The Gin Palace is comprised of Peter Fenton of Crow, Paul McDonald (Glide, Charlie Horse), Mark Tobin (Scarlet Caligula, The Finalists), Marc Lynch (Glide, JOEYS COOP) and Brad Christmas and Gareth Richards of Copperline. It’s a fairly new collaboration that promises much and delivers far more than its constituent parts. We have already poured over their first two singles and imbibed with unabandoned pleasure. Now, when more is never enough, they have unveiled a blistering new single that will set your hair on fire. ‘Unsettled’ comes with the additional burnish of being written by Fenton and Midnight Oil’s founding member, guitarist, keyboardist and leading songwriter Jim Moginie. That’s almost a given guarantee of power, passion and a melody that can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Behind the thunder and noise, there lies an achingly beautiful sentiment – one worth sharing in full for background.
Australia this year is in the process of building into its Constitution a Voice for the First Nations people. A simple but powerful resolution that allows the indigenous population to have a say in the way they are governed. The wording of the question to the Australian voters is clear:
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?
It is a step in the right direction to heal past atrocities and to create a more inclusive country. Reflecting on this, Fenton says of the song:
Sometimes, things that happen in our midst, not even involving us directly, live within us.
For me, this song attempts to link the intense discomfort of the 2007 Howard era Intervention in the Northern Territory and the frontier wars, to the present.
That an invasion of our own people, based on false and duplicitous evidence occurred and is still alive in our country today.
The song seeks to paint a picture, on the fabric of our country, a girl on a swing, women laughing in a circle, a troubled man in the shadows, of trees, waterholes and kids playing in the red dirt of a Namatjira landscape but then under deceptive and dubious circumstances, communities were trampled on, invoking past trauma and manufacturing new ones.
Songs are cast from things that hang in the air, and after seeing the ‘Unsettled’ museum exhibition, subconsciously sometime later, I started writing this song. When I was about halfway through, I hit a stumbling block. I rang Jim and said strangely I was writing a song seemingly with his fingerprints already on it. He invited me around, and over a round wooden table and a pot of tea, we finished the song.
Unsettled is a wish that this is the last act of post colonial racial bastardry. This is our small and humble contribution to the healing process towards harmony.
This country has all the promise of a great place but we must recognise what happened here first.
Truth telling is the way forward to reconciliation and without it we really are a lost cause. This song is clear eyed, with a warm heart but a brutal sound, dealing with and cutting through the lies and obfuscations of the Howard era (there were many) that somehow live on like malevolent ghosts, even now seeking to undermine the fence mending and visionary work of the Uluru Statement From The Heart. Fear is no way to live, or make policy. Still we keep our hands and hearts open, knowing there is so much to gain by including the First Australians into a conversation where all Australians can do a healing walk, together.
The lyrics references the very, very lows of recent Australian history: environmental degradation, bushfires, the Tampa affair, patronising interventions of white society into First Nations culture:
What’s at the heart of this fear and insecurity
That we try to cover up in khaki
A ghostly hand that dabs at the fabric of connection
That will surely set us all free
In the summertime, in intervention time
The height of the bushfire season, the low of the Tampa treason
Our settlers, unsettled.
‘Unsettled’ is a beautifully passionate declaration. The buzzing, hacksaw guitars, the layered harmonies and the driving, relentless rhythm section all combine to create a sonic entreaty for humanity, yearning and bleeding with emotion and more anthemic than the most anthemic anthem in the universe. This is a very exciting band that combines an intelligent, compassionate lyrical force with a jingle jangle jet-engine powered sound.
The accompanying video is a simple performance piece that captures the energy and enigma of the band in full flow, buffeted by and enveloped in nature.
‘Unsettled’ is out now and available to download and stream here.
Feature Photograph: Jo Foster