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The Lucksmiths "Why That Doesn't Surprise Me" CD $18 (L&L031) Add To Basket.


(Originally released in Australia by Candle Records in 2001.)

1) Music to Hold Hands To
2) Synchronised Sinking
3) The Great Dividing Range
4) Beach Boys Medley
5) Broken Bones
6) First Cousin
7) Don't Bring Your Work to Bed
8) Fear of Rollercoasters
9) Harmonicas and Trams
10) The Forgetting of Wisdom
11) Self-Preservation
12) How to Tie a Tie
13) All the Recipes I've Ever Ruined
14) The Year of Driving Languorously

"I've never met a real, live Lucksmiths fan, but I get the feeling that most of them are pretty damn obnoxious when it comes to talking about the band. The largely unheard Aussie trio has garnered a following that makes up for its small size with heaping portions of reverence. Their website, for example, includes cute little inside features, like the Top 5 Lucksmiths songs, as voted by the fans. Like Belle and Sebastian circa 1996-97 (who had a similar feature on their website), the Lucksmiths are practically personal property to their fanbase; they are the small "cult" band that the 15-year-old in all of us hordes and keeps for ourselves.

I apologize to all Lucksmiths fans for making strides to out their greatness. The band is simply worthy of the myriad cappuccino cups of mouth foam that their rabid following has bestowed. I'll risk all-out exploitation, by deeming them worthy of even a larger fanbase, even though their sixth (proper) album, Why That Doesn't Surprise Me, isn't much of a departure for them, or music in general. Bands like Felt, Field Mice, and, most recently, Belle and Sebastian have forged, realized, and revisited the sunny terrain of twee guitar-pop that the Lucksmiths play on. The band is utterly content in presenting simple, catchy love songs that make no waves to innovate. And that's fine, because they're damn good at it.

Perhaps an even more appropriate description of the Lucksmiths sound is found in the title of Surprise Me's opening track, "Music to Hold Hands To." One could do little more than sway to the cleanly produced, mid-tempo gem, but as drummer/vocalist Tali White explains, "Sometimes something you can dance to/ Is the last thing that you need." The album's most infectious track, "Self Preservation," is frenetically jangly, and bolstered by stuttering, punchy drums. And it's about breaking up. During the unforgettable chorus, a celebration of horns joins in, and White only seems happier, singing, "And whatever comes next/ If we leave the nest/ Don't settle for less than what we've got." This optimistic take on the potentially maudlin territory of Splitsville is immediately endearing-- much more so than the similarly themed, humdrum piano ballad "All the Recipes I've Ever Ruined."

While we've heard all this guitar-pop stuff before, it's through their lyrics that the Lucksmiths make their distinct mark. Guitarist Marty Donald, bassist Mark Monnone, and White all write songs, and they're all brimming with cleverness. Monnone evokes Billy Bragg's ability to make the mundane witty in "Don't Bring Your Work to Bed." In "First Cousin," White's imagery is first-rate in confessions like, "You were like a storm that I could talk to." And Donald (who wrote the bulk of the songs here) is so cunning that his wordplay sometimes goes overboard; in "Synchronized Sinking," he writes, "Why don't you let go of your boy and see/ You've lost none of your buoyancy?" But I'll take flagrant wordsmith pride over triteness any day. The fact that Why That Doesn't Surprise Me comes almost four years after the last Lucksmiths album makes sense: this sort of intelligence takes time to filter into meter and rhythm.

Because it's so consistently and remarkably enjoyable, Why That Doesn't Surprise Me has the right to become the Lucksmiths' breakthrough, their The Boy With the Arab Strap, if you will. Drive-In Records, of course, is no Matador as far as distribution goes, and it's doubtful that the band will ever gain a following larger than the one they already have. So, the tried-and-true fans should be content in the fact that they're right, now more than ever. As for the rest of the world, just know that Why That Doesn't Surprise Me is the most entertaining Australian export since Nad's Hair Removal System. Delicious!" Richard M. Juzwiak, 8.0 rating, Pitchfork Media


Evening news got you down? Life giving you a few rough turns lately? What you need is a healthy dose of pleasant love songs with clever lyrics. Take two listens of Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me and call me in the morning.

