FALLON CUSH, Bee In Your Bonnet
For many artists, reinvention is a key to the craft. Though Australian singer/songwriter Steve Smith has been a part of the music industry for over three decades, since Fallon Cush debuted with a self-titled album in 2011, he has found himself exploring new pathways to music, pushing himself sonically as an artist and performer. Five years later the project is as strong as ever, with Smith, guitarist Glen Hannah, keyboard player Scott Aplin and drummer and bassist Josh Schuberth