Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Stephen Fitz­patrick

A Ver­sion of Now Peter Gar­rett Sony

As a rocker and as a politi­cian, Peter Gar­rett has long had a finely tuned un­der­stand­ing of drama and spec­ta­cle. His band, Mid­night Oil, crafted the very land­scape of Aus­tralia not just into its stage pres­ence but into the fab­ric of its songs: think Kosciusko, King of the Moun­tain, Capri­cor­nia, as just a ran­dom se­lec­tion.

So it sits well, then, that the open­ing tracks on Gar­rett’s much-an­tic­i­pated solo de­but, A Ver­sion of Now, de­clare the­atri­cally that “I’m rolling back” ( Tall Trees) and then, in the slightly over-ob­vi­ous I’d Do It Again, that “I didn’t jump I wasn’t pushed / I went of my own ac­cord to do what I could / I got my hands dirty I had a go / To try and even up the score I had to leave the show.” But — and we’ll get to the good stuff in a tick — that’s where this oth­er­wise fine al­bum doesn’t al­ways work. It needed a good ed­i­tor, some­one to just say, “Mate, how about we think of a more el­e­gant way to put this long, wordy thing you’ve tried to cram into a fourbeat bar?” That said, A Ver­sion of Now pro­vides a neat mu­si­cal ap­pen­dix to Gar­rett’s mem­oir, Big Blue Sky, which traced the thread of his mu­sic ca­reer and the one that fol­lowed it, in some ways in­evitably, as po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist and then main­stream La­bor politi­cian. Mu­si­cally it’s as as­sured as any­thing the Oils did, though per­haps more muted. There is, for in­stance, some­thing you’d not have gone look­ing for on an al­bum by Messrs Hirst et al — an ac­tual, fair dinkum love song ( Only One, with the most odd­ball, min­i­mal­ist blues harp solo you’ve ever heard, like some teary old Dig­ger on An­zac Day met up with Robert John­son; in fact, it’s Gar­rett him­self).

There is some ab­so­lutely sen­sa­tional gui­tar work, both in terms of solid, crunch­ing grooves and wig-out sounds — and there’d want to be, given those du­ties are per­formed by his old band­mate Martin Rot­sey. Gar­rett is joined by daugh­ters Emily, May and Grace, sewing in a smooth, al­most gospel-feel­ing back­ing trio, with May also sit­ting be­hind the drum kit on Home­com­ing. The Jez­abels’ key­boardist Heather Shan­non, drum­mer Pete Lus­combe and bassist Mark Wil­son make up a tight out­fit.

Writ­ing cred­its are mostly Gar­rett’s, but where they are shared, it’s a nod back to those ear­lier days as well: Gar­rett and Oils bassist Bones Hill­man on Home­com­ing and Gar­rett, Rot­sey and fel­low Oils gui­tarist Jim Moginie on Great White Shark. The lat­ter has a clas­sic Oils feel to it and was, in fact, in an early form con­sid­ered for that band’s set. It also might mark the only time the apex preda­tor of the sea gets a sym­pa­thetic men­tion in the pages of this news­pa­per — be­cause if there’s one thing we hate around here even more than a hung par­lia­ment, it’s man-frig­ging-eat­ing Noah’s Arks. Take it away, Pete: “The great white shark has got no feel­ing / He may end up a bar­gain on a fash­ion plate … mass ex­tinc­tions, no re­stric­tions, noose on neck, cas­tra­tion in­stinct.” Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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