The latest long-player from this Melbourne-based trio, their sixth official release, offers up more of the same, a fine thing considering how adept The Lucksmiths are at what they do. If you adore sunny twee pop with lyrical twists, then this is a classic worth your attention.

The Lucksmiths are comprised of guitarist Marty Donald, bassist Mark Monnone and percussionist/vocalist Tali White—who all write, although Donald pens the majority of the songs. Schoolmates who first joined together over a common love of The Smiths, their music covers some of that similar Morrissey terrain, pleasant melodies with poetic lyrics that run contrary to what you’d expect. They’ve built a devoted cult base to date, having toured far and wide, but this collection should bring more widespread notice and deservedly so.

The Lucksmiths’ music is a happy amalgam of many influences—The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Wedding Present, The Pastels, Jonathan Richman, The Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian and even some Kinks thrown in for good measure. Their specialty is catchy love songs, upbeat and slower tempo, with simple yet beautiful arrangements at once easy and familiar. Many of these 14 tracks grab you immediately at first listen, then continue to hold you with the power of their lyrics. The savage lyrics are what propel The Lucksmiths’ above the fray.

Cynical and witty and poignant and fun, these gents have a way with the wordplay, often bordering on the verge of “too clever”. In the opening track “Music to Hold Hands To,” we get the following: “If you arose by any other name / You’d smell as sweet / And you’d look just the same / I could never understand you / Hating music to hold hands to / Sometimes something you can dance to is the last thing that you need.”

In “Synchronised Sinking”, we’re offered a tale of barroom confession via wordplay like “Something’s obviously wrong / Your face is all day long / It was lovely when you laughed / Come on, please get it off your chest / It’s a commonplace but I’d suggest / A problem shared is a problem halved.” The lyrics play on nautical themes ("Why don’t you let go of your boy and see / You’ve lost none of your buoyancy?"), as the woman in question is “going down with the relationship”.

Another great track “Broken Bones” tells the unlikely tale of a lover who fell so hard from his lover’s clutches that he wound up on crutches—hence the catchy refrain “Coffee cups, promises, sure, but I’ve never broken bones before.” While “Don’t Bring Your Work to Bed” is solid advice for anyone in this new millennium.

As thrilled as I am with these lyrics, let me not understate the music. This time The Lucksmiths have draped their romantic folk-rock offerings in tasteful strings and horns, with spare, clean production. “First Cousin” is a gorgeous yet simple ballad that holds its own with any Magnetic Fields’ offering. “Self-Preservation”—perhaps the catchiest track of all—could be an upbeat offering from The Housemartins of way back when. While Tali White’s voice fall a little short of Paul Heaton’s, the addition of guest voice Kellie Sutherland (of Architecture in Helsinki) on tracks like “How to Tie a Tie” invites comparison with The Beautiful South as well.

Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me doesn’t change the world, but it hearkens back to twee-pop classics of years past while also providing intelligent songs for today’s audience. As such, it is the perfect pop prescription for these postmodern times—defying popular conventions with songs that are stunning in their beauty and powerful in their simplicity.

While this music doesn’t have a fashionably commercial following at present, The Lucksmiths’ talent and charm demand more attention. These Australians make music they like, and seem content not to compromise their pop-indie standards along the way. The many gems to be found on Why That Doesn’t Surpise Me explore love and love lost in ways that aren’t cliché-ridden. As such, this latest release might just be what the doctor ordered to get them that larger audience. As Tali White once put it: “The Lucksmiths are just friends you haven’t met yet.” If you like The Smiths or The Housemartins or Belle & Sebastian, I urge you to make their musical acquaintance now. 

" Gary Glauber, Pop Matters