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Album Review: The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie

 
By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

The Trouble With Templeton Rookie CoverAustralian singer/songwriter Thomas Calder has spent the past 3 years developing his band project, The Trouble With Templeton. The five-piece alternative rock band released their debut LP, ‘Rookie’, in Australia last August and have now released it to the rest of the world on acclaimed label Bella Union Records.

‘Rookie’ manages to be both expansive and refined, which is unusual for a debut record. Musically, its layered instrumental effects and dynamic variations create a wide variety of moods, from the dark, thick texture of ‘Whimpering Child’ to the rhythmically tribal ‘Climate’, to the softer acoustic sound of ‘Secret Pastures’. Thematically, it’s a series of rather off-kilter vignettes of personal relationships. The lyrical contexts are somewhat vague; instead of relating full stories, they make you feel more like you’re eavesdropping on a private conversation, catching only a few interesting tidbits without getting any resolution to the events.

The lyrics to ‘Heavy Lifting’ give the remorseful impression of a loveless marriage, following the refrain, “Embarrassed lips / Touching dirty hips / Making romantic quips / Seems so useless / You’ve never opened a door for me in your life” with the observation, “Feeling like she loved you more is tragic / Everything you’ve ever bought is plastic”. Later in the track sequence, ‘Soldiers’ uses a low bass drone to illustrate the “comatose and so morose” feeling of a man lost in the everyday monotony of his own life, while the instrumental and vocal layers eventually build to a chaotic whirl of sound around his loss of identity.

Stand-out track ‘Like A Kid’ is brash and bratty, with fuzzed out guitars and shouted backing vocals that call to mind gang wars between the Sharks and the Jets. Its retro punk sound matches its sneering, sullen lyrics: “Mother, what is it this time? / Mother, why you always cry? / You’re lookin’ like a faucet leakin’ ”.

The uptempo ‘Six Months In A Cast’ has a mildly disturbing feel from the beginning, with an ominous and deeply reverberant bass under its driving guitar riff. That driving rhythm quickly escalates to a frantic tempo before slowing down and shifting to a sense of resolution around the unspecified deception in the lyrics. (Watch the chilling black and white video to get the full sinister effect.)

[youtube]http://youtu.be/RIQtcFEbBxU[/youtube]

Final track on the album ‘Lint’ is another sweetly sinister track that changes moods several times. It starts with a gently rocking guitar melody and a raspy, whispered verse, but hints at something darker with the line, “I’ll know death when I see it, when I see it, when I see it”. Then the bass drum kicks in, like a pounding heartbeat, followed by the lyrics, “Circumstantial evidence / I fumbled the blood, I lost the prints”. The instrumental layers build to a dissonant climax before making a complete 180-degree turn back to the sweet acoustic sound from the beginning of the song. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly is happening in the plot, or maybe I don’t quite want to, when Calder’s mesmerizing voice sings the final lines: “Head home, your mother’s worried sick / She’s on the phone, oh have you seen my kid / And there’s a sponge in the corner of the room / soaking up all those tears and sweet perfume / Fear or something’s coming soon / Fear of what those kids will do to you”.

Despite its often dark lyrical themes, ‘Rookie’ covers a lot of emotional ground in its musical and sonic effects. The experimental (dare I say progressive?) nature of the music doesn’t interfere with its focus, though the album does have a slightly skewed perspective from start to finish. Having taken the time to fully cultivate their complex musical style, The Trouble With Templeton make a remarkably sophisticated and dramatic impression with this rookie effort.

8/10

‘Rookie’ is out today on Bella Union Records. The Trouble With Templeton appeared at The Great Escape 2014 over the weekend and have scheduled appearances at The Islington in London on the 21st of May, the Oslo in London Hackney on the 22nd of May and the Dot to Dot Festival during the second May bank holiday (23-25 May).

