Good ol’ James Milne. We’re so happy to have you back. It’s been nearly 4 years since your last release, The Sparrow, a sublime and truly satisfying album. With clever, twisted songs like Early Kneecaps and Travelling Shoes creating deliciously determined earworms it seemed almost inconceivable that you could repeat, lest top, that effort. Ah, but I suspect by all accounts, you have.
Collaborating again with the Black Seeds’ Mikey Fabulous and secreted away during the early hours at very unglamorous Hutt Valley plastics factory recording this instant and catchy cache’ of sparkling pop melodies you’ve brought us treasure that both delights and entertains us.
On the latest single, Another Century, you open with irony: “It’s impolite to say it’s best summer ever, even in the presence of farmers who are living through disaster…this weather is a splendid thing.” It makes both a reference to recent headlines and to the overused script-lines of nearly every Disney Beach film I’ve be subjected to in the past 20 years and captures that sentiment, too. Still it’s a beautiful and irresistibly twee love song. I assume ‘another century’ refers to the longevity of a relationship? Peppered though out the cheesy doo-woops just add even more colour, keeping the whole beach-love theme afloat.
I Waste My Time has a similar groove to the White Stripes Hardest Button To Button, except that instead the grungy treatment you’ve chosen a saccharine sweet layering over yet more deliciously ironic lyrics. It’s a bitter sweet song, barely masking a desperate man trying to win back his beloved, in despite of the obvious futility of it all: “Cro-Magnon Man has nothing on me….I want you to respect me…I wanted to impress you, Darling.” You know that will never work but please die trying.
Brain Gym is another very clever song: “When I was young and arrogant, you told me to shut my mouth and get on with it…I was an empty soldier, now I’m older, I’ve got shoulders.” I adore the gushy couplets offset by the funky undertow on this one. Yet another earworm moment. How many can we stand?
And I can tell you’ve been hanging around the Finns of late because there’s more than just a little bit of McCartney and Lennon on O Heathcote in its narrative folky approach. I half expected the chorus to break out into “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”. In a parallel universe I’m sure George Martin would have included it on the White Album sessions.
Everywhere I look, Mr Arabia, there are delights, like the most exquisite box of chocolates, with not a ginger to be had. For instance, The Palest Of Them All is the most perfect of pop songs. I was instantly transported back to a gig at Wellington’s Happy when I saw you open for Liam Finn. Your candy-apple lullabies contrasted beautifully with Mr Finn’s more cynical works. If we could take this number back it would work stunningly well on the stage. You must perform it live but be prepared for an audience of smiling and swaying punters drifting into a blissful coma as the music swells and gushes.
Mr Milne, this is quite simply your more wonderful work to date but I have to ask about your closer, What Became of That Angry Young Man? Was that you that “fell asleep beside the recycling…awaiting for the night to take you?” This is your only truly serious moment, book ended by some classic rock guitar work in the bridge and rounded off like a song from a musical you’ve yet to complete. It’s the only time you move away from the twee, but it still works a treat. Well done – that man!
First appeared on www.13thfloor.co.nz