An endearingly contemplative record formed in the south-east of Australia.
Australian Sean McMahon’s fifth album is partly a paean to his home state of Victoria. Victoria encompasses a rich variety of landscapes, including sweeping coastlines with pristine beaches, mountains, deserts and forests. This diversity is reflected in this charming record in which McMahon plays all the instruments himself from a $200 drum kit to some pedal steel guitar.
Many of the lyrics came to McMahon as he was cruising around the Victorian Shire of South Gippsland in his old silver rodeo in 2019. When the pandemic commenced in March 2020, McMahon was forced to retreat to an urban environment in Melbourne, as a result he says that, “For most of the recording, and a lot of the writing, the idea of leaving Victoria any time soon seemed like a precarious ambition. And I think we felt isolated as a state in our experience of the whole ordeal. So here’s to Victoria!”
The record is charmingly, lo-fi. It shuffles along but not in a shambolic way. There are various influences at play from Sparklehorse, Wilco, The Byrds, Ron Sexsmith and The Grateful Dead, to name just a few. McMahon lyrics paint pictures of road trips, mundane, ill-lit hotels, suburbia, the glint of mirror balls and the joy of nature.
Album opener, ‘Speak To Me’ is a loose ramble, which should appeal to Deadheads. ‘Remember The Trip’ chugs along, reflecting on a journey taken by MacMahon up to Brisbane and back to play some gigs and ‘searching for something, far and wide, From the middle of nowhere over the great divide’, it’s underlain by some fine guitar. ‘Hail Mary Songs’ sees ‘a singer in drinking away the TV hours’ in a cheap Super 8 hotel on the outskirts of Memphis. The slide guitar which forms the backbone of the track makes it the most country song on the record.
‘Good Morning Tomorrow’ is a piano based track. It was the final song that McMahon wrote for the album. It’s a song about moving on from the past and trying to avoid making the same choices in the future. McMahon named ‘Four Aces’ after a bar in Manjimup, Western Australia. The title also references four magnificent, 400-year-old, 75-metre-high Karri trees. McMahon says, “It’s about mother nature and how dreadful and dull the world will be if we carry on in disregard of her vitality and beauty”. ‘Rose’ is about change and contemplating what might have been.
The closing track, ‘All Of My Roads’, aptly brings everything back to a loved one, ‘My south comforts knowing, Anywhere I going, All my roads lead right to you’. The album is truly a solo effort. Songs take the listener to a different place where stories from the future interweave with those from the past.