Last night, I copped a lift, one of life’s simple pleasures. There isn’t anything better than thinking you’re going to have to trek it, and then someone lets you hop in the car and turn an hour trip of nail-biting depression into 15 minutes of jovial, four-wheeled harmony. Whilst in said car, I chucked on a song by Bitch Prefect, the excellent “Bad Decisions”. And the car fell silent. But it wasn’t an awkward, painful silence. It was a silence in which a simple song was appreciated in simple silence. That’s the best thing about basic music. There’s no expectation, no need to catapult and overwhelm everything. Whilst a wailing guitar solo and banshee cries can be exhilarating, sometimes all you need is a broken guitar, and an equally broken soul to hush you. Fuck love, the sobs of a shattered soul are way more realistic.
That’s what you’re getting on Old Mate’s debut LP. It’s the solo project from Pat Telfer, a member of the aforementioned Bitch Prefect. But whilst Bitch Prefect almost confine themselves to scratchy, de-tuned musings, Old Mate is more diverse in the offerings, the seafood platter to BP’s BBQ. Also, whereas Bitch Prefect like to keep things at least a little upbeat, and inject some morbid humour, Telfer is as depressed as they come. Someone, give the guy a hug.
Now, that might sound a little forward. I mean, I don’t know the guy. How can I make assumptions about his life, and about what he’s trying to say? Mr. Telfer could be a bounding lil’ ball of energy for all I know. But the Adelaide aesthetic is there, and it sings loudly, especially in the lyrics. On “February'”, Telfer opens up, “Home’s where I’ll be, if you’re not next to me. I’ll stop myself from drinking beer. I’m holding in my tears…I’m lonely, but only without you”, as miserable, rain-soaked cowboy strums resound with funeral-esque finality.
And then there’s “Requesting Permission”, which has to be one of the finest songs released from a purely Australian perspective. It showcases Telfer as a modern day Paul Kelly, a poet with a guitar, a knack for putting the guilt in our throats, and creating a chokehold of emotions. “Every day I go away, and I wish that I could stay. Every now and then, I find that I’m going out of my mind”, points to a guy who’s tearing his hair out, and knows that he’ll never find a solution. He’s stuck in a rut, a trap of his own creation, and getting out of there is going to be harder than breaking Han Solo out of Jabba’s Palace. Throw that curveball of truth next to a brilliantly simple guitar solo, an alien whistle and more wistful regret than that shot of Patrick Swayze looking out at the Byron Bay surf in Point Break.
There are a few kinks to be worked through on the album however, namely the constant changing of tones. Although that does make for a constantly evolving record, it makes things messier than the results of giving a 2 year old a week-old, unrefrigerated chilli con carne. Don’t get me wrong, this album has more heart and originality packed into it than the majority of records, but there’s a bit of a lack of clarity and cohesiveness to the middle of the record.
However, maybe that’s the point. This isn’t a professional record. Rick Rubin didn’t twist knobs with his tentacle beard, and there wasn’t a guest verse from A$AP Rocky. It’s a vibrant mix of noise, sadness, confusion, and self-defeatism. There is so much going on in Pat Telfer’s brain, and the bloke has condensed it into something that reeks of originality. He’s taken sadness, something that at this point seems passe, and he’s made it interesting and gut-wrenching again. Like a car-lift, Old Mate is a simple pleasures that releases a lot of pain and stress. Who needs shit like Morrissey or Robert Smith when you’ve got Old Mate?