Cold Chisel’s latest and other album reviews
The Perfect Crime Cold Chisel Universal
There’s a moment in your life when you realise you’ve discovered Cold Chisel. I don’t care when you think that moment is, but at some point, it happens. For me, it’s maybe about 1982 — so I’m 14 — and I’ve been working my way through the record collection of my youngest uncle, who’s lately moved out of home in Sydney’s fibro west and gone up north to surf, as was common then. He stays away; I’m wholly absorbed by the wonder of this thing whose complexity I can barely comprehend. It’s their second album, 1979’s Breakfast at Sweethearts, which had continued Don Walker’s songwriting brilliance from the band’s first, eponymous, album of a year earlier — even if, in subsequent tellings, Sweethearts has been adjudged a poor sonic rendering of what this rough mob from Adelaide brought to Sydney and made their own of living a life in the then otherworld of Kings Cross, becoming in the process one of the nation’s key cultural documentarists. East, of course, followed, and then Circus Animals, a work of rough genius containing some of what Chisel is best known for — You Got Nothing I Want, When the War is Over, Bow River, the sublime Letter to Alan — after which came the fractured and fraught break-up album, Twentieth Century, and then it was all over. Apparently. Except it wasn’t. The legend grew, the band’s internal rankling eased even as the hiatus was an overly long one, there was the 1998 regathering of The Last Wave of Summer, and more than a decade later 2012’s No Plans, a huge national tour — and it became obvious Cold Chisel was something more special than Australia could ever have imagined, even with the death during those recordings of drummer Steve Prestwich. So here we are with eighth studio album The Perfect Crime — New Yorker Charley Drayton has replaced Prestwich, but the engine room with bassist Phil Small sounds as mighty as ever. Ian Moss provides an easy reminder of his virtuosic guitar skills but, as always, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s unabashedly a rock ’n’ roll album but there are the usual Chisel stylistic excursions, including a delightfully kooky Latino bar band number, Mexican Wedding. Some material is from Walker’s solo repertoire, including the brooding title track (“Looking out the east I’d say / that thunderhead could be a thousand miles away / Out off the coast / Unreal”), and some dates way back: Bus Station, from 1986, is a wild disco romp featuring some soulful Jimmy Barnes vocals and a call-out to that humble Aussie delicacy, the Chiko roll. And that’s the thing: Cold Chisel is as Australian as, well, the Chiko roll — or, indeed, the annual Deniliquin Ute Muster and the National Rugby League grand final, both of which the band performs at this weekend to kick off its One Night Stand tour. At some point in your life, you realise you’ve discovered Cold Chisel. It’s just a matter of when.