An Horse’s Rearrange Beds feels seamless, a nostalgic amalgam of muffed up guitars and plaintive vocals from Kate Cooper and deliberate, almost vituperative, rhythms from drummer Damon Cox. It’s classic power-pop gone grunge, a surprisingly complex illusion act they pull off easily.
Movement, whether physical or mental, and limitations on it, whether real or imagined, are the key here. Guitars fall in tripping triptychs before bursting into the crushing choral freedom of movement (?Postcards?). Time signatures change, roughly and quickly, imitating Cooper’s tentative steps towards, and retreat from, companionship (?Company?).
Producer Magoo is another key to the where the heart of the record lies – somewhere deep in the ?90s when Magoo had a kingdom and it was called Triple J. He gives the band the most sympathetic context to work in, with unadorned, basic tracking of the instruments heightening the intimacy Cooper’s wilting vocals create with ease.
It’s easy to see how it might not work – to some, it might just sound like the recitation of the grunge catechism. And, to be blunt, it’s not a record on par with some of the great Australian exponents of this genre: Screamfeeder’s Kitten Licks* and Knievel’s *Steep Hill Climb.
And yet, when Cooper sings, ?After last year/ I am happy to be alive/ And like that good Hole album/ I can Live Through This/ I can live through worse?, in opener ?Camp Out?, backed only by a progression of four of the most elemental, yet completely resonant chords you’ll hear this year, it just sounds like something approximating, well, joy.
It’s not an unctuous, sickly manufactured emotion. It’s joy born from the simple sadness of the detritus of a life, attempted and interrupted. It’s tactile – the size of a pair of hands, how many postcards were sent, how much air and weight little lungs can hold – and in all its hard-fought and strangely determined beauty, it hits, and sticks, deep in the ribs.