Second album brings refreshing change for veterans Joeys Coop
Lachlan Valley Dirt – Joeys Coop (Citadel)
Following John Ventura’s pre-release review of the album that appears below is almost redundant, but let’s have a shot now that the record has undergone repeated listening.
It would be lazy to say that if you grew up with the underground sounds of Australia in the 1980s then you need “Lachlan Valley Dirt”. Of course you do - but the appeal deserves to be much broader.
This is a world-class “grown up rock” record – and that label is both a term of endearment and a reflection on the absolute dross that passes for most popular music these days.
It’s always been a truism that most people don’t know what they like, but they like what they know. The mass market always comes first. Rock and roll – or more correctly, the people driving its machinery – lost the plot in the ‘70s and never re-discovered it, despite the major labels convincing themselves otherwise every six or seven years.
Rob Younger nailed it when he said MP3s and file-swapping would be the death of music as a generation knew it. You can’t put a tangible value on something when it’s streamed for free. The shit you hear from the mainstream today is commodified, auto-tuned to within a centimetre of its existence and has had most of its intelligence and soul sucked out of it so as not to challenge or test a mass audience.
Grown Up Rock is the last bastion of scoundrels, a few fuck-ups and some hardy souls who still care, and all fans of Rock and Roll live underground…just like the Morlocks in HG Wells’; “The Time Machine”.
But let’s talk about Joeys Coop. The creative axis is guitarist Brett Myers and vocalist Mark Roxburgh. Mark formed the band with a plan of playing with people he always wanted to. Two albums in, and he, Brett and drummer Lloyd Gyi are the remaining original members.
Myers found greatness in the ‘80s and ‘90s as co-founder of Died Pretty and that band’s sound is (inevitably) all over “Lachlan Valley Dirt”. You could go back a couple of steps and also reference the “Loaded”-era Velvets, but I’d guess that Brett’s soloing in his old Brisbane band The End was more a product of “White Light/White Heat” than Lou Reed lite.
Roxburgh was front-man for Sydney high-energy eclectics Decline Of The Reptiles who wore their Stooge-like hearts on their sleeves in the ‘80s before a revival in the ‘00s. At this point I’ll declare an involvement with Roxburgh as their second-era manager before being flicked – along with Mark and the drummer – just as they were poised to move overseas to record a new album after an injection of capital from a well-off fan.
For his quirks, shafting Roxburgh was an act of madness and I wasn't the only one to think that. Let’s just say that what the investor was left with didn’t resemble what he’d paid for - and there ended the unlikely ride. Having an album produced by James Williamson (I shit you not) was always a far better idea than slumming it at Abbey Road with whoever had their name on a fucking Fleet Foxes record.
Personal bias to one side, Mark has never sung better on “Lachlan Valley Dirt” and he’s never collaborated (in the truest sense of the word) on songs as good as these. Myers and Roxburgh composed the lot.
“Trouble”, the title track, “Run Away” and “Once A Man” (this week’s choices) are lyrically revealing and as poignant as anything you’ll hear. THere's touches of alt.country and blues rock, and splashes of adult pop. The playing of bassist Marc Lynch and drummer Lloyd Gyi is dynamic and evocative. And Myers’ ability to add guitar textures at will, punctuated by his economic and occasionally soaring trademark solos, is intrinsic to the record’s success.
"Lachlan Valley Dirst" is not so much a change of directrion from its predecessor "Service Station Flowers" as a progression - sonically speaking and in its cohesive songcraft. It was engineered and produced by Simon Berckelman (Cloud Control) at his Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney’s Marrickville and mastered by top-tier maestro William Bowden and sounds fantastic.
Undoubtedly, one of 2022's finest. - The Barman
Sitting on your porch with your 22
Your credit’s maxxed out and your wife’s shot through
You can’t go back, don’t want to go ahead
You’re staring down the barrel, and you’re filled with dread
The stark reality of in-your-face lyrics and some stirring music can be a bleak reminder of how harsh this land can be. It’s all captured in title track of “Lachlan Valley Dirt”, which shines a light on some very personal emotions for singer Mark Roxburgh.
Joeys Coop has been making refreshing, alternative music for mature audiences since 2014 and with a pedigree that includes membership of Died Pretty, ME 262, Decline of the Reptiles, Glide and Sicarios. They are a breath of fresh air on the Sydney and Newcastle scenes.
