Black fingernails, red wine, I wanna make you… wear that sweater?
Once upon a time [around 1998], there was a band from Western Australia, who released an EP called Sweater. The title track, a cute song about an ugly brown sweater, featured in the Triple J Hottest 100 that year. This was a band to keep an eye on. Three or so years later, came their debut album, Girl. Featuring tracks such as “Who Sold Her Out”, “Head Hurts” and “Wake Up”, this album was a picture of their youth and innocence. And I absolutely loved it.
A Song is a City was the name of their second album, and this was where the band started to gain some well-deserved mainstream success, particularly the single “From the Sea”. The whole album was brilliant, with only one sub-par track [“Carousel”]. Released in 2004, this was one of the CDs that I used to listen to over and over again. Title track “A Song is a City” was my favourite off the album, and became my eBay username. I had an icon journal on LiveJournal called “Older Than You”. Yes, I was fifteen years of age, and Eskimo Joe were one of my favourite bands.
Their sound had matured since Girl, but they still had an innocence about them. I remember reading a quote where Kav Temperley described the album as being about life in Fremantle. Nothing extravagant, just friendship, love and life. It was an album that you could relate to. Even now, it’s an album that I find myself listening to because I love the familiarity.
Eskimo Joe’s third album, Black Fingernails Red Wine was highly anticipated, not only by me, but by the media. After the success of A Song is a City, the critics were ready to pounce. And they loved it. Everybody loved it. I loved it, at first. Played it over and over again. But then so did all the radio stations. Kav started talking in interviews about wanting to be the next U2 and play stadium gigs around the world. They’d gone from singing songs about life in Freo, to “I know, I know it wasn’t New York, where I lost my mind“.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good album – “This is Pressure” and “Setting Sun” [originally titled “Forever Young” – as printed on a limited number of copies from the initial release of the album] particularly stand out as great tracks. But with all the hype, I found my love for the band slowly slipping away.
Being an underage music fan, I didn’t get to see them play until Big Day Out 2007. Showing true devotion, I waited in front of the orange stage, through Scribe’s set [“How many dudes you know roll like this?”], and then through Evermore on the stage next door, until it was finally time to see Kav, Stu and Joel. And I loved it. I was front and centre, and they played all my favourite tracks from A Song is a City, and Black Fingernails Red Wine. I was a little disappointed not to hear any of their earlier tracks, but I let it slide.
The next time I saw them play was last year, at the Triple J One Night Stand in Sale, just after the release of their fourth album, Inshalla. By this time, I was completely torn. I hated what the band had now become, but still really liked their music. Their sound had “matured” again for this album, but there were still some excellent tracks. “Don’t Let Me Down” was an instant favourite, and despite having to hear it over and over on the CD at my work, I also quite like “Losing Friends Over Love”. Upon purchase of the album, I came to the decision that it was okay not to like the band, but to enjoy their music.
Their performance at this year’s Big Day Out confirmed my decision. I don’t mind Stu and Joel, but Kav is an absolute twat [yet, once again, I really enjoy his releases with the Basement Birds]. Prancing around in a white Elvis-like suit with a horrible embroidered waistcoat, I was embarrassed to even watch him perform. As predicted, they played nothing pre-A Song is a City [and even then only played a couple of singles]. Such a disappointment.
While their sound keeps maturing, and the critics love each album more than the previous, I’m sure Eskimo Joe will keep creating music that I like. But, at the same time, I’ll probably like them less and less with each release. And no matter how much they keep improving, they’re never going to top “Sweater”.