I don’t know much about Brisbane, Australia’s Cedarsmoke. So I apologize if this review comes off a bit Law & Order-ish, a show which I can’t claim to have ever seen an entire episode of but have only caught bits and pieces of in places like bars, hospital waiting rooms and the occasional visit to the nursing home back a ways when my grandparents were still alive.
What I do know is that Cedarsmoke plays a form of down tempo psych-infused indie rock that is easily palatable. Their curt bio describes their six-song EP (is it their debut? third? fifth?) False Start to the Rat Race as “six songs played by five people, recorded live.” And bravo to such an interesting and witty title as False Start to the Rat Race which offers a few clues to the mystery of which we are about to delve into.
For what is the “rat race” but a comical analogy for most of the world’s daily life? We wake. We rush to punch the clock in order to be able to fill our lives with the countless amounts of trash being thrown at us. The forty-plus-hour work week pays for our comfortable beds, our expensive drinks, our virtual realities which helps us escape from our real ones. They provide a momentary escape from the plebeian doldrums many of us find ourselves in; are you living to work or just working to live?
This seems to be the question asked on “Wasteland Blues” the opening track of False Start to the Rat Race. Ethereal and angry guitars mesh with the opening lyrics “It’s a small world if you have big dreams / But all I want is a shirt on my back and a place to sleep / I don’t need to own land I won’t have time to roam,” sung by…let’s call him X (I have by this point abandoned my detective show gig and going along with something a little more off the cuff. Think of this as a Shakespearean aside and bear with me. A rose by any other name and all that…).
The sweet and catchy yet superfluously noisy “Hollow” our friend X with his angsty and scratchy vocals sounds like a man that has just woken up and hasn’t had coffee yet. He also sounds like he has been screaming all night and now, still trying to venerate himself is stumbling around trying to get his point across. Behind all this wandering madness is a synthesizer that sounds like a four thousand strong child choir and delicious drum fills, and a waterfall of effects-the fuck out- guitars. Old X doesn’t disappoint on the drunken and spacey rant of “Just Say So” a song I felt myself taking to heart. Here X, (yes we’re at it again with this) gets down to it, calling it out with “why don’t you just say so.” Easier said than done my friend as you probably know.
False Start to the Rat Race is a record filled with tumultuousness of every kind. It’s an ode, a paean to what many of us feel; the world is shit but we’re not ready to die yet so we’re just gonna keep dealing until we do. It’s fun and angst ridden and pretty rocking. If you’ve ever begun a sentence with “I hate…” give False Start to the Rat Race a few moments of your time.
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