We All Want To
Come Up Invisible
11 Track, LP (2012, Plus One)
Related: We All Want To.
How did it take me this long to notice that Tim Steward sounds a bit like Bob Dylan? Not all the time, obviously, but there are moments in ‘Ramp Up the Bleeding’, the opening song on Come Up Invisible, where the former frontman of Screamfeeder sounds super Dylan-ish. He’s singing commands like “Stop writing letters to yourself, you’re never gonna read ’em” and “Stop caressing your phone” like a cranky man who is out of his time. It’s the passionate rant that the guy who hates social media will launch into if you get enough drinks in him, only here it’s actually worth listening to. After a few minutes of that, Steward plays some gentle acoustic guitar accompanied by what I think is whalesong, and flute played by Skye Staniford, the second singer-songwriter of We All Want To. Then Josh Thomson crashes in with his fuzzing electric guitar like a mini-me Sonic Youth while Staniford’s flute becomes increasingly atonal and urgent.
Come Up Invisible is a bit like that. The songs are often simple and straightforward, and Steward plays a fair bit of acoustic. But then in comes the rest of the band – as well as those mentioned above, there’s Dan McNaulty on drums, Ben Thomson on bass and a variety of guests on everything from viola to Omnichord – to kick out the jams. Well, in as much as it is possible for jams to be kicked out with a viola.
One of Steward’s, ‘Where Sleeping Ends’ is the kind of song that narrates a character’s life from beginning to end. How many songs are there with a lyric about being born in an unusual circumstance, whether in the back of a taxi or on a bed of hay on Valentine’s Day? Somebody make a list. They’re always full of fanciful details – in ‘Where Sleeping Ends’ it’s a wife with scales and tails and kids who are twins with fins – but no matter how surreal they are, there’s a definite feeling of sadness as the inevitable death at their ending draws closer.
There are a couple more character sagas on Come Up Invisible. The album’s title comes from ‘Firefighter’, told from the perspective of a down-and-out woman who may be broke but won’t give up. It has a stumblebum saxophone solo I quite like. ‘Before the Accident’ turns the story of someone falling out of a window and suffering partial amnesia into a metaphor for the way we inevitably forget things that seem like they matter at the time: “I can’t remember all my kisses”, Steward sings, the guitar developing a wistful country twang.
These portraits of broken people – which are excellent and I hope to see more of in whatever We All Want To do next – are in contrast to a couple of Staniford’s more personal and less melancholy songs. ‘Automatic’ turns not being able to drive cars with manual gears into an appreciation of the simple things in life, set to more of that fuzz guitar and tambourine. It’s twee, but in the best possible way. ‘Shine’ is one of the most pop songs here, as much about being the best you can be as you’d expect from a song called ‘Shine’. It builds to another of those huge climaxes where you’re forcefully reminded that there are more than two people in this band and they like to cut loose sometimes.
That cutting loose sounds spontaneous and playful. You get the feeling there weren’t a lot of retakes during this album’s recording and amusing mistakes were just waved on through. In ‘We’re Not Perfect’ Staniford sings, “We’re not perfect, but parts of us are excellent.” I would agree with that.
by Jody Macgregor