The pleasure of observing actual careers emerge, grow and change is, to my mind just about the most satisfying thing about being a music fan. Watching a band take those stumbling first steps, seeing them fill with piss and vinegar and really work out what it is they're doing, mature, change, go in new directions, find things out about themselves and apply that to music – hell yeah.
One chap whose stabs at song I've dipped in and out of over some years is Geelong-bred Jarrod Quarrell who has grown over a lengthy period of time into one of the musicians I truly admire in Australia. There truly aren't all that many these days – I used to care about music a lot more than I do now, and I really need it to be great to make an impact. If you're not The Stabs or Batrider, you're going to have to do a lot to impress me at all, and you better not be Alex and The Ramps.
Or you could be Lost Animal.
It was funny, hearing of the demise of St Helen's. I'm not in Melbourne much and I want to make sure I see the right band when I do, so ending up at a some trendy muso party was going to be a risk, but off I went and was lucky enough to be at the debut gig of Beaches. They were pretty damn good but not that fantastic the night I saw them, but there's good stuff in that outfit. I think they've been over-cheered a bit by the Melbourne music Mafia, but that's scarcely their fault; it's just that things that are fine, but not that good, are getting lauded as being brilliant when they aren't but might be, as if potential is all one needs. This is bullshit, your band has to actually get there to worthy of all the shouting, and I worry that some acts will get too hyped and fuck themselves before time (I'm looking at YOU Woollen Kits. Don't listen to anyone, just write some more songs. Don't listen to me either, just keep doing exactly what you're doing and don't think you're shit hot just yet). Beaches are, nevertheless, a fine band who I wish a long career to (and maybe longer than some of the other bands they're in).
The same party night I saw Beaches though, I saw St Helens.
My lord, did I see St Helens.
Now, I was already a fan of The New Season, and indeed, an EP of theirs was my most played release of 2006. The song writing, the lyrics, the delivery – as good as it gets, really. One foot in classic rock, one the truth, The new Season could hit it. I had seen them a hundred years prior, in ancient Hobart days, with a line-up that really only played in Hobart, and liked fine then, but that CD in a cream sleeve was a revelation and a half – I loved it. When I heard of St Helen's I was interested, but seeing them confirmed it - Jarrod Quarrell is a force. I damn near wet myself with excitement and really could not understadn why so much attention was being paid to Beaches when there was this thing to get knocked down and mugged by, but my guess was that they'd be seen before and everyone was thrilled by the fresh thing, so I guess that's okay. You get a pass.
I eventually scored the album and it was all there – the vocals, the breathy masculinity haunts all of Quarrell's work – some music isn't gendered some is, and this is music by a dude, with dude's issues – it's not bogged down in maleness but there's no mistaking the air of sex and loss in the lyrical content. I mean, it ain't Hemingway, but there is a bit of Bukowski hanging around.It was fine stuff and the next thing i knew, that's all she wrote. No band. Done. Okay.
Which, finally leaves me with a demo cassette of songs released by Albert's Basement. Who sent me this and another pile of neat enough stuff that got shunted off to a box while I did an art project that involved travelliung the hinterlands of Tasmania in a truck then going to South East Asia to kind of recover from said proejct, that was hard for a lot of reasons. I'll tell you over a beer. A lot of beer.
This cassette is Jarrod Quarrell solo, under the name Lost Animal, and never has something been better named because this beautiful, surly music does indeed have a pulse and a bit of a defensive snarl, that doesn't want to let you in but just has to, carrying you along on smart, emotional hookd and the dissections of life as it really is I've come to expect from Quarrell.
I do expect the guy to be good these days, yeah. A proven track record is even less of a reason to relax and this is where Lost Animal really does it for me – there was nothing wrong at all with St Helen's. It was great, in fact. And I'm sure the Lost Animal material could have been done just fine in that combination, but that is not what it's about – they had to be this way to get them right, and so, Jarrod just moves on then and there, because it's not the band or my career, it's making the best music you can the right way.
And this crappy demo is just that – the best music made the right way.
I am fairly keen for an album, but I assure you, these songs hit the damn spot.
Get this, get an album, go see the guy.
Get this, get an album, go see the guy.
I have a feeling it'll be completely fantastic.