Darkness and light from the suburbs of Melbourne.
Out of the South East suburbs of Melbourne, Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes have emerged to bring us a collection of songs that traverse through an emotional landscape that ranges from sunny optimism to the darkness present in relationships. Musically too, there are contrasts that range from catchy country-pop to down deep and moody swamp rock.
‘OK to Love’ opens this opus with a spare, laid-back feel that rapidly develops into a catchy tune destined to become an earworm that will inevitably produce predictable cravings for further listening. An interesting phenomenon, earworms, they always seem to be instantly recognisable as such but when deconstructed, the process seldom seems to get to the essence of a song; a bit like deconstructing jokes, some things are best left alone. Digressions aside, the titular, ‘As Long As It’s Not Us’ has a driving shuffle rhythm that needs to be played whilst cruising down the highway, Australian, American or otherwise depending on your preference. Again the track is immediately catchy with a great organ hook singing of a partner who is, “Purpose-built to create disorder”. There is a smooth, measured feel to the production on these tracks that is exemplified on, ‘You Remind Me of Myself’ which showcases, Bryans slightly gravely vocals and a masterfully poised guitar lick intro. A mean and moody swamp rock feel greets us with, ‘I Went Down’ with its tale of dark doings by the river which changes the previously established mood. Contained within the title and in the lyrics is also an arch reference to Neil Young’s ‘Down by the River’ of which Young said, “The song depicts a man who had a lot of trouble controlling himself, who catches his woman cheating on him, then meets her down by the river and shoots her”. ‘Quit While We’re Ahead’ sees the album begin to take an emotionally darker trajectory with lines like, “I’m the Kind of Man I’d String Along” and, “Love’s a noise that echoes through the words that we leave unsaid”. Emotional masochism rears its head in ‘Never Said a Word’ which finds the protagonist not only suffering in silence but taking a perverse pleasure in doing so. Sad resignation permeates, ‘I Found God’ which is mercifully and resolutely not brimming with evangelical fervor whilst ‘The Road’ though having a similar feel of regret sits slightly uncomfortably with some of its tropes such as being a ‘lonesome traveler’ breaking hearts along the way. ‘Take it out on me’ concludes the album with an intro Roger McGuinn would be proud of shifting into territory that The Mavericks might feel at home in.
Though distinctly radio-friendly, ‘As Long as it’s Not Us’ contains a depth that gives the hooks and licks a beguiling sustenance. Bryan’s lyrics are delivered in a mellow voice but occasionally take you to darker places than expected keeping you present in his songs and intrigued to hear more.