BARFLY WEBSITE (Tony Hillier) Although they've had a profile on the national scene for a dozen years and more, releasing some half a dozen albums, 12 Lies as the first release on their own label represents a career watershed for the Bondi Cigars.
One of Australia's most admired blues-aligned bands, the Bondi's have pretty well been doing it for themselves since they commenced operations in 1989, establishing a formidable reputation as a live band par excellence as Johno's regulars would be aware.
If 2001's Down in the Valley captured the essence & spirit of their gigs over the years, 12 Lies is a barometer of where they are at the present time. The new album sees the band edge a little further away from their original sound, adding alt.country & pop/rock feels to the rhythm & blues/soul/funk amalgam base. The result is a contemporary & accessible sound.
Shane Pacey, the band's powerhouse vocalist, guitar player and songwriter, is still the dominant force, in tandem with co-founder/bassman Al Britton, whose instinctive feel for groove and rhythm remains a salient element. But 12 Lies reveals a more prominent role for co-lead guitarist Eben Hale, while expat American drummer Frank Corby certainly puts his stamp on this, his first recorded outing with the Sydney band.
The Cigars trademark twin lead guitar concept works brilliantly, as always, with Pacey and Hale working in tandem, overlapping and alternating in well formulated arrangements, each solo carefully constructed and comparatively free of cliché. Pacey's incisive and inventive guitar playing is always a pleasure to hear.
A few blasts of harp or sax or some Hammond organ would have been icing on the cake, but you have to admire the band's commitment to its on-stage sound, and a style that hangs on meaty electric guitar hooks. Shane Pacey's originals are as punchy as ever, nitty gritty, down to earth, plainly worded songs relating to everyday life recurring patterns Junkie For The Past, alcohol dependence Raging Thirst, rejection You Soon Will Be and bitterness Talking Tombstone etc.
The raga like Edge Of The Dirty River, with resonator guitar backing, has a more poetic feel; the genuflection to New Orleans/The Meters funk, Everybody Do The Second Line an infectious refrain. Whether any of Shane's new numbers surpass past masterpieces such as Lead Me Not Into Temptation and Intensive Care only time will tell.