Rolling along the casually flowing sonic prairie with a winningly warm, delicate, and harmonic sound, this band really comes through with flying colors on their impressive debut album. Steve Smith’s pleasantly nasal voice projects a breezy’n’easy vibe with engaging directness. The arrangements keep things spare, simple, and tuneful, with the guitar, bass, and drums neatly bringing the thoughtful lyrics and gentle melodies to lovely, tender, and captivating musical life without ever drawing too much attention to themselves. The songs for the most part are pretty mellow and soothing, with the occasional rousing full-blooded rocker tossed in for good measure. A very nice little beaut.
If your idea of musical bliss includes Crowded House, this is a record you need to hear. Not really sounding all that much like Neil Finn and company, Fallon Cush – an Australian studio aggregation – crafts warm and intimate songs that are strong on harmonies and subtle-yet-catchy melodies. Crystalline production and expressive playing supports the hooky songs. The disc is littered with reflective, contemplative tunes that have just the right amount of energy, but rarely rock out in a big way. This is an album that will stay with you for a long while.
Fallon Cush was born almost in spite of front man Steve Smith's stubborn individualism. Smith, a twenty-plus year veteran of the Australian Indie scene, went into the studio to record with a group of long-time friends and collaborators including Scott Alpin (keys); Josh Schubeth (drums); Bill Gibson (bass); Matt Galvin (guitar) and Bert Thompson (drums). The songs had never been heard before; really just rough outlines of melody, lyrics and guitar. What started out as a recording session turned into a Kafka-esque transformation, and before long a new band, Fallon Cush, was born. Smith has long had an almost preternatural fear of bands, stepping away from (Australia's) Catherine Wheel before they could sign with a major label as he feared they had reached their creative peak. But even Smith knows better than to walk away from the siren song of The Muse. The band's debut album, also called Fallon Cush, was released this summer.
One of the advantages of the creative process used by Fallon Cush is the loose, organic sound that often results. Fallon Cush captures this aura in a catchy Americana-style medium, evident from the opening notes of the first track, "Tiny Town". The song has a solid, commercial sound with distinctive pop sensibility and a killer chorus. "The Trouble With A Moonlit Night" features plus songwriting and an affably informal style. The melody here drives the song, with sonically appealing rough edges ala early Badfinger or Beatles recordings. Fallon Cush impresses with the simple force of songs such as "Kiss You Awake" and "Disintegrate", and the sweet melodies of "Sleeping Giant" and "Dog Day Afternoon". Perhaps the highlight of the album is "The Great Divide", a catchy, messy and loose tune that's as close to a live-to-tape experience as you'll find. Fallon Cush closes with the solid sensibility of "Postcard", a perfect bookend for an experience that might be fleeting but will last in memory.
Fallon Cush may not stand the test of time. There's no telling when Steve Smith might pull the plug, as he would consider it dishonorable to continue any band beyond its creative peak. But there's a sort of low-level magic that thrums through the songs on Fallon Cush. Even in its quieter moments, Fallon Cush is filled with a creative energy and drive that's palpable. Smith's willingness to surrender the development of the songs on Fallon Cush to a group creative process has raised his art a notch, while retaining the individualism he so fiercely prides. By all accounts, Fallon Cush is an artistic success.
POWER OF POP
Australian singer-songwriter Steve Smith is the person behind Fallon Cush, this ‘band’ moniker being Smith’s preferred persona in lieu of using his own name. That said, this eponymous album is very much a group project with Smith recruiting the likes of Bill Gibson (bass, backing vocals), Matt Galvin (guitar), Scott Aplin (keyboards), Josh Schuberth (drums) and Bert Thomson (also, drums). The aforementioned players are well known in Sydney music circles and are all seasoned players, which is borne out in this accomplished effort, despite being recorded in only seven days!
It is probably a cliche to observe that the music of Fallon Cush is very much in the style of the sophisticated folk-pop-rock of the Eighties and clearly references the likes of fellow Australasians Crowded House, the Go-Betweens, the Mutton Birds & the Church. No doubt that fans of this special epoch of pop-rock history will be thrilled to know that Fallon Cush (the album) totally lives up to the ambitious expectations it sets for itself. Many times over, it must be stressed.
