Although Ian Freeman and Jeff Baker have had a song writing relationship that has spanned 30 years encompassing notable Australian bands like Header, The Rainyard, The Palisades and the Summer Suns, they perhaps may not have envisioned being as prolific as they have in the last 18 months.
For this is actually their 713th debut album during this period. Actually, of course it is not. However after incurring the wrath of several sax players for jokingly implying that they were all perverts (see the Autumn Stones review and apologies to all Saxophonists) I suppose upsetting a couple of my long standing heroes may as well be added to my list of ‘sins of the scribe’.
This sense of ‘prolific’ probably stems from the sheer quality quality of their recent work. In 2016 they returned home to Perth for a much anticipated Rainyard reunion only to see the venture collapse and for The Jangle Band to be formed from the ashes and release the sublime 60’s inflected jangling brilliance of Edge of A Dream.
In this album they visit Melbourne, indulge in a couple of personnel changes which saw Suki Garth taking over sticks duty, and Dave Chadwick (ex Header) assuming bass duties. However these changes has not seen any quality reduction compared to their Perth contemporaries. It is just a somewhat different nuance of quality.
Sure, the smooth ‘made for the jangle-pop’ vocals of Baker remain consistent, still insisting that the melodies follow him, like some sort of quasi-pied piper. However, the overall sound is now on the jangling side of all things 70’s pop rock, rather than the 60’s and at times takes on a far more indie-pop aesthetic than the Edge of A Dream. In fact such a comment could be extended to anything that they have previously been involved in, which has always tended to be more of an aggressive in your face pop, in comparison to what they have settle upon with this album.
However if ‘settled’ holds certain ignoble connotations of antiquity, then that really is not the case, despite the influences that have shaped the sound. The albums opener, Imperfectly (see above) has that beautiful melodic bias to it that the best of any era would love to lay claim too, as the lyrics provide an album typical world-wise view of how opposites attract. Similarly tracks such as Look Both Ways, Blue Wedding and the superb lead single, Oh My! (see below) all offer the sort of middle-aged wisdom (apologies gents) of matters of the heart that only those that have consistently been through the tribulations of love can truly appreciate and perhaps, appropriately address in song form.
In general this album is simply the prettiest and maturest that the Baker and Freeman have ever produced and whilst I hope that this sort of melodic beauty will not always be the only remaining string to their bow as they simply have too many different types of musical arrows in their quiver, it is good to know that this sort of jangled arrow is capable of being fired at any time.
Label Links: Pretty Olivia Records