04 November 2011

The Novocaines : Idle Time

Cover art by Jimi Dee
Today, The Novocaines released their anticipated debut album, Idle Time.

I've been hanging out for this album following the success of Cup of Coffee and Summer Waiting, alongside the band's impressive performance at Brisbane's Big Sound Live.

The album arrives in an annihilated jewel case - hate those things, as they rarely survive the post - but the inner sleeve is fantastic. Contains all the lyrics, a few band photos, and an A4 size fold-out album art poster. The cover art by Jimi Dee is detailed and decidedly macho in a 'boys like robots' way. Reminds me of Tron meets The Wizard of Oz.

The track listing:

1. Trampled Hearts | 2. Summer Waiting | 3. Memory Memory | 4. Rabbit Hole | 5. Answers Everything | 6. Space is Closer than America | 7. Heavy Like Iron | 8. All the Action Wants | 9. The Leisure | 10. Just an Obstacle | 11. The One We Laughed About | 12. In Treason.

Trampled Hearts wakes me up with a manic guitar opening and slides with a sexy bridge into the, by now embedded in my brain, catchy chorus. Second verse doubles in time and pounds into the chorus again, with Corey's dirty vocals spitting and screaming "For you I thank-for, for you I'm thankful, you make my everything everything" from the depths of his gut. His vocals have some great qualities; he can soar, groan, scream and croon.

Summer Waiting - which you've probably heard on Triple J by now - reminds me of both Placebo (vocals) and The Living End (song construction). The band makes the most of repetitive lyrics, carrying different emotions with each line through a slight variation on drumming, guitar or vocal style. And I can't dismiss the bass player here; the band has a strong groove carrying through each song.

Memory Memory is beautiful and I can smell the scent of early Nirvana in here. Smooth bass lines roll into Edge-like guitar reverb:

Remembering it complicates my longing
In deep inside my own obsessive mind
Left tilting on an axis
On an axis known to grind...

Rabbit Hole shows a strong '90s rock influence, which I love. I'm very happy for at least one young band to be embracing a tough, raw sound versus indie folk. The guitarist's delicate, twinkling sound shines in this song, with catchy Oasis-style harmonies during the chorus. I couldn't stop singing along to this song while I wrote this review - listened to it around four times in a row. 

Answers Everything is a more gentle song with some gorgeous lyrics: 

I go spare with time
Lie on my stomach for hours
Oh what I could have been
What a waste of time
I feel alone like a loan shark
I should write a book
In hieroglyphics I will start
They make no sense they pull apart
To raise a question that
Answers everything you've felt before...

The song reaches an angry orgy of tension release. 

Space is Closer than America is probably my least favourite song on the album, which isn't saying much as it's still well-written and performed. It's just a little slower paced and I can imagine it'll be the song the Triple J festival crowd will sway and sing along to.

Heavy Like Iron opens with a grunting swagger of a bass line, like Isaac Hayes sauntering down a street. Guitars and shouts enter the frame, with some fancy high-hat tapping adding dynamics. Vocal echoes, indecipherable lyrics. But all resulting in a mind tingle of a track. 

All the Action Wants has lyrics that make my lips taste of cherry cola.

Cough syrup and chupa-chups
I take a shower in hurt
To rinse you out, hell I will rinse you
To wash away my brain...

Lyrics return to the Rabbit Hole theme from earlier:

Police won't ever find me
In the rabbit hole
In wasteland.

Insistent repetition and melancholic anger left hanging in the air like threads of a bad dream...

The Leisure and Just an Obstacle are two more great tracks, but a little less impressive than others on the album. Still, definitely not filler. However, the chorus of the latter drives this one up a notch. The band is at its best when there's a bit of grunt involved; the slower songs/parts don't grab me as much. God I'm so bloody predictable sometimes...

Although...going to completely contradict myself by liking The One We Laughed About. A slower groove, but the vocals and the evident enjoyment the band get from playing this one makes it special. Some psychedelic reverb guitar and echoed backing vocals gives it a dreamy, trance-like quality.

In Treason, the final song on the album, is BEAUTIFUL. Delicate. Twinkling. Plaintive. Astute.

Who is right? What is wrong?
Alone we are
The condition we all came in
Alone we have to leave
Believe, alone, naive a-ha-ha
Together we chain
The chain of reactive mind
Disclosure is all we seek...

Then it explodes into a Hendrix-style cloud of hallucinatory, tribal, chanting ride of realisation. Inspiring, manic, and a fantastic way to end an album.

Idle Time just has me thankful The Novocaines exist. I've lived through a few generations of musical trends and the things I've missed in music lately have been angst, musical proficiency, talented vocalists, meaning, and the creation of something I want to listen to when I catch the bus to work in the morning, when I go to bed at night, and when I go out on the weekend. There's an overt emphasis on youth in the music industry which isn't always justified but, in this case, the hype surrounding this young band is well deserved.

If the band hadn't sent me this review copy, I would've bought the album. I can only encourage you with great enthusiasm to buy it now.

Learn more on The Novocaines website.

Band members: Corey Marriott, Jay Marriott, Steven Turnock & Liam Young.

Produced and engineered by Alan Brey and recorded at Ampersonic Studios in Western Australia. Mastered at Abbey Road in London.

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