Within the first four songs, Fallon Cush loudly declares its musical agenda with Smith’s languid vocals (reminiscent of Neil Finn), guitar arpeggios that recall vintage 60s Byrds (or classic 80s R.E.M. – same difference), suitable piano fills, warm vibrato organs and mid-tempo rhythm sections. When these elements are handled with sensitivity and intelligence, they imbue these straightforward tunes with a timeless quality that certainly recalls that golden age of 80s song-craft that Smith obviously admires.
The opening “Tiny Town” is a memorable examination of small-town reminiscences presented in a smooth vignette – “…like I used to feel, in that tiny town, when the lights went down…”, the melancholy piano ballad “Over Me” follows to foster reflection of a failed relationship embellished by a soaring chorus – “Yes I would die if you weren’t there by my side if you’re over me, if you’re over me…” simple, direct and highly effective.
The atmospheric “The Trouble With A Moonlit Night” is hopelessly romantic with a sting in the tail. Evoking a wind swept nocturnal encounter, and the pain of loss and yearning with sublime words – “crickets chirp on the lawn and the day’s warmth, hangs around longer than you would have thought…” and “while cats still on the roof counting their lives, we sit on the porch in the soft glow but the secret we can’t share but we both know…” – it will bring tears to your eyes, if you allow it. Then there’s also the folk-rock extravaganza of “Kiss You Awake” – with chorus harmonies, and melodies which would not be amiss on a late 80s college rock LP, for sure.
The rest of this delightful album, does not stray from this ‘formula’ (if indeed that is what it is) of superior songwriting matched with pristine performances throughout. Sure, on the edgier “Where You Been”, Smith takes a turn into 80s pub-rock (Elvis Costello/Squeeze) and delivers an authentic sonic punch, if only to demonstrate his versatility. But it’s probably fair to say that Smith and co are more at home sending chills down spine with more languorous material like the heartfelt “Sleeping Giant”, the jingle-jangle heavenly “The Great Divide” and the sweetly fragile “I Won’t Dream Tonight”.
And with the pleasing “Disintegrate”, Smith wraps up a very strong collection of pop songs (in every sense of that word), lamenting the demise of a certain “Johnny Ray” – with a track that contains a greater sense of classic rock (think: Pink Floyd, The Alan Parsons Project) than revealed on any other time on this powerful album. For fans of good old fashioned pop-rock, Fallon Cush will warm the cockles of your heart and give all music lovers genuine hope for the future.
A group of accomplished studio vets from Australia recorded this debut album and had it mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Fallon Cush is fronted by Steve Smith, and joined by Scott Aplin (keyboards,) Matt Galvin (lead guitar,) Bill Gibson (bass) and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. Smith has a cadence similar to Tom Petty and/or Mike Viola and the album displays an easy-going pop jangle on most songs.
“Tiny Town” starts things out as a mid-tempo rocker and I hear a little Dylan meets McCartney on the brilliant “Over Me” with a solid guitar solo in the break. Another gem is the majestic ballad “The Trouble with a Moonlit Night” that Sir Paul would approve of. The production is full and clean, and stylistically matches well except the faux-Elvis Costello like “Where You Been.” The strong guitar strums of “Dog Day Afternoon” leads you down a wonderful melodic path and its my favorite track on the album. It ends with “Disintegrate,” a dramatic guitar and organ jam that fades off in the final minutes. Influences from The Beatles and Byrds are most prominent, and that’s a real good thing for lovers of classic rock. A very rewarding and mesmerizing listen.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
Fallon frontman Steve Smith’s is familiar from ‘90s Aussie band, Catherine Wheel. (A fan of the English Catherine Wheel, I was amused to find his was also good, though different—folkish!) With this debut, his new group reconnects his older talents, the kind that lead to his CW being invited to tour with Crowded House. His voice is like Gerry Rafferty (“Stuck in the Middle With You,” “Baker Street”) if that Scot sang light R.E.M.-ish tunes developed on acoustic guitars, colored with flavorful pianos/organs, electrics, and bass and drums. It’s exquisitely executed, but like Crowded or Costello, risked being too mannered if this Steve wasn’t such an accomplished song-“Smith.” Musical/lyrical romance abides, but it bedevils, being secretly distressed (“The Trouble With a Moonlit Night”) or passing (“Over Me”)—adding flesh to his singer/songwriter bones. Nice.
