Lee Memorial – ‘The Lives of Lee Memorial’

June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue #328, May 2009.

The Lives of Lee Memorial
Lee Memorial
****

There’s a desperation to Karl Smith’s arcing high-register on this, his debut as bandleader for Lee Memorial. The opening pair of tracks that shape The Lives of Lee Memorial – the tearing ‘All The Things’ and the elegant, downhearted dirge of ‘Mayflower’ – have the Melbourne songwriter howling like his life depends on it.

It’s an engrossing, almost torrid introduction; the once slender arrangements that Smith and best mate Pete Cohen wove as Sodastream are expanded into a rattling, ragged band setting. But the further the record plays out, the more it settles into its own skin. A burbling horn section tiptoes across the blue-skied pop melodies of ‘Drifting’, while drummer Laura MacFarlane (of Ninety Nine) adds a stunning harmony to the vivid, wistful lyrical detail of ‘Shoulders and Floors’.

The wiry guitar discord and vocal harmonies of ‘Listen to Yourself’ sits back to back with the solemn prettiness of ‘Boxing’. Jagged edges are softened and sanded back.

‘Berlin’ would have to be the record’s centrepiece. Its stabbing minor key guitars, flourishing chorus harmony and tactile lyrical snapshots prove both abrasive and subdued, evocative and residual. It’s a wonderful summation of Smith and Lee Memorial’s counterpoising strengths.

Dan Rule

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