Tuesday, 26 February 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #28: Even - "Less Is More"

At the end of 1996, I'd finished tertiary study and was about to take a leap into the workforce for the first time. On the day I walked out of college, I went to my local indie record store wanting to buy a new LP to celebrate my new found freedom. The album I wanted was "One Hot Minute" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. And I bought it, on shiny new double vinyl.

However, while perusing the racks, I noticed another LP by a band that I'd never heard of, but it looked like it was an Australian band. The back cover showed a Rickenbaker guitar leaning up against a Vox AC30 amp, so right away that should have triggered thoughts about this being a classicist pop record. It was also a limited, numbered edition and it was only around $22 or so. I asked the man behind the counter "What does this sound like?" He said "well it's full of short, three chord jangle pop songs - very Beatle-esque. You'll love it". He'd known I was a Beatles fan, and I was also in a celebratory mood, so I bought this record as well as "One Hot Minute" and then caught the train back home.

The album was "Less Is More", the first LP by a three piece from Melbourne named Even. All the songs are written by lead singer and guitarist Ashley Naylor.

Saying that it is "Beatles-esque" and full of "three chord jangle pop songs" is a somewhat applicable description, and yet it is underselling the music as well. The Beatles may be an obvious reference point, but Even's sound runs deeper than that. Most guitar-pop bands can trace their roots back to the Beatles, so that really is a lazy comparison. Within these songs you'll hear distant echoes of The Who, The Kinks, You Am I, Big Star, David Bowie and T.Rex.

Stylistically this album runs the gamut of pop music, from short power pop tunes, epic sing-alongs, psychedelic experiments, sweet melancholy, to balls-out rock'n'roll, all delivered with the deft touch of Mr Naylor and his fully capable bandmates.

This record has some of the most catchy melodies with an earworm-like quality - and I mean that in a good way. These are songs that you would want to have in your head; that when you can't get rid of that awful Britney Spears song in your head, you can play this record and all those horrible thoughts about crappy music will be washed away. The instrumental playing is such that, while it used the REM-styled jangle pop as a basis, other dimensions are added to make it sound all their own: Wally Meanie on bass adds a bottom-end rumble that is rock solid, while Ash's occasionally self-deprecating lyrics elevate this above the ordinary, capturing the mood of some of those within the "Alternative Nation" at the time.

Even released this album in an extraordinary age of Alternative music in Australia where there were many different bands, and yet very few sounded like each other, making a scene that was fully vibrant, diverse and constantly exciting. Probably the closest sounding bands to them would have been Snout and You Am I, and even then they didn't sound much like Even. There was no rush to have a sound or a style that was consistent with someone else or some other prevailing trend. Within this environment, many great bands flourished and Even were one of the best. This was the start of a series of great albums that went sorely unrecognised by the public at large.

...and despite the fact I purchased this at the same time as a Red Hot Chili Peppers LP, I've played "Less Is More" about a million times more than "One Hot Minute"!

Check it out and enjoy!

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