The Living Eyes - The Living Eyes (Z-Man Records)
Like what we all think of as ‘the '50s’, ‘the '60s’, as far as I can see, lasted from about 1963 to 1969. Unlike the preceeding decade, the breadth and scope of the musical landslide was so utterly extraordinary that bands are still borrowing and leaching off the period today.
Bands of the time rode the huge wave as long as they could, always trying to improve, add to and expand their sound (in the '60s more than the '50s). Usually such waves peak and crash, leaving foam, bubbles and confused spinning detritus in their wake. Diehards, hooked by the adrenalin rush of life at its peak, stay behind, watching the successive waves come in as the tide rolls out, increasingly desolate. With luck they stay with it long enough to see the next huge wave.
But these days very, very few bands actually get so absorbed with a small part of the time enough to try to replicate it, so kudos to the Living Eyes for having such a strange, determined focus, and for putting this one out. This lot seem to hail from Geelong, where I would hope they have a dancing, bonkers mob of followers, perhaps all dressed in that sharp, clean speed-infected London style the early 6ts exposed, but certainly their sound is sexy and distressed.
The songs aren’t as lovey-dovey as so many of the songs of the period, but zero in on the moral concerns of that decade, and ours - there’s a crisp contemporary snap to the lyrics - and the delivery is memorable. There’s a tuff snap-back tone to Living Eyes, and also a distinct Nuggetsish hint of the nastiness of punk on the horizon; sure you’ll probably recognise their favourite records. Not the point. This is a strong first lp and I want to see just how they shape up live. Looking back on the original 6ts bands, you see a certain clutter of direction; what the Living Eyes do is provide a clear-cut snapshot of today through a 6ts lens. The beauty of that snapshot is that it could come from any decade.
My favourite two tracks are "Economy First" and "Stuck in My Own World", with "Down and Out", "Heard It all Before", "Slave Labour" and "Outta Doubt" honourable mentions. Definitely a band to watch, emphatically, see them if they play anywhere near you. - Robert Brokenmouth
Scratch below the surface and you'll find the best thing going on in Oz rock these days is derivative, early-'60s punk rock. Take another look under the veneer and you'll find a good part of that action is going down in the scuzzy and economically run-down Victorian city of Geelong. That's where The Living Eyes call home.
Damned if these guys and their neighbours/brothers The Frowning Clouds aren't among the best young Aussie bands around. Both The Clouds and The Eyes are deeply indebted to their dads' record collections (we're not talking K-Tel "20 Fabulous Hits" here) but what they're soaked up is interpreted through their own ears. In the case of The Living Eyes, it's retrogressive and reassuring but fresh, with a line drawn directly back through the early Stones and Kinks, The Missing Links and the Elevators.
The Living Eyes figured on 2012's Aussie "Nuggets" compilation and, fittingly enough, had a cassette out before a full-blown album. This makes sense.
The Living Eyes turn up the fuzz in parts and mostly eschew The Frowning Clouds' gentler touches. More whiny than snotty but gritty all the same, they play with an assured confidence that stamps these 11 songs as something special. Musty never smelt so good.
"The Living Eyes" takes a while to kick into full groove but once it does it doesn't let up. The slippery string run and rumbling bass emboss "Economy First" as the best of a bright bunch. Billy Gardner's chiming guitar and snarling vocal underlines that he's misunderstood but there's no missing the barbs in this wire. The chugging "Outta Doubt" kicks in straight after and finds Gardner and Mitch Campleman effectively meshing guitars while the engine room nails it to the floor.
"Heard It All Before" is the fuzzy barn-burner, a distorto stomp-around-the-block that spits defiance in every brief verse. Sparking guitars light up the break and then it's headlong into the outro. Of course that one and most of these songs average two-and-a-half minutes and the whole platter clocks in at just under 30 minutes. No sense sitting still for long.
Mr Everywhere on the Melbourne garage scene, Mikey Young, has done a magic job on production and it's no shock to find the album took just two days to record. Spontaneity well harnessed. The band sounds tight but the songs still breathe.
There's garage rock and there's garage rock. Sometimes the stripey shirts and AC-30s merge into a blur. Not so The Living Eyes. Trust me on this one. - The Barman