I’m going to call it right now, and you heard it first here (maybe). I’ve been alluding to it in a number of reviews I’ve written over the past 18 months but there is an emerging movement – let’s call it the Marrickville Sound – that has dominated the indie scene in Australia. Emanating from the inner west suburb of Sydney, Marrickville, there may be a tenuous and nebulous links to the suburb but there is a definitely a long list of bands I’ve been reviewing that have a connection – whether it be recording at the Lost Sound Recording Studio, on the Half A Cow Records label and the emerging Broken Stone Records, rehearsing at the Dead Ibis Burger Studio or Stagedoor, or playing at the multiplying venues in the area – Marrickville Bowling Club, Golden Barely Hotel, Lazybones Lounge, Gasoline Pony.
It is undeniably a sound with its genetic origins in the eighties Dunedin Sound with an infectious strain traceable to Brisbane. A sonic line stretching from The Clean, The Bats, The Chills in New Zealand to The Go-Betweens and The Apartments. Guitar-driven, jangling, melodic pop tunes with themes that share a common link to the vicissitudes of everyday live, the minutiae of existence, growing old, up and out. Sometimes with a touch of alt. country, sometimes not. Many of the bands have history from the nineties and now the kids are grown up and things have settled down, they’ve re-awoken dormant, suppressed creative urges, reconnected with old band buddies. Anatomy Class, The Electorate, Key Out, The Finalists, Jo Meares, Golden Fang, Infinity Broke, Buddy Glass, Magnetic Head, Damien Binder, Dominic Breen, Reality Instructors, Wilding, The Wednesday Night. To name but a few. Maybe some of these bands have nothing whatsoever to do with Marrickville, but I’m putting them in the list.
Which brings us to the new release ‘Dream Buffet’ from Restless Leg, another integral part of the Marrickville Sound. To save time if you’re exhausted by my previous diatribe, ‘Dream Buffet’ is brilliant.
‘Dream Buffet’ opens with the single’ ‘The World’s A Room’, an archetypal antipodean indie rock classic with its lilting melodies and indelible refrain.
Singer/songwriter Ben Chamie says of the track:
This was the last song written for Dream Buffet, at the height of the COVID-lockdown in Sydney in 2020. It was probably around the same time that D.C. Cross released his record of classical guitar compositions (Terabithian) of which he said ‘were not at all concerned with the current social state [i.e. the pandemic]. Total escapism through music’. In stark contrast ‘The World’s A Room’ stares directly into the time-bending tic-toc of lockdown and invites you to dance, by yourself, to some Flying Nun compilation tape you dug out from the early-1990s. It kinda comes at the same problem, but from a different angle.
The lyrics beautifully and poetically capture the sense of lockdown disconnect caused by the strange year that 2020 was:
Turns out all the world’s a room
I walked for miles in my room
I climbed a mountain, climbed a stair
I reached the peak I’d gone nowhere
In the very same moment
The crystalline guitars that create a mesmerising circular phrasing and the driving powerful rhythm section provides forward motion underneath the vocals, with the backing vocals launching the song into space, adding depth and pathos.
‘Oblivion Banjo’ has the clatter and pace of anything from The Clean or The Bats: naked emotions in the vocals and a rousing chorus with disassociated backing vocals. ‘Caught The Corners’ has a psychedelic vibe with its twelve string jangle and Robert Forster-style studied half-spoken vocals, a slight discordancy, a cool distant tone.
‘A Song About A Song’, released as a single just before the release of the album has an insistent forward motion with the buzz of Velvet Underground and an enigmatic vibe and monstrous chorus. Feedback hovers at the edges, a buzzsaw catch to the drone background and a hint of a hammond organ wash. Wild unhinged guitars scythe their way through the steady dirge. It’s a magnificent track worthy of any of the mentioned influences. Chamie says of the song:
‘A Song About A Song’ is such a fun song to play. Probably because it lets all of the band’s Velvet Underground inspired rock fantasies play out. Lyrically inspired by the back cover of Paul Kelly’s Post album and the song ‘Incident On South Dowling’ off that album. I was just thinking about that place: the corner of Sth Dowling and Fitzroy Street, the Hopetoun at the other end of Fitzroy Street.
