Not Here for a Haircut Rough Red Rough Music/MGM ★★★ ✩
THEY’RE a mixture of cleanskin and vintage claret. Rough Red combines the stridency of Australian folk-rock legends Redgum and the nostalgiaevoking capabilities of Weddings Parties Anything with the sensibilities of balladeer Eric Bogle. In Not
Here for a Haircut, the veteran quintet’s sixth studio album in 18 years, tales of love and war, happiness and sadness sit next to fables about femmes fatales, homages to national treasures and stories of sorties overseas. Leading the way is the band’s wordsmith and robust chief vocalist, John Fegan. In the jaunty I Wanna Be a Pirate, via piratical references, he advocates tossing in suburbia and job security for a more adventurous lifestyle: ‘‘ Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest / If it feels good, do it and forget the rest.’’ A track later, in the gentle ballad Like a Tree, to another fine melody crafted by partner-in-rhyme/stringed instrumentalist Steve Tyson, he’s ‘‘ standing stripped and bare for everyone to see’’. In They
Laid Old Ned to Rest Today, Fegan’s words exhume the bush ranger’s clarion call: ‘‘ We read your manifesto, Ned hung on every word / A defiant cry for justice still waiting to be heard.’’ In
Brophy’s Travelling Boxing Show, the writer vividly catches a lost slice of rural Australian life with word economy: ‘‘ Saturday night, red dirt town / Lowered Holdens cruising around’’ and
‘‘ Bundaberg Rum at the B&S / Rented suit and a cocktail dress’’. In Josephine, an ode to a lady of the night, he gets down and dirty —‘‘Around the wharves of Woolloomooloo / Where the sailors go to boogaloo’’ — with spicy metaphors: ‘‘ She’ll splice your main brace and cut your jib / Leave you jelly-legged like a squid’’.