Service Station Flowers - Joeys Coop (Citadel Records)
It’s tempting to do as the marketing does and label Joeys Coop’s “Service Station Flowers” as an outlet for Died Pretty guitarist Brett Myers. His distinctive sound is all over this album, like sunscreen and a rash-shirt on a redhead in summer, but this really is a record that’s more than just a billboard with all-star billing for one.
Singer Mark Roxburgh conceived Joeys Coop a couple of years ago, after the implosion of the reformed Decline of the Reptiles, and his vision was simple: He wanted to play with people whose work he’d long admired and to find an outlet for his own songs (something that Decline clearly was not.)
Roxburgh was joined by Myers, guitarist Matt Galvin (Eva Trout, Perry Keyes, Loose Pills), bass player Andy Newman (Decline, ME-262, The Soul Movers, The Deniz Tek Group) and drummer Lloyd Gyi (Perry Keyes, The Atlantics, Dave Warner.) Supergroup, much? It is if you grew up in Sydney in the 1980s.
As you can tell by the above associations, these guys have been around the block a few times. They’ve done that many loops that they’re perpetually dizzy. Developers of said block have had time to not only pave Paradise and put up a parking lot, but to add a 30-storey tower of units and a casino. If you haven’t got it yet, they’re all middle-aged blokes who play songs about middle-aged things.
You don’t have to dig deep lyrically to find out what they’re on about. Topics like big mortgages and bigger mid-life crises. Friends and families, past and present. Survival. Looming mortality is probably in there as well, somewhere under the surface.
Roxburgh is into telling stories. There are a few here. His vocal is up-front and arresting. Maybe an acquired taste for some but never retiring. He’s still the goods as a live front man, too.
The soaring “Take Me Away” was the lead-off single but you won’t find it here. What you will strike are 10 strong songs that are all Roxburgh/Myers compositions. It’s stating the obvious to say there’s a lot of Died Pretty in the jangle-and-storm of Myers’ playing. Roxburgh brings the lyrical twists that can come with having a Doctorate to your name.
(Visual Design, now that you ask. Myers works as an archaeologist, when he’s not sporadically moonlighting with Died Pretty so this is one pointy-headed brains trust, although their feet are well anchored in rock and roll.)
“Service Station Flowers” sounds fantastic and we can thank Wayne Connolly’s production for that. The band members’ mortgages might be big enough to strangle an eight-hands high equine (“Choke a Horse”) but they dug deep enough to find the bucks to drop on a nice studio.
A few of these tunes are growers rather than over-flowing with immediate pop hooks. There’s a dash of alt.country here (“Weight of the World”, “Streets of Newtown”) and psychedelia there, some heavy thud (“A Management Plan”) and some grind (“Dancing”.)
You’ll miss out if you don’t listen for the nuances. They’re especially there in the entwined guitar work of Myers and the underrated Galvin (who’s given free rein on “Weight of the World”.) Myers’ work is up there with his best and recalls the sound of his “other band” circa “Trace”. It’s his first recording since 2007 and if you’ve missed his soaring/searing leads, you’ll be happy. There’s subtlety at play, too.
Andy Newman’s bass is textured and unobtrusive. The same goes for Lloyd Gyi’s drumming, which is quite musical in its own right.
I’m not going to clinically dissemble each song and lay out its bones. You can do that yourself or read Mark’s own track-by-track rundown here. The songs aren't overloaded with pop hooks. They're growers - with durability and depth. I am going to tell you to approach "Service Station Flowers" with ears and wallet that are both open. Unlike the subject of its title, it's not cheap and will last more than a day.