The basics: five people from Perth, Australia, who draw upon a variety of genres to incorporate into their rock music, primarily drawing upon psychedelic pop from all eras since its dubious birth (I say it was The Deep but then you get the diehards who are all "NUH-UH IT WAS THE BEATLES AND/OR 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS").
The generalization: Lush, brilliantly executed rock/pop numbers that at times exceed and are usually level with Tame Impala's baroque jubilance on their self-titled EP Louis and the Honkytonk.
The nitty-gritty: Louis and the Honkytonk is one of those bands who are just able to do everything, thanks not only to the musicianship of the core group (Matthew Parker rivals David Bowie for how many instruments he can play) but also the metric ton of collaborators and contributors to the album, include the Churchlands Chorale Society and YOU KNOW that is more than two people.
It makes for awesome listening, but a rather boring review, so I'll go over some of my favorite moments from the album and then give you another overview of whatever else I left out. Sound good? Just kidding, you don't have a choice.
"Faulty Fluorescent": For a band that does everything, they sure picked a good opener to explain their sound - a slow, melancholy affair. The guitar work and delivery remind me of fellow Perth mind-expanders Pond which is totally a good thing. Urgent guitar harmonies that dip and edge out over a very controlled drum beat as low organ drone ushers in vocalist Leigh Gardiner's frankly wonderful lyrics.
"Hand on Her Pride": Okay, so it's only the second song, but it's a startling take on modern blues that also blends organ-focused pop experiments (the instrumental bridge is a nice touch on an otherwise serious song) with jangly guitar and snappy drumming threatening to tear the track up.
"Darling You Should Know": If you've ever wondered what it's like to buy a prostitute, this track can offer some guidance. I enjoy it not only for the intriguing rhymes that manage to freshen an old idea, but also for the dreariness in the music. It has an almost vaudevillian sense of desperation on the part of the narrator thanks to the plodding instrumentation.
"Red Shadow Crept": Could be the yelping lead vocal delivery, could be the Brill Building-like male harmonies, the twangy bass-line or the slumbering lead guitar work but this song does it for me, sounds like the long walk you take back home after crucifying your social status at a party.
"Portraits": Psychedelia is where Louis and the Honkeytonk draw most of their musical ideas. You can hear it in the guitar work, in the odd musical ideas, in the tonal nuances, but with the exception of a few songs, most of the album maintains a level appreciation of the genre despite it being the main insertion. "Portraits" is when the album kicks up the lysergic acid into high gear and says what's up to Pink Floyd. It’s a controlled chaos of searing guitar, ethereal echoes, dangerously proggy composition and vaguely suicidal lyrics: "Brightest star / A modern day Goya / In my heart / I’ll be the definition of art." It’s a brilliant end to a startling album.
You ever wished that something could be "your thing?" Louis and the Honkytonk could be "your thing." I can't recommend subtly injecting these guys into your next wine-and-cheese or I-give-up-on-life-playlists quick enough. Or whatever playlist you have for whatever occasion. Baroque rock, brassy jazz, psychedelic melt-downs, modern takes on blues standards, impressive vocal harmonies awash in amplified noise, there's got to be something you'll find in here.
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