Wednesday, December 11, 2013
REVIEW: Lower Plenty - Hard Rubbish
Lower Plenty is a four-piece with a criminally low international profile, named after a Melbourne suburb in which none of members of the group reside. Their debut LP, Hard Rubbish, was released in Australia in 2012 on Special Award Records, and at least one publication in Australia voted it album of the year. Hard Rubbish received its worldwide release in 2013 when it was picked up by Fire Records and made available in April. The album presents unique songs that are raw, melancholy, and sparsely arranged. The result is an atmosphere that is dense, compelling, and hits harder than one would expect given the restrained instrumentation. But full context to the atmosphere is left to the listener, because the sorrow, disappointment and desperation is hazily outlined and whispered over a short running time. And somehow the songs manage to be more intimate as a result. It is as if they fulfill the promise of the album title and cover art by leaving bleak, emotional debris in a desolate space for someone else to deal with. Or to choose not to deal with.
And despite all of that, Hard Rubbish is melodic and full of moments of beauty. "Strange Beast" is a haunting Lee Hazelwood-style tune with the reminder that loneliness is the biggest killer of all, but I've been obsessed with the beauty of the track since I first heard it. Similarly, "Nullarbor" is another memorable track despite its downbeat themes of leaving, loss and letting go. There are a few harsher tracks, such as "Dirty Flowers" and "Girls They Stick Together", and a few tracks that at least hint at sunlight. For the most part, however, this is music for late nights quiet time or morning regrets. The songwriting is top class, with deft lyrical touches such as "I was far enough away just to hear myself say goodbye" ("Close Enough"), "did you have to take all the love and leave the rest to no one" ("Grass").
The band is comprised of Daniel Twomey, Jensen Tjhung, Sarah Heyward and Al Monfort. Their other bands include Deaf Wish, UV Race, Total Control, The Focus, and Dick Diver, many of which are far noisier than this project. But for Hard Rubbish the quartet display a sure hand in dealing with quieter songs. The set up is two guitars, drums and mechanical percussion with all four members taking turns singing. The usually one-take recording often occurred around a kitchen table. Given the band's location and its relaxed performing vibe, their self-applied label of "suburban country" seems apt.
I highly recommend this album for a place in your collection.
Label page for Hard Rubbish