MUSIC RX BLOG
This CD has a sweet magic. First, the vocalist immediately reminded me of George Harrison. And the songs, of perhaps the type of music he might be doing these days, if he was still around. 2nd, they are from Australia, so they have a Crowded House influence running through these songs, which make most of them great pop songs in the vein of what we'd love to hear again from the Traveling Wilburys.
Lot's to love here.
It may just become a real favorite of mine.
SOMETHING ELSE REVIEWS
Fallon Cush grows more confident with each passing song on their self-titled debut. Perhaps because singer Steve Smith put this together on the fly, enlivened by passion and not weighed down by heavy planning.
Smith, who wrote all of the songs, began by assembling a group of well-known Australian musicians including bassist Bill Gibson (perhaps best known for his stint with the Lemonheads), guitarist Matt Galvin, keyboardist Scott Aplin, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. Fallon Cush was then recorded simply on an old-fashioned 16-track, and at break-neck speed, as the group put down 10 songs in just 7 days in Sydney. The album was later mastered at London’s Abbey Road, where a number of rock masterpieces were fashioned by the likes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
There is so much to love about Fallon Cush. And the results, nifty and polished though they may be, only hint at where this amalgam could go.
“Tiny Town,” perhaps Fallon Cush’s best cut, begins with a lightly insistent strum before soaring into a power-pop jangle. Smith echoes early John Lennon here, two parts nasal melancholy and one part sneering rock ’n’ roll street urchin. Smith cops to a longing look back, lamenting how he “used to feel, in that tiny town, when the lights when down,” but he hasn’t stopped thinking about getting out. No way: “Today,” Smith sings in a sun-drenched harmony, “can right my wrongs.”
An elegant romanticism is similarly blown apart by an unsaid misstep on “The Trouble with a Moonlit Night.” This swirling keyboard wash ascends behind a lonely piano, as the band bashes toward a Beatle-y epiphany of hippified reverie. The trouble, see, is “a light that leaves you nowhere to hide, while cats sit on the roof counting their lives,” Smith sings. “We sit on the porch in the soft glow, with a secret that we can’t share but we both know.”
As the group charges through these sessions, admittedly, it doesn’t always move far enough past its principal influences. For every “Over Me” (channels Bob Dylan, but adds a modern pop-craft in keeping with Crowded House), there’s a “Where You Been” (its stamping urgency is too close to Elvis Costello). Fallon Cush gets it almost exactly right on “Dog Day Afternoon,” which updates a Pete Townsend riff with an arching new-wave vocal. Then, there’s the loving nostalgia of “Kiss You Awake,” which they toughened up with a mod beat out of Denny Laine era Moody Blues. But Smith and Co. can;t get around the obvious Byrds influences on “Great Divide,” right down to the ringing guitars and layered, soaring vocals.
In a way, the doggedly optimistic “Sleeping Giant” seems to cop to the name-checking, perhaps the inevitable result of a session marked by such immediacy. “Once you’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all,” Smith shrugs, finally.
The album ends with a perfectly wrought moment of emotional dichotomy, however. A lullaby-like placidity envelops “I Won’t Dream Tonight,” belying the turbulent times its protagonists are enduring during a long evening of arguing. “I watch the words I thought were mine,” Smith sings in a damaged falsetto, “fall out from your lips and hit the ground.” He often reaches for genuine emotion on Fallon Cush, and here he finds it. Then the finale “Disintegrate” storms out, with an insistent guitar rhythm and one of Smith’s most committed vocals.
He sounds, here, like a street singer, both in the sense of singing to the back of the room, and also singing as if his life depended on it. Once the larger band joins in, the lyric begins to coalesce around a repeated chorus, before Smith returns to the verse with a controlled fury. All of a sudden, Fallon Cush has dropped the Beatles pretentions for one of Abbey Road’s other most famous tenants: Pink Floyd.
