Listen Closelier - Frowning Clouds (Off The Hip)

thefrowningcloudsJust a few bars into "Listen Closelier" it's evident that The Frowning Clouds are so far out of step with what passes for popular culture that they're in danger of being deported to a musical Antarctica. This is music that existed long before pitch adjusters, vocoders and dry machines, so if they had to live in exile you could safely bet that, food and water apart, the only other thing close to the top of The Frowning Clouds' list of essentials would be amplifier valves.

The Frowning Clouds are from Geelong, a grim waterfront city an hour west of Melbourne. That accident of geography might have something to do with them playing morose, down-beat tunes. Let's not be too unkind about their home. What's important is that their music is also deeply absorbing and genuinely exciting. There's no-one playing this stuff this well - except maybe The Thanes.

There's a lot of the early Stones in songs like "Purple Heart", the killer opener on "LIsten Closeier", the snotty pop song "She's Mine" and the whiney "Do Like Me". Vocalist Zak Olsen and guitarist Nick vanBakel wrote most of the tunes and they're good 'uns.

You could pick the usual suspects and blame them for inspiring the Clouds but you'd probably be just as safe picking lesser-knowns. Regardless of what's in their collections and who they're channelling, these guys just as obviously interpret songs their own way.

Chants R & B, the great New Zealand club band whose ranks included Ross Wilson (later to be a mainstream Aussie pop star), sounds like the inspiration for a greasy shaker like "Snake Charmer", where handclaps and harmonica are core elements.

On the face of it, "I Got a Bone For You" is a straight-up maudlin blues plodder but it grows an extra leg with a couple of listens. "I've Got You" draws on the most basic chord progression and stark, barely-there percussion to evoke Mick and Brian, rather than Mick and Keef.

Geelong bands have a rep for being loud, brash and overdriven but there's not a trace of a fuzzbox in earshot on this record. The closest the Clouds go is the odd bit of muffled distortion.

Well captured by producer Mickster Baty (Off the Hip) and engineer Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring), this is the stuff of "Ugly Things" compilations, the Australian version of "Nuggets" LPs where the most obscure, short-lived and lo-fi garage bands like the Elois, The Modes and the Pleezers gained their first wide exposure. Those records are essential listening but if you can't track them down, this one will do.

I Wish It Was 1965 Again.


Off The Hip Records

Tags: off-the-hip, frowning, clouds, iisten, closelier

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