charlie marshall - The I-94 Bar
Photo by Robert Dunstan of Bside magazine
When you shut your eyes and listen, support act Workhorse sound very good, kind of soothing but slightly disturbing.
Several of us did just that. Watching them was interesting - their violinist was exceptional (most violinists seem to think that furiously sawing away will earn them some sort of Scout or Brownie badge), the vocals haunting and rather beautiful, and a rather lovely Vox bass throbbed effectively.
It may be early days for this outfit (I'm told that a couple, including the lead vocalist/ guitarist, were/ are in the Wireheads) and there's a certain amount of shyness - common to a large number of young bands these days - which I don't think suits the material. I'll make a point of seeing them again as I enjoy noticing how bands develop.
The politics of science are far too complicated for anyone without a wardrobe full of white coats and double degrees to navigate, so Charlie Marshall does it for you on this intriguing album of soul-pop and rock.
Remember the concept album? Being anti-prog rock, your average 1970s punk would have had his or her fingernails wrenched out one-by-one with pliers before listening to that shit. “War Of The Worlds,” my arse! Marshall really has pulled off soemthing special here. He's managed to make a concept record without it sounding pompously affected, full of its own shit or boring.
Wire do enjoy their titles. “Akin to A Bell is a Cup (Until it is Struck)”, “Silver/ Lead” hints at alchemical alteration of roles and realities. What if what we assumed was one thing, wasn’t really that at all…
Being from Melbourne, Charlie Marshall is more direct. He says exactly what he means. “Sublime” is his view of the machinery of the universe and our world - that stuff up out there, and that stuff all around us down here. What if what we assumed was one thing, wasn’t really that at all...
Both “Sublime” and “Silver/ Lead” are magical. Both reach out and touch your heartstrings, both have a confident sensuality about them. Both wield lyrics like conversation: we discuss all manner of things, how we’ve changed our world, what it is, and our place in it. All this without being either preachy or boring; falling into both “Sublime” and “Silver/ Lead” is in like one of those enlightening conversations in a pub without an argument. Although both Sare in many ways rather different, they beat as two hearts. Both belong in your collection.
It seems every Australian city had its underground "punch-above-its-weight" scene in the ‘90s. Hell, all of Charlie Marshall’s Melbourne band members here had serious form. That said, just because there’s a track record doesn’t mean there’s always gonna be magic. There might be concrete. Or salad instead.
In Marshall’s case, it’s magic. If you recall Harem Scarem in the ‘80s, well alright. But this ain’t that, and now ain’t then. If you’re a Nick Cave or Kim Salmon completist, you’ll snaffle this anyway (the presence of Warren Ellis and Jim White of The Dirty Three should send warning bells, and surely Brian Henry Hooper needs no introduction.) Same applies if you’re investigating Hugo Race ditto (Bryan Colechin of The True Spirit) and Darren Seltmann of The Avalanches.