Restless Leg create their own untrammelled magic:
And when the band jangles, it jangles with statuesque magnificence. ‘The Wheel It Turns’, another single, simply sparkles.
The track is full of boundless energy and pop sensibilities with anthemic choruses, jangling guitars and an inherent joie de vivre. Twelve-string guitars add a shining lustre with a searing keyboard riff and celestial melodies that ring out endlessly and imbed themselves in your psyche.
Ah, the lottery of life! ‘Another year, another one / so I tallied up everything I done’ is a happy rumination on the ever-changing, cyclical nature of life – with stabby keyboards a la The Clean’s Tally Ho and in a 2-minute pop song format. Adam’s 12-string guitar, sparkles like the Byrds and the Go-Betweens at the same time. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a quick bike ride to the shops on a bright sunny morning, but a difficult earworm to dislodge.
While the transience of life reflects the bitter challenges many of us have faced over the last 12 months, this type of prescription from Restless Leg is the best medicine available. There is an inherent sense of joy while a subtle melancholic air imparts a sense of wistfulness. A perfect mix for classic indie pop.
The accompanying video captures that sparkly element in its simplicity, shot under the cloudless blue skies of Sydney:
Importantly, the sounds of Restless Leg are not a single colour wash on the canvas. The evocatively titled ‘I Have No Choice I Am A Tree’ is an Ennio Moricone infused wild western with pan pipes. ‘Some Tricks’ is a forceful indie rock’n’roll blast with harmonies and a chaotic discordant front.
‘Breath In Breathe Out’ is a magnificent wild unhinged nod to a sort of Detroit MC5 sound laced with an animalistic spine of thundering jungle drums and eviscerating bass and guitar riffs. It prowls, it crawls, it simmers, it burns with an air of barely controlled malevolence as Chamie sneers breathe in, breathe out. ‘Of Timber and Tiling’ provides a light relief with its story about building a house – these are of course the obsessions of any Sydney resident – as a metaphor to the relationship with the singer’s lover, all in an alt.country style. ‘Forever Follows You’ veers towards a Dylanesque folk veneer complete with harmonicas and acoustic thrums.
‘Dream Buffet’ sends us off with ‘A King’s Canopy’: a dreamy love song that jangles and sparkles with its melancholy melodies.
‘Dream Buffet’ is ultimately a palimpsest for the Marrickville sound: pure and heartfelt lyrics that are romantic, honest that flow over sparkling instrumentation. Restless Leg have a huge selection of colours on which to paint on their sparkling canvass, creating a vivid and layered whole in the album. Their influences are ever present but remain merely a sign post to the direction the band travels and never part of the journey itself. And it is a very nice journey indeed.
Restless Leg formed when former bandmates guitarist/vocalist Ben Chamie (Peabody) and drummer Jared Harrison (Peabody, Infinity Broke, Bluebottle Kiss), found themselves at a musical loose end. With long-time friend Fiona Whalley (The Exile Co.) recruited on bass, the band was born, debuting on a Saturday in March 2012 at a party in an Erskineville backyard, with less than two weeks of rehearsals under their belts.
You can get ‘Dream Buffet’ through the link below or stream here.
Restless Leg is on tour – catch them at the following venues (more detail here):
Sat 12th – The Servo, Port Kembla NSW – with guests Dropping Honey and Birdsville
Sat 19th – Sonic Sherpa Records, Greenslopes QLD (3pm instore)
Sat 19th – Can You Keep A Secret? Woolloongabba QLD – with guests Full Power Happy Hour (5-7pm)
Fri 25th – The Factory Floor, Marrickville NSW – with guests The Electorate and Knievel
Fri 13th – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW – with guests Froggy Prinze and Looch Lewis & The Press Gangsters
Sat 21st – Nighthawks, Collingwood VIC – with guests Minibikes and The Barebones
There some cracker line-ups here.
Feature Photography: Joshua Morris