Friday, August 19, 2011

REVIEWS: THE MIDDLE EAST - I WANT THAT YOU ARE ALWAYS HAPPY

"I Want That You Are Always Happy"
Artist: The Middle East
Title: I Want That You Are Always Happy
Year: 2011
Genre: Indie Rock
Rate: 6

Review: Artists can be forgiven for changing their tune between EPs and albums. Particularly if the intermediary stretches of time are spent touring, playing festivals or flying overseas to record with foreign producers in strange and wonderful studios. This is most certainly the case for The Middle East, who have been the apple of alternative Australia’s eye since they re-released their gorgeously intricate folk bombs ‘The Darkest Side’ and ‘Blood’ back in 2009. Dropped in the wake of the ‘banjo revolution’ that swept the likes of Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, Boy & Bear and more into the limelight across the world, the question here was always going to be whether this highly skilled sextet were going to match those two sublime tunes; or indeed, whether they wanted to. With I Want That You Are Always Happy, we finally have an answer. Sort of.

I Want That You Are Always Happy is not an easy listen, but that doesn’t make it any less engaging. Burrowing far below the fingerpicked, poppy surface of what the Townsville group had on offer two years ago, the full breadth of their ideas are somewhat realised on this record - even if those ideas can be conflicting (no surprise considering the band boasts two prolific songwriters in Rohin Jones and Jordan Ireland; the pair also share and exchange lead vocals throughout the record). While the Middle East are still devastatingly accomplished orchestrators, able to sync vocals and horns in dizzying variations on tracks like the gently building ‘Months’ (the group vocals on which coming closest to re-animating the all-in climax of 'Blood'), or whip out ascending harmonies on bluegrass-esque stomper ‘Hunger Song’, The Middle East are also quite content to pare back the tempo and mood when they see fit. Which is often. This varied approach results in the brooding Tom Waits-ish piano ballad ‘My Grandma Was Pearl Hall’ and the similarly Grey’s Anatomy-appropriate ‘Very Many’; which would work wonders apart from the fact that it goes for five and a half minutes, with very little in the way of climax.

It's not often that a "buzz" band releases a slow-burner for their debut, but that's precisely what the Middle East have achieved. Less a statement of intent and more a transitional reflection that reveals over time; from a bunch of kids who love to sing and play their instruments together. Not what was expected, but sometimes the unexpected is also the most revealing.

Tracklist:  01. Black Death 1349; 02. My Grandma Was Pearl Hall; 03. As I Go To See Janey; 04. Jesus Came To My Birthday Party; 05. Land of The Bloody Unknown; 06. Very Many; 07. Sydney to Newcastle;
08. Mount Morgan; 09. Months; 10. Dan’s Silverleaf; 11. Hunger Song; 12. Ninth Ave Reverie; 13. Deep Water; 14. Mount Morgan End.


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