Deadstar – Somewhere Over The Radio Double J Review

A classic albums review of Deadstar’s Somewhere Over The Radio album.

Author:  Double J.

Date: 11 November 2019.

Original URL: https://www.abc.net.au/doublej/programs/classic-albums/deadstar-somewhere-over-the-radio/11686542

 

Article Text

Musical dreams of road tripping beneath boundless skies

With its Wizard of Oz inspired title and oversized transistor radio cover shot, deadstar’s Somewhere Over the Radio was a charmed tribute to simpler times and simple pleasures.

And music was a key element of those times of childhood and innocence.

Singer Caroline Kennedy recounted her nightly ritual of falling asleep to her transistor radio. Listening to the big pop hits of the day from ABBA and KISS on the cool commercial radio station was her tried and true way of getting a relaxing slumber.

“My father would come in [to her bedroom] and turn it off, I’d wake up and turn it back on. I couldn’t sleep without it when I was a teenager.”

Guitarist Barry Palmer recalled the instant impact of music on his young mind.

“The first time I heard music properly, I thought it was the most magical mystical thing …it did something strange to me.”

Somewhere Over The Radio is also characterised by a restless motion and an abundance of references to cars and being on the road through songs like opener ‘Run Baby Run’ as well as ‘Drivin’ and ‘Highway 31’.

In other instances, tracks like ‘Over the Radio’ feel tailor made for long sunny drives with windows or rooves or both down, whilst night drives are catered for in ‘Lights Go Down’ and ‘Don’t Leave’.

Both deadstar members explained driving was indeed a strong dual acting metaphor within this album.

“One of the things for musicians in Australia, is the wide geography,” Kennedy told triple j in 1999 in reference to the long time spent travelling from place to place on tour. “It’s an intense experience.

“It’s also a link back to childhood, where you’re just endlessly sitting in the car, looking at the paddocks rolling by, rolling by…it’s dreaming you know…music’s like that too.”

As the members of deadstar were spread across Melbourne, the long trips to each others’ places as well as for gigs gave them the time to share and discuss their favourite music.

The charging ebullience of one of the album’s big hits ‘Deeper Water’ came about as a result of bass player Peter McCracken’s obsession with Blondie, playing their back catalogue in the car as deadstar travelled the Hume Highway on one of their tours.

“He insisted on playing it and basically a couple of months later, out pops ‘Deeper Water’!” Kennedy explained.

Deadstar started out as a side project for Palmer, drummer Peter Jones and Kennedy on board to write lyrics and sing.

They each had years of experience in other bands like Hunters and Collectors, Crowded House and The Plums respectively, and were keen to preserve a sense of fun and spontaneity in this new project.

“I’ve been involved in other records where people don’t really care so much about the fun aspect, they go there and work, and they were great records too, but it’s just the emphasis [that differs],” Palmer told Richard Kingsmill in 1999.

This meant deadstar wanted to capture the liveliness of a real performance, rather than on just doing endless takes of each song.

There was also an emphasis on access to lots of beer.

“The first thing we do is go past the bottle shop and buy up big on the beer,” Palmer said. “If we’re not having fun then the room empties pretty quickly.”

The spirit in which Somewhere Over The Radio was made certainly left a lasting impression on Killing Heidi’s Ella Hooper.

“From the sweet side to side almost-country lilt of ‘Run Baby Run’ into the metronomic high-hat groove of ‘Deeper Water’, the first two cabs of this amazing pop album, it’s crystal clear we’re in quality town,” Hooper tells Double J.

“These songs aren’t fucking around. There’s no fat on these songs, they’re polished yet laconic, helmed by Caroline’s iconic easy vocals that never ever feel pushed.

“Caroline has such a cool delivery, sparkly but never trying too hard, there’s really some kind of specific ’90s magic to it. It was a lazy magic that only a few could truly nail that ruled that era.

“I fell in love with ‘Deeper Water’ then the whole album in ’99, the same year we [Killing Heidi] hit the scene in earnest.

“I was intrigued, inspired and buoyed by this mysterious female fronted band and thought the whole operation was just incredibly cool and classy.

“In an era where themes, sounds and looks could bash you over the head (guilty!), deadstar and Somewhere Over The Radio oozed an effortlessness and subtlety that hooked me in and hasn’t let me go.”

 

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