Wednesday, October 03, 2007

78 Saab come out with their new album


Remember the first time you realised that your parents weren't all-knowing prophets, that they weren't unquestionable gods of reason and responsibility? How did we re-align our belief-systems the day we realised that Andrew Johns was just an ordinary guy from the coast who was just as good popping pills as he was at kicking drills? And what about the legendary "funny John" from Playschool doing the tutti frutti? Why, when I recently revisited that Playschool episode as a 24 year-old, was I so disappointed to see how out of tune he was, and how Jemima wasn't really an adventurous dame sailing the high seas as I remembered, but a floppy coffee-stained doll with black wool drooping from its head, being manoeuvred about in a ship made out of an ice cream container and old toilet rolls?

What do we do when our heroes let us down?

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Well, after two albums of pure magic, after stumbling across them as a pizza-faced 18 year old in Sydney's mythic Hopetoun Hotel, 78 Saab -aka: The SAAB, with their new album "The Bells Line", may have managed to disappoint me.

After the first initial listens, I feel like a man who has unwittingly stumbled across Audrey Tautou doing coke off a grimy toilet seat at Sydney City RSL. "No! You're Amélie! You don't need that! You enjoy life's simple pleasures! Like dipping your hand in a bag of seeds, piercing the crust of crème brûlée with the tip of a spoon, and skimming stones on Canal St Martin under the rain! Say it ain't so Aude-dog!"

Ben Nash, the lead singer, once said when describing the way he writes songs that he wanted to make people stop for three and a half minutes, take some time out of their hectic lives and just sit back, listen, smile and appreciate. Well, to me, whereas Cross Lines, their last amazingly multi-layered effort, only got better and better with each listen, this album wears out after only a few. The songs are simple without being catchy, and some of the lyrics quite frankly seem a little lazy. Compared with the tracks "Lean on In", "One of These days" and "Messed Up", which seem to have that mystic Saabish juxtaposition of mournful jubilation, of yearning for something just out of reach, the rest of the album seems totally attainable, a little too descriptive.

The beauty of the Saab is their ability to take you to another world. They can make you connect with feelings you know you always had but couldn't explain. They were those crème brulée cracking moments. They could take the ordinary and make it spectacular. Unfortunately, I feel like with this album, they took the ordinary and turned it into banal. Whereas I wanted to skim stones, they took me studying law textbooks.

Anyway, every "Frontline" has their "funky squad".

Sometimes I guess I wish I could just look at Jemima's boat and see past the toilet rolls again.

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