The title of ‘Stranger Things Have Happened’, the fifth album by Sydney- based power pop/Americana act Fallon Cush, is very apt – this record very nearly didn’t happen. Singer-songwriter Steve Smith, the brains behind the band, has admitted that after finishing their last long-player, 2017’s ‘Morning’, which was fraught with difficulties, he thought that it was the end for them. However, against all odds, they’re back and on the anthemic opener ‘Burn’, they’re in fine form, with big country-rock guitars, warm organ and a killer chorus.
First single ‘The Key’ – the best song on here by an alt-country mile – is irresistible and sounds like George Harrison fronting Teenage Fanclub, with some Big Star thrown in, while ‘Sleep Her Away’ is reminiscent of The Jayhawks – so far, so good. Smith says this album feels like a fresh start, as there’s an energy to it – for the first few tracks, there certainly is, but, sadly, after a while it starts to wane.
There’s a lyric in ‘The Key’ – a song about the strength of a relationship – which says, “If we were a show on Neflix, we’d be a box set of intrigue and romance and comedy, with a twist…’’ Unfortunately, listening to this record is a bit like scrolling through Netflix – there are a few obvious highlights, but, for the most part, you’re looking for some other interesting content, but can’t find anything to get excited about. It needs more intrigue.
The chugging, Beatleseque ‘Your Halo’s Bright’ should shine, but ends up sounding, well, dull, the stripped-down ballad, ‘Yarraman’ – named after a town in Queensland – is pleasant enough, but doesn’t really go anywhere, and, on ‘Benny’, when they do take a diversion into new territory, unfortunately it’s an ill-advised trip into the troubled waters of yacht rock.
Fallon Cush have largely all the right influences – the countryish shuffle of ‘Tempo Over Time’ recalls Tom Petty, as do several of the other tracks, but sometimes you wish they’d try something different and more exciting, rather than slavishly paying homage to their record collections. They could be accused of Petty crimes.
On the closing song, the slow-burning ‘Tighter Than A Drum’, Smith sings – “My heart’s no longer in it – that much I know is true. Once you’ve reached your limit, it don’t matter whose shoes you’re in…”
This album is like a pair of old shoes – comfortable, but well worn. If Fallon Cush do make another record, it would be great to see them stepping out of their comfort zone and not going over the same old ground.
Stranger things have happened.