Nothing succeeds like excess, and when it’s a double album of melodic anthems infused with a sixties pop harmonies, seventies guitar solos and an eighties/nineties mix of jangling guitars and pop melodies, you really can’t go wrong. ‘Reverse Light Years’, the new double album from Melbourne legends Even has all that and more, and leaves you with a sprightly jaunt and a smile you just can’t wipe off your face.
Even have a capacity to throw the best elements of the past into something contemporary and immensely enjoyable. Whether it’s an over the top thundering wah-pedalled solo in a song that careers along like something from the Yardbirds or Led Zeppelin like ‘Miracle Drum’, or sweetly infused psychedelic trips, layered harmonies and arpeggiated, jangling guitars: this album is a collection of immersive anthemic pop delights.
Singer/Guitarist Ash Naylor says of the album:
I was listening to the Hendrix ‘Band Of Gypsies’ Fillmore box set and ‘Electric Ladyland’ a lot in 2020. I had a massive Jimi Hendrix phase in my teens which has occasionally inspired certain solos over the years. The plaintive strumming side of my brain often gives way to an uninhibited freer style of playing. The freedom an artist such as Hendrix expressed creatively has been a major influence on my approach to certain tracks, affording myself the freedom to play what comes to mind, like at the end of ‘Gold Sunday” where I just pressed record and went for it. I left the fluffed notes in as well.
The idea of an ambitious double album was well thought out. Naylor says:
A double album is a bold artistic mindset as much as it is just a longer than usual collection of songs. The aspirations for the band can be either lofty or very basic, or both… Once you’ve committed to the idea of a double, it frees you up to add songs that may be shorter or longer than you might normally place on an album, knowing you have created the sonic real estate to cater for it.”
I’ve had ‘Electric Ladyland’ for many years, but I rarely played all four sides in succession. 2020, in all its ‘enforced inactivity’ as I call it, enabled me the chance to go back and listen to every nuance of that album and re-discover tracks I may have overlooked the first time round. That’s another advantage of releasing a double: over time certain tracks emerge from the track listing and gain new found status.”
I’m not expecting people to sit through the whole record in one go but hopefully it is sequenced in such a way that the intermissions between sides afford the listener a break, kind of like watching four quarters of footy.
Indeed, it is a perfect collection to dip in and out of – a series of aural movements that ebb and flow through the decades.
Opening track ‘Cherry Afterglow’ for example is classic indie pop: massive choruses, driving verses and the scything, ringing guitars. Hints of psychedelia, a dreamy interlude and an approach not afraid of delivering indelible melodies with an anthemic drive.
‘Six Monkeys’ is a bright and brilliant star in the firmament: a swinging, frilled sleeve suede-jacketed vibe with glorious melodies and harmonies. The driving rhythm section provide a solid base for the crunchy guitars and layered vocals.
‘Chase The Sunset’ allows a hippy infusion into the album with its West Coast LA vibes – sparkling sunshine and doobies.
‘Gold Sunday’ has elements of The Kinks, The Easybeats and something more beastly with its wildly explosive lead guitar break while ‘Goat Island’ feels psychedelic and spaced out with its twelve string thrum and T-Rex vocals.
Eviscerating cobweb clearing tracks like ‘Cinnamon Edge’ are wildly oscillating with a rhythm section that pounds and pulses. ‘Roses’ is a jangling euphoric anthem – crystalline guitars ringing out and layered melodies that recall The Byrds or REM.
Final track, the eight minute long ‘Life in a Box’, proves the band can do sweet subtlety and longing balladry with a heady dose of melancholia and a rousing anthemic close.
‘Reverse Light Years’ is immense in every sense – 17 tracks that sparkle and shine with varying influences sharing a common thread: an ear for melody and a knowing sense of fun and excess. Guitar-based jangle pop that flexes its muscles and strikes a pose. That’s rock n roll and Even are here to play.
Even are singer/guitarist Ash Naylor, drummer Matt Cotter and bass player Wally Kempton (who also runs Cheersquad Records and Tapes). Naylor also spends his spare time as the newest guitarist for the legendary The Church.
‘Reverse Light Years’ is out now through El Reno Music and can be streamed through the usual sites and downloaded below:
Collectively and individually, Even are essential pillars of the Australian musical scene.
Naylor is also known to an ever-widening audience as the guitarist in Paul Kelly’s band as well as a long-time member of the Rockwiz Orchestra; he’s also now joined Vika & Linda’s band is all over their new record. Ash is also a long-term member of Dom Mariani’s great garage/power pop outfit The Stems , co-fronts high-concept ’60s covers band Thee Marshmallow Overcoat alongside Stems bandmate/You Am I guitarist Davey Lane, and recently he became a permanent member of The Church; having replaced co-founder and lead guitarist Peter Koppes in 2019. He was finally able to play his first show with The Church in April this year. Naylor also released his first all-instrumental solo album, Soundtracks Volume 1, late last year.
Naylor and Even bandmates, bass player and backing vocalist Wally Kempton and drummer Matt Cotter, have also backed Split Enz’s Tim Finn and Sports’ Stephen Cummings. Bandmates since the beginning – the original Even trio has remained unchanged since the group’s 1994 beginning. In addition to his musical duties, Kempton is the band’s booking agent as well as long-time bass player for Melbourne punk legends The Meanies and the proprietor of Cheersquad Records & Tapes label. Cotter, who recently joined Meanies frontman Link McLennan’s new outfit Bagful of Beez, also works as a sculptor, painter and model maker in film and television – he’s worked on a couple of Star Wars films – and has recently spent the best part of a decade in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory working with local artists.