Music

Gotye: Like Drawing Blood

Dan Raper

One of the best albums no one outside of Australia will ever know about.


Gotye

Like Drawing Blood

Label: self-released
Australia release date: 2006-05-21
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

An early contender (along with Augie March) for this year's J Award, Gotye'll probably be passed over the same way In Case We Die was last year, since we've learned so far that populism beats objective quality. Nevertheless, Like Drawing Blood is an important album, not only for its music (which grooves and croons its way into your heart) but for the encouraging fact that it's at least a contender, and that this fiercely singular Australian musician could really get somewhere based upon the strength of his music.

Gotye (they're pronouncing it like "Gautier" on the radio) is Wally De Backer, a musician from Melbourne making some of the most joyfully expansive electronic pop tunes around. He's got some small measure of attention from the blogs recently, possibly because Australia's doyen of indie music radio, Triple J, has posted free MP3s of his tracks numerous times. You can still download three of his songs from Gotye's website, and you should definitely check these out. For a solitary, independent artist -- De Backer has no manager; up until recently he distributed his CDs personally, and Like Drawing Blood's insert tells us, the album was recorded in "bedrooms around Melbourne" -- his sound is remarkably smooth. To give a general idea, think countless samples (from old soul recordings to a bizarre but likeable lecture from a composer about his compositional process) as well as live instruments incorporated into a, well yes, distinctive sound. It's really a summer sound, sunny and funky, a perfect accompaniment for walking down to the beach, feeling the sand between your toes and the sun in your hair.

In reality, what listening to Gotye's music really makes you realize is just how much technology has raised the bar. Now, even one person with a hard drive can make electronic pop music that sounds as smooth and well-engineered as a seasoned producer's. Like Drawing Blood plays as a remarkably consistent, high quality electronic mix album, with thoughtful song/song transitions and a sustained, easily established mood. That's not bad for a sophomore effort. Gotye's first, Boardface, made much less of an impact, though we heard "Out Here in the Cold" on Australian radio a few times when it was released in 2004. On the new album, Gotye mixes a heady dose of Avalanches-style happy electronica with the soul influences of Hot Chip, and the smooth vocals of Postal Service.

"A Distinctive Sound" is the most Avalanches of the Avalanches-sounding moments, especially given the group's recent work with that Wolfmother song, given "Distinctive Sound"'s little diatribe on metal. Though you suspect Avalanches would have done more than establish the groove and play the sample, Gotye's track ups the sample ante at the end; and just hearing that guy rip out "yeah... A minor to F, just like the heavy metal guys use" is a perfect moment. "Learnalilgivinanlovin" is worth mentioning for the title alone, but it's an album highlight -- all soul with no pretension, all positivity. And even recognizing "it's been done before / C'mon do it again" doesn't diminish the fun, celebrates influences instead. Isn't that the way it should be? Elsewhere, as on the excellent "Heart's a Mess", the sound of the groove alone predominates: all you have to do is listen to the opening bendy-bass line, give yourself over to the smooth groove and you won't care that it's two minutes too long, you'll just revel in the ache and cool step at the breaking point, as De Backer wails the words of the title in a voice that defines anguish.

"Heart's a Mess" brings up the only serious criticism the album bears -- that despite the high quality production, all Gotye really needs is an editor. A number of the songs here are a few minutes too long, just repeating the main theme over once or twice too often. Don't get me wrong, the walking bassline on "Thanks for Your Time" is great, but we could have done without the minute-long interlude illustrating the song's point (frustration at being put on hold in a customer service telephone call). At least it's something we can all relate to. There's another redeeming feature -- that Gotye has a trick of withholding the refrain, or at least the phrase that gives a song its title, until near the end of a song, conferring on each song the welcome release of a new idea.

Despite this (only occasional) flaw, there are a bunch of great songs on Like Drawing Blood that, each time you hear them, bring a smile to your face. With only a little editing, Gotye has the potential to be a Hot Chip, one of those electronic-pop maestros making soul and electronica entirely his own. Even as is, even with its rickety edges and once-too-often repeats, I'll take his moody, evocative pop tunes any day. Even if it's not the Australian album of the year, Like Drawing Blood hums with life, and is a welcome addition to the summer rotation. I have a feeling it may just prove to be great all year round, too.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image