LACHLAN BRYAN & THE WILDES – As Long As It’s Not Us (Social Family Records SFR0124)

As Long As It's Not UsAlready a huge success in their native Australia, while the blurb talks of a different direction, pushing the definition of Americana to its limit, even if mandolin and banjo have been left in the locker room, As Long As It’s Not Us is not the extreme makeover it might suggest. Yes there’s the odd distorted piano and freak out guitar, but otherwise this is a hugely radio-friendly collection of poppy, melodic and instantly catchy tunes.

It opens with the bouncy strummed chug of ‘OK To Love’, which, as it says, declares embracing l’amour is all fine, even if it means learning the hard way, before heading into the urgent driving title track boogie shuffle with its interesting lyrical spin (a co-write by and featuring Tim Rogers) as Bryan sings “I don’t care who’s happy as long as it’s not us”  and “I just want to spend my time with someone I don’t trust”, though you can almost hear the grin as he adds “if you’re crazy, I am game”.

There’s another infectious twangy guitar line to the similarly bustling rhythm of   ‘You Remind Me Of Myself’ where you might detect a Creedence influence, turning to more of a swampy noirish Alabama 3/Jim Stafford swagger for ‘I Went Down’  and carrying the touchstones over into the more breathily sung, spooked desert ambience of  ‘Quit While We’re Ahead’.

With songs that take in depression, isolation, existential crises and break-ups, the rest of the album nevertheless maintains a generally upbeat musical feel, throwing a moody piano alt-country ballad with ‘Weighing On Me’, the cocktail of loneliness and desperate need for human company despite the scars that informs the emotionally masochistic ‘Never Said A Word’  and a brace of acoustic troubadour aches on the Van Zand-ish  The Road’ (“I chose the road as something I would follow… Love as something I would leave behind”) and the  quietly wonderful introspection of ‘I Found God’.

Playing out with the tinkling piano notes of ‘The Understudy’, a Harmony James co-write about not screwing up your chance of love and life’s stage since there’s always someone else waiting in the wings and the final circling jangly guitar.  steady drum beat and handclappy sway of ‘Take It Out On Me’, offering himself up as a whipping post  for venting emotional frustrations (“don’t take it out on the one you love/Take it out on me”), that you could hear The Mavericks doing. Bryan has described the album as a manic-depressive balance, a mingling of joy and despair, a perfect soundtrack to the times then.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘I Went Down’ – the lockdown video:

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