I. Am. So. Friggin'. Excited. I had no idea what a treat was in store
for me as I popped this new Marvelann CD into my trusty stereo.
To hear the plaintive sounds of Simon Honisett's wonderful
voice drifting over slow, country-tinged folk music again, after all
these years, was a wonderful treat. Honestly, I couldn't believe my
ears were telling the truth and had to check the liner notes immediately
to confirm that this was, indeed, the Australian low-country wizard
I was now hearing. I have long mourned the loss of Sea Stories,
the band that introduced the world to Honisett's haunting voice and
brilliant lyricism way back some years ago. And while his foray into
rock with Gigantaur was good, it in no way compared to the
wonderfully stark folkiness that his first band encompassed
and to which his latest musical endeavor has returned.
The music on Bad Advice has a strong sense of space
a kinship Honisett has long expressed in his songs, beginning for
me with the brilliant "New Mexico" from Sea Stories' second
LP Wide Eyed And Dreaming. That song enchanted me from the
first time I heard it, and many of the songs on this new CD have that
same effect. Honisett's relocation to Portland, Oregon in 1998 seems
to have musically enriched his sense of depth, but has in no way dulled
his sense of spacious beauty. The songs here are steeped in droning
pedal steel guitar, jangling acoustics, tambourine-heavy drumming,
and solid bass-manship. The album opens with "15 Below",
a song about love and traveling, set to the whine of the steel guitar
and backed by acoustic guitars and cool tremolo-heavy vibes. "You
said he followed you from Kingman on the 3/That doesn't mean that
he loves you/Every photograph I still see you and me/I don't expect
to get my call through." The mood for the record is set nicely
with this first lyric and the downbeat groove of the song. There are
moments of Glen Campbell-style orchestrated beauty, as on "Just
Like Everybody Else" as Honisett lets out the story of a relationship
gone wrong and the aftermath of the fight, accompanied by strings
and a cool laid-back backbeat. Not all of the songs on Bad Advice
are sleepy and slow, "I Drove All Night" steps up the tempo
and shifts the entire sound of the album in an almost jarring manner.
Formed around a basic rhythm and acoustic guitar track, Honisett tells
a quick tale, painting an absolutely vital vision of the events surrounding
a record player and a girl
and how the tellers life was changed
through the brief interaction with the girl. The track has a vibe
not dissimilar to the best of 60s' pop gems, upbeat and bouncy, but
with a strangely twisted shadow lurking over it all.
If you've somehow gotten to the end of listening to Bad Advice
and have still not fallen in love with Honisett's particular brilliance,
then the final song is sure to be the clincher. "How Long Can
You Stay Angry" is the penultimate example of exactly why Simon
is such an amazing songwriter. The track seeps with pent up emotion,
but buries it in a beautiful tension that defies explanation, instead
relying on the weeping of the pedal steel to carry the truth behind
the words to light. "Well the record's done and split off the
side/ but I still don't understand it anymore than I used to/you can
tell it right or make up a line/ and I know I meant to hurt you, can't
Bad Advice is a small piece of perfection. Listen to it. Love
it. Be blessed and changed by its simple power and beauty.
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