Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


DAVE GRANEY 'N' THE CORAL SNAKES

NIGHT OF THE WOLVERINE

This Way Up 532 129-2

Dave Graney always seemed like he was going to be the one that got away. While the Go-Betweens, the Triffids and Mr. Cave were rightly acclaimed for bringing a antipodean otherness to the mid-eighties musical mix Graney ploughed a lonely furrow. The Moodists were respected rather than loved, an acquired taste but not by too many. His fine first solo album 'My Life On The Plains' slipped out; most people don't even remember his second, lost in the collapse of Rough Trade. After that he went home.

In Australia he's been gigging and recording regularly with the Coral Snakes, based around his drummer wife Clare Moore, guitarist Rod Hayward, and pianist Robin Casinader. In the process he's become a national celebrity, even namechecked on Neighbours. Now finally he's signed to a new British label and this 1993 recording is the first fruit of that.

'Wolverine' is a piece of rare maturity with a distinctive voice and timbre. Graney's powerful baritone delivering these dark melancholic songs over an often understated but precise backing whch at times complements, though at others counterpoints, the tale he tells. 'Mogambo', the evocation of a '50s film goddess, has an overwrought quality that conjures up absolutely the claustrophobic lust of those jungle epics in which she might well have starred. 'Three Dead Passengers In A Stolen Second Hand Ford', conversely, tells its tale of disaster over a jaunty tune manifestly unsuited to the situation, except that on closer listening it becomes clear that death is an incidental point. It's more important that the three victims have retained their style and their cool.

Throughout there's a sense of passion held at bay, and a distancing whereby Graney is simultaneously a part of and apart from these emotions. This is enhanced in live performance where he seems to affect the persona of the performer while ironically commenting on it. There's also a personal iconography which underpins what he's doing. You feel the references to Serge Gainsbourg, Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac are quite deliberate, and newer material heard in performance bears this out with its litanies of sung and unsung heroes of rock'n'roll.

The quality of this material makes it impossible to really single out songs. As you listen each in turn becomes your favourite. The resignedness of 'I'm Just Having One Of Those Lives', the gorgeous chorus of 'I Held The Cool Breeze' and the yearning of 'Maggie Cassidy'. They all have their moment.

Its great when people reappear in the way that Dave Graney has. I can't see him disappearing again.

(from BoB#46 Aug 1996)

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