort, but here’s The Lemon Twigs announcing they’ve got one in the pipe for their second full-length effort.

There’s always been something vaguely out-of-time about them – but maybe that’s just the D’Addrio brothers’ haircuts. So, you want the story? OK, apparently Go To School is the eternal coming of age tale of a chimpanzee raised as a human boy. Sure. And the monkey’s dad is played in sound and vision by no less than Todd Rundgren. And Big Star’s Jody Stephens is also somewhere in If You Give Enough (4AD) as well. Getting guests like that, it appears they’re impressing the people their kinda prog/kinda baroque/kinda pop music takes obvious inspiration from. And now they’re on tour with Arctic Monkeys, which also makes perfect sense. Oh, just FYI: the chimp’s named Shane. Of course it is.

Meanwhile, in the ‘burbs of Melbourne – somewhere just beyond Depreston, an increasingly phenomenal cottage industry label just keeps humming along. Putting out the music of people they know and like, a musical couple almost always seem to get it right. Which is fair enough, as Jen Cloher and Courtney Barnett seem to know their way around a good tune in their own right. Next out of the shed, Loose Tooth. You Say (Milk!) a fine example of their slightly scruffy sharehouse pop, a chatty little relationship harangue of the “What the fuck are you doing with that person?” self-psychoanalytical type. Also contains ducks, and those odd pond birds which aren’t ducks.

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On a serious line of the personal-as-political but still being extraordinary pop music with it, Mojo Juju expresses her experience as a queer woman of colour and mixed nationality in Native Tongue (ABC Music). The gospel choir gives it an almost hymnal quality as the story is told of the shit being thrown and carried. Her voice is something extraordinary, the pain sadly isn’t. Listen, this is saying something important.

Slightly more expedient in trying to prove how ‘street’ and ‘relevant’ they still are, the now officially Fergie-less Black Eyed Peas loudly announce their latest return with Get It (Interscope). Very much not to be confused with Let’s Get It Started from an earlier heyday. So, having obviously listened to a lot of Kendrick and Childish lately, the remaining blokes try and be back-in-the-ghetto political, oddly while chatting about filling 80,000-seat stadiums. An increasingly unlikely proposition, except perhaps in the UK where their credibility and audience seems based on old mate being in one of the big red chairs on The Voice.

Despite his irritatingly young age, James Van Cooper utterly identifies himself as part of the country milieu by throwing in lines like “I’ve had a million ideas, and none of them as bad as you…” straight up. Equally, nobody who’s 21 should already be well into the typical Americana artist redemption tale of getting off the booze and making art that knows and reference the fact. Passing Through (MGM) has just enough weeping pedal steel under his quite fine guitar playing to further the credentials, as does his Gram Parsons-aware hat and suit. Sydney boy takes coals to Newcastle by recording this in America, under the eye of one of Alanis Morissette’s producers, and with appearances by luminaries such as Matt Pynn – he being of Miley Cyrus’ absolutely gun session-players band, and provider of that aforementioned high plains twang that underpins this well-crafted example of the form.

It probably takes even longer than the nigh-on ten minutes of Under The Ice (Independent) to fully work out what Sydney’s Syntax Error are on about. Members with experience in everything from mainstream-of-the-alternative bands to unapologetically experimental art combos makes for an sometimes intriguing and sometimes meandering series of soft collisions. Psychedelic-flavoured drone drops away to sections that have an almost pop element akin to The Church in their more lugubrious moods to it, before the guitars pour back in and layer and spiral across each other to fade. Music likely best enjoyed in a smallish room with visuals of the Mandelbrot Set and flocks of seabirds being projected on a sheet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Trash Boat are English and ‘punk’ (whatever that means these days…), but seem to have more of an American-style emo angst to them as the guitars rush at you. Old Soul (Hopeless Records) reveals the about-to-tour-locally combo as serious young insects musing on existence and such, but with a vulnerability that will appeal to an audience that wants to give Tobi a hug to make him feel better.