ALBUM REVIEW / LIKE LEAVES (****)
"LIKE LEAVES" / INDEPENDENT RELEASE
/ BROADCAST STUDIOS
Now before I state anything else in this review, buy this album. No seriously... BUY THIS FUCKING ALBUM!! Yeaaah yeah, I know I've given this a (harsh?) "four star" rating like it's ever so slightly LESS than a fullblown masterpiece... "FUUUCK, NO WAY!?" (and yes I'll explain WHY later too) but you know what? fuck the ratings maaan!
Because at the very least you MUST HEAR two songs on this album, two songs the likes of which your ENTIRE LIFE lived upto this point will surely have felt like little but a pissy hollowed out "ashen grey" misery bereft of them: "Mercy Sound"
and "Falling For A Fleeting Moment"
. Duuude they'll have you feeling emotion the likes of which you haven't felt in years! Not just that "wishy-washy" pretend shit so many other artists pedal in the name of true love hard won and lost
... but REAL HEART WRENCHING EMOTION that will bring tears in half buried longing, yearning and sweet regret, then knowing smiles to your eyes in having lived it. And then you'll thank me for recommending it, no better yet you'll thank THEM for writing and recording it to the point you'll name your pets and newborn children after them prostrate shrieking and wailing:
"HOW HAVE I EVER EXISTED WITHOUT WITNESSING SUCH SWEET SWEEEET SPLENDOUR AS THIS!? WAAAAUUGGHH!!" *cough* yes I know! But for those of you in the know out there (especially those of you who've seen them live
) you'll know I'm NOT exaggerating. You'll know exactly what I'm on about: Like Leaves are just that kind of band. They've been a quality fixture of the Adelaide scene winning scores of accolades for three years running
. They've been promising this debut for a good eighteen months of that
driving us barking insane with anticipation before finally committing it to plastic. It's been a ridiculously long time coming, the expectations have been great, perhaps TOO great... because try as they might? yup there's just no way they could possibly live upto them. For as much as "Like Leaves" is a great album, a brilliant album even, one worthy of any discerning record collector/itunes hoarder
, it also might leave you feeling just that little bit unrequited too...
But before we get into that... a brief introduction may be in order for those of you not upto speed. Like Leaves are a psychedelic jam band
, but one that very much exists on the utmost articulate, aristocratic, borderline apocalyptic end of the scale. Think of them as that transcendent sweet spot you never knew existed between The Mars Volta
and My Disco;
think of them as music that feeds into the heart and soul in quite the same way a full course banquet feeds directly into your belly; think of them as everything Triple J's been sorely lacking in the past five years
(and then some!) THAT'S Like Leaves. Every member of this band are consummate musicians in their own right. Dan Varricchio on guitar and Patrick Saracino on bass are both resident sound engineers at The Exeter and Rocket Bar respectively (and have jammed with the likes of Damo Suzuki
and Mani Neumeier:
living legends of 60's and 70's krautrock scene). Ryan Manolakis on drums is SO diabolical with a full kit he's even schooling his own disciples now
(and one day they'll usher in a golden age where all the world's hunger will be solved by percussion alone). And as for Juliet Hunter on violin? if ever Warren Ellis of The Dirty Three
and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane
birthed a child AND it went rogue, she'd be the only one who could ever beat it in battle
... no shit! And for the most part? this album DOES capture most of that magic, but it's also an album that very much divides you. In the first half you'll be absolutely enthralled, its impact both immediate and all encompassing; and not just for "Mercy Sound"
and "Falling For A..."
(as much as they're arguably the highlights) but also for the slow build of opening instrumental "Dancing On Glass"
, the pulsing seduction of second song "Fruit"
(where the word "forbidden" is very much implied) and for the duelling death grind that is "Swordfight"
. With these five songs alone? duuude you'll be grinning ear to ear to well beyond the confines of your face, noodling out imagined vistas to ever expanding canvases in your mind blown wide open and if ever Robert Rodriguez directed a Mariachi movie apocalypse
using them as the soundtrack alone? we may never need sunlight again... it'd be THAT fucking badass! But then comes the second half: the "contemplative" side of Like Leaves. And as much as all four of these songs are brilliant if taken individually (and the first "Sacred Revolt" makes for the perfect segue) combined in one sitting it does become that little bit taxing to keep your eyelids open. Firstly with seventh song "Monument" with it's brooding cyclical chants
but especially once we hit eighth song "The Gift"
with its endless nonstop neandering saxophone... I mean it's a great song don't get me wrong, but fuck damn does it drag on forever! So as much as their ninth song "Like Leaves"
neatly encapsulates everything in both lyrical coda and its haunting violin? you'd be hard pressed to find anyone still awake and engaged to appreciate it. But maybe this is merely a sequencing fault at best: perhaps they shouldn't have lumped all their most explosive mad jams at the beginning
only to go out with a whimper (and a fade out at that) at the end, or perhaps I'm simply mourning the absence of songs like "Bazooka"
and "Complex Denial"
. Because this album IS a powerful debut, it is wildly ambitious, the slow songs at the end WILL grow on you, and your life isn't complete without it. But I also sense they've held a little something back... and their best is yet to come.