Dwarf.com.au Undertow Review
A positive review of Mark Seymour’s Undertow album from dwarf.com.au.
Author: Natalie Salvo, The Dwarf.com.au.
Date: 8 June 2011.
Original URL: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/
Mark Seymour thinks that: “We all look at the present through a rear-view mirror – we can’t help it”. But let’s backtrack a minute, Hunters & Collectors exploded into the Australian conscience with their seminal LP, “Human Frailty” and to this day the work stands up as being an important one about love and loss with pop melodies, raw honesty and great emotional power. But the reality is that much of this could be said (particularly if we remember the rear-view analogy) about his sixth solo LP. This is the first one to be credited to a band post-Hunters and so without further adieu we introduce, Mark Seymour & The Undertow.
This self-titled album sees eleven tracks that fit the roots-based blues genre with additional guest appearances by country, folk and pop. Lyrically, Seymour and Co. grapple with people, places, lots of religious imagery, love, confusion and journeys, all while punctuating things with the quintessential images of Australia. Consider the following from “Sylvia’s In Black”: “Houses on the avenue where the eucalypts grow tall and strong”. Or this from “Classrooms and Kitchens”: “Cattle in the garden/snakes in the grass”.
“Castlemaine” starts things off with soul-searching for religion along the streets of this town with the kind of swagger last found in Neil Young’s “Southern Man”. The following song, boasts fabulous lyrics like: “Sometimes I wonder if I know too much about you/ Sometimes I wonder if I know you at all”.
Musically though, it sounds like an adult contemporary number not too removed from his brother’s band, Crowded House. “The Red Lady’s Gone” meanwhile, has hints of The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” except that the subject of the former is Seymour’s car and clearly his wry humour has slipped into overdrive.
Angie Hart helped co-write “Little Bridges” and this duet offers us sweet pop punctuated by a trusty xylophone. It is the first of a couple of collaborations for Seymour this time around. On the final track, “The Patsy,” The Undertow (Cameron McKenzie, John Favaro and Pete Maslen) earn a co-writing credit while on “One More Ride” Seymour is joined by The Glen Huntly Tabernacle choir on backing vocals. And why wouldn’t you invite a Tabernacle choir to guest appear on your LP?
In all, Seymour has created another glowing album of personal and relatable songs fitting the roots-based blues sphere. It seems that for Seymour, wearing the hat of bandleader once again has not wearied him and it could be argued that this has in fact injected new life into his writing and performances. The overall effect is that Mark Seymour – like a good wine – just seems to keep getting better with age.