Swing meets that old swagger with Dave and Clare
"In a MistLY" - Dave Graney and Clare Moore (Cockaigne)
It's an astonishing thing, the passage of time. One minute we're slavering over the new LP by our superstar heroes and the next, it seems, we're old, fat and bald and fuck me sweetly, is this the 24th Dave Graney album?
Sorry, not counting his time with The Moodists, live LPs, compilation LPs and soundtracks...
How the fuck did that happen?
(Looks down at unacceptably fat tum, peers bewildered into mirror at fat bald git)
(Winces as recognises self)
Ah well, at least there's the Dave Graney and Clare Moore LP, “In a MistLY”.
Two songs in and I'm disgusted with myself. Last time these characters were in Adelaide town, there was a family thing I couldn't get out of.
Next time they're in town, Mum can get to and from her bloody operation on her own.
Having seen Dave Graney and Clare Moore on stage since 1979, I can state that the one thing they've always had is (as the song indicates) "That Old Swagger"; once upon a time there was a thirst, a need for recognition... now, they're still doing their groovy thing.
This band swings rather than rocks, and that's down to Clare and Stu Thomas (drums and bass), with Stuart Perera's rather gorgeous, sexpot guitar and Dave Gray's occasional smoochy sax.
All off the back of Graney's trademark droll humour (which hides, or stifles, I fancy, a truly savage mind) is here. Lookee:
They love that old swagger
in the nursing home at sundowners hour
watch your back!
I got that old swagger
my eyes are shot
my hands are shakin’
buttons bustin’ offa my shirt
but I got that old swagger
I couldn't help having a snigger, before realising with a guilty start... ah, you know where I'm going.
Okay. Ever since I've been watching, Graney (and his enabling accomplice, Moore) has been like a louche observer on the world. Not so much with the bluntness of a Wilde, or a political 'big picture' kinda fella, but ... he sees the people milling around, their delusions, and his, swirling about like leaves in the gutter, and he sees them with sympathy, understanding, and instead of (say) condescension, he has this sort of ... droll acceptance. I mean, satirists (barely) conceal their rage, but Dave Graney ... just gets on. Gets by. Somehow. And writes about it with the kind of elegance I lack.
Even when Graney's eyeing someone who's bad ... Come with me a moment. Back in them old days (what? 1981?), the worst he'd sing of someone was that they were “a bad shape caught in our back yard”…”something from sleep caught in our light” who “was still there when he had gone”. Now that's poetry. That's evocative. And quite scary.
I've often wondered what would have happened if Dave Graney the man had decided to write screenplays or horror/ thrillers.
We'd be deprived of so many classic LPs by Dave, Clare and co, that's what.
Ideas we could never have thought of, not if we lived a century more. "Tang" is an epitome of Graney's distorted but accepting world-view - an instant orange drink (just add water) becomes a metaphor for meth (as social media), and that, folks, is pretty ingenious.
"In a MistLY" nods at period lounge, period cinema ... with Dave playing the ultra-confident lizard narrator, observing and remarking on the low-level, low key epic events twisting around us all. For example, if anyone else bar Dave Graney tried cooing;
How can I be old?
I schemed and I drank
I try to run - I do some weights
I think of old friends
I stop and see myself
Who is that? who is that old man?
…we'd run a mile. Too miserable. Too finite. Too final.
Would a punk band roar and rant at the unfairness of things, playing the endless hurt victim (as too many punk bands do)? Would a boy band pout and pirouette, waggling their bottoms and treating the whole thing as a bit of a joke? How would (say) our PM deliver the lines? How would Barnaby Joyce?
None of them could deliver these lines like Graney does. Simply magnificent.
Lola Bennett photo
So how do we react? We don't run the proverbial mile (well, as far as the kitchen, just for the look of things). No. We smile, tap our foot, maybe heave ourselves up for a genteel gyration round the room, acknowledging the truth while smiling at ourselves.
Dave hasn't changed all that much, really, over the years. There's a deliberate stylised gloss, of course, but it makes for pleasing listening, rather than some bonkers producer taking someone's music and turning a Baltimore apartment into (say) a chicken factory or a Baz Luhrmann splurk.
Sure, “ageing” and the world kept a-turning is one of the themes Graney writes about here. But more to the point, we're more familiar with that idea than we were ten or more years ago. But I keep coming back to the way the songs seduce and wrap their silken arms around us, just like real events and people do. Take, say, "Velvets MC", a groovitan lullaby, the antithesis of the song's namesake (figure it out);
get on - get off
subway in the sky
heroes and villains
born to lose
die to win
The inspiration for this one? Not giving it away. But it's a lovely, quiet piece which swings slowly ... until the creepy lovely piano slides into place. Most folks will, I suspect, use the song as an excuse to snog their new pal/ visit the bathroom/ visit the bar. Similar territory as The Clash's "Death or Glory" but a lot less desperate.
He's an observer of our panto, ok? Not his fault if he sees us in a jaded light. He's seen too much. What goes on in Dave Graney's head? “Lord, what fools these mortals be?”
Yet the band's music seeps empathy and understanding. Dave Wray's sax is magical.
Actually, while I think of it. This review is over - "In a MistLY" is excellent, a classic in its field (and really, there's only one outfit anywhere near this field) and about now you should be reaching for your credit card or iPhone.
And, check their webpage, and go and see them. Buy the album.
Rejoice that these people are still out there, making a difference to our landscape.
PS I apologise to all who will now have nightmares in which Barnaby Joyce appears in a red velvet suit, crooning
There must be words that I can say
there must be clothes that I can wear
there must be places that I can go now
some things will be finished
some things I won't remember right
…with the MistLY backing him. Good thing I didn't mention Cardinal Pell.
Tags: clare, cockaigne, dave graney, moodists, stu thomas, in a mistly, stuart perera, dave gray
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