ast month, a fifteen-year-old boy with an innocent tram infatuation allegedly stole a “low-floor Citadis” from a South Melbourne depot and drove it along its usual route for almost thirty kilometres, picking up and dropping off passengers, before eventually being arrested at gunpoint. He had somehow managed to obtain the three separate sets of keys required to start the metal boulder rolling, so to speak, and had donned a jacket that bore a strong resemblance to those handed out by Victorian Rail. Assuming the boy had managed to master the PA system in addition to the manual line changes and the complex braking process, I would like to imagine that he was piping the new Lucksmiths album, albeit in mono, through the tinny internal speakers as he and his ten or so passengers rounded Luna Park and entered Balaclava Road. If he hadn’t, it would have been a shame. Could there possibly be a better album to play as a real-time soundtrack to a well-intentioned tram theft on an autumn evening in Melbourne? I somehow doubt it.
Warmer Corners, the seventh studio album from Marty Donald, Tali White, Mark Monnone (who, incidentally, painted the cover art), and recent addition Louis Richter is an intimate affair filled with heartfelt poignancy and old-mould songwriting that somehow manages to remain decidedly playful at the same time. White’s voice is as alabaster as always, and upon first listen, when he claimed: “The start is the hardest part / To step inside and announce a newly broken heart,” on opener “A Hiccup in Your Happiness,” I was concerned that the record was going to consist of twelve saccharine-soaked, acoustic break-up songs. Thankfully, thirty-three seconds later, I was proven wrong by a joyous string section, some trademark jangling from Donald, and a wonderful brass arrangement provided by producer Craig Pilkington of the Killjoys.
To be honest, I am finding it difficult to fault the first half of the album. “The Music Next Door,” “Great Lengths,” and “Now I’m Even Further Away” serve as a magnificent musical troika that pulls Warmer Corners into grand album territory. Although the second half may lose some momentum from the outset with the maudlin country balladry of “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now,” there is a much greater feeling of coherence evident on this release than on past albums and it finishes formidably. Monnone’s “I Don’t Want to Walk Around No More,” is all brushed drums, delicate guitar, and hushed delivery, whereas “The Fog of Trujillo” features what is perhaps the best use of horns on the entire record and offers up one of the catchiest and energetic choruses.
Somewhat curiously, the tram-riddled San Francisco features prominently on this album. Not only does the Bay Bridge provide the backdrop for the band photo in the notes, but the single, “The Chapter in Your Life Entitled…” is a tale of longing for a lover on leave in the “non-specific” north-west. As a side-note, it also demonstrates Donald’s adroit use of the anxious lyric: “I remember how the fog comes off the water and the days are even shorter, and I worry you’ll be cold—or have you found somebody to hold?” Combined with track eight, “Young and Dumb,” a guitar and cymbal-driven vignette that takes place in and around the Tenderloin district’s Hemlock Tavern, the references to the city that “knows how” are plainly evident.
Their songs may be filled with sentimental tales of innocent infatuations—and comparisons to Belle & Sebastian may abound—but the Lucksmiths deserve much more than merely being weighed against other acts from the so-called “twee” roster. Warmer Corners is a terrific and thoroughly enjoyable effort from a largely underappreciated band, and it will be a pity if it goes unnoticed. The fifteen-year-old has been bailed to appear in front of the Melbourne Children’s Court late next month.
Reviewed by: Ben Wilson
Reviewed on: 2005-05-20