Return to Oz
Last week I told you of a new discovery here in Australia; Gotye. You can find that entry here. Anyway, with the extreme power of the internet I managed to speak to Wally a few days ago, he very kindly gave me a copy of his latest album, so I figured it only fair to share my thoughts on the entire record.
If you cast your mind back to last week you'll remember there was a mention of exactly where in the mine-field of genres Gotye lies. I suggested it was pop, but basically only on the level that it was pretty much easy listening and covered a multitude of genres. Other sources had claimed comparisons to the likes of Phil Collins – turns out that's pretty accurate thinking. Wally told me that although he appreciates that artists like; DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, The Avalanches, Portishead, and Massive Attack are a big influence on his sound, he would rather actually listen to some classic '80s pop. He told me that Kate Bush, The Police, The Beatles, Roxette, Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, and Icehouse, are what generally gets the heavy rotation on his turntables.
So, onto the album, Like Drawing Blood. Eleven tracks and just under 50 minutes of music, that's more like it – suck on that, double albums! Album starts with a short intro track, few quiet clangings of percussion, then straight in to track two The Only Way, a funky guitar based ditty with smooth melodic vocals. The track breaks down early in to a calmer verse, then *bam* straight back in to the eastern sounding ditty. Pretty catchy track, really feeling the vocals, very reminiscent of a slightly more poppy sounding Nitin Sawhney track. Things are nicely broken up with some Shadowesque drum breaks, before once again returning to the main riff.
Third track is an absolute diamond; Hearts A Mess. Starts in a very calm manner, still maintaining a bit of the eastern promise as heard in the second track. In the early build up we are clearly teased with cinematic strings, but another verse of calm vocals keeps any dawning climax at bay. In come those strings again, the beat continues, even the sound of pipes adds to the inevitable, now the strings take over. Then… the Phil Collins sound miraculously appears, wow, those vocals. Another very tidy job on the arrangement and particularly the drum patterns.
Coming Back is the fourth track on the album – a funky track with a sort of tango/cha-cha feel to it – very ballroom show-down! Once more it is Wally's vocals that really steal the show, although nothing should be taken away from the music, that is yet again very well structured and has great depth.
On to track number five; Thanks For Your Time. This track should get your head nodding – it seems to match funky beats with catchy pop melodies. Listen to the vocals and you'll hear that it seems Wally is frustrated with telephone queuing systems! Regardless of the tracks meanings, nothing can dispute the catchiness of this one, though. "Did you request Melbourne Zoo? Please hold and an operator will complete your request." Nice harmonies in this one too, it certainly gets a lot play time on my PC.
Just past the half way point of the album and track number six presents itself in the form of Learnalilgivinanlovin, a real Jamie Lidell style soul track. Simply put, if you like some of the catchier 60s soul, then you'll love this. This track really shows the diversity that is on exhibition with this album. Although one constant is still present; catchy tunes.
Track seven is Puzzle With A Piece Missing, another one of my favourites. A more down-tempo effort, concentrating on an almost ragga sounding build up. The trumpets and drums that come in really add to the down-tempo carnival feel. Imagine the Notting Hill Carnival at two in the morning when everyone has totally chilled down, I mean really chilled. Wally's chilling, yet smooth, vocals are the final piece to this puzzle.
A Distinctive Sound, one of the more played tracks on the radio here so far, is track number eight. It really is fantastic, a collage of Shadow, Cut Chemist, that very special secret Gotye ingredient. Real funky build up, guitar samples, Xylophone, and drums of plenty. In typical Wally sound, the track is in no hurry to present the breakdown, so I wait patiently… a few vocal and piano samples later and *BOOM* what I can only describe as sound like something from the Prodigy's Fat of The Land comes in. The drum samples in this track are right up my street, really enjoying the Gotye style. He's certainly a maestro with the samples, that's for sure.
Seven Hours With A Backseat Driver is the rather chilled ninth track. Sounds like it could be an accordion sample playing through the main part of the build up. Cool use of percussion in this laid back track, borrows sounds from many parts of the world, all fused tightly in to one funky song. Nicely positioned towards the end of the album, good wind down track.
Track number ten is Night Drive, another laid back track, but altogether a bit more poppy sounding. Like a ballad with an eastern flavour. Calm melodies and yet more smooth vocals, just another good wind down track. There's an inspirational feel to this more vocal driven track, it's a good wholesome song.
The final track, track twelve, is Worn Out Blues, literally a semi hidden outro track. Hidden as such that there is a big gap between this track and the last – outro as in it is just 38 seconds long. Powerful strings accompanied by a short vocal verse.
All said and done, the one thing I really like about Gotye is the originality. You can compare Wally's sound to other artists and genres until the cows come home, but essentially whatever you think it sounds like, it has a distinctive sound, an original sound. I don't mean to suggest that he is the first person to ever create these sounds, but I think Wally has a distinctive style in which he has created these arrangements – very thoughtful and considered creations. Everyone should give this album a proper thorough listening to. You might not instantly love every single track, but I can bet that at least a couple will quickly grab you. This music is definitely there to be appreciated – I just wonder if on an album level that the average pop fan will truly appreciate it, maybe they will. All I can honestly say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it myself and will be playing Like Drawing Blood for a long time yet.