Released: September 2017
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
Despite the strange band name and the lairy colors preferred by Victor, this is a record worth spending time on.
I’ll start by saying from the get-go that Victor Kennedy seems familiar somehow but I don’t know why. He has no Bio of any value so I can’t assume he was in any famous bands. He is from down the highway in Melbourne but I have only been there for a couple of weeks and flying work visits so we didn’t meet. Maybe I have just run into his work online before.
I don’t much love Track #1 “Belly Up” so feel free to skip to “Little Cafe” if it doesn’t grab you as I think it better represents what Victor is good at. Interestingly, Victor has set play to start at “Talkin’ Lucy Down”. “Belly Up” is not a bad song but I think it sells him short. But perhaps he was hoping a coarser rocker would please people as the first thing they heard. I think this would be like re-ordering Paul Kelly’s “Gossip” album to put “Darling It Hurts” first because it is a tougher track even though “Last Train To Heaven” is a nicer intro overall.
I say, Paul Kelly because that was the first association I made once listening to “Little Cafe”. They don’t sound alike but the sense of human, slice of life, stories that present people in situations is common enough between. As is Victor’s emphasis on the lyrics.
But the influences Victor offer make immediate sense. The Triffids (and David McComb in particular) is worn very much on his sleeve on this record. The arrangements, orchestration and the rippling reverby thing come into focus in the context of The Triffids. Also, his love for Lou Reed’s old outfit, the Velvet Underground, make sense in the somewhat frantic and messy moments that Reed is the master of. I think Victor may have a Nick Cave record or two in his collection as well.
I also hear parallels with Geoff Kerr – Proximity Effect I reviewed a few weeks back. I guess they do come from the same town and so have grown up as steeped in Alternative Oz Rock as each other (as was I).
There is one other association that Victor doesn’t make but I hear, particularly in his Rockers like “Belly Up” and that is later in the Dire Straits catalog when Mark Knopfler sang in that gruff talkie way on songs like “Calling Elvis” & “Heavy Fuel”. A kind of Talking Blues I guess.
“Little Skies” is a record that definitely improves with familiarity. And some familiarity it does need because in some ways the mixes feel a little impenetrable. Some comes from the VU manic-mess thing which is not always for the faint of heart. Mostly I feel it comes from a mix issue where things don’t balance up so well in great part because, as mentioned earlier, Victor has been trying to channel the late David McComb of The Triffids and his swallowed in reverb sound. Sadly something is not quite right as it makes for a messy sound more often than it should. Things manage not to stand out clearly enough, especially the words.
Odd that the first album, “Ride The Blizzard” and the more recently released EP, “Buffalo Grind” don’t seem to suffer from this problem so I have to assume Victor was trying something different (or mixed in headphones so as not to upset the flatmates). I like what he was trying to do just not exactly how it ended up on every song.
As I said before I wonder if the album sequencing is right as the songs get better and more interesting as I go through the album. Maybe it should start with a better overall song or two then use the rockers as palette cleansers between some of the more powerful tracks.
So you wonder why I don’t review “Buffalo Grind” instead, seeing it is newer? Well, it may sound better but it is the hazy, swimmy depths that songs like “Night Skies” & “Send It On Home” manage to achieve that make this the better record. It is more unique and engages despite any flaws. Or maybe because of.
This is Indi music at its real heart and I approve. I hope you do too.