Loene Carmen CD reviewed by Jack Sargeant

Music Reviews
Loene Carmen CD reviewed by Jack Sargeant
Nov 1, 2007, 12:40

LOENE CARMEN Rock 'n' Roll Tears CD

I am not always convinced by the notion of rock and roll, while it has its moments of pure, ether reaching, six string transcendent blur—manifested f'rinstance through the first two Velvets records, the early Stones, the Stooges, Love—often the genre fails to deliver (the ongoing interest in so called classic rock on FM radio is a continual irritant). Rock bands should be dangerous and ooze dirty sex, they should look like swaggering gangs and not dull corporate pretty boys with guitars. When the Ig sang "I've been dirt" this was an affirmation as much as a statement of cunt-search angst. The best rock and roll bands catch this sense of angry yearning fueled by go nowhere low-income jobs, cheap booze, drugs and fugging. That's why the police hated Jimbo's black leather, bearded declarations of war against the world, to the cock grasping death-wish poet "the end" wasn't a bad thing, it was the only thing that mattered.

Gestating too far away from the crushing tedium associated with the fiscally concerned music industry, Australia has produced a string of genuinely great bands, not just AC/DC but a dirty smear of great legendary snarlin' punk bands from the Saints and the Birthday Party through the Scientists, the Beasts of Bourbon, Lubricated Goat, the Moodists, and many others. With nothing to do but fester, bands grew on non-sun-and-surf related entertainment, spewing out dick-damaged hymns that were anathema to the mainstream. Dirty and sneering Australian rock music blossomed in its own rotten mess. Like Seattle grunge, Australian rockers never drew a simple line between genres, and bands like the Beasts could record country styled records one minute, cock rock damage the next.

Which brings us to Loene Carmen.

It's a commonplace in reviews of Loene Carmen to mention her place in the pantheon of Australian rock royalty, sure she grew-up within rock—her father was no slouch when it came to music and Bon Scott was a family friend—meanwhile her teenage daughter fronts one of Sydney's hippest combos, Bridezilla. Cult ex-pat Australian depressives the Devastations recorded a brokenhearted love song about a failed relationship with Loene, although they'd never actually met her. Meanwhile her touring band has included various members of the Bad Seeds and Dirty Three, amongst others. For this—her third album—she has used Sydney musicians from The Holy Soul and The Mess Hall.

Decamping to a rural barn in 2006, these twelve songs were recorded over a long hot weekend, creating an intimate, laid back atmosphere and producing an album loosely drawn from dirty country music, garage rock, and pop, moving deftly between and melding styles. Sung predominantly in breathy tones, some of these songs re-work and celebrate rock and roll iconography in its purist form, for example “Oh Yeah” with its driving bass and the anthemic—and partly autobiographical—Rock'N'Roll Tears with its drunken' braggadocio and celebration of everything that makes rock and roll entertaining; late nights, sex, brawling and bawling, “And a bed full of rock 'n' roll tears.”

Other numbers—such as “Nashville High” and “Don't Let Her Slip Away” play lazy fucked-up once-but-no-longer country rock sounding as if Kim Fowley was a teenage girl who spent too long listening to late night radio and dreamt of hitting the road.

The best songs here are the slower, smoky, country tinged numbers songs “Wild Wind,” “Dirt & Air” and the fantastically titled “He Calls Me Flames,” which draw on classic country iconography with sparkles of southern light evoked by distorted guitar. There's an evocative sense of yearning in these slower songs that capture the need, desire and escape offered by music.

Then there is the pseudo-innocence of the album's final track “The Bee.” A downbeat, bar closing, end of the night acoustic number that sees Loene in her best sugar-kitten style sex murmur telling a simple story of a love on a summer afternoon. “We made a home among the leaves / and we made sacred ground” she sings, capturing the nature of sunlight, youth and love, which like the momentary stillness of the insect of the title, can only be fleeting.

The nearest comparison would be to Tex Perkins' solo work, but for Carmen music evokes the promise of something special—the longing that Tom Wait's described in The Heart of Saturday Night—rather than greasy hard living. The album package is partly designed like a school exercise book, and there's a sense of youthful dreams here. Of course it's not the possibility of rock and roll that matters, in the end it's the failure, because at 5:00 AM the sun is still going to rise and you still have to walk home. Carmen's songs are familiar with the inevitability of dawn, but are still hoping that there's time for one last dance. [Shock]

-Jack Sargeant

BUY Rock N Roll Tears @ AMAZON

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