Record Reviews

Sweet Talk Your Enemies

You can take the kid of the arthouse, but you can’t take the arthouse out of the kid. Or something like that.

Schvendes? existence has been all about evolution – from wanton performance art band who released a live album entitled The Scoundrel is Made an Outcast* in 2002, Schvendes subsequently dropped the ?Ensemble? from their moniker and cut a handful of self-restrained EPs in the years following as documentation of a band that were moving away from their Fringe Festival persona. Now, in the Year of the Frog, the Western Australian troupe has unveiled their first full-length disc, the brooding and lyrical *Sweet Talk Your Enemies. Dense and shadowy, Rachael Dease and her alto tones commandeer this motley crew through 12 dark tracks that tip-toe a fine line between Schvendes? avant-garde past and the pop future they’re evidently striving for.

It’s all a bit morbid and noir, and Dease’s poetic vocals play off the dirty guitars and melancholic cello in the same way Nick Cave did when he conjured up his evil alter-ego on Murder Ballads*. She revels in the bloody imagery on ?Small Mercies Sweet Graves? and ?Oh, Marlon?, almost as if *Sweet Talk Your Enemies* is Dease’s way of purging her personal demons. ?All your skin’s turning grey/ The dirt’s a little warmer now,? she viciously drawls on the former track. It sits somewhere between Augie March’s baroque leanings and Cave and Ellis? soundtrack work on *The Proposition* or *The Assassination of Jesse James.

Schvendes creates a wonderfully claustrophobic mood which gradually envelopes you as you work your way through the album. But there is – below the songs about rotting flesh – majesty to the sumptuous arrangements that hark back to Schvendes? days on the festival circuit. Even if they have sweet dreams of commercial acceptance, they’ll always play with the ghosts of their art past on their shoulders. And that’s a good thing.