As gorgeous and occasionally mannered as Fallon Cush had been before, this is intriguingly experimental, and it points to greater heights yet still to be reached. As of now, Smith says, the group has no plans to tour. Maybe they should. Fallon Cush sounds like an exceptional group that is just getting started.
Melodic Australian heartland rock with elements of Black Sorrows, Byrds and Pink Floyd. “Tiny Town” could almost be an Eagles song but of course lead singer and song writer Steve Smith has his own voice which has a quiet tensile strength. Guitarist Matt Galvin is frequently epic and somewhat similar in style to Mark Knopfler. Smith’s vocal bridge on “Over Me” raises the song up a level. The stomping “Where You Been” features Scott Alpin’s churchy B3 and Galvin’s epic guitar solo.
Riding on softly jangled guitars “Sleeping Giant” is their most Crowded House sounding song but hardly derivative. “The Great Divide” combines Byrdsian jangle with Rascalish chorus to exquisite effect. Galvin supplies a typically stadium-ready guitar solo. “Disintegrate,” the last song, references Johnny Ray and Dexys Midnight Runners and falls solidly in the latter’s tradition missing only the horns and strings.
2011Candy Says: Fallon Cush do music as if they have been around for ever. We are hearing some Bob Dylan influences on this song, take that as an endorsement, we don't give out Bob awards that often!
Good pop music, a wise man once said, accomplishes the tricky balancing act of being both instantly familiar and yet original. Fallon Cush, the band name of Australian singer/songwriter Steve Smith and his mates, manages just that, invoking influences as diverse as Elvis Costello, Squeeze, the Byrds, and early Rod Stewart. Yet even as Fallon Cush recalls some of your favorite old records, the compositions on this self-titled 10-song release sparkle with freshness and personality.
None of the players Smith has assembled here qualify as household names, but they each hold impressive resumes and include bassist Bill Gibson (bass, backing vocals), guitarist Matt Galvin, Scott Aplin on piano and organ, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. While Smith’s vocals dominate, Fallon Cush is very much a band album, with ensemble playing that often recalls the genial British pub rock of the late 70’s (a direct forerunner to the punk and power-pop scenes of the 80’s). While the album was hastily recorded and mixed in a matter of days, Smith had it mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, resulting in a buoyant, bright sound throughout the album.
Smith’s antipodean bona fides become immediately apparent on the album’s first track, “Tiny Town.” The song’s catchy hook and Smith’s pinched, reedy voice combine to recall kiwi pop idol Neil Finn of Crowded House, with bassist Bill Gibson adding tight harmonies on the chorus. The lyrics recall Smith’s origins in a “tiny town” and how those memories continue to follow and haunt him. Nostalgia also plays a key role on “The Trouble With A Moonlit Night” and “Over Me,” the latter of which is a classic unrequited love song that benefits from a delicate piano part from Scott Aplin and a tasty but restrained guitar solo, while downbeat ballad acoustic guitars and Alpin’s piano lend the former a classic feel.
Things proceed apace until “Where You Been” issues a wake up call with its martial drums and insistent chording, a throwback to early Elvis Costello & The Attractions with its riveting blend of vintage organ, guitars, drums, and tambourine. A distorted guitar solo adds additional bite. This track really lets the whole of Fallon Cush show off its rock chops and becomes one of the highlights of the album. Descending acoustic guitar chords usher in “Sleeping Giant,” a lilting waltz with an airy folk lilt. Here Smith lectures the listener on being content with what we have and not consuming more than we deserve. “Be careful, they say, of what you wish for,” goes the cautionary lyric, “or you’ll wake up one day with a wolf at the door… or a sleeping giant on the floor.” Tinkling piano and shimmering cymbals accentuate the message.
