Laneway: Turn Your Love Up
- Laneway are a pair of Melburnians who had a little too much dust on their boots for that big smoke. A few years ago Louise O'Reilly and Paul Hannan upped stakes and headed for the comparative serenity of Natural Bridge on Queensland's Gold Coast. They kicked back, pulled out a guitar, harmonica maybe some drums, too, and laid on some sorrowful country tunes. It's been about two years since that bittersweet sound started drifting our way, in the form of their first album If You Don't Need It Let It Go. Second album, Turn Your Love Up, might sound, just as a title, a little less forlorn than before, but there's still plenty of country's gothic emptiness here to swallow up your soul. You may have already heard the first single off this new album, The Turbine, it appeared a year ago. To read the lyrics it seems like a tribute to country ingenuity and, as Laneway said themselves, an ode to green power. "Rain will fall and the creek will flow / Water will make the turbine go." This is no upbeat, inspirational John Williamson ballad, though. In the hands of Laneway, Turbine is melancholy in the extreme, and no wonder, they wrote and recorded it as the rains washed the country and it's people away in the devestating floods at the beginning of 2011. The combination of those lyrics and the sorrowful music makes it seem like there's some sadness lurking, so painful that it can't be spoken, which is a curious effect, but one of undeniable power. The album's second single, Love Is A Devil, turned up a month ago and ... I believe that Laneway have now showcased all the most depressing moments of their repertoire; maybe they just want us to buy more drinks at the bar? The song is a sparse litany on the broken-ness of love, so cast down that is almost sapped of the will to live, until, in a final, fiendish surge it whips up a hair-raising waltz, spinning like some kind of possessed carnival merrygoround. In serious need of a pick-me-up, I was very glad to hear the song Bleeding Heart, which, though the love about which it sings is hardly the kind you'd find in church, is nonetheless full of warmth and matched to a retro-pop melody that is genuinely uplifting. Laneway are quite capable of cracking a smile: take, despite it's title, the positively upbeat country-pop (it even has a synthesiser) of Waiting For An Avalanche. Whichever way they go, Laneway can infuse their songcraft with genuine beauty. O'Reilly's pure and gentle vocal for Mine Eye tugs at the heartstrings till it becomes almost unbearable. Quite a large credit must also go to whichever it was of the handful of producers that worked on the album got their hands on this one. With a warm echo that has the sound nearly fading into indistinctness, it still manages to find the perfect amount of clarity. I feel I should just list all of those guys: Matt Redlich, Jordan Power, Fingers Malone and Steve Fraser; you're none of you bad, but one of you has done his-self proud, here. Laneway really surprised me on the back half of this record, they just keep changing the pace and doing a good job of it. There's the rough, trad-country twang of Simple Life, the simple pedal-steel and perfect Carpenters-style heartbreak of Listen Up; so much to like here! Laneway were narrowly pipped for the Grant Mclennan Fellowship a while back and I remember now why I felt so aggrieved about it at the time. When Laneway drift in on a breath of country air, dusty and bittersweet, no matter how sad it might seem, it is a herald of good times to come.
- Chris Cobcroft.
PS Here I thought I kept my ear to the ground! Louise mailed me shortly after hearing this review to let me know Laneway won the Grant Mclennan this year (a couple of weeks ago, I think). They'll be taking the proceeds and heading to Berlin, the, um, home of country music (?) Congrats ;)