HWY Dave Wright and the Midnight Electric Independent Melbourne outfit Dave Wright and the Midnight Electric’s second album, following on from their 2014 debut The Lucky Country, is a quixotic mix of pub rock and 1960s-style brass that leaves the best until last.
The album has a big cast, adding to the usual instrumental suspects of trumpet, trombone, pedal steel guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and accordion.
The result is a mix of genres that clicks off in rock overdrive, to the roar of a starting engine on Coming Home, before veering towards country and taking a detour to some atmospheric folk-rock. There’s even an unabashed nod to Bruce Springsteen.
The eight songs were written across an extended period and are loosely linked by an overarching road theme.
Wright is a strong lyricist and the picture he paints of dying love on Where Needle Hits the Red (“If I let myself look back / I see now my weakness made you strong / You came on like a heart attack / Now look at the damage that you’ve done”) fits in well with the song’s maudlin steel guitar and stylish piano.
The horns are a distinctive touch and while it sometimes may sound as if the Tijuana Brass has invaded an Aussie pub, they add clout to the album.
Avenues of Honour, for example, is an antiwar song with a haunting folk refrain on accordion that uses the brass to effectively punch through to a rock finish. The horns also well and truly set the stage for the up-tempo Rain.
But it is on the title track, left until last, where everything really gels.
HWY is an eight-minute opus that builds to an energetic climax featuring some searing guitar and great backing vocals. It’s a sit-up-and-takenotice finish.