Sympathy for the New World
12 Track, LP (2008, Mistletone)
Related: Ross Mclennan.
If Ross McLennan’s post-Snout solo career has any problems, it’s certainly not a lack of ideas or the will to put them to music. It’s more likely to be his prosaic profile as a young father who lives in Coburg and teaches music to primary school kids- it’s just not exotic enough to make people sit up and take notice. Which is a shame, because this, the follow up to 2004’s Songs From The Brittle Building, is a bit of a masterpiece, frankly.
His 'He Seems To Think We’re His Family' was a highlight of the recent Mistletonia Christmas compilation album, but that, with it’s relatively straightforward structure, was a mere sketch compared to what he’s cooked up here on Sympathy.
Home recording is a luxury, of course, and one that is all too easy to abuse. So too is self production, especially for a solo artist. Combining these with a batch of songs and coming up with an album’s worth of solid goods takes a deft hand.
With the help of a few guests, McLennan crafts finely made but unconventional-sounding tunes that gently meander to the point. He puts everything into the mix - 'Famous Lonely Deaths' features kettle drum, violins, oboes (or French horns, maybe, there was so much going on I lost track for a second) and a layer of fuzz guitar for good measure. But it’s all perfectly balanced, and the lushness of the palette is matched by the sweep of some of the arrangements. 'Pete Best', for instance, ranges from scratchy guitar to full blown Bacharach.
The titles are a joy in themselves - how could you not want to hear something called 'Hail to the Exoskeletons', or 'Now, About SIEV-X'? At times it sounds like a product of the morose, kitchen sink drama school of British pop, but he keeps a distinctly Australian voice throughout. The lyrics are often pretty opaque - small snatches drift by and only really make thematic sense in the context of the songs themselves. But at the same time, they are often expressed in clever lines and sly word play - rhymes like "Potential Suitor/Morning Commuter" become par for the course, and this guy can make any lyric scan. This is ear candy on many levels.
by Trevor Block