Why You Should Never Accept A Lift Home In Fat White Family's Van

10 December 2015 | 2:22 pm | Ross Clelland

You awake from the slightly fitful dream, and ask yourself why you had that kebab on the way home at 2am.

Many search for the hidden meanings in the music. Those cryptic messages among the imagery of sea and land, wind and storm. Passing through the almost-Aphex Twin level glimpses of men in camo in darkened rooms with meat, soundtracked by a scraping mix of krautrock with frayed glam edges be aware that when asked, Fat White Family will inform you that Whitest Boy On The Beach (Without Consent) is essentially about being, er, the whitest boy on the beach. Simples. It is music with an obligatory feeling of discomfort, for they are a band who conjure a so-English monochrome grimness of cliffs and sharp-pebbled shore. Even before they enforced the sharp-faced buzzcut look for the sake of their art, these were not the people from whom you would accept a lift home in their van. You awake from the slightly fitful dream, and ask yourself why you had that kebab on the way home at 2am. 

Relatedly, there are always those artists whose head you want to get inside. But it’s hardly surprising it would be Bjork to take that idea literally. The sweet anachronistic strings of the Vulnicura remixes are put aside for the video experimentation of the aptly-titled Mouth Mantra (POD/Inertia). It’s an oddly compelling motion sickness as you pendulum from her incisors to uvula, the swing of the visuals matching the woozy lope of the song. If this still isn’t enough for you, there’s a version in the works for use in conjunction with the next generation of VR headsets. Virtual Reality with likely result of genuine nausea. Love it or hate it, she will at the very least provoke a reaction in the listener. Sidebar: Bjork has just turned 50. There is little chance your favourite boy band will be trying anything like this when they reach that milestone.

Departing the oral cavity – which on reflection would be a great title for the next Tame Impala album – let us go back to the beach. Although Stillwater Giant’s Western Australian shores are about as far from the grey seawalls of the above as is geographically – and possibly philosophically – possible. Patience (Inertia) is of dappled sunshine, watching the footy replay, and getting in the van with the band. But even in their surf-flecked guitars there’s maybe a little undercurrent that this isn’t likely to last forever. It actually sounds a little English in those doubts among its shiny energy. No, they’re not likely to become The Fat White Family, but they may end up listening to The Cure. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

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Or maybe some just want the Californian optimism of 1975. To cross reference that with input from the writer of Portlandia (among other things) and that guy from Saturday Night Live and all those shit movies (among other things). Fred Arminsen (yeah, him…) and Bill Hader (yeah, the other one…) indulge their love of that hope, that music, and a whole bunch of cheese in their formation of The Blue Jean Committee. It’d be funny as a one-off sketch and nothing more if they didn’t get the walk along that tightrope between pastiche and homage so well. Catalina Breeze (Drag City) is an absolutely ideal yacht rock title, which they back up with Steely Dan harmonies, and a near-perfect Joe Walsh guitar solo – which wouldn’t surprise if we find it was actually played by Joe Walsh. Those elements already make it better than 99% of America’s back-catalogue. 

OK, so you already know Australia’s favourite cottage industry record company, as run by those nice girls from Melbourne who sing a bit, are putting out a celebratory mini-album in the new year to mark their pretty good 2015. In a classy move, the previewing track from that is not from the obvious commercial and critical jewel in the crown of the label, the Princess Courtney, but the downbeat charms of Fraser A. Gorman, increasingly moving away from his Bob Dylan 1965 wardrobe. Skyscraper Skyline Blues (Milk!) is wryly observational songwriting and conversation from ten storeys up while holding a squeegee and a bottle of Windex. Potentially could be as Melbourne as Paul Kelly, with Dan Kelly’s hair.

A somewhat more organised and carefully curated boutique label – that’s a loose description, Milk!’s ‘boutique’ most likely being Savers or Vinnie’s – is Jack White’s Third Man growing conglomerate. His choice of artists vacillates between obscure pop gems from anywhere in the last 60 years, to country artists of various hues. Margo Price is this week’s case in point. Her voice comes with an almost Dolly Parton-like blaring purity, mixed with what might be the rockabilly edge of someone like Wanda Jackson – coincidentally, a previous resurrection project of Mr White’s. Hurtin’ On The Bottle (Third Man) is Ms Price’s debut offering, and as the title suggests it’s not so much ‘tears in the beer’ as smashing that whiskey receptacle senseless.   

In all their awkward jauntiness, and dancing like nobody is watching (except that guy with the Go-Pro…) there’s a classic indie charm to Flowertruck – even in the name. The obligatory name to insert here is The Go-Betweens, although the references are to Parramatta Road through Stanmore, rather than skirting Fortitude Valley. Sunshower (Spunk) ponders the rainbows, with occasional Tourettes-flavoured non-sequitur yell from the David Byrne school of attention deficit disorder. It’s shiny, has a nervy charm, and hooks to make you tap your foot. That’s more than many. Enjoy.

That indie guitar model has been complemented this century by bedroom electronica. Often the subject matter and even moods are the same. Spending Your Heart (Farmer & The Owl) has Tees inhabiting an almost Everything But The Girl feeling of odd longing melancholy as Lizzy ponders the view out the bedsit window, and Sean ponders the keyboards. The drum machine insistence that underpins it has the feeling that some producer may get ahold of this tune, and step that element up to dancefloor thump level. Whether that ruins the charm remains to be seen. Hope it doesn’t.