'FIBATTY!' from Augie MArch's Glenn Richards is beautiful, expressive and ultimately joyous.
Augie March are pillar of Australia’s indie music scene and, as such, musical royalty. This year was meant to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their seminal debut album ‘Sunset Studies’, accompanied by an Australian tour. However, other events intervened, and, like many creatives, the band was left somewhat in limbo: exacerbated by the fact that while most of the band is based in Melbourne, singer/songwriter Glenn Richards is based in Hobart and during the dark periods of lockdown and isolationism, never the twain met.
However, there is a faintly aspirational hope that every dark and stormy cloud has a silver lining, and in this case, such hope has come to fruition. Richards has spent his time isolated on the edge of the world putting together a brilliant solo album that sparkles and shines in spite of the deprivations we have all suffered. Richards says:
There’s little to be gained at this stage waxing about the strange year we’ve all probably had but I made this record for a number of reasons, chief among them being as a way to process the shift in things and the plain awfulness of a few events closer to home that happened to land in the middle of it. At the same time I tried to make something that would be enjoyable to listen to whether superficially, forensically or anywhere between.
It has hooks, humour, depth, polish and grime, and as much as is possible in a short album it contains traces of so many of my influences from the proponents of raw four track wizardry to the maestros of the most audacious studio trickery. In the end though it’s just me in my glorified shed in a backyard, isolation within isolation, hopefully a work of some fellowship and joy.
‘FIBATTY!’ is indeed a triumphal procession of pure pop songs that gathers a vast array of detectable influences ranging from The Go-Betweens, Radiohead, XTC and Blur to George Harrison to create something quite distinct and beautiful. Infused throughout with a melancholia born from these strange times, Richards deals with the personal (‘UR’) and humorously observational (‘In The Court of the Cat King’) as well as the minutiae of life with style and strong feeling.
‘In the Court of the Cat King’ is pure, luscious pop – layers of harmony and a melodic range as imposing as Hobart’s stunning kunyani (Mt Wellington), and just as enigmatic. This is gentle, gently humorous and flowing:
The album captures the ennui of life in isolation in a wry and humorous way – in ‘New Songwriter’ a Noel Coward-esque cabaret style song he addresses the creative embarking on solo writing (himself) whose ambitions, it feared, may exceed his abilities, a peon to insecurity:
‘Alive (Until You’re Not)’ epitomises the album’s tonal vibrancy: it has a driving up-beat and lilting tone with Richards’s gorgeous vocals and sweeping choruses and intelligent lyrics. The accompanying video, brilliantly self shot using a helmet camera in the streets of Hobart is perfect, capturing a wide-eyed sense of wonder and joy:
There is a Springsteen sweep to this track: epic, grand and statuesque pop with a cinematic vision.
The title track is a meandering dreamy piece which lays out for display Richard’s musical and production skills: a wide palette from which he paints an evocative mostly instrumental piece.
“Last Aid Kit’ is a languorous, slow burning track that is haunting and celestial, while ‘Stalker’ is reflective and imbued with the same wry self-reflection that encapsulates this album.
This is essentially an album born from isolation, deprivation, anxiety and indeed insecurity, and resulting, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, into something beautiful, expressive and ultimately joyous.
You can download/stream ‘FIBATTY!’ here.