The flourish of layered guitars and staccato drum beats that begin “The Great Divide” mimic the memorable intro to Nick Lowe’s power-pop classic “Cruel To Be Kind,” and the track retains that Eighties new-wave flavor. There’s a bit of Squeeze at work too in the sophisticated chord changes, clever backing vocal melody and taut guitar solo. Smith extends that Nick Lowe vibe on “Dog Day Afternoon,” a far cry from the stark, violent film it’s named after. This “Afternoon” is a sunny, upbeat celebration of life with somewhat enigmatic lyrics but no shortage of pop energy. “I Won’t Dream Tonight” segues nicely into a reflective ballad showcasing strummed acoustic guitars, a bit of jazzy piano, and sparse percussion from what sounds like bongos. In the manner of an American standard from the songbook of Gershwin or Berlin, Smith conjures melancholy and regret with the line “one last breath, face the light, I won’t dream tonight.”
The band ratchets up the energy for the finale, an up-tempo rocker called “Disentegrate” that combines R.E.M. jangle with an almost gospel-like fervor. Chorded acoustic guitars add a nice melody before the band kicks in for a full-bodied crescendo. Then those lovely acoustic guitars re-enter and harmony vocals take the song home in a style reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Steve Smith certainly did well in choosing the musicians for Fallon Cush. They bring his songs to life with vibrancy, elegance, and the true spirit of an ensemble. No single instrument dominates, as keyboards, guitars, and vocals mesh to accentuate both melodies and lyrics. There are some classic hooks and memorable licks here which fans of both 80’s power-pop and modern-day indie-rock will savor.
INDIE MUSIC CRITIC (CD of the Week)
Fallon Cush’s self-titled album is a seamlessly polished sound that anyone with the ability to hear will likely dub as a great record. Recorded in Sydney, Australia and mastered at the infamous Abbey Road Studios, the group’s efforts culminated into the album within just seven days. With Steve Smith at the forefront, well-known Australian musicians keyboardist Scott Aplin, guitarist Matt Galvin, bassist Bill Gibson, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson come together to make Fallon Cush. Plain and simple, this album is one to be in the collection of any music lover. Mostly a bevy of low-key, relaxing numbers, a few buoyant tracks are thrown in to spice things up and keep the energy flowing. One of the more upbeat songs is “Where You Been,” which has a certain late-60’s feel with Smith’s ever-so-slightly off-key vocals carrying the listener through. The middle brings with it an electric solo that’ll have you off your seat, air guitar at the ready. “The Trouble With a Moonlit Night” is a dreamy, romantic and faintly wistful ballad that keeps you mesmerized and ready to snuggle with your sweetie on a summer night. “I Won’t Dream Tonight” has a similar tempo, but lacks a hook that gets stuck in your head as the previously mentioned song does. Steve Smith has a just detectable nasally voice, sort of like Tom Petty or John Lennon. “Over Me” even has a Beatles-esque quality in the drumming pattern and guitar work. “Disintegrate” ends the album on a high note. Beginning with a snappy, acoustic sound and transitioning at 1:30 into a fuller, more dramatic sound with percussion is a surprise, yet a very well-received evolution. This happens once more, the music enveloping Smith’s complementing vocals, and eventually the song drifts off, leaving the listener wanting more. Fallon Cush certainly knows what they’re doing, no doubt about it. While a couple tracks left a little more to be desired by way of being a bit more varied, by and large Fallon Cush is an enjoyable CD you won’t want to miss.
NOW THIS ROCKS
Fallon Cush “Fallon Cush” – Fallon Cush is otherwise known as Steve Smith, a singer/songwriter from Australia. He and his band breeze through the 11 tracks on their eponymous debut, delivering an array of generally mellow and bright acoustic folk rock with 80s overtones. Most of the tracks don’t quite have a sharp enough hook to maintain my attention, but every once in awhile there is a needle in the haystack. For example, the upbeat drums, jamming organ, and fiery guitar solo make “Where You Been” stand out like a sore thumb among the other tracks – and that is a good thing in this case. “Where You Been” is easily my favorite track – I wish there were more songs like it. “The Great Divide” is another winner, boasting shimmering guitar tones, a memorable chorus, and effective backing vocals. “Dog Day Afternoon” and the pleasant “Over Me” are also worth a spin. Recommended if you enjoy Neil Nathan, David Mead, or Grapes of Wrath.