A Sunny Afternoon At The Zoo - The Smart Folk (Studio 57 Recordings)
There’s no hiding the mod influence on this six-track CD from a bunch of Sydney veterans. It’s beat pop with a bright disposition that sometimes sounds like Paul Weller on happy pills.
TSF began life as a duo, playing acoustic covers under the name The Mayday Dreamers. By accident, design or both, they grew two more members over the next three years and took on their new moniker. This is their first release.
Like the band's story, the songs are relatively uncomplicated but well constructed. Folk traits are evident and pop harmonies abound. Peter Kowal’s pleasant vocal carries most of the songs, with fellow guitarist Chris Newton singing earthier lead on a couple. Keith Claringbold (bass) and Pete Iacono (drums) are much better than workmanlike, down there in the engine room.
“Do You Know What The Smart Folk Know?” is one of those ironic, self-referrential pop songs that you need to be good to get away with. “Quiet Fridays In” is the ace-in-the-hole, pop-rocker. It’s much more restrained than their raucous cover of “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” (it's not here but is a free download on Bandcamp), but lyrically it shares the same postcode.
“I Can Go Places” adds a liberal dose of freakbeat to the mix, stirred and not shaken. A floating vocal and a lashing of backward guitar contrast with a slightly downcast melody. The winsome “One Two Three Step Four” is positively jaunty in comparison.
Mark Scully’s crystal clear production suits the material and waves a flag for his own Studio 57 in southern Sydney, where smart bands (and not just The Smart Folk) are beating a path.
TSF's EP is a promising, sometimes polite, debut that showcases the band’s broad range of material. I, for one, would love to hear the full album when they stretch a bit more. It's on Bandcamp where you can try before you buy at at a tenner it's probably the bargain buy of this year. That's the link, below.