If there was ever a competition for “world’s most charming indie band”, Australia’s Lucksmiths would win it hands down. In a live setting, the combination of singer/stand up drummer Tali White, smiling bassist Mark Monnone, and reserved and focused guitarist Marty Donald has been known to melt the hardest of hearts — the fact that they work for your money, telling countless amusing anecdotes between songs and infusing their swinging pop with more energy than anyone would have a right to expect, is icing on the cake.
All that, and they make pretty great records too! Last year’s Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me found itself on many a critic’s year-end top-10 list, and for good reason: it was perhaps the most simultaneously breezy, sunny and intelligent record released last year. While the Lucksmiths tend to receive lots of comparisons to their sort-of-namesakes, The Smiths, Donald and Monnone’s songs (all of them sung by White, who only writes a very select few) hardly ever resonate with the kind of miserable self-obsession that the Mozzer forged his career from. The band also receives frequent comparisons to Belle & Sebastian, and while that’s a slightly more accurate assessment, the Lucksmiths usually favor much simpler, less pretentious arrangements than their Scottish contemporaries.
Instead, The Lucksmiths thrive on witty wordplay (such as “Why don’t you let go of your boy and see / You’ve lost none of your buoyancy”), lazily strummed guitars, and loping, skillful basslines. White’s voice is butter-smooth, peppered with his extraordinarily endearing Australian accent. In short, unless you happen to be allergic to witty, well-composed pop music, this is a band that’s hard to resist.
Like any good indie band, the Lucksmiths have amassed quite a few singles and compilation tracks over the years. Ten of these such were compiled on 1998’s Happy Secret, and now the trend continues with Where Were We?, a collection of fourteen of the band’s A-sides, B-sides, compilation tracks, and other such ephemera and rarities. As such, it’s not only a must for fans of the band (although diehards will probably already own much of this), but an excellent primer for the Lucksmiths newcomer.
The disc starts out with a classic slice of Lucksmiths with “The Cassingle Revival”. With White crooning lines like “And in the dappled sunshine, underneath the clothesline / I spent this afternoon nostalgic for the morning” Donald’s guitar jangling unpretentiously and Monnone’s bassline loping along effortlessly, the listener is instantly drawn into the Lucksmiths’ infectious brand of indie pop.
From there, the disc ranges from the perky, head-bobbing pop of “T-Shirt Weather” and “Can’t Believe My Eyes” to more melancholy excursions such as the gorgeous “Tmrw vs. Y’day” and the pensive “Goodness Gracious” (“What a beautiful day for a crushing defeat”). The whole disc through, the Lucksmiths’ songs shine with White’s endearing vocals, and the band’s loose, shimmery take on simple pop tunes. Perhaps my only gripe with this collection is the omission of the band’s cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Deep Sea Diving Suit”, which would have fit right in with the program. And though newbies might be pointed towards Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me as the first place to go for a dose of the Lucksmiths, this, in a pinch, would do just fine. And for those already converted, this is, obviously, a necessity.