Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review catch up: The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy

The Middle East were formed at my alma mater, James Cook University in Townsville which seems like a small miracle. Admittedly, I went there a long time ago but the culture of the uni and the town was incredibly conservative and almost adversarial towards creativity. Townsville has changed in that time but for that environment to deliver a band with such a perfectly conceived debut album as this is almost unfathomable to me.

I Want That You Are Always Happy is striking in that its ambition is pretty broad but it never feels as it's overreaching. While wearing it's influences transparently, the Middle East is never overwhelmed or beholden to them (except maybe As I Go to See Janey which has a vocal hook smeakily stolen from Radiohead). Radiohead do loom large here but the quieter, acoustic end of their canon - opener Black Death 1349 could be a long forgotten OK Computer outtake. The band's influences inform the record but not so much that they are distracting. Taking their cues from Radiohead, a splash of Sparklehorse with the obligatory Simon and Garfunkel song (Months), it is all filtered through a vibrant Australian 80's indie rock kaleidoscope (particularly Land of the Bloody Unknown and Dan's Silverleaf). As a result, the Middle East sound like a bunch of different bands without sounding like anyone else at all - if you get my meaning.

I was sad to learn that the band recently broken up and this album and a few eps will be their only legacy. I'd urge you to get the album before it disappears from memory as this is one of the best Australian records in a long time.


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