Record Reviews

Noiseworks

Much has been said of Tim Shiel’s skill as an [internetworked self-promoter](/articles/3931090). Indeed, as an artist who has possibly never performed live as his musical alter-ego Faux Pas, this persona is present purely on Shiel’s bespoke [website](http://www.iamfauxpas.com/) and in his handful of social media profiles. On his blog and elsewhere, his love of ?cheese? is well documented: a dominant Paul McCartney presides over a fiefdom of ?70s yacht rock, ?80s Australian pub rock, ?90s commercial dance tracks and the educated electronica of the noughties.

You really needn’t consult the interwebs for Shiel’s influences, though. There’s the album’s title for starters – a nod to the Jon Stevens fronted Oz-rock outfit – or lead single ‘Chasing Waterfalls’, which blatantly rips a guitar riff from INXS, a group Stevens would eventually (if briefly) join. ‘Guillotine’ brings to mind the opening montages of epic action-intrigue films of a decade or so past: think The Pelican Brief*, *The Fugitive*, maybe even *Passenger 57. Dramatic strings rub against dodgy choral/orchestral synth melodies and contemporary R&B beats, handclaps echoing into some constructed, reverential space. The shoddy trumpet figure that enters two minutes into the song is ushered out by a tape speed effect and, again, those insistent strings. It may be an ambitious project, this tune, but it lacks the guts – the texture – necessary to render it convincing.

There are much better tracks. Take ‘Vanderbilt’ for example, with its bouncy toms, congas and airy keys compressed into a pumping jam reminiscent of Marumari or Flying Lotus. As it jangles off into the distance, it segues easily into an extended version of popular single ‘Silver Line’, incorporating Stuart and Marita of The Orbweavers. It’s a strong, distinctive radio hit, but the added heft of this version is largely unnecessary – even a little bit annoying. ‘Minimums’ benefits from a spare, piano-centred arrangement wherein Shiel allows the music to breathe a little more; a courtesy often denied to other tracks, where he commits to too many homeless melodies.

Further into Noiseworks*, ‘Pretend Tough’ is just that, more *World’s Worst Drivers* than *NYPD Blue. ‘Megasports’ too, is an obviously tacky ode to the chunky faux-muscular drums and daggy melodies of sports highlights programming. Indeed, there’s every chance that Shiel will find these appraisals as flattering as anyone might find them disheartening. With an evidently deep affection for music that countless others have dismissed as dated, awkward or ironic, it would be difficult to accurately second guess Faux Pas’ own aesthetic benchmarks.

His passionate fans (and high iTunes sales) are clear signs that his magic is working in some quarters, and you get the feeling that the community radio ?beats? crowd will lap this up (a fact that stands independently of Shiel’s work as a breakfast presenter on Melbourne station Triple R). But for me, closing piece ‘Dawson Mode’ sums it up with a mishmash of too many melodies and styles, the same ringing handclap from ‘Silver Line’, ‘Guillotine’ and ‘Vanderbilt’, and a unifying cumbersome sentimentality. There’s plenty of stuff happening here, sure – but after the triumph of earlier records like Changes*, *Noiseworks is aching for real, enduring grit.