Music is a dreadful pastime. Full of haircuts, vintage fabric, hats and Flat Whites. Every girl is the new Karen O, and every boy a new Banhart. There are beards, so many beards, and you can’t move for checked shirts. Soon, it all becomes a game. Who’s vocal styling is he ripping off? Who’s guitar sound is she stealing? Where’d he get that hat? Oh, we have fun round our way.
Jarring then, when there are no points to score.
Lower Plenty hail from Melbourne, Australia and we can’t figure them out. There are no dance moves, no hooks, no pop-culture references, certainly no posturing and studio trickery. In fact, it barely feels like they move from their seats at all. No Tom Waits, Patti Smith or Nick Cave impressions, just a few people sitting at a table, playing some sad songs they made up. And it’s wonderful.
Straight away, song number one, exhausted misery. Lost and sad, I love it. “I know I called you up, you talk such nonsense, don’t you know I got work in the morning?”. Mega, bring it on. Song two – “Loneliness is the biggest killer… Dance with me strange beast”. More! Song three gets dirty and noisy with feedback and fuzz and drops off abruptly into the sweetest song on the album, Nullarbor, which drifts softly, like the long drive in the sun it talks about. It continues, each song growing more and more bleak, but with a genuine warmth and spirit. And at only twenty-four minutes long, it is utterly exhausting. After a few minutes recovery though, you will put it on again.
Fire Records have had a passion for Australian music for a while now – from the Smudge reissues a couple of years ago, through the ludicrously named but brilliant Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, to most recently the fantastic Blank Realm. Hard Rubbish is up there with all of that, but feels oddly out of place. Too slow to describe and too sad to put your finger on.
Lower Plenty are quite something and Hard Rubbish tries to be nothing other than itself. Which is the nicest thing you can say about anything, really.