The new album by Melbourne’s Lower Plenty is an incredible assembly of extraordinarily normal characters, writes MAX EASTON.
Comprising members of The UV Race, Total Control and Deaf Wish, Lower Plenty are not the band you’d expect from their lineage. They rollick where their former counterparts ravaged; representing less the sweaty mass of bodies at a UV Race gig and more the late winter afternoon you slept through to the day after.
Their second release Hard Rubbish is a transfixing record. You might only ever walk away between sides for a warm cup of Lan-Choo tea from a garage-sale mug - something quaint and nostalgic to bring you back to your listening booth. From the band’s name (sourced from an outer suburb of Melbourne) to the album’s art (featuring a rusted Hills Hoist among a collection of weather-worn furniture), it’s a record that knows its place. So when Sarah Heyward sings, “You left it on the grass”, you know she’s singing of an un-mowed lawn somewhere beyond the tram lines, not the end of a drunken stagger up to Carlton gardens. On Hard Rubbish, all the fun was had last night.
The record opens with the dueling moans and lethargically finger-picked acoustic of ‘Work in the Morning’, a whispered twilight haze that sets the record firmly in its realm of late night depressions, early morning blues and aimless heartbreak. With a stream-of-consciousness narration of the events occurring outside the screen door, it simmers with a tired confusion before finishing in the regrettable realm of a late-night phone call. “Don’t you know I got work in the morning,” whispers Al Montfort. It’s one of many moments on this album that are instantly relatable.
The forlorn undercurrent embedded in ‘Work in the Morning’ returns in ‘Strange Beast’, marked by the line, “Loneliness is the biggest killer of them all.” The tuneless murmur of Jensen Thjung is blanketed by Heyward’s mirrored vocal with only scarce attention paid to the other. The two vocals are like the embodiment of the inner-yearning of two people in the same crowded room. “Dance with me strange beast,” they both repeat ad nauseum, with barely any acknowledgement of the other’s tune. These characters don’t even know the other is there.
‘Nullarbor’ is a broken Australian romance threading across the country in a stolen car. “She took her boyfriend’s car up to Adelaide/She was not coming back,” Montfort ambles. “Out on the Nullarbor/In Jack’s Commodore,” he continues, distant guitars lolling behind a depressed narration of a girl blissfully following her own whims. “I’m sorry Jack,” she writes. “I’m never coming back.” It leaves you somehow rooting for the girl despite the destructive trail she leaves behind.
“On ‘Hard Rubbish’, all the fun was had last night.”
The back half of the record continues in this vein. ‘How Low Can a Punk Get?’ answers its own accusatory question with, “I did not know/but there you go.” It’s full of lazy rhymes (“Do you really think it’s gonna be not bad/Everyone, you made them sad”) among sloppy fields of spare-part percussion and meandering guitars. It’s a strangely appealing track, a precursor to the much more direct and angular ‘White Walls’. Heyward’s sweetened vocal creates a nice counterpoint to Montfort’s lazy, rock-bottom moans. Her questioning call of, “Where was I when you needed me”, is a guilty address of distracted insecurities far removed from the softened accusations that are to follow. The ensuing ‘Close Enough’ is a passing finish littered with echoing crashes and sound effects. Heyward sings, “In my mind, you had no legs to stand on”, sounding like a very different person to the anxious girl on ‘White Walls’. A song of departure, it sees Heyward tug at the limits of a dead relationship before finishing the record with the tantalisingly confused line of: “I was close enough away just to see the fading of the dark.”
Lower Plenty’s Hard Rubbish is an incredible assembly of some extraordinarily normal characters. There are no pointed fingers or worldly issues addressed, just insular observations of personality flaws, lost relationships and confused emotions. It makes for a very human record that, as a result, becomes achingly familiar.
Listen to ‘Hard Rubbish’: