Dirt on the tracks
High Tides, More Crimes – MD Horne (Outtspace/FOLC/La Villa Nova)
Only a shit stirrer would start a review of an album with the rhetorical question: “How do you know you’re getting old? You start listening to bush bands”. Guilty as charged – on the shit stirrer charge, that is. Lock me up.
Yes, the second solo album from Sydney’s MD Horne contains mandolin, didgeridoo, his own bass, a sprinkling of bush balladry, and even a sea shanty of sorts but, thankfully, no lagerphone. It’s also damned good.
Back to the earlier statement and MD - or to use the slightly less formal, Mark Horne - has spent enough time in the high volume trenches with Johnny Casino and The Secrets, Lowdorados and 300 st claire to want to do something different. For his ears’ sake and ours.
An early ‘90s set by 300 st claire, on an undercard to Asteroid B612 at Sydney’s Iron Duke Hotel remains the singularly loudest thing these ears have been exposed to, and “High Tides, More Crimes” is a long way removed from that. Using diverse instrumentation, it builds on the stripped-down debut, “Red Bituman”, with more of a band feel but a similarly rootsy sound.
“High Tides…” rocks occasionally (notably, on the fiery and fully amped “Dreams”) but for the most part relies on texture, tone and Horne’s weathered and distinctive voice to make its point.
The title track, previously available digitally, sets things up in a bare bones Bad Seeds kinda way. “Buying Someone Else Wine” is mid-period REM-like in its musical approach and bitter in its lyrical remorse directed at a former partner.
“Noonkanbah” is mid-tempo rock peppered by mandolin and guitar that obtusely addresses underlying cultural background (at least on this reading.) It’s reprised late in the piece.
This is a record that’s been enriched by the sum of its parts. Dion “Drizabone” Dickinson of Sydney’s Handsome Young Strangers (who regularly shares bills with Horne at solo shows) was a prominent collaborator on mandolin and mandocello, and his influence is strong.
Johnny Casino flew in some guitar parts from Spain, Mick Poole played lap steel, and New Christ-cum-soundtrack artist Brent Williams contributed keys. James Swanson’s (China Tiger, Hot Potato Band) light drumming touch and some occasional violin from Elise C (Medusa's Wake) round things out
Mark was close to the Celibate Rifles and his reading of Kent and Damien's “New Mistakes” is poignant and starkly effective. Didge, bass guitar and clapping sticks replace the original’s super saturated guitar and it works extremely well.
Marc Scully's uncluttererd production at his Studio 57 at Taren Point in Sydney is impactful and clear.
The cumulative effect is an alt.country-cum-roots album that’s elegiac, plaintive but never dirge-like. It's not a conventional rocker, but glows with a different intensity all its own. “High Times, More Crimes” is available in vinyl, CD and digital formats via the links below.