Album Review: Nathan Roche-Magnetic Memories

About a month ago, I went and interviewed Nathan Roche. Why wouldn’t I? The dude’s a staple of Sydney’s music scene, and seeing his galloping hair do at pretty much every show worth going to brings me a sigh of relief. Roche is here. I went to the right gig. Everything’s gonna turn out okay. I’m not going to get hit with a maelstrom of shitty tunes.

Back to the interview, I asked him about how he was etc., and he mentioned he had just finished working on a new album. Immediately, my anticipation boner started heaving. A new Nathan Roche album? As in, the same guy that did ‘Watch It Wharf’? I rushed to the bathroom as fast as my stained jeans would allow.

However, Roche passed it off like it was nothing, a mere trivial matter. Yeah, new album, whatever mate, let’s talk about how much of an asshole Lou Reed was and how Neanderthals are puppets of the Sony Corporation*. Oh Nathan, you trickster, you! You’re the equivalent of Lando Calrissian, supposedly betraying me to the dark forces of The Republic Pty. Ltd., only to chuck a swifty and get me and my crew out of that sticky situation! Hell, you’ve even come to Jabba’s Palace, and unfrozen all the carbonite shit and killed my main enemy Boba Fett! Basically, that extended metaphor is saying that Nathan Roche has delivered a spectacular sophomore product, that’ll have the major labels crawling in his faeces in some sort of attempt to gain his attention.

And how has this come to be? How has a simple, understated man with a guitar and the ability to drawl a yarn better than Banjo Patterson with three whiskeys down him, come to perform such a wonderful piece of music? Because Nathan Roche is a man of the people! Yes, much like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Kid Rock, Roche is a megaphone of the plights, pleas and observations of your average semi-house-broken, Bondi Rescue-watching, permanently-single legends that make Australian culture such a pleasure to be a part of.

However, it extends past the demeanour on his excellent debut ‘Watch It Wharf’. ‘Magnetic Memories’ expands Roche’s musical repertoire and attitudes at the same rate of goth boners spreading when Robert Smith’s says something mildly sassy on Facebook. Don’t fear, there’s the usual gurgling, brash-meets-too-drunk-to-give-a-fuck slacker bangerz on the album. ‘Walsh Bay Waltz/Gordon’s Bay Jig’ contains the usual irreverent slobbering from Roche, pandering lovelorn ‘ooo’s’ to downtrodden landmarks of Sydney next to a plaintive guitar. And ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ has a drunken balladry to it, the sort of swaying feeling implanted into it that one gets from either being on a ship, or five bourbon and cokes to the wind.

But it’s too hard not to notice the wonderful reaching that Roche is chucking into the songs. I guess you could call it experimenting, but that doesn’t quite fit. Lemme digress. ‘Call Back’ has an Alex Cameron-reincarnated-as-Roal-Duke feel to it, blazing down a Nevada freeway on a cocktail of drugs and The Stones kicking it in the back. ‘Down at the Docks’ has something of a battle cry to it, and even a dripping wet guitar solo, and ‘One More Stinking Day’ has a Vaudevillian kick, a bitter narrative slickness that Nathan Roche hasn’t really shown before.

But hands down, it’s the title track that showcases that Roche is on the path to glory. Maybe it’s an increased gelling with serial muso partner Joseph Ireland, but this song is a rum ‘n’ coconut away from being set in the final scene of the ‘Bad Ending’ in Wayne’s World, where Rob Lowe is about to fuck Wayne’s girlfriend in a tropical paradise. It’s the sort of thing you’d unashamedly do a hulu dance to. You wanna know how many other songs fit into that very specific genre? Just one-Nathan Roche’s ‘Magnetic Memories’.

‘Magnetic Memories’ ends up being a completely unique, highly enjoyable and flexibly diverse record. It dips into all sorts of styles and genres with the laidback attitude of Roche himself. It’s a step in the perfectly right direction, away from ‘Watch It Wharf’, but losing none of the charisma and charm that it’s narrator exudes. Fuckin’ A Nathan! Fuckin’ A!

 

*actual conversation topics from interview with Nathan Roche.

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