I went to University in and around Camperdown and have spent approximately one hour there since graduating. It’s a shame, really, because as this piece of music and others like it should indicate, the rather unattractive sprawl of Sydney’s city-ringed suburbs have become a hotbed of musical talent that is chopping and changing all the time. Case in point; this band contains four guys who are all members of other local bands, from Dead Farmers to the now-Pitchfork-worthy Royal Headache, and it’s likely that these are not the only outfits they participate in, either. I can’t remember which unscrupulous mega rock star said it first, but the idea that you stick with one band, particularly when you’re starting in warehouses and moving your way up, is very antiquated. At the moment, it seems like messy guitar bands are sharing players like funk bands used to trade session musicians, which essentially means if you’re there and you’ve got the time and some ideas, go for it. Bassist David Akerman, who played in like a bajillion other bands, is just one example, and he’s switched instruments too. Apparently everyone in this group sings. It may be the most unstructured outfit to sign a record deal this year. Personally I find this amazing given that I’m finding it hard enough to find one group of dudes to play with me, but maybe that’s why I need to move to Camperdown.
There is literally an entire catalogue of ’80s Australian jangly rock music that was probably a reaction to The Smiths that I have approximately zero knowledge about but seem to have influenced all of these new groups. Many of them I don’t like, primarily because they’re not fans of singing in tune or playing in time, but the ones who get it right, like Songs and Dick Diver and the like, just have something special that’s quite hard to describe. ‘Down And Out’, brought in by a warm, two-chord figure that actually sounds like the same pedal combination used the band’s soon-to-be-labelmate Bethany Cosentino, does it with the combination of guitar parts. They somehow fan out from simple strumming to beautiful picking, unobtrusively building a thin layer of endearing harmony that support the roughened vocals. In the intro, you’ve got two octaves pushing and pulling against each other all while sitting in the same pocket, while the vocals – and I have no idea who it is on this one – shuffle in with typical understatement. I never used to get why accentuating our accent and doing that half-speaking, half-tuneful thing was considered so romantic, particularly when the subject was yelling. But at a lower volume, it’s more Dylan-esque and sort of sweet.
‘Down and Out’ is short, breezy and out the door before you even realised what you’ve heard. but despite that – or perhaps because of it – it leaves a mark. It may be a side project that will spawn fifteen more side projects, but I like it. And that chorus is just perfect. The upper harmony contrasts nicely with the lead melody and suddenly it’s all sunshine and highways and Zooper Dooper ice blocks and high school again. I’m sure everyone in this band will think that I’ve spent way too much time focusing on a piece of music that they probably dashed off in one afternoon. But getting into things for no apparent reason is what this site is all about. Well done Sydney; you’ve come up trumps again while none of us were looking.
Camperdown And Out – ‘Down And Out’