Murphnick is the nome de plume of one Nick Murphy and it has been a strange ride for Murphy to reach this stage, to say the least. More of that story later, for it doesn’t define the nature nor quality of his new album ‘Strange Ride’ – a glorious collection of understated indie pop anthems that should slot him in amongst the pantheon of antipodean greats.
Murphnick’s style has an alt folk gene threaded through with a subtle indie rock complexity both in instrumentation and melody. The result is beautiful, intelligent harmonious songs that blends a Simon and Garfunkel elegance with the statuesque pop of XTC and the antipodean rough edges of bands like The Triffids or The Apartments.
Opening track ‘Cry Tears’ is a gorgeous, reflective start with its sweeping, weeping strings, chugging guitars and Murphy’s layered harmonies a celestial burnish over the top. There is a deep melancholic note and the lyrics are poetic:
Feel the rain drops upon my face in the morning
In the stillness, I feel your heartbeat racing
Tear away the shackles that can bind
Cry tears, cry tears, cry tears
‘How Easily We Slide’ has an alt country blush but with a guitar jingle jangle reminiscent of REM and Murphy’s poeticism shining through over a hyperactive bass.
‘Fakin’ It’, an early single, is the track that highlights the journey Murphy has been through to get to his current moniker. Let Murphy tell you the strange tale about how an astonishingly overrated artist with a baffling level of popularity took Murphy’s identity:
This is lyrically the most obvious song on the album, describing my experience when Chet Faker changed his name back to Nick Murphy. He originally became Chet because of me, friends and fans of his were attending my shows, seeing the wrong Nick. His transition back to being NM came with a big publicity push, online and on the street. He was everywhere, images of him were next to my songs online, I had been removed from a famous online music platform and legal options were limited. I was lost to the determinations of dominant search engines, no one could find me.
Murphy’s response was the celestial track ‘Fakin’ It’ – a heart achingly beautiful song that recounts the strange ride Murphy went though as a result of this episode. It has the harmonies and melodies that would sit comfortably in an XTC setlist, a pure yearning delivery that recounts the personal angst and loss of identity that Murphy went through:
How will they know which one is faking it?
(And can I come back?)
My name is no longer mine & now he’s making it
(And can I come back?)
How will they know which one is faking it?
(How can I come back?)
Hey, we had a deal but now he’s broken it
(Now can I come back?)
There is a deep seated poignant tone in this track for sure, but at the end of that day it is the purest of buoyant pop.
A brief musical interlude ‘Dream In Film’ is followed by the power pop fizz of ‘Double Agent’, an euphoric track that shimmers and shines with a pop sparkle, a monumental chorus and guitars that chime like bells.
Mention must be made again of Murphy’s poetic expression – lyrics that are just brilliant in expression and tone:
Those letters faded now I can’t explain
How every word radiates from the page
Some full of elation, some filled with rage
The laughter and pain, the tragic refrain
Oh, whatever made you happy was a mystery to me
In the sleepless hours, I still wonder where you are
‘To The World’ has a sixties Burt Bacharach stature about it – simple dappling guitars supporting Murphy’s dreamy vocals and the celestial melodies. Ghostly choruses and cellos drift in and out of the sonic reverie. ‘Coming Home To You’ features Murphy’s falsetto singing over a driving instrumentation that recalls the Stones or Dylan with a surprising flourish of a sixties soul infusion. It’s almost a funky diversion with an expectation of hearing the Memphis Horns bursting through, and underlies Murphy’s creative strength and willingness to explore different musical horizons.
Murphy gets his rock and roll mojo working in ‘Cold Is The Crime’ with its visceral exposé of betrayal over rolling pianos and fuzzy guitars whereas ‘On A Quiet Day’ rumbles along with an alt country rollocking lilt and a twang in the vocals. ‘High Wind In Jamaica’ is another musical interlude consisting of shimmering guitars with a tremolo blush and wild piano landscapes.
Thematically ‘Bam’ deals with Murphy’s sense of frustration with the vicissitudes of life as an artist and the ephemeral nature of fame delivered in a style that recalls Pink Floyd in its swagger. The final track is the title track that again has a Pink Floyd element to it – the more raw side as opposed to the psychedelic version as Murphy decries the weird turns that happen in life and the inherent inequities that occur. It is a bluesy farwell that ultimately has within it a certain powerful defiance.
‘Strange Ride’ is a multi-layered album that travels across genres seamlessly, and with a poetic brilliance, fueled by an injection of highest voltage of power pop and a burning melancholy that seeps through every note. It has a unique antipodean flavour that far exceeds the quality and stature of any namesake or pretender that may come along.
‘Strange Ride’ is out now through the magnificent Cheersquad Records and Tapes and available through the link above.
Before releasing his debut solo album, ‘Breaking The Light’ in 2006, Nick Murphy had firmly established his reputation as a key founding member and songwriter for Melbourne pop psych outfit, The Anyones, who toured the US and Australia on the back of 2 highly acclaimed and internationally released albums with the likes of The Killers, The Vines, Jet, Sloan, Morrissey, The Music, Youth Group, Dallas Crane, You Am I, Even and more.
Nick released a 2nd record, ‘What’s In Your Mind?’ in 2011. Both records received wide critical acclaim, received lots of airplay on ABC community radio as well as TV shows such as Home & Away, Neighbours, and Tripping Over. Meanwhile, Nick’s solo bands toured the country with such local heroes as Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males, The Gin Club, Even, Ross McLennan and The New World Orchestra, Screamfeeder & 78 Saab. After releasing ‘What’s In Your Mind?’, Nick Murphy accepted a number of offers to be the hired gun in numerous Melbourne original, tribute and cover bands, helping out various buddies including Chris Altmann, Mia Dyson, Luke Sinclair, Ben Mason, Liz Stringer, Ross McLennan, Davey Lane, Ash Naylor and Suzannah Espie. Playing with this incredible range of musos at different times, Nick found himself straddling the sounds coming from both sides of the Atlantic, both Americana and English rock.
If there is any justice, this album is a signifier of Murphy’s immense talent and it can only be hoped he returns to the great heights he deserves.