The Lines Are Open
The Close Readers is essentially Damien Wilkins; it’s his words, his work, his world – the line-up is flexible, he builds a band to give shape to his songs. Previously Craig Terris all but one-man-banded his way through a couple of Close Readers albums, creating the frame around Wilkins’ cool-calm-collected bleat-poetry. This time around Wilkins is assisted by not only Terris but Luke Buda, Tom Callwood and Andrew Bain.
Callwood and Buda even bring some of their Phoenix Foundation sound to the charming Ask Me Anything. It lifts the music up out of its mid-80s indie comfort zone – but at the same time celebrates, still, the obvious comparisons to The Go-Betweens and R.E.M. Certainly the R.E.M. feel is there on early standout Good Evening Family! But in that case it’s down to the backing vocals.
Wilkins’ literate songs are reminiscent too of Sneaky Feelings – that jangle-pop influence. And where, at first, I thought The Lines Are Open possibly suffered for eulogising one too many writer-friends I’m sure on a closer listen/read this is an even better album than New Spirit (itself an improvement on the closet-cleaning Group Hug).
Bill Manhire’s words are used for Kevin – or, put another way, Wilkins turns Manhire’s clever and lovely poem into the song it always suggested it could be. And if The Ballad of Tarzan Presley and Barbara feel like secret-club songs of tribute they still very much fit the album’s themes of celebrating life, of finding the joy in the minutiae, in fact of aiming – always – for finding and making art.
Here Wilkins has made another deceptively sharp set of songs – time for him to get the band (or a band) in shape to start playing some (regular) shows to further celebrate this wonderful material I think.