fabian byrne - The I-94 Bar
Nil to do with the Mamas and the Papas song, this is from the fab Fast Cars album “LAX” and it’s a lush, string-tinged brooder that’s a great calling card for the psychedelic long-player.
Remember albums? They were those things where a band put more than one idea into extended pieces of music (aka songs) that became a sum of a greater part. Fast Cars - once a Sydney mod band but these days vocalist Di Levi and multi-instrumentalist Fabian Byrne - sure do, and evoke more in these few minutes than a lifetime of downloads by Taylor Swift clones.
“California Dreaming” is part of a concept about ambition and star-making in a strange environment and place but you don’t need the back-story to appreciate the 45.
The flip is a brave take on the Russell Morris song of the same name. No marching jackboots but a heady sonic picture nonetheless. You’d hope Molly would appreciate it because it works all the same. It’s mastered a little quietly but you can compensate by playing it loud. Available as a 45 from here.
Hard – Fast Cars (Method Records and Music)
In a digital world where old rules are made to be re-written or not read, Fast Cars have resolutely done things their own way.
The one-time Sydney mod band reformed virtually in 2015, assembling music from composite parts written and recorded by principal members, vocalist-guitarist Di Levi and guitarist Fabian Byrne, on opposite sides of the world. It was polished pop with hints of its Sussex Hotel beginnings, lush in lots of places and moiving into the realm of dream pop.
Virtual band, huh? Live shows were where Australian bands traditionally honed their act and of course people interacting in a studio adds an energy that can’t easily be replicated. With Levy visiting Australia from the UK, Fast Cars did a handful of pre-pandemic shows, and part recorded “Hard” with Peter Bennett (The Welcome Mat, Fiction Romance) on drums and David Pye on bass.
Where they’ve come from is academic; it’s where Fast Cars are now that counts. The onetime ‘80s Sydney mod-power-pop band has been a creative duo since reforming in 2015, working on opposite sides of the globe. “LAX” suggests distance only makes the creative muse all that much stronger.
“LAX” is what people used to call a “concept album” - back when single song downloads weren’t the staple currency of the musical economy. I know what you’re thinking: Concept equals Pretentious. Wrong. “LAX” stays well away from that precipice. It’s 12 songs of classy psych pop, alternately dreamy and lush, occasionally funky or wrapped in strings, and framed loosely on the theme of seeking your dreams in a big city.
“LAX” is also a Dropbox record. Dropbox is the cloud app that’s become stock-in-trade for projects like this. With vocalist-guitarist Di Levi based in Bristol, UK, and guitarist-songwriter Fabian Byrne living in Sydney, Australia, the swapping of ideas, sketches, recorded parts and, ultimately, fleshed-out songs, had to occur online.
Sound of Sydney Volume 4 - Various Artists (Method Records and Music)
What is “the sound of Sydney”? It’s a rhetorical question, if not an outright non sequitur.
If you asked 20 different people, you’d get as many different answers. Someone young might say it’s Triple J - which would be laughable but it’s, you know, it is somebody’s reality. You can fight media fragmentation but it’s like yelling at a cloud. Boomer.
“Sound of Sydney” was a series of compilation albums- appearing in 1983, ’84 and ’86 - and the work of Method Records’ Fabian Byrne, of mod-pop band Fast Cars. They were fine records - and very diverse and that in itself was reflective of what was going on in the underground.
Fast Cars grew out of the Sydney mod scene of the 1980s. Home turf was the fertile Sussex Hotel and they made a modest mark with a couple of EPs before moving on. This five-song CD is their first release in 30 years.
Here’s what a mod band sounds like after it grows up. That’s not being trite or dismissive. Creative people don’t stand still - and bands like Fast Cars were no exception. Guitarist Fabian Byrne went on to the dance-orientated Fiction Romance, shifted into management and ran the Method label that gave a leg-up to bands like Allniters, Paul Kelly, Spy vs Spy and The Amazing Wooloomooloosers. So you’d expect “More?” to sound different to Fast Cars of the ‘80s.
In case you haven't noticed, trans-global duo Fast Cars kissed their mod past goodbye a long time ago. moving into dreamy shoegaze and pop-psych. On their second full-length album, “Soft – Songs of Love. Distance & Destinations”, the core of Di Levi and Fabian Byrne has staked its claim on folk-pop.
“Soft” leads with the A and B side of the seven-inch single that preceded it. “Real Love?” and the slightly acerbic “Stainless” grow with each listen, reverberating with echoes of Britpop and the faintest strains of the Church. It’s Di Levi’s elegant vocal that’s the distinctive take-out here and that rings true for all 13 songs.
Expect no in-your-face rockers on “Soft”. Fast Cars are aided and abetted by an array of guests in Australia and the UK and there's some quality playing. Melody lines and musical textures abound. On this one, Fast Cars seek to beguile rather than badger.
A taste of the forthcoming new album, this double A-sided single single puts Fast Cars in a place of their own. It's elegiac dream pop with an edge and a long way removed from their mod and powerpop beginings.
Those Sussex Hotel days are long gone. The band is now a core duo of Sydney multi-instrumentalist Fabian Buyrne and UK-domiciled vocalist-guitarist Di Levi. The songs are children of the digital age, worked up in disparate studios and assembled across the Internet.
"Stainless" is pop song of sharp contrasts with sarcastic lyrics ("nothing sticks to you") elegantly rendered by Di Lev,i atop a bedrock of flint hard, buzzing guitars. There's plenty of space in the production.
"Real Love?" Is instantly sunny, thanks to chiming guitar, Di's lilting vocal and a lusher backing. Piano and a pulsing bass-line, buried deep in the soundscape, round things off nicely. It's a song about being alive while savouring your surroundings. Pop with a capital 'P'.