Bernard Zuel reviews Beetle Bones

The Nature Strip

Bernard Zuel reviews Beetle Bones


Beetle Bones (China Pig)

One of the reasons I love The Posies is their willingness to be sweet and sour: from harmonies that echo the Hollies, to guitars and drums which resonate like some hard-nosed bar band; from lyrics which speak to the soul, to lyrics which pick hard at social scabs; from sensitivity and softness, to declamatory frankness.

And yet at all times to approach songs as if pop music is a noble craft, as if having tunes and immediate connection to a listener is not something embarrassing and only for daytime radio and after school care.

The Nature Strip don’t much sound like The Posies a lot of the time (though Save The Hive would definitely nod its head their way) but they do share their philosophy. You can start singing these songs pretty quickly and you will keep singing. You can pull apart elements of it and admire construction or just let it catch you in its wave. You can approach each track like an adult and still be reminded why you fell for music in the first place.

The organ emphasising the tone underneath Waterfall, and the backing harmonies that kick in at 46 seconds (and again at 2.05), would be enough to satisfy on their own, but the melody is a warm accumulator – that actually reminds me of The Hollies – the organ solo from Matt Langley raises the temperature without even breaking sweat and when Peter Marley sings “I’m alive again” it feels less like a cliché and more like a release.

Hildegard + Winifred has the cocky swing and pumping piano of glam with a clarion guitar sound from John Encarnacao that cuts through like some updated Ace Frehley. And it matches those with a melody that is all grinning fun for a frisky lyric line that has you wondering just what would Winifred’s sister do for you.

Then there’s We Don’t Like The Heat that opens like a semi-threatening Pink Floyd ballad (later boasting a very Roger Waters line that “crying is for babies”) and actually does end up like one of those beautifully drifting Floyd moments. And the powered pop of Save The Hive, which partially hides its light under a muscled-up organ/guitar bushel.

Or the late-period Monkees of Great Big Wave which manages to go from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkeesto Head in a few minutes, the acoustic guitar bliss and sugary outer voices of Supermoon, and the running-with-freedom pleasure of Tide Song where the ever-versatile Jess Ciampa sneaks through some cracking xylophone that is the epitome of joyful cheek.

In short, Beetle Bones is a proper pop album: catchy, brainy, energised, witty, knowing, but still with some innocence.

If you’re in Sydney on September 1 this album is being launched at Camelot. You should go.—BEETLE-BONES-REVIEW