Like all music lovers I have a number of albums that I can always return to when I want to recall an old friend, place or time. Albums that are, in fact, a major part of my life and never fail to give me whatever I need from them. In amongst these cherished albums are a few which do not take me back in time, do not remind me of a lost love or opportunity and which don’t bring to mind a specific "moment". They are there just because they are bloody good albums that I love for no other reason than they are full of great songs. Now the Hired Guns, a 5 piece band according to the press release but a 6 piece according to the CD inlay, from Melbourne have just released their debut and straight away it is obvious that this collection is another one which is never going to be far out of my reach. In a period when, for me at least, there have been so many outstanding new albums, it has been ‘Between Here And The Night’ which has been playing constantly.

The band was formed in 1996 and consists of Adam Spellicy (vocals, guitar and accordion), Chris Willard (vocals, lead guitar), Anthony Paine (vocals, bass), Timothy Deane (vocals, keyboards, harmonica), David Creese (drums) and Jane McCracken (vocals, guitar, harmonica, accordion). Apart from one song, ‘Lend Me Your Gun’, which was written by Willard’s partner Liz Dealey, all the band members except McCracken (who may be a honorary member as she is not mentioned in any press releases) contribute at least one song each here. Creese, Paine and Deane offer one song each while Spellicy and Willard penned the remaining 8 tracks equally between them.

The band has 4 members taking turns at lead vocals and together they provide some of the most moving harmonies you will ever hear and as soon as the aching vocals come in on the opening track, ‘Loose Change’, the classic song-writing and musicianship of the Band springs to mind. The song is so good, so well produced (by The Hired Guns and David Nelson) that it wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Music From Big Pink’ or ‘The Band’.

If that opening song was the best track on this album it would still be worth buying. But, although common sense dictates that things can only go downhill from here, the songs actually get better.

Any thoughts that the Hired Guns are Band clones (albeit excellent ones) are swiftly cast aside with the second track, ‘Somewhere’, which is the contribution from drummer David Creese. When was the last time you heard a song composed by a drummer that you would make a point of listening to every day? From the opening Young/Crazy Horse distorted guitar and those longing vocals pining for a lost love it’s obvious the listener is in for something special here. It’s deathly slow, an atmospheric soundscape with a yearning melody, stunning guitar and harmonica all adding to the picture. More on the next album please, Mr. Creese. The difference in the type of song from the opening track is so great it could almost be by another band. That is the beauty of this collection; although the band stamp their own identity over these songs each one throws up their influences. We can hear ‘Sticky Fingers’ era Stones, Gene Clark, Young and Crazy Horse, and, of course, the Band .yet still the songs have the Hired Guns uniqueness about them.

The beginning of track three, ‘Lend Me Your Gun’, could be heard on a Neil Young album without an eyebrow being raised but, and I’m a huge Young fan, it’s been a while since I’ve been moved as much by the great man’s work as I am by this track. It’s to their credit that that lines like “You gotta lend me your gun so I can blow myself away, I can take you with me or maybe you just wanna stay without me” are sung with such passion over a great melody that the listener forgets the singer wants to blow his brains out as your foot taps along to the guitar/harmonica fuelled melody.

The title of these songs says a lot about the themes covered on the album, ‘You’re Not There For Me’ and ‘Without Her’, tell it all. But these are heartbroken ballads with a difference, Listen to the searing guitar solo on ‘Are You Gonna Leave Her At The Church?’ for a good example of the playing featured throughout all of these songs.

On track seven, ‘Over and Over’, we are treated to another surprise; it opens with some Stax styled horns, which were totally unexpected after hearing the first six tracks, and progresses into what sounds like Lou Reed fronting a band put together from various Stones and Crazy Horse members.

The horns are there again on the next song, ‘Without Her’, which rolls along on another stunning melody. A dangerous melody, in fact. It’s not often I’m moved to actually sing along in the car these days, especially in company. But the “oohs” which make up the last couple of minutes of this Spellicy tale of lost love are so catchy. especially when the horns kick in and a nagging guitar line runs underneath that I have to confess my mind wanders along with my driving as I get caught up in this great sound. A good job it doesn’t last longer!

Spellicy also penned the next track, the seven minute long ‘Blue Sunday’. A brooding ballad again with Willard’s lead guitar shining bright through the darkness. On any other album this song would have been the standout track but this collection of songs is so strong throughout it is only the best song on the album while it is actually playing. As they all are. There is no filler on this album; each and every one of the twelve tracks is stunning. Every song has qualities of its own. The closing track, ‘ My Last Breath’, (a dying man’s thoughts?) has a la-la-la chorus where the bands’ harmonies will have you singing along. Light in even the darkest of places.

The record was made in a disused 1930s knitting mill in Melbourne that has been converted into a 24 track-recording studio. One can’t help but feel that some of the atmosphere and large open space of the building has shaped the sound of these songs.

This album really is a contender for my best album of 2003. Twelve songs and not a dud among them. It’s classic song writing played and produced beautifully. I wouldn’t want to be without it now.










Related Links:




Commenting On: Between Here and the Night - Re : View-Hired Guns








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last