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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

6.2

The Middle East
I Want That You Are Always Happy

The Middle East bleed a genuineness rarely seen in Australian music. Their music output, so far, has always been well produced, with a real sense of space and subtly. It's never felt like posturing. The instrumentation has always been tastefully and purposefully delivered, if at times lifted (see the straight up Radiohead chord change in Black Death 1349 and the Dylan one in Months), and this genuine streak is definitely still present on their debut LP, where the songs in no way lack the crucial element of honesty. So what's the problem you may ask?

The problem is that I Want That You Are Always Happy stubbornly keeps the listener at arms length. Songs like Very Many and Deep Water seem like they are going to take you to that mid tempo heaven, where you feel the breeze in your brain and as though you could drive all night on nothing but optimism, but they never quite get there. They never quite give you that meat to grab onto. As a consequence, I Want That You Are Always Happy is a difficult record to get involved with. There's a clear soulful undertone, but through a combination of indecipherable lyrics and a continual disconnection of atmosphere and feeling, this unfortunately becomes muddled.

A saving grace for the album is the unmistakable Australiana backbone that continues to be well utilised by The Middle East for the most part. This raw and honest aesthetic on songs like Mount Morgan is reminiscent of the Cave/Ellis soundtrack for The Proposition. While the narrative of Ninth Avenue Reverie conjures up images of a more emotional Gareth Liddiard type figure crooning into the mic.

At times, however, this Australiana schtick is pushed too far, becoming cringeworthy and tacky. Most notably on the track Sydney To Newcastle, which is basically a train conductor saying "next stop Wyong, then Newcastle", surrounded by a piano line that sounds like it came from the Amelie soundtrack. It's not a strong segue tune, it's just there, and that really highlights the major flaw of this record — it too often feels like patchwork and at times it even feels careless.

In saying all that though, there is one moment of greatness on this album and that's found in the track Jesus Came to My Birthday Party. The only upbeat tune on the record and really the only one with any form of directness, it in-turn has the adverse affect of also undermining the rest of the album, highlighting the weakness and lack of depth in the other hour of filler. More importantly though, Jesus is a sign of the quality The Middle East are capable of and hopefully the quality they produce in the future.

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The Middle East

 

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