Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Vastness, there's a vastness...

Move over Mr Rouse, there's a new Josh in town vying for stereo time chez On The Trail.

I first heard about Josh Pyke a few months back, when someone on the Michael Penn mailing list (a source for many of my musical finds over the last few years) tipped everyone off about a tune called Middle Of The Hill:

I'm guessing the above version was created to accompany the UK release of the single, as the original one from a couple of years ago is also floating around.

As fate would have it, when I had another look at his Myspace page a short while later, it turned out he was playing at a venue just down the road from me that very weekend. One fantastic gig later and the acquisition of his recently released UK debut 'Memories & Dust', and I was convinced I had stumbled upon an artist who's got a great future among my personal list of songwriting gods if nothing else.

The album is a must for anyone with a love for hook-laden pop gems - a cross between his fellow Antipodeans Neil Finn (melodically) and Darren Hanlon (for the occasional quirks) is the closest I've got to a decent summary of his songwriting prowess.

Such is the wealth of possible hits on the album, the record company has seemingly got around the problem of picking just one or two by releasing all of the radio-friendly fare as singles. Hence alongside Middle Of The Hill, there are similarly inventive videos for Private Education, Lines On Palms and my personal favourite, Memories & Dust:

The brilliance of the Memories & Dust album was hinted at on his previous release, the mini-album Feeding The Wolves, the original home to Middle Of The Hill. However, while much of the material on that record can tend to wash over you without leaving much trace, there is one absolute belter, in the shape of 'Goldmines'. The Finn and Hanlon comparisons drop away at this stage and we enter into the territory The Mutton Birds' chief songwriter Don McGlashan laid out on his classic songs such as White Valiant and Too Close To The Sun - driving through a barren countryside to a backdrop of some unspoken darkness:

Vastness, there's a vastness,
and it looks empty... but it's really full up to the brim.
And you can taste it, like a battery on your tongue,
electricity passing particle, to particle, to particle /

Car ride, we'll take a car ride,
out to the country, to see the goldmines.
See where that hill ends? That's where it all began,
and it was teeming then, now it's a fucking wasteland.

Add to that a melody to die for, and that glorious descending waterfall of vocals that close the song, and you're left with something very special indeed.

MP3: Josh Pyke - Goldmines