From Geek Goes Rogue TV Editor Zach W. Lorton, who can’t seem to shake the change in seasons affecting his sinuses…
Some weeks ago, I introduced the Geek Goes Rogue agents to a band from Australia called Tripod. This trio of very talented musician/comedians have been huge down under for more than a decade, but their presence on this side of the globe has been fairly minimal.
Thanks to advances in technology and this wonderful thing we call the interwebs, we have access to most of Tripod’s musical catalog, and I have recently acquired 2 albums they released earlier this year.
Men of Substance was released in late March, and it showcases the band in studio with a full rhythm section arrangement, which is not how they usually perform. The band has a great chemistry about them in a live setting, and much of the entertainment is in their choreography, the way they banter about with one another, and there’s an energy present that draws the viewer in. On this newest album, the visual aspect is gone, but the spirit remains, and Men of Substance is a great album in that regard.
Upon first listen, I almost didn’t keep going because the first two cuts, “Adult Contemporary” and “DILF”, sounded different in their musical energy than what I was used to hearing from the band. The humor and commentary are just as timely and biting as ever, as if both opening songs justify the cover art — the band looks older, more mature, and comfortable in their station in life. The songs work, though, with “Adult Contemporary” revealing that it’s no longer about being cool, but about “keeping warm”, and “DILF” (it doesn’t mean what you think it means) revealing that they know what the older women like, and they are ready to be those calm, centered, stable men. Tongue in cheek, to be sure.
The full band arrangements give great life and energy to many of the songs, including “Triangle of Happiness” (a gloriously delirious sendup of how we view the superficiality of location, location, location), the mid-week party rock song “Thursday” (“don’t stop me … ’cause I can stop myself”), and one of my favorites from the album, “One More Annoying Couple”, which contains some of the best harmonies the band has ever recorded.
Several of the songs support the age the band is feeling, including the throwback to home computing at a time when programs were still found on cassette tapes (“Waiting For the Game to Load”), and planning for the future (“The Blueprint”). These songs belong in Tripod’s canon, even though fans of the band may find them a little left of center based on their previous works. But really, when you have a band this good taking stock of their advancing age, when they can handle it so deftly as they do on these songs, you can’t deny that they work very well.
Of course, surrealism pokes it head on a few tracks. “Lingering Dad”, a track that was featured in its live form on the Songs From Self Saucing album, finds the full band arrangement here adding an epic feel to its short runtime. “BAS Time” is a fun, mind-bending look at filling out a Business Activity Statement (tax forms for us Yankees), and any fan of mathematics will enjoy this one. And “I Am Beautiful” makes me laugh every single time I hear it. Absolutely priceless.
Perfect Tripod: Australian Songs finds the band teaming up with award-winning stage actor and comedian Eddie Perfect, whose smooth baritone adds the bottom layer to Tripod’s already rich blend of voices in a mostly a cappella recording. The quartet performed several concerts with a format of performing songs by Australian artists, and the subsequent album was released at the end of August this year.
This album covers songs from the classic to the contemporary, and the band does a nice job of pulling off some great arrangements. Not everything here is magic, but the songs that resonate work extremely well.
The band goes straight into the contemporary realm with the Gotye song “Hearts A Mess” to kick things off, a wonderful way to introduce longtime Tripod fans to the project as a whole. Thirteen tracks are found here, and we see a different side to the group’s talent, as most of these songs are done humorlessly. There’s no lack of energy here at all, however, from the band or in their arrangements. Australian Crawl’s new wave track “Errol” gets a great treatment, as well as The BeeGees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” and John Farnham’s classic rock track “You’re The Voice”.
The band gets creative with their versions of Cold Chisel’s “Forever Now” and Men At Work’s “Overkill”, going so far as to change the meter of the latter, giving it a decidedly different feel from the original. Kylie Minogue’s “Better the Devil You Know” provides the band with a chance to swing, which they do fairly effortlessly.
Contemporary artists are featured quite well, including a standout track “Oh Well, That’s What You Get Falling in Love With a Cowboy” by Lanie Lane, where the band is supported by a light rhythm section, and Lane’s chirpy soprano is replaced with Perfect’s solid, slithery baritone providing the melody. The song that probably launched this whole project, the Paul Kelly-penned hymn “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air” holds as true and strong as if it was performed by even the most talented choir.
Perfect Tripod’s version of “Reminiscing” is a faithful adaptation of the 1970s soft rock tune, making the song sound just as fresh as it was when released back in 1978. That’s the magic of this collection — great songs, no matter what their format or when they were released, are timeless. They can be covered and remade over and over again, and still maintain the magic of the moment they were first recorded. To their credit, Perfect Tripod have chosen a fantastic set of songs to be the crux of this recording.
The only thing Tripod fans will miss about this recording is the humorous element to Tripod’s live performances. These are straight-up, honest renditions of songs that the band feels give a great cross-section of Australian pop culture, so there’s not much room for being silly. The arrangements that work well are stellar, while the ones that may not work quite as well are still pretty good. However, if Australian Songs is any indicator, we can expect great things from these guys in the future.
Men of Substance Rating – 8 Geeks out of 10
Perfect Tripod: Australian Songs Rating – 7 Geeks out of 10
EDIT: I almost forgot… here’s an early performance of Tripod and Eddie Perfect on the ABC-TV program Sideshow, performing “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air”. You’ll see why a partnership developed.
Zach W. Lorton is a media producer and professional DJ/MC by trade, and a comedian, actor, and musician by default. His debut music project is set to begin recording in 2014, and will likely take the world by storm, possibly in the form of a Sharknado.