Record Reviews

Any Port In A Storm

How compatible a project like Scott & Charlene’s Wedding is with a place like New York is anyone’s guess, but my presumption would have been not very. After all, a US audience is unlikely to get the Neighbours reference, what exactly a ?gammy leg? is and, perceivably, the deadpan, sometimes crude humour of a man come all the way from Adelaide (via Melbourne). But then, it’s all probably part of the mystery. Especially in a city where Australians were until recently still exotic, while a craving for some ?good old rock ?n? roll? persists.

Picture a disheveled, ?true blue? guitarist manning the door at a hip New York nightclub, turning the likes of Ryan Gosling away and then singing about it in a hybrid Australian/slightly-put-on American accent. ?I don’t know what I’m doing any of the time,? Craig Dermody moans in the typically off-tune, unwieldy voice of a ?90s slacker while mumbling he’s been ?Fakin? NYC? at the same time as avoiding a broken heart on ?Spring St? (?I put all my faith in rock ?n? roll/It can’t save me this time/but it can cushion the blow?). How quaint.

It’s as if Dermody has come from a cultural vacuum where folk and guitar music still has meaning and there’s something to be said for feelings and agency in this fucked-up celebrity culture, of which a city like New York is a centre. Split between two states, it’s not only a yearning for a lost love or nostalgia for home that pervades but a deeply ingrained yearning for past authenticity that Any Port in a Storm speaks to. Because who else could express the absurd cruelty of a life – however modern – more eloquently than Dermody, as he scats ?Blood was just a-pissin everywhere? in ?Gammy Leg?. Or illustrate just how lowdown you can get by throwing up on your computer (?What a fuckin? loser?) in ?Charlie’s in the Gutter?? When he howls, ?And I haven’t done much changing in what I love? through the trundling rhythm of ?1993?, that pretty much applies to everything, from Dermody’s early days of watching NBA on another continent to stylistic preferences.

There’s a standout in ?Spring St?, with its melancholy swagger and intricate composition across layered, weeping guitar, as well as organ and pedal steel textures that are so well integrated they’re easy to miss. On seeing Dermody perform live in Melbourne with a requisite flannel shirt and flanked by other equally sincere performers of a similar oeuvre, I found it comforting in its lyrical dexterity. But beyond that, the music itself is a bit dull.