 

Live Review: Communion band showcase featuring The Travelling Band, Paul Thomas Saunders, John J. Presley and The Trouble with Templeton at London Notting Hill Arts Club – 6th October 2013

 
By on Thursday, 17th October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

TGTF last visited the Communion Club Night in March, and we were suitably impressed by the quality of the acts on offer that a return visit was always on the cards. After a summer break, they relaunched back in September with an admirable six-acts-per-night policy in the sweltering underground den of the Notting Hill Arts Club, a venue with a security policy so tight and beers so expensive the whole experience is like living in Philip K. Dick’s subconscious. Nevertheless, once inside the vibe is friendly and buzzing, a great place to check out next year’s superstars.

The Trouble With Templeton, who editor Mary caught last year in Sydney, are an Australian five-piece whose sound ranges from slight acoustic whimsy to a brand of yearning AOR which, whilst perhaps not the most original sound in the rock playbook (Starsailor were doing exactly this over a decade ago, with a singer that sounded exactly the same, too boot), nevertheless provide enough variety in the songwriting and delivery to hold the interest throughout. ‘Six Months In A Cast’ gets the full driving-rock treatment, with piano riffs, washes of chugging guitar, and Thomas Calder’s impeccable, keening vocals to go with his impeccable, gleaming hair. ‘I Wrote A Novel’ is pleasant enough with its vocal percussion and clever lyrics; better still is the set-climaxing ‘Lint’, which builds with an abstract intensity and a less formal structure than the previous songs – perhaps a hint of future direction.

Apparently having won all sorts of awards for his songwriting, there’s no doubt that Calder’s pen is easily capable of jotting a memorable ditty or two, although on an absolute scale his output may be a little on the safe side, perhaps lacking that killer blow to stand out amongst the crowd now Templeton are making a bid for the big time. After the gig, drummer Ritchie explains that his band’s recent European jaunt was funded by the largesse of the recently-ousted Labor government (whilst bemoaning the anticipated lack of subsidy available from the new Liberal administration) – so I am obliged to thank the Australian taxpayers who subsidised my experience of The Trouble With Templeton, and can only hope they had nothing better to do with their money, like feeding their children. But such grumpiness aside, Templeton do deserve a wider audience; with their fresh faces and well-crafted tunes they could easily become very big indeed.

John J. Presley is a man dominated by hair – it’s pretty difficult to see his face, what with long blond locks swinging around as he prowls the stage, and the obligatory beard filling in what’s left. There’s no such difficulty at hearing him, though – the man has a veritable bellow of a voice, from which vowels aren’t really sung, more grudgingly allowed to escape, writhing in gruff protest. His is a ramshackle blues, heavily-fuzzed guitar issuing forth caveman riffs, occasionally accompanied by the sumptuous tones of a vintage Rhodes piano, or a touch of droning aerophone. ‘Sweet Sister’ exemplifies his one-man genre – guitar alternating between shades of brown overdrive and Hendrix-style fuzz, a background chorus of female vocals for company, the whole dirty and threatening like a snake in a basement.

Paul Thomas Saunders is the very spit of Sean Lennon, and the comparisons don’t stop at aesthetics – their voices are surprisingly similar, too. But where the younger Lennon’s career has been characterised by a bare smattering of LPs over the last fifteen years, Saunders appears much more focused with his releases, and indeed the records themselves hang together admirably. 2012’s ‘Descartes Highlands’ is a beautiful collection of heartfelt, spaced-out acoustic-electronic rock, dreamy in its presentation and knowingly literate in its content. The song titles belie an obscurantist influence – references to ‘Santa Muerte’ (the cult saint of death) alongside something like ‘A Lunar Veteran’s Guide To Re-Entry’ indicate a lot of thought and perhaps even a dollop of pretension are contained within. Live, Saunders plays guitar and keyboards expertly, the band spin a delicate web around his fragile, effected tenor; the overall result is a quite lovely update to the sort of space-age rock that Spiritualized first enamoured the public with over 20 years ago.

