Foggy Notion's second dose of irreverence cuts through the lockdown haze

foggy notion cvrVolume 2 – Foggy Notion (self released)

About 12 months ago, we made a bold resolution. “When things open up again, we’re going out as much as we can, just so we’ve enjoyed life before everything shuts down again.” (The immediate reaction amongst friends to our reference to the likelihood of further lockdowns was nervous incredulity.)

When venues opened up in late 2020, so we stayed true to our declaration, indulging as much live music as domestic logistics and financial realities would permit, preferably younger bands.

I’d seen Foggy Notion a few times before the world shut down, initially at the behest of James McCann back in early January 2018.

‘They’re playing on the same bill as us next weekend at the Tote, you should check them out,’ James implored. As usual, James’ counsel was wise: catchy melodies, amusing lyrics, sharp musicianship, Canned Heat shooting the breeze in outlaw country territory illuminated by a ray of psychedelic sunlight.

Later, there was the launch of the Foggies’ debut (digital only – “Volume 1”) album at the Yarra Hotel, a Friday night gig at Cactus Room in Thornbury (still, pound for pound, beer for beer and band for band, my favourite venue in Melbourne) and just as the heavy doors of lockdown began to close, a set in the Tote front bar.

When public life threatened to return to some semblance of normality in late 2020, Foggy Notion appeared again - inadvertently becoming a talismanic illustration of Melbourne’s stuttering public policy response to the pandemic and our own philosophical disposition.

We watched them shred country blues outside at the Tote on a sunny Saturday afternoon in January, a Sunday night residency at the Old Bar in March and a truly insane show at the Tramway Hotel in April where a friend of the band secured entry to the sold-out gig by procuring an unattended 44-gallon drum (onya Zane!).

The gigs were always fun, the zestful, fun-packed antidote to the sanctimonious middle-class types who continued to suffocate public discourse. Fuck, you could almost forget that the world had largely gone to shit over the previous 12 months.

Ironically, our temporal reference points for the inevitable wintertime lockdowns are calibrated by reference to lost Foggy gigs. A Thursday night set at the Labour in Vain immediately preceded Lockdown #4 (or was it #5?), a promised double set at the Gem Bar faded into the distance, an Old Bar gig disappeared and the promised launch of Foggy’s second (again, digital only) album at the Evelyn Hotel went the way of uncorroborated rumour.

Somewhere in that spluttering live music calendar Foggy Notion recorded a second album, its title (“Volume 2”) a numerical successor to the enigmatic title of the debut. Led by Maxine Fink’s halting Patti Smith-esque vocals and Nashville-via-Lorne songwriting talents, it’s all good fun, from the opening boot scooting country skiffle rhythm and romantic closure of “The Gate” to the irreverent tongue-wedged-firmly-in-cheek nihilism of “I Don’t Care”.

When the pace eases off in “Waiting”, it’s all laconic back porch musing and the cleanest guitar licks this side of the Canyon; roll over, and it’s slide guitar heaven and Shyam Carroll’s gravelly subcultural sociological musings. Lest you’re feeling too lazy to dance, get off your proverbial and groove to the surfside Johnny Cash shuffle of “Have You Seen My Baby”.

From there you get “Losing Momentum”, an explicable few minutes of respite to pause and reflect before indulging the lysergic gothic desert excitement of “Coffin Car” and Morricone in boardies instrumental beauty of “S-Ghetti”. 

“Planning Man” shows that prevarication and financial pragmatism can be forces of artistic excellence, while “Don’t Kill Me” transforms from lament to resolute Merle Haggard lovin’ emotional rebuke in the twinking of an eye.

Saving the best for last, there’s “Dead Inside”, as inspiring and life-inducing as its lyrics walk the link between downcast and angry. Oh, and just to make it even better there’s some killer country guitar shredding, a funky as all fuck bass solo, slide guitar grooves and harmonica riffing unearthed from the foothills of Laurel Canyon. The song builds to a crescendo and you’re in another world, forgetting about the crap of this one, when the future is about embracing the potential of what lies ahead not fearing what might be around the corner. And when Maxine Fink breaks across Tim Ryles’ frenetic beat to holler the impending finale, you’re in a very good place.

Rumour has it that a record deal and physical release is on the horizon; hopefully, that’ll come to fruition around the same time live music returns to a relatively unencumbered form in Melbourne. Until then, head over to Foggy Notion’s Bandcamp page and see what you might have been missing and hopefully will see again.

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Tags: melbourne, country, alt-country, james mccann, volume 2, foggy notion

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