“Lachlan Valley Dirt” comprises a generous 13 songs over three vinyl sides or on one CD, and paints varied pictures. The band’s sound is unique and reflects the maturity of an immensely talented and underrated group of players. The artwork on the album cover is a painting of a harsh and dry rural landscape – symbolic of drought on the land - and comes courtesy of artist-photographer Bruce Tindale, himself a fomrer Roxburgh bandmate in Decline of the Reptiles.
“Lachlan Valley Dirt is a vast change in direction for Joeys Coop and the follow-up to 2016’s “Service Station Flowers”. There have been major line-up changes with the departure of original members Matt Galvin (guitar) and Andy Newman (bass), and the onboarding of Lloyd Gyi on drums and Marc Lynch (of ‘90s Triple J favourite Glide). It makes for a punchier rhythm section and Joeys Coop seems a tighter outfit.
These songs were penned in 2020 and scheduled for release soon after, but the small matter of a global pandemic, lockdowns and venue restrictions curtailed that and live activity.
Roxburgh soon realised that lockdowns and time away from recording and performing were reality. He saw other seasoned players like John Kennedy, and Dave Graney and Clare Moore making a successful go of live streaming and embraced the options presented by Sydney dive bar MoshPit and its technical partner, Zenn Streaming.
After duo and full band acoustic sessions, a “real” live stream show was put together in 2020 for cyberspace and a small select live audience. It proved than in this New Normal, Joeys Coop could reach a wider audience, even receiving “tips and shouts” over the Web. It was an answer, in the short term, to the conundrum of performing in a pandemic. The high quality videos it spawned were an added legacy.
Live streaming has become a staple for Joeys Coop, and will feature in the upcoming tour schedule when Joeys perform during March and May ’22.
If debut album “Service Station Flowers” was an ode to inner city living with all its angst, “Lachlan Valley Dirt” is a tip to alt.country and roots sounds. The band’s shift in sound has given the music more room to move and at times “Lachlan Valley Dirt” has an ethereal, dreamy feel.
The addition of Marc Lynch (who locks it down and swings on four strings) also adds a welcome 12-string acoustic guitar to their studio repertoire. Lynch also features in current Steve Kilbey solo band shows touring Australia.
Lloyd Gyi’s style on drums (credited as: “all things shaken, hit and strings”) adds more complexity to the arrangements. Roxburgh’s lyrical partnership with guitarist Brett Myers has matured and deals with big issues as well as the personal. “You Put Me Down is about relationships and mateship, “Three Ravens” the experiences of shared house living.
Myers’ guitar playing is of the highest order and obviously very reminiscent of past Died Pretty standards. His use of four-string guitars imparts a distinctive feel to certain tracks, especially “Marketplace/Going Down” where the Joeys sound like they're in their element.
The mix of percussive drum fills and Brett’s solos and licks, including some deft mandolin, is simply breathtaking. For this bloke of Greek heritage, it echoes fine bouzouki playing and high drama. It’s worthy of a comfy chair, set of headphones and a quality spirit.
The first single, “I am Alive” is an uplifting piece based on the euphoric feeling derived from playing music: ‘Time stands still, yet moves fast”. The way Roxburgh immerses himself into songs and dances on stage, well, it’s no wonder he sings: “Come and see what it means to me”.
There’s a wide range of musical styles here, from acoustic/electric ballad “Trouble”, the folky, foot tappin’ and hand clappin’ “You Put Me Down” to the dreamy “Sail Away”.
“I Stand Alone” is an epic six-and-a-half-minute opus that highlights the album’s great production. There are bits of slide guitar on this super track, the engine room anchors the song and Brett and Mark shine on a journey from the “mountains to the sea”.
The catchy “Runaway” is something of a surprise packet with an irresistible bass-line.
The remaining tracks are all worthy, all killer no filler. Sensitive power ballads “Once a Man”, “The One”, “Hands Holding My Heart” and “Do You Know What I Mean” round out the record.
“Lachlan Valley Dirt” deserves your support. Buy it. Listen to it, Indulge yourself in its depth and beauty and when possible, get along and see these guys. As older players they have nothing to prove, enjoy playing and are accessible in smaller venues. - John Ventura