Ending the night with The Travelling Band is like finishing a sumptuous five-course meal with a piece of dry, mouldy cheddar one finds at the back of the fridge. TTB won the 2008 Glastonbury New Talent award – yet further evidence of the adverse effects of a Glasto-centric music scene. Style-wise, it’s plastic-folk, Jim, and exactly as we know it from the countless bearded hopefuls to the Mumford-ian throne that pop up every week with their wide-eyed honesty, carefully-practised five-part harmonies and clean underwear. The band can’t decide who their frontman is, as Jo Dudderidge and Adam Gorman vie for both the centre mic and the audience’s affections, all faux sincerity and gaping gurns. The quiet-loud-quiet-loud-ad-nauseum arrangements are depressingly predictable, as is the constant thud of a bass drum – a dance music substitute for those who find dance music too scary.

This is music every bit as reductive as the mainstream chart dross that music snobs constantly rail against – it performs exactly the same function as the latest offering from some famous-for-five-minutes auto-tuned chart diva, except its audience is middle class and post-teenage; and instead of hotpants and cleavage, we have carefully-quoiffed quiffs, neatly-trimmed beards and checked shirts. The lack of offensive potential, the cynically manipulative ear-pleasing yet bland songs, the emphasis of delivery over content, and the whole suffocating smugness of the whole affair is utterly depressing. Listen to this, from ‘Sundial’: “If I had a home to call my own / then I wouldn’t need a sundial to stop me roaming around”. Give me strength, or better still, something scabrous and cynical – perhaps a PiL album, or a painting by Hieronymus Bosch – anything to clear away the fug of cloying sentimentality. Time will tell how long The Travelling Band can be bothered with the travelling part – 5 years since their breakthrough, little has been achieved by the way of mainstream success, and if the half-empty venue as they take the stage is anything to go by, their star is waning still.

The Communion Club night also plays in Brighton, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow, so for anyone wanting to make their own mind up about the bands discussed here, or discover the next big thing in new music, it’s a monthly event not to be missed.

 

SXSW 2013 Australian band tips from The AU Review

 
By on Thursday, 28th February 2013 at 11:00 am
 

We made friends with the lovely folks of the AU Review at SXSW 2012, so it seems only appropriate to ask their Head Photographer Johnny Au for his best tips for Australian acts not to miss at this year’s event. Check ’em out from the links below and where possible, we’ve linked to their SXSW 2013 features on the AU Review’s Web site and my live reviews from ARIA Week 2012 in Sydney. Thanks Johnny for your great tips!

Alpine – read part 1 of the AU Review’s From 360 to WIM: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Ball Park Music

Emma Louise – read part 3 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Vaudeville Smash: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Flume – read part 3 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Vaudeville Smash: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Georgia Fair – read part 3 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Vaudeville Smash: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Glass Towers – read part 4 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Yolanda Cool: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Henry Wagons

Jack Carty – read part 5 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Yolanda Cool: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Jackson Firebird – read part 5 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Yolanda Cool: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

Jonathan Boulet – read part 5 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Yolanda Cool: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

People of Letters

San Cisco – read my review of their support slot with the Vaccines in early February in Washington here

Seth Sentry

The Audreys – read part 1 of the AU Review’s From 360 to WIM: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

The Beards – read part 1 of the AU Review’s From 360 to WIM: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here

The Falls – read part 3 of the AU Review’s From 360 to Vaudeville Smash: The Aussies at SXSW 2013 for more here; read my review of their performance at the MGM and SPA showcase during ARIA Week 2012 through here

The Rubens – read my review of their performance at the triplej unearthed showcase during ARIA Week 2012 in Sydney through here

The Trouble With Templeton – read my review of their performance at the MGM and SPA showcase during ARIA Week 2012 in Sydney through here

Vaudeville Smash

 

TGTF Does ARIA Week 2012: MGM and SPA Australia Showcase at Upstairs Beresford featuring Lime Cordiale, Battleships, The Trouble with Templeton, The Falls and Oceanics – 28th November 2012

 
By on Thursday, 6th December 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

After the two previous nights seeing acts associated with industry heavyweight Universal Music Australia and digital radio station triple j unearthed, it was time to catch some bands with more independent connections. Wednesday night I headed over to the upstairs floor of the Beresford Hotel (formerly a hotel that was built in 1870 but converted into a swanky nightclub) to catch the showcase being put on MGM (that’s Metropolitan Groove Merchants, the largest independent distributor of Australian music, not an American film company) and SPA Australia. There were supposed to be four bands, but a fifth appeared at the end as a last minute addition.

