AU ABROAD

Various - Popboomerang Records Presents Electric and Eclectic Rarities (2011 LP)

Don’t let the name Popboomerang Records Presents: Electric and Eclectic Rarities fool you, this collection isn’t about unearthing the obscurest of the obscure. And it certainly hasn’t got any songs by polyphonic throat singers, Beatle Barkers, or strange ambient noises that some may argue doesn’t even constitute “music”. Nope. Instead, this is about folk and pop/rock music from indie and underground artists who, when put together, prove that there is a great amount of talent to be mined from our fine land (both metaphorically and actually).

At the cornerstone of this set is the humble, olde acoustic guitar. Sure, it’s commonly found at campsites, and is the weapon of choice for hard, liquor-swilling countrymen, buskers, and traveling vagabonds; but it has also provided the heart and soul of some of Australia’s greatest music. Just ask The Triffids, The Go-Betweens and adopted Aussies Crowded House if you’re unconvinced.

Leading the charge is “Straight Into Darkness” by a guy that sounds like Tim Rogers’ twin brother. Russell Crawford is joined by one sweet-voiced female, Caitlin Harnet, and collectively they offer an Angus and Julia Stone-like folk number on the piano. The Bon Scotts are up next, and they are one heck of an interesting lot. With a name borrowed from the late AC/DC frontman, a track title that seems inspired by a Hunters & Collectors song, and a sound that seems like they stole Ben Lee’s kiddie piano from “Catch My Disease”, they couldn’t be more quintessentially Aussie if they tried. “Drape Those Caring Arms Around Me” seems like the equivalent of wearing a flag on our national day (a balmy, summer’s day, naturally) while having a barbie with mates, with the cricket on in the background. Basically, it’s an endearing take on traditional folk with tongue placed firmly in cheek, and homemade instrument comfortably at hand.

Elsewhere, we get plenty of soft and whimsical folk (D. Rogers’ “Learning To Hurt” and Celadore’s “How Do You Feel?” respectively). “For A Short Time” by The Aerial Maps, meanwhile, is like one of J. Mascis’ most recent creations (think honest acoustic), but that is if the Dinosaur Jr. frontman was to trade his own lazy drawl for a seasoned, old bloke’s voice with a stubby in hand and Winnie Blues in pocket.

Completing the set are Underminers’ “Trouble Man”, with an alternative version that features Freya Hollick (who sounds like Regina Spektor), and a cover of “Wake Up Little Susie” by Danna And The Changes. Finally, the closer (The Crustaceans’ excellently titled “I Love You But I’m Leaving”) is very reminiscent of Bob Evans, who in turn was channeling Bob Dylan’s finest.

The Popboomerang compilation may promise the electric and eclectic, but in fact it’s all about folk rock of the whimsical, cheeky and poignant kind, full of astute observations (and occasional flippant ones) about love, life and loss, that are all special and precious gems in their own individual way. Safe though it may be, it’s extremely pleasant listening that has thankfully seen the light of day from beyond the underground.

Review score: 7.5/10