Max Ryan & Where Were You At Lunch: Before We Lose Each Other Again
- I got pretty excited about Where Were You At Lunch when they put out their debut record. Full of guitar and drums charging around like some wounded and enraged beast, knocking kraut, math-rock and post-punk rhythms out of the way and unleashing roaring post-rock power. The two big names attached to that were Two Bright Lakes producer Nick Huggins and Kid Sam's Kishore Ryan on the drums. A few short months later they're back and this time with a full-length rather than an EP. What have they been up to? Well, the Max Ryan whose name is at the top of the mast-head for this new one is actually Kishore Ryan's dad. Max, a poet, has taken a bunch of his work, and on Before We Lose Each Other Again, the band set it all to music. The idea got me pretty excited. Listening to the initial murmured words and the sparse, angular accompaniment fuelled my expectations, too. I was reminded of Tom Waits' spoken word stuff, like Shore Leave or What's He Building? Max Ryan's words are a personal journal full of a dark Australiana, like the fairly devestating opener Leaving Newcastle, the record of Max's own Dad passing away. Boy City cranks up the punky energy, recalling unwholesome youthful lusts and passions. Streets Of Jogjakarta really does invade Tom Waits repertoire with its Gamelan percussion and the sultry humidity that bathes this Indonesian love song. I think this one of the best on the album. Regarding the album as a whole, I was less excited. There are a couple of significant detractors. Whatever Max Ryan's strengths as a poet, they don't extend to performance, his reading and singing can lack character and energy and he seems to have trouble connecting with the rhythms that the band lay down. Where Were You At Lunch for their part do their best to stay in the background, never re-visiting the thunderous excitement they brought to their debut EP. Given the lack of electricity that Max suffers from a little bang from the band would've helped to shore things up, every now and then. Given the time between records for Where Were You At Lunch I'm guessing this was slapped up in haste, maybe for the Queensland Poetry Festival where it was launched, and that's a shame. The best bits of this, like I said, hint at some thrilling possibilities, if they could work on some of the shortcomings, I'd really like to hear another one of these.
- Chris Cobcroft.