I was in Sydney for a few things – a chat on the radio, a Foo Fighters/Weezer gig, but mostly to catch up with friends and family. It turned out to be a more “work-related” long weekend than anticipated. Some meetings with various industry people – chatting about books and things and meeting two key players from two of my all-time favourite bands. Not even planned.
Marlon performed to a small, industry crowd; a showcase at Universal Music’s Sydney headquarters. And a friend invited me along. What a treat it was.
There was free beer. And there was a quick speech from a Record Company Guy who said things like “the reviews are coming in” and “Rolling Stone loves it” and “We’re hearing Roy Orbison, we’re being told Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” and things like that. He said we’d all be blown away to hear Marlon Williams’ new album. It had been produced by a famous American producer-guy in, of all places, Stinson Beach. That’s in California. I’ve even fucking been to that place. It’s a little piece of actual magic.
Anyway, Marlon says hi to a few people – including me. We’ve only met one other time I think, but we’ve corresponded a bit. And he said he wants to do the podcast. Which, fingers crossed, we’ll get happening next time he tours…
Anyway, we get the photo taken and then he sits down to address the audience. He is at the keys for the first three songs. Then he stands, with acoustic guitar, and plays a couple more. It’s mostly new-album stuff. And it’s mostly terrific. On first listen.
He is sounding a bit like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy I guess. But not all that much. The piano-driven songs sound a lot like Anohni – formerly Antony and The Johnsons, and I’m thinking very much of those first couple of Antony and The Johnsons albums. Which I love. It’s not quite as arty/am-dram, but there’s a way the voice soars that is not at all dissimilar. And the songs are great too.
Then we get a little treat cover-version. A rendition of Jealous Guy, which seems to sit somewhere right between the John Lennon and Roxy Music versions; taking the best from both to make something brand new, rich and deserving.
When he’s up with the guitar he plays a song that was recorded as a duet with Aldous Harding. You can hear the recorded version here. But since she’s not there Marlon sings both parts himself and serves up a lovely wee tune.
And he closes this brief set with the title track for the new album. It’s out in a couple of weeks. It’s called Make Way For Love. And the Roy Orbison thing is strong here. In fact, it sounds like The Big O if backed by a lone party-guitar. A bit of the ole ‘maori strum’. A gentle thrum. A beautiful noise. Something you might have imagined Elvis recording…
Marlon’s a true talent. So many of us know that already. I’ve been following his music since The Unfaithful Ways. It was clear then that he was something special – but no one could have quite predicted he’d go on to tour the world and release albums that have the scribes excited before they even hear them.
I can’t wait to hear all of Make Way For Love. And it was a real treat to walk in on this little teaser.
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