Saturday, 17 October 2015

Cold Chisel - The Perfect Crime

Hot on the heels of a lavish vinyl reissue of their back catalog comes the promised new material from Australian Pub-Rock stalwarts Cold Chisel.

Arriving three years after their last "comeback" album "No Plans", "The Perfect Crime" could almost be a companion piece to the previous album. To the band's credit, they're still pushing the same musical stylings, with songs about the average Aussie bloke and the effects of the human condition on them, delivered with frenetic pace and sung in Barnesy's vodka-battered growl.

But do I detect a lot more of an Alt-Country feel to these new songs? Not an overwhelming one, mind you. Deviating too much from the tried-and-true Chisel formula would upset their constituency too much. Whether it's the more plodding basslines of Phil Small or the rolling snare drum groove that Charley Drayton may have borrowed from a Slim Dusty record or two, I don't know. But it's in there.

Chisel have always been a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, so it's not a criticism. But after Ryan Adams' turn at covering Taylor Swift he would make an absolute fist of these songs.

The lyrics from the pen of Don Walker again lack the wry humour and wit of their 80s prime. Though far from generic, the observational writing sounds phoned in. And while the band, all across their career, has slipped in an F-bomb occasionally in an album, these days it is getting gratuitous and tawdry. Granted on this album, it's tucked away on track 9 "Shoot The Moon". It was in the opening bars of the "No Plans" album. I just wonder why they they bother. Are they trying to relevant to a younger crowd? Are they trying to appear edgy as they continue to age? It just makes me want to tap Don on the shoulder and tell him that his energies would be better served by shaking his fist while barking at some young people to get off his lawn.

Mossy's guitar playing is on fire and his honey-soaked vocals don't make as much of a presence here as they deserve. On a few songs, Barnesy pulls back to reveal he still has the ability to sing with subtlety (a quality he lacked that ruined many of the pretty songs on "The Last Wave of Summer" in 1998). When he's let off the chain he sounds more the seagull-with-laryngitis we all know him to be.

While the band haven't necessarily tarnished their legacy with this album (they did that well enough on the deplorable title track to "No Plans"), what you have is a record that will please the faithful while not necessarily one to convert the haters.

Take a listen below and make up your own mind:

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