ROADHOUSE Tracks Reviewed by Backseat Mafia's Arun Kendall
Premiere: The Double Happiness take a refreshing stop at the ‘Roadhouse’: a wild west refuge filled with reverb, poignancy and epic widescreen poetry, and announce album launch date.
We have long admired the inherent joie de vivre and creativity of Brisbane’s The Double Happiness and are overjoyed to be able to bring you an exclusive early listen to their new album ‘Roadhouse’, along with brief, sometimes cryptic, sometimes hilarious, comments by the band on each track.
The release is unavoidably imbued with an inherent sadness despite the band’s desire to concentrate on the music: the tragic passing of bass player and singer Meg Welchman earlier this year infuses every note with a retrospective blue fugue. Welchman played and sung on all of the tracks before her passing and this is in sense a fitting requiem for her. The very name of the band reflected the joy of two couples playing together and writing songs that seem in their very DNA to create something very special. This is not band of teenage ingenues: it consist of people whose love of music, songwriting and performing brought them together in 2016 with a sense of camaraderie and maturity: a fully formed band that seems to have been together for decades but whose previous history is in fact a little mysterious.
Last year’s debut, ‘Surfgazing’, reflected an innovative melange of dream pop, Australiana and an unique style that seemed to contain the very salty air and ocean waves of the Queensland coast. ‘Roadhouse’ heads away from the coast and seemingly travels to the hinterland in a battered ute: an exploration of the antipodean countryside through the eyes of Sergio Leone and David Lynch, telling tall tales with a wicked glint in the eye and a chewed cigar in the mouth. Trembling guitars scythe their way through the red dusty earth painting trails across the bright blue skies, while the vocals with their distinct Australian vernacular are raw and wry.
The album opens with ‘Red Room’, scratching picks on strings and rumbling percussion and bass, a mysterious timbre with half spoken distorted vocals. It is a dramatic opening move: setting the scene for the tone of the rest of the album. The mysterious, reverberated guitars etch graffiti across the wall, the bass brings to mind a cheap-suited private detective lurking in the shadows while the guitar riffs recalls the James Bond theme. A reading from the book of David. In Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation book – Catching The Big Fish – he describes the very moment that he leans on the warm roof of a car, and ‘the Red Room appears’.
Next track, ‘Smoking Gun’, was the lead single from the album. It eschews the standard shoegaze dream pop surf music the band has perfected for something that has a Sergio Leone whiff of bleached bones in the hot dry desert about it, where the jingle jangle sound emanates from the spurs of a posse and rolling tumbleweeds provide an enigmatic backdrop. This is a band, after all, that loves to imbue their music with theatricality and drama laced with an irreverent and dry sense of humour.
Like a meeting between Nancy Sinatra and Johnny Cash on a Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack, ‘Smoking Gun’ just oozes a laconic and insouciant chic: studied and cool, louche and filled with a wry attitude. The distant wailing trumpet and crystalline sharp guitars evoke a harsh sunlit world of circling vultures over a parched landscape while the dual vocals are dark and sonorous with a reverberated barbed wire edge – storytelling of the most evocative style that seems laced with an ominous timbre. Part aftermath of a high-noon shootout, part near death experience, Smoking Gun brings in some firsts for TDH. Trumpet, trombone and nylon strings create a backdrop for a Spaghetti western or a Tarentino flick.
‘Warrego’ has a fifties reverb-soaked edge with dual vocals distant and studied and a high-stepping lilt. There is a B-52’s tone and a Cramps frenetic, dangerous pace while the whistling notes recall a spaghetti western soundtrack.
The well worn highway takes us westwards on a road trip from Ipswich to Charleville. We go, Warrego… YAH!
Dual vocals also feature in ‘Audrey’ with its measured pace and witty wry story-telling. Fuzzy guitars almost fill in the story line about the mysterious happenings befalling the protagonist as they lilt through the song. What the hell, indeed, is happening with Audrey? What the hell is happening with Audrey? Audrey Horne – the Twin Peaks siren – finds herself on the edge of reality, gasping, dancing, talking in circles. We can feel her descent into madness as the song spirals through its climax.
‘Finding Your Feet’ has the deepest and most sonorous vocals that scrape the floors, with strings, arpeggiated light guitars and ethereal backing vocals providing a counterpoint. On the Camino trail, the hours melt, the days grow like trees. Plenty of time to listen to the spirits as they whisper, “just go within.” The long journey is a test of will over the body’s yearning for rest.
‘Drive In’ has a lighter timbre – an evocative depiction of life in a country town with smuggled friends at a drive in – reflective and poignant observations about a different time and place over jangling guitars. It is imbued with a delicate melancholy that is heart achingly beautiful. Nostalgia and local references collide as we pull into the Drive In, outta town. The origins of Australia’s first Drive In Theatre in Melbourne in 1955, memories of family outings and first dates and the demise of the outdoor theatre comprise the verses of this feel good yet melancholic jangle.
‘Ride Alone’ shimmers and trebles like wild west soundtrack with a melancholy hue. Aka ‘The Ballad of Deadly Dick’. A cursed cowboy reflects on his woeful dating history, until he finds a saloon wench completely irresistible.
Jagged tremeloed guitars and splashing instrumentation feature in ‘Raggedy Dog’ with gorgeous call and response shared vocals. The band’s inherent sense of humour and laconic style are ever present.
The family dog grows old and stinky but is so loved.
‘Dingo’ boot scoots its way across the horizon with its frenetic pace and distant vocals.
Out cycling, the most beautiful dog lay dead on the side of the road. The song wrote itself.
Title track ‘Roadhouse’ has the raw cutting edge of early Nick Cave tumbling in the dry creek bed with Link Wray and Rowland S Howard. Rough hewn guitars eviscerate the entwined bodies and haunting ethereal backing vocals wail like distraught ghosts as they observe the viscera below. The track leaves us with ghostly wisps of feedback and sonic mutterings wailing in the air: a elegiac farewell.
As Bob looks on, this song swoops like an owl over the Twin Peaks township where all is not what it seems. The theremin suggests influences from space and the Black Lodge.
It goes without saying that ‘Roadhouse’ is a spectacular and quite unique release. While there are discernible and identifiable DNA strands that bring in a coterie of influences – the deranged guitars of Rowland S Howard, the linguistic battery of Nick Cave, the reverberated sweep of Ennio Morricone, the storytelling sorrow of Johnny Cash – the band has forged its own antipodean sonic architecture that uniquely reflects the Queensland environment. This is an ambitious album that eschews standard indie pop tropes – it develops a style that is like nothing else around, it tells tall stories, personal vignettes and pognant reflections over a vast sweeping vista of endless horizons and red dusty earth, with guitars that weep and wail, gnash their teeth and reverberate and shimmer.
‘Roadhouse’ is out on Thursday, 15 September through the legendary 4000 Records, but you can have an early listen here: https://soundcloud.com/4000recs/sets/the-double-happiness-roadhouse
September 13, 2022