David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights
Bobbie’s a girl
I think Nick Bollinger said it best (he often does) when talking about David Kilgour’s songs. He was speaking specifically to the lead single from this new album (Smoke You Right Out Of Here) – and if you want to hear his exact words click here. Nick articulated the mercurial nature of Kilgour’s writing. We often hear about the magic of The Clean coming together and being mightier than the sum of its parts or of Kilgour’s own way with a performance, but where do the songs come from, and are they even “songs” as such? Bollinger put it that we’re almost eavesdropping – to a snippet of a song. It started before we tuned in. It might have a lingering outro that continues after the engineer clips the track. And if not, we can certainly – easily – imagine it.
That description was on my mind as I listened to the isolated single a few times ahead of the album. And then it came back to mind, instantly, when listening through to Bobbie’s a girl, the first Heavy 8s album in a few years.
It’s almost not there.
A slight set of songs that is so utterly mesmeric – it’s like listening to smoke, it’s like interviewing mist.
I’ve been listening to this album at least one a day for weeks on end and all I could think to do after the first few spins was write a wee note to Mr. Kilgour. That was the instinct. No review. Just a wee note. We’ve never met, and I’ve only phone-interviewed him once. But it seemed more logical to go to the source than to try to review it. So I did. I wrote, “Congratulations on your truly beautiful album”. Or something like that. And he wrote back saying thanks. Gave me a big blue thumb.
That felt like all that needed to happen.
And I kept listening.
But now I feel some need to try to describe my experience with the album and of course to recommend it.
It might be disingenuous to call this the best, or even my favourite of the DK solo records – because a) there hasn’t been a bad one and b) what’s best mean anyway. But this album is occupying my time, taking up space on my stereo and that’s what I want from a good new release, or from an old-discovered gem. Funnily enough I think Bobbie is a record that could have been in made in 1997 or 2003 or at any time really. It has a campfire-feel to it that pulls me in.
There’s been some talk of the grief that has inspired this record. Kilgour losing his mum. And the death of Peter Gutteridge. And we get some opaque lines about that, perhaps, on If You Were Here And I Was There – but for the most part this is an instrumental album. I count only four songs with actual lyrics, a couple with “ooh ah” vocalisations around the lick and curl of the undulating waves of guitar.
But let’s go back to the start of the record.
Bobbie’s a girl crests with an instrumental piece called Entrance. I’m reminded of that beaut album Barbara Manning made in New Zealand with DK and others; hushed-brushed drums and a quiet creep of spidery acoustic guitar. A gentle vibe that pulls you right in.
Then we get the aforementioned single, Smoke. It strums in on a simple, enchanting wee progression that might have been swirling for minutes before we first hear it. And the ageless Kilgour voice calms us without really letting us know what he’s singing about.
Crawler, a moody instrumental feels like a campfire-take on Dimmer. Remember the wondrous mood of that first Dimmer album and the soft disgust and heartbreak of the third – this sits somewhere between those; the wordless vocals feeling like they could have come from late Beatles or even prog-rock. It’s more of a segue than a song and just as we’re grabbing onto it…it’s gone.
Threads is one of the longer pieces here (four minutes) and one of the more overt song-structures; a chanted lyric buried into the rhythm of the acoustic guitar and drums. You can lean in all you like but you’re never really going to know what he’s saying, or why he’s saying it, which make it all the more enticing for repeat-plays.
The Heavy Eights – bassist/keyboardist Thomas Bell, drummer Taane Tokona and guitarist Tony de Raad – play their parts impeccably, and have a hand in the songs in terms of the composing and framing. I’m most drawn to the fact that this is a record that feels as if it instinctively gathered itself. Like smoke, it wasn’t there. And then it was.
And you always get the familiar refrains too. Coming In From Nowhere Now not only could have been on anything by Kilgour dating back to 1991’s Here Come The Cars it probably is! It’s there through the work, a feel, a vibe. You might hear Gin Wigmore or whatever they’re pumping through the plane when you touch back down in New Zealand but I swear I hear Coming In From Nowhere Now; spiritual anthem.
Pianist Matt Swanson contributes the lilting instrumental Swan Loop which has his piano dancing around within the fuzz of slow-burn guitar; possibly filtered via Egyptian Reggae-era Modern Lovers.
The Velvet Underground cast a long shadow over many of the QUOTE: “DUNEDIN SOUND” bands and is there in work of Kilgour, solo and with The Clean, but where Lou Reed was all about the smarm, DK is all about soft, quite, graceful charm. He can write the shit out of a pop song when he wants (Looks Like I’m Running Out – a nice touch of vibes to this too) and because we crave that version of surf-guitar he seemingly invented, all garage-rock and laidback loose-flowing energy, we get the album’s longest cut to ride out on, Ngapara, the type of Kiwi guitar instrumental David’s been under the hood of for some 40 years now.
Bobbie’s a girl is beguiling and beautiful. That I haven’t come close to explaining it nor really capturing anything close to the joy I take, the warm-blanket comfort I feel from it, well, that just makes the album all the better, all the more magical. And that it won’t be for everyone? Even better again.
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