Usually, the first band at a show has the most unenviable task of warming up a crowd that is only slowly starting to gain in size. Thanks to a hour of free drinks prior to the start of the evening’s sets, the reverse was true for this night at Upstairs Beresford. Oceanics from the Gold Coast, a coastal city 1 hour by plane north of Sydney that is probably every bit as idyllic as the name sounds, no doubt benefitting to the crowd already buzzing from the free booze.

With only one small, local Pipsqueak cider within me, I wasn’t buzzing just from the alcohol; I was definitely feeling their music, which sounded much like the Strokes, if they weren’t from New York but a sunny seaside town. Their lead singer Elliot Weston cuts a compelling frontman figure like Noel Gallagher (will you take a look at that hair???), but thankfully sounds nothing like him. He even had an almost Pete Townshend moment, banging his guitar around in front of his amp to create squealing feedback. Have a listen to their song ‘Jukebox’, and tell me what you think.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbP_pNgmfRQ[/youtube]

Along with a four-piece string quartet and backing band, The Falls came on next. It was explained to me by a new Aussie friend that singers/songwriters Simon Rudston-Brown and Melinda Kirwin were formerly boyfriend/girlfriend but they’ve seen broken up but evidently (and to our great benefit) kept their musical connection. My new friend also said that for her, this duo far surpasses Julia and Angus Stone as the best male/female folk duo in Australia. (I’d have to do some compare and contrasting on that to be sure, but Cheryl can probably do a better job at this than I ever could.)

They’re originally from Darwin, Northern Territories, in the topmost, central part of Australia. They’ve just released their debut EP, ‘Hollywood’, and the first single from the EP, ‘Home’, is as beautiful of a song introduction that you could hope from anyone. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0VqzQU6wGc[/youtube]

Who I thought would be the second to last act of the night was Brisbane’s The Trouble with Templeton. Despite my initial thought that the act’s name was a nod to the children’s book Charlotte’s Web, our friends at the AU Review quickly set me right, clarifying that the name came instead from a title of a Twilight Zone episode.

The first song of their set was a solo version of ‘I Wrote a Novel’ by Thomas Calder (whose project this is), dedicated to MGM’s founder Sebastian Chase, who emceed the night. There is a simple, Teitur-like innocence to Calder’s voice, and he’s already made waves at Filter’s Culture Collide festival in October, so my guess is you’ll be hearing more of him very soon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQXkyj20ZcE[/youtube]

Sydney-based Battleships have already gained high-profile fans in Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe and Maconie and the fine folks at Communion, so they’re another band we can expect to hear more of terrestrially. Singer/ guitarist Jordan Sturdee favours a bowtie, which set him apart from everyone else I saw this week. (Well, nearly everyone. Buddy Goode, the winner of the Best Comedy Album ARIA for ‘Unappropriate’, showed up with one and a ruffly ‘70s era shirt the following night.) The word “haunting” would probably be the best way to describe ‘In Retrospect’ (video below) , one of their early songs that might best be compared to Elbow’s sweepy, grand style, but with Wild Beasts’ Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto-type vocals.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3qU1aJwe58[/youtube]

And then came the surprise for the night. Not to be confused with a cocktail mixer, the final band was Lime Cordiale. With an E on the end. The kind of band that names their EP ‘Faceless Cat’ has to be some real mental cases, right? Brothers Oliver and Louis Leimbach play guitar and bass, respectively. Earlier in the night, we got a supporting string quartet. But imagine my astonishment to see these two brothers putting aside their guitars in the middle of a song…to play horn instruments! (Turns out they’re both classically trained.)

The result of ‘regular’ rock instruments combined with horns made for what came out as what they call ‘slam pop’: incredibly fun, catchy and eclectic. Oliver has a sultry drawl that you might think would be at odds with this seemingly oddball combination of musical devices, but it works, and it ended my ‘regular’ gig week in Sydney on a fine note. Curious? Watch their video for ‘Pretty Girl’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKQPGPR-Sho[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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