Miracle Cure from Leave Your Soul To Science
California from Desert Lights
Electricity from Beautiful Sharks
Whatever You Want from Beautiful Sharks
Pinstripe form the album Elsewhere for Eight Minutes
Already defined as one of Australia’s most unique and successful acts, Something For Kate return, both artistically charged and sonically rebellious, on their outstanding fifth album, Desert Lights . A powerful mix of discord and melody, sophistication and beauty, it signals a band reaching a heightened level of creativity.
Desert Lights surges with urgency and energy. From the storming backbeat that signals its arrival to the tender caress of the closing lullaby, this is a stripped down but undeniably powerful album. Desert Lights , like all of Something for Kate’s records, draws an emotional and intellectual response – it can’t be denied – but this time there’s also a charged energy in the foreground, a sense of restlessness that engenders excitement. It also offers a little something for the hips, too.
Released on July 1st and overseen by noted American producer Brad Wood (whose extensive credits take in Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, Tortoise and Ben Lee), Desert Lights puts aside the tone of the band’s previous hit albums, The Official Fiction and Echolalia . The change is both apparent and appealing and sets a new standard.
Desert Lights is 10 tracks of guitars both barbed and alluring, with seditious, staccato-stab nods to The Clash, rigourous and multi-layered lyrics that catch the tenor (not to mention the terror) of the times, yet tinged with a seductive Bowiesque falsetto. Lyrically there’s a sense of movement, of lives in unsustainable orbit, and the search for equilibrium in an unstable world.
“The world is accelerating on every level,” explains SFK’s singer, Paul Dempsey, “and as an individual it’s easy to feel lost and disconnected.” In the landscape forged by Dempsey’s lyrics, there is a constant overturning and questioning of what we so often take as a given. The result is sharp, invigorating and all encompassing.
The album’s initial despatch, the lead single “Cigarettes and Suitcases”, effectively sets the tone. It’s both revelatory and welcoming, but it’s just the first choice from a track listing bristling with highlights: “California” is the imposing opening salvo, where guitars snarl and Dempsey’s soaring voice captures the veiled dual meaning of the lyrical refrain, “It’s a beautiful life”; “Transparanoia” is a monumental rock machine; “Down The Garden Path” a skewed romantic epic; “Impossible” has a gilded lustre; “Oh Kamikaze” is lithe and urgent.
There’s no filler to be found and you would expect nothing less from a group who’ve received 11 ARIA Award nominations, won JJJ’s Album of the Year and repeatedly made the top ten of the Hottest 100, twice been bestowed with Album of the Year by the readers of Rolling Stone, as well as nods for Single of the Year and Best Band, and also picked up Best Live Band at the Live Music Awards.
A succession of platinum-accredited albums has seen Something For Kate sell over 400,000 copies of their critically praised back catalogue – 1997’s Elsewhere For 8 Minutes , 1999’s Beautiful Sharks , 2001’s Echolalia and 2003’s No.1 debut, The Official Fiction – before the Melbourne-based trio began work on their new disc in 2004.
Having toured extensively in Europe as a take-no-prisoners 4-piece, the feeling within the band was that they were at a juncture point. The result was a shift towards a stripped-down, live rock sound: a pure trinity of guitars, bass and drums. As Paul Dempsey notes, “We really got into the lean, rock sound that we had started out with.”
“What mattered to me was that we made a record that musically went somewhere we hadn’t gone before,” adds Stephanie Ashworth. “We needed to be really happy with the basic elements and had to come out of the rehearsal process with something self-sufficient.”
Coming out of the rehearsal room, as the band readily admits, took them over 12 months. The most sustained bout of writer’s block Paul Dempsey had ever experienced becalmed Something for Kate.
“I knew the songs would come, they always do,” notes Paul Dempsey, “but the longer it takes the scarier it gets. This was a year of going to rehearsal every single day and just waiting for something. Any idea about who was going to listen to it went out the window. We wrote it for ourselves”.
Once the songs were ready (with the odd exception, finished during recording), Something for Kate quickly alighted on producer Brad Wood. In November of 2005 the band left for Los Angeles, where they would spend four months driving over the Hollywood Hills six days a week, from Silverlake to Wood’s Seagrass Studios in the San Fernando Valley.
“Brad would come and sit in the room and say, ‘Why don’t you change that verse and try it like this?’” recalls Clint Hyndman. “That had never happened with us before, but it was great because we were all open to his ideas. It sounds clichéd, but we tried to loosen things up and go with the flow.”
Adding backing vocals to the albums opening track “California” was acclaimed U.S. singer-songwriter Pete Yorn, while Mike Garson, the jazz pianist who wrote with and backed David Bowie throughout the mid ‘70s and 80s, contributes an inspired, gospel-tinged piano track to the final reverie, “Washed Out To Sea”.
For Paul Dempsey the album’s lyrics serve as a reflection of transience, a sense of being completely lost while knowing exactly where you are; noting the way that both people and ideas are now constantly on the move, resulting in a sense of speed but no permanence.
“There’s a lot about bearings and keeping a steady perspective,” he says. “People are moving from this trend to that trend, from this opinion to that opinion. People aren’t sticking to anything and the meaning is getting lost. Being jaded is the height of cool. It’s considered good to be cynical – and it’s not. Boredom is boring and being jaded is exhausting.”
For the trio, renewed by the experience of making Desert Lights , what’s important is creativity and expression. They’re enthusiastic about the finished album; keen to tour and looking forward to connecting with fans. They’ve got an appetite for construction.
“We’re all happy and excited and satisfied with this record,” admits Paul Dempsey. “2005 was a shitty year and writing this record was difficult, but at the end of it I’ve never been happier.”
“There are songs on this record that are the best we’ve ever written,” offers Stephanie Ashworth. “They’re really exciting to play-We’re excited about what comes next.”
Fuelled by a concussive energy, Desert Lights is a stunning and original rock record that fuses an intimate emotional depth with a stark aesthetic that can be both unruly and allusive. It’s an album that suggests tremendous growth, but without being sidetracked by the current era’s faddish fare. At a time in their career when most bands would simply trumpet their longevity, Something For Kate have reached a whole new level of achievement.
Albums / Lp’s / DVD’s
|Paul Dempsey||The Answer to Both Your Questions (EP 1996)|
|Stephanie Ashworth||Q&A With Dean Martin (EP 1996)|
|Clint Hyndman||Intermission (EP 1997)|
|Elsewhere for Eight Minutes (1997)|
|Beautiful Sharks (1999)|
|The Official Fiction (2003)|
|Desert Lights (2006)|
|A Diversion (DVD)|
|Leave Your Soul To Science (2012)|
|Leave Your Soul To Science (2012)||www.somethingforkate.com|