Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fever Elsewhere: My Quick Review Of The Splendid Reissue Of The Debut Album From The Apartments On Captured Tracks

The Apartments were one of those bands that your friends would tell you about back in the good old pre-Internet days of music collecting. They were the sort of act that would generate an immediate phone call about the treasure your friend needed to have if you had your hands on an Apartments album or CD. Prior to having access to information at any second on the internet, you'd have to do work to connect the dots and while you could hear something in the work of Peter Walsh and his band that linked the band to the effect of The Go-Betweens, one couldn't precisely learn the actual, real connections without doing a bit of research in record stores, or scanning old music magazines, or consulting a friend who knew more about music than you did.

While I own, and have heard, some of the music of The Apartments, this 1985 release, the evening visits... and stays for years, out soon on Captured Tracks, is a revelation. Music that is by turns aching, yearning, and introspective, the songs on the evening visits... and stays for years are treasures, pure and simple.

In the liner notes, Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens talks up Peter Walsh while revealing that, at one time, McLennan and Forster saw Walsh as almost a creative threat. The guy is supremely talented and the 14 cuts on this album -- along with the bonus ones -- prove that point quite effectively.

There's a palpable ache to "Sunset Hotel", for example, that places the work of Walsh here in a class by itself. Really, I can think of nothing else that sounds like this, not even The Go-Betweens. While Forster and McLennan gave into wordplay and brought an extremely literate sensibility to the rock game, Walsh is more emotional, letting his mood take over in such a way that it frequently sounds like the melody is following his mood; "Mr. Somewhere", later covered by This Mortal Coil, is a pretty good example of that effect.

"What's the Morning For?" strides closer to the neighborhood of The Go-Betweens' stuff -- you can hear this and positively guess they were mates -- while "Great Fool" sounds like the Oz version of The June Brides in some strange way.

"Lazarus, Lazarus" mines a blues riff to not always successful effect, as does the nearly epic "The Black Road Shines (On Rainy Nights)" which both sound now, some 30 years after they were released, as slightly less enjoyable than they should be. Intellectually interesting more than anything else, these cuts seem at odds with the more ornate emotional chamber rock of other stuff on the evening visits... and stays for years, like the lively and excellent "Refugee", for example.

The record ends in a burst of sharp Lloyd Cole-style songwriting with the swirling "Fever Elsewhere", all forward momentum and plaintive vocals. The Cole comparisons are perhaps unfair 'cause Walsh here is a much more natural, and emotional, vocalist than Lloyd could ever be.

That hits at the appeal of Peter Walsh. In an era of jangle rock, or arch new wave, he somehow found a way to tap into something rich, something emotional, and something beautiful to forge a new style that had few real peers. The reflexive leap to Go-Betweens comparisons is just because it's the only real comparison to make; there was just nothing else that sounded remotely like The Apartments then or now.

The bonus cuts on this edition of the evening visits... and stays for years are all demo versions of songs on the album with the best being the demo version of "Cannot Tell the Days Apart" which reveals why McLennan and Forster were, according to Forster's liner notes, right to view Walsh as a worthy competitor in the Brisbane scene at the time.

The reissue of the evening visits... and stays for years (1985) by The Apartments is out very soon on Captured Tracks. Fans of thoughtful, literate, and emotional rock should pre-order this one now. The rare skills of Peter Walsh will probably never have a better showcase than this first album from The Apartments.