AU ABROAD

Adalita- Adalita (2011 LP)

I’m willing to concede- and piss off my more feminist friends- that there is a greater percentage of “great” (whatever that means; is it not in the eye of the beholder? Let us just consider commercially great for the time being) male artists than female.

Treading lightly, I can see that being a lady rock musician holds more difficulty than the masculine counterpart; women are notoriously set apart with greater scrutiny and emphasis on looks and femininity, or lack thereof. The challenge of keeping one’s feminine persona in a testosteroney scene like the Aussie Rock landscape must be a challenge, especially when artists that don’t kiss up to the female stereotype are branded all manner of slanderous labels that I won’t repeat, but you know them.

Adalita Srsen has been in our hearts and radios are the ballsy, steely-eyed front-woman for Melbourne rockers Magic Dirt since 1993-odd. Any Magic Dirt performance will inevitably come tagged with Srsen’s unpretentious showmanship, fierce yet malleable vocals and jutting cheekbones that give her a most defiant pout.

When I was blooming as a young punk in Year Nine, Srsen was more or less who everyone wanted to be; at the time, there weren’t many female idols for anyone not keen on getting their gash out. I went to a girls’ public school where the best thing you could be was Pretty ‘N Popular, so being the unwashed nerd I was, I looked to Srsen as a beacon of hope for the female rock and roll kind: every generation and city has their local heroes, Srsen was ours.

So it is with trepidation and a dash of disappointment that I powered through Adalita’s debut self-titled solo record; attempting to disconnect from my Magic Dirt preconceptions, I shook my brain's Etch-A-Sketch and concentrated on the disc at hand. But I found myself wishing for the Dirt lads more and more as the tracks went by.

The record opens with "Hot Air" where, to my cringe-face, Srsen utters the line “Oh boy, I need your body” in such a lackluster, bored tone that the naff lyric is forgotten in the manner of which it was sang. It’s not a strong opener, I will admit; just voice and electric guitar that sounds like introductory riffing but doesn’t go anywhere for six minutes.

With follower "Perfection", you realize the distinct ferocity with which Srsen carried herself over the years is probably gone for the purposes of this record, but her voice is really quite lovely; it’s the same structure as the song before, though, and I am afraid it will continue and bore me. By the time "The Repairer and "Invite Me" go by, I am approaching the freeway exit of my wit’s end. Is the whole album just vocal effects and electric guitar fiddling?, I wonder.

In "The Repairer", though, the axe gets pretty rock-chuggy and Adalita channels Jim Morrison (“I wanna tell you about Texas Radio and the Big Beat” came through my head) halfway through, but it’s not enough.

"Lassa Hanta" signals a change; an instrumental experiment in effects and psychedelia of Indian-inspired sound and shimmery cymbals, but by "Fool Around", the experimental-ness is gone and we are back to the forlorn guitar songs, though Srsen is a charming lyricist; “Give yourself away, little by little”

"Goin’ Down" implements a more typically pub rock and roll guitar- fuzzy and ballsy- and album ender Night Orchid has a trippy, fly-buzzing effects opener that should have been used more often, but it eventually goes back to the guitar, set to a twangy, dark country sound, accompanying Srsen’s voice that is very This Mortal Coil here.

Luckily, Srsen’s past musical endeavors and outright awesomeness are a soothing antidote to the tidal beige-wave that this album cloaked me in, but you may, indeed, adore it. As Neil Buchanan used to say, “Try it yourself!”

5/ 10