Editor's Rating

Debut outing from Melbourne instrumental funk collective is an In Sound From Way Out for 2020

7.5

ALL NEWS Is Good News is the debut album by Melbourne instrumental funkmasters Surprise Chef. Originally released in a very limited pressing on the band’s own College Of Knowledge label last November, it was devoured by the breaks cognoscenti and sold out within a week. Receiving heavy rotation at that home of the contemporary groove, Mr Bongo, that label has picked it up and repressed it for a July release.

All News Is Good News is nine tracks of mid- to downtempo instrumental funk groove, with intriguingly allusive song titles such as “Blyth Street Nocturne” and the “Crayfish Caper” for you to build your own films to. It’s loose limbed in its percussive propulsion, filmic, jazzy; it has the correct amount of Telecaster twang, the right heat to its Rhodes piano, and the lushest upswing on its brass punctuation and flute voicings.

Conceived during 2017, Surprise Chef has a core unit of guitarist Lachlan Stuckey, keys man Jethro Curtin, bassist Carl Lindeberg and Andrew Congues behind the drums, who call in extended Melbourne scene family members to colorate the canvas.

The warmth and almost secretive nature of the music was caught straight to tape in the band’s home studio in the Melbourne’s suburb of Coburg. Lachlan explains: “We wanted to make a record that reflected the connections we have within our tight-knit musical circle … All News Is Good News was played, mixed and mastered by friends. The album title is an observation that every experience you have contributes to a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.”

The nine tracks slowly burrow in, making you the cameraman in a very fine film that you’re making as you sashay. This album has much, much better shirts than you, but you’re great mates anyway. It brings the bon mots rather than the lager. 

If you were to ask me which albums you’d file this next to, that list would include The Beastie Boys’ The In Sound From Way Out; Felt’s Train Above the City; the James Taylor Quartet’s Mission Impossible and Money Mark’s Mark’s Keyboard Repair. It has that sense of a secret committed to tape and somehow leaked to the wider world, and a damn groove on. Throw a little David Axelrod and Tommy Guerrero into the mix for good measure. 

What Surprise Chef’s debut set has in spades is the air of a sudden impressionistic snatch, a glimpse from the ether, a moment that goes on to define your day; music overheard from a passing car or an open window. What was that groove? you think, wishing that you could capture it and remember it vividly and take it home. Well: now you can.

Surprise Chef’s All News Is Good News will be released by Mr Bongo on July 10th on LP, CD, and digital formats. You can pre-order a copy at https://www.mrbongo.com/collections/music