Australia has been heralded the lucky country, sunburnt and chard only months ago, yet, a lucky country. A reminder that trickles through our social feeds in this time of unprecedented crisis as we compare ourselves against those we’ve aspired to be in recent years. Our current adopted customs have steered us though, from what made Australia the lucky country in the first place. The Australia of yesteryear, one that people are desperately in search of in 2020. Our Australian identity is in sight, within grasp for those who may have drifted. We only need a gentle reminder of who we are, of what we are. The Songs of Adam Gibson is that reminder.
Sydney’s Adam Gibson has been honing his craft in the Australian scene for over twenty years circulating between his three main bands – Modern Giant, The Aerial Maps and The Ark-Ark Birds. His song writing has taken many forms within these three bands, from Kelly-esque acoustic ballads to jangled 80s rock that would fit snuggly against The Go-Betweens canon. But his strong spoken-word drawl and ability to focus on the humanity of general life makes his music accessible and alluring. On The Songs of Adam Gibson, Gibson has compiled the best of his work into a sixteen track compilation album that spans an impressive career, yet criminally unbeknownst to many major music circles.
On the Punt starts the compilation with a nostalgic, personal and emotive look at Gibson’s childhood and his father’s love for a good punt, stated in the opening line ‘My father loved to punt and on most afternoons we’d come home from school and he’d be calling up Phone TAB.’ A gentle acoustic guitar strums in the background, an accompanying vocal line carries a childlike melody adding to the whimsical nostalgia of the tune. Even though On the Punt is deeply personal to Gibson, tiny vignettes sit amongst his narrative that are instantly relatable to anyone who has grown up in a country whose summertime seat belt burns your skin.
Gibson’s relatable storytelling continues on The Band’s Broken Up and Heartbeat, both tracks taken from his time in Modern Giant. The former, a rolling tune drenched in a repetitive guitar riff, shimmering with clever rhyming schemes and wordplay that could be easily dismissed as a stream of consciousness to the inattentive. Heartbeat’s follows a similar structure but amps up the tempo halfway through the seven-minute track with a full band sound that’s reminiscent of an infectious Sonic Youth track.
On Long Time Dead, Gibson reflects on adulthood and perspective with beautiful prowess, my favourite line being, “I’ve still got the heart, I’ve still got teen spirit, and while it’s not nightclubs anymore, it’s day-care instead.” New York ’54 continues Gibson’s poetic storytelling, the opening line perfectly foreshadowing the next five-minutes to come, “New York is a corduroy of concrete, a bitumen of tears, and I lived in a brown-stone in Brooklyn, for the best part of ten years.” New York ’54 reflects on the Australian identity when living abroad, and the acceptance we seek from those we aspire to be. It’s my favourite song on the compilation, a timeless tune that is still relevant for the Australians of 2020 who find themselves returning to their country of origin.
The compilation ends with The Great Australian Silence, and Belanglo, Byron And The Road Between, the latter from Gibson’s band The Ark-Ark Birds. The two tracks compliment each other in their simplicity and mellow tone. Belanglo details the sinister story of Gibson’s time as a young crime beat reporter in the 90s as he covers a story that would ultimately be linked to the horrific backpacker murders that have become prolific in today’s psyche. Acoustic chords strum in repetition against a march-like drum beat, laying a minimal foundation for Gibson’s story to unwind; something you would expect from The Bad Seeds. It’s chilling and shows the versatility of Gibson’s song writing.
Adam Gibson songs are like Seinfeld episodes. There are glimmers of relatable everyday life, timeless vignettes that transcend our culture and Australian postcodes. These are universally human stories at their core, capturing emotion, time, and place with an ease that only our truest writers can show. The Songs of Adam Gibson are our songs; they are a reminder of who is Australia, what is Australia. And I can’t think of a better time to remind ourselves of that than right now.