Up And Left
14 Track, LP (2012, Laughing Outlaw/Inertia)
Related: Bambino Koresh.
Contrary to their name – which may or may not be a reference to cult leader David Koresh, or Spanish for the artistic depiction of baby Jesus – Sydney’s Bambino Koresh are not religious zealots. Instead, they’re light-hearted provocateurs of ’70s rock meeting ’90s power-pop, or as they like to call themselves, “an indie-pop explosion”. Indeed, the only time their debut record Up and Left touches on the spiritual is via the cocksure ‘Satan Do Me a Solid’, and even then it’s done with a wry sense of fun. On Up and Left, there’s little territory crossed that doesn’t involve itself with personal matters of the heart and mind.
Featuring honorary Australian Leticia Nischang (GiveGoods, Sneeze) alongside her husband Tom Morgan (Smudge, Godstar) and Sarah McEwan (Grace Before Meals) Bambino Koresh have formed out of the demise and hiatus of some of the inner-west’s favourite bands. A generation behind Sydney’s current obsessions with shoe-gazing pop, scrappy punk and ’80s revivalism, they’re rooted in the more direct pop sound of the ’90s with an eye to their childhood Americana idols. It’s via this two-pronged attack that they present Up and Left, absorbing decades of guitars through the undeniable charisma of Nischang (who, if you can remember that far back, featured on one side of a split 7” that came with the first issue of M+N) and the support of her ever-present partner.
Where you’re struck initially by the slow-burn sway of ‘Freesoul’, you soon come to appreciate the deep foray into latter-day country rock. ‘Crop Circles’ has the swagger and charm of an early ’70s Crazy Horse record; certainly not afraid to pinch an ode to the tones of Neil Young’s ‘Big Black’, with an added dose of Theremin giving a sense of a hire car tourist drive through Roswell. ‘If So Defacto’ then flips over to Young’s lighter side; a romanticised prairie dream backed by a timid lap steel under Nischang’s flurry of confused questioning. These classic rock moments do tend to stick with you, the sounds of Young and Creedence pasted all across the record.
However, focusing on the lap steel peels you away from the record’s true flavour: the 1990s’ obsessions with power pop. With Tom Morgan on bass, that influence was always going to be strong. His history with the concurrent rise of Sydney’s Smudge and US crossover champions The Lemonheads treat this record with the poppy ’90s sentimentality you’d expect of his name. But aside from Morgan’s striped, sloppy-Joe touch, it’s Nischang’s lead work as frontwoman that lends most of the charm. Her ultra-innocent choral shouts on ‘Terracotta Warrior’ are equal parts lip-pouting strut as they are cute. On ‘Goth/Socialite’ you’re treated to smile-inducing criticisms via acceptance, while there’s even more strutting on ‘The System Tells’ and a touch of Dando-esque balladeering on ‘What I’m Gonna Do Now’.
While the record is steeped (maybe even drenched) in nostalgia, it’s the unique personalities of Nischang and Morgan that make this a fresh and rewarding listen. There is as much humour here as romance and muddled feelings (often, all at the same time). Equal parts Zuma and It’s A Shame About Ray, Up And Left is a record for the cheer-up pile.
by Max Easton