Hey Hey My My Undertow Review

Positive review of Mark Seymour’s Undertow album.

Author: Andrew Watt, Hey Hey My My.

Date: 24 May 2011.

Original URL: http://www.heyheymymy.com.au/2011/05/24/mark-seymour-and-the-undertow-liberation/


Article Text

Mark Seymour holds an important place in the Australian music landscape but it’s not easy to define. He’s not quite regarded as a “national treasure” in the way of Paul Kelly might be, but he’s also not seen as a nostalgia act trading off his illustrious path. He’s accorded much more respect than that. His recent albums have had a relatively low profile though, and they’ve been regarded as the work of a solid tradesman who consistently delivers high quality, well crafted pieces of honest work.

This album may be seen as more of that worthwhile handiwork by some media and music buyers (not that that is a bad thing) but I think it deserves closer attention.

There’s a lot of nuance and many layers to this album that is a self-titled effort from Seymour and a band that consists of Cameron McKenzie (guitar and production), John Favaro (bass) and Peter Maslen (drums).

The first thing that jumps out at me when I listen to the opening track Castlemaine is that it reminds me a lot of Neil Young’s After the Goldrush. That is a good thing, of course, but if I’m not mistaken there’s a subtle message there given the song is a folk song set in the post-goldrush area in regional Victoria.

It’s things like that that give this album a sense of creative depth that pitches it at a higher level. There are plenty of musical references to be found if you want to hear them.

The duet with Angie Hart, Little Bridges, has a Gram and Emmylou feel to it, although the delivery has more to do with Northcote than Nashville, while the Stones riff and swagger of Eldorado is both unmistakable and a lot of fun to listen to. That song is perhaps the most anthemic on the album, closest in feel to the brash muscularity of a Hunters and Collectors fist pumper. The fact that it gives casino-culture (now there’s a contradiction in terms) a nice slap, adds to its bite. The Red Lady’s Gone channels John Fogerty and River-era Springsteen and is the sort of rave-up a beloved stolen car deserves.

Seymour manages to weave intimate songs about people living their lives in his vicinity (Classrooms and Kitchens, Sometimes I Wonder If I Know Too Much About You) with those that take a more panoramic, mythologized (but still personal) view of the human condition (Sylvia’s In Black, The Patsy).

He finds things to write songs about that most other songwriters tend to overlook – and to me that’s his greatest value…well, that and the fact that the resulting songs are pretty much all top shelf creations.

This is music made for adults by someone who understands what it means to be one.