Where There Once Was a Fire - Andrew McCubbin featuring Melinda Kay (1am Records)

where there once mccubbinMcCubbin & Kay had me before the LP was half-way through Side A. Such a deeply romantic, real record, the songs are so well-constructed, so relaxed in their delivery that you just fall into that trap anyway, also you end up applying the words to your own life… And it gets better… you know how some LPs absolutely nail an emotion, or a period you went through? 


Well, you haven’t lived much, is all I can say. I mean, you don’t have to play this one at 1am … though that would be a perfect time, and I will be doing just that fairly shortly. Mind you, pretty much anytime is perfect for "Where Once There Was a Fire".


Absolutely halts you in your tracks. Put it on for "gentle background" as you do the dishes and you’ll be standing there, remembering and recognising things from your past, sopping sponge in one hand and mucky bowl in the other, just standing there open-mouthed, perhaps singing along softly, as the sun drifts in through the venetian blinds and you see the dust motes dancing in the light and you get both elated and teary and… you come to as the side finishes and you have to dry your hands to turn it over and give up on the bloody dishes and just sit there, rapt and excited, interested and completely drawn in, into a world of vulnerability and trust and care and …

And no, I don’t think that’s just me. Anyway, "Where Once There Was a Fire" tells the trajectory of a love, trajectory and … (no, I won’t spoil it) though the hints are there from the first song, and really slide under the skin like a blade by the third song, "What are you Waiting For?"; followed by multiple internal conflicts, all delivered in this husky baritone offset with Kay’s achingly lovely voice and instruments - I swear - you feel rather than hear. I don’t think anyone’s really achieved this before. I mean, I’m sure to be wrong, but… 

Melinda Kay’s backing and guitars bring validity, depth and ache to a story we all seem too familiar with. But it’s McCubbin’s textural tones, his vision (or memory) we’re here for.

Those of you furrowing brows (ie, "who?") in a nutshell, McCubbin is one of those extraordinarily talented people (multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer) who unaccountably has chosen to live in Melbourne instead of a palace in LA (where his world would pepper films from budgets akin to the GDP of Spain to peppercorn-budget indies). Australia has quite a few huge talents like this (and no, I’m not talking about Iva Davies. I mean, please).

The first song, "Wait Here for the Sun" grips you from the off, it’s sweet, beautiful and tenacious. ‘Stay’ is equally beautiful, the pace is just right. Not some r’n’r axeman ‘going for a ballad’, what we’re hearing here is some sort of simple conversation, perhaps confession. These are songs for the ages, and I can name all sorts of famous names who ‘everyone loves’ who have delivered LP after LP of pap which, heard alongside "Where Once There Was a Fire" would have you contacting the PM’s office and demanding …

Ah, yes. Staying on track, McCubbin’s voice is deep and melodious, like the voice of someone you love, and he creates a rich air of intimacy and closeness. And he knows how to place it against a deceptively complex background; like landscapes of emotion… 

There will be reviewers who will, I’m sure, mention The Cure, Cohen, Lanegan, Cave and so on. No, McCubbin is in his own field; for example the title track has a chirpy lil pop-pickin’ guitar set against a drifting tapestry of confusion and certainty - always driven by the lyrics and that lustrous, chocolatey voice. The press release is quite accurate in describing ‘Where Once There Was a Fire’ as a ‘journey upon a fragile ocean, mixing the intimate and the epic’…

Happiness/ always eludes you/ wrap it up/ and tie it up/ with string …

I suppose it will be tempting to try to read between the lines of McCubbin’s lyrics, but that’s a fool’s errand. You might also bear in mind that McCubbin is one of those players who can produce an LP filled with tricks, whizz-bangs and fluorescence, but he’s decided to focus on the songs. And this LP will not be far from my turntable for yonks. 

…you got away with murder/ you got a way with words/ sorrow/ is never far behind you/ wrap it up/ and tie it up/ with string …

You can see a rather wonderful clip for ‘Real Slow’ (filmed and produced by McCubbin) here.

There were 50 white label signed copies of the LP itself. That is, vinyl. It’s very pretty to look at while it spins, and I’m listening to mine now. There’s a download card, with an extra track.

Get your copy of "Where Once There Was a Fire" while you can. When the white vinyl is gone, get black vinyl. Tight, shiny, sexy black vinyl. 

If you go down, I’ll go down with you/ If you go up, I’ll be beside you

And while you’re at it, bring McCubbin to your town. And take your significant other.


Buy it

Tags: andrew mccubbin, 1am records, Where There Once Was a Fire, Melinda Kay

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