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ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Waugh – The Weir

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Michael Waugh
The Weir
Compass Bros Records

Michael Waugh’s last album The Asphalt & The Oval found him refining his blend of vivid Australian storytelling with impressive results. Now, just a year later, he’s picked up exactly where he left off, with another thirteen songs that use nostalgia in a rich and poetic way yet his unvarnished approach to memories of the past and contemporary society is definitely not viewed through rose-tinted spectacles.

The count is sky-high when it comes to pop-culture, political and geographical references that pepper these songs. In some cases they play a central narrative role. ‘Big Things’ name-checks oversized landmarks such as a big koala, pineapple, banana and guitar, spotted from the back seat of the car on a rare family holiday, while the single ‘This Song Reminds Me’ reels off a who’s who of 70s-90s Australian rock ’n’ roll as Waugh reflects on  the musical power of the ‘soundtrack to your life’ through one’s formative years. 

Waugh worked with producer Shane Nicholson once again for this album and the pair clearly have a shared musical vision for the songs, framing them in skeletal folk framework on ’50 Words’ and ‘Down In The Valley’, or fleshing them out with lush and warm alt-country textures. The finest moments come when the music takes a twilight detour down a country road into moodier territory. ‘Search Party’ details the frantic hunt for a missing family member with an undercurrent of gentle menace and bad vibes built on wonderful lyrics and a chorus melody that fits like a glove.

Waugh leaves us with ‘Last Drinks’, a song that recalls the warm country soul of Lambchop yet, as he does so rewardingly right across The Weir, Waugh shapes and colours his songs with the kind of unique Australian qualities associated with Tim Winton, Perry Keyes and Paul Kelly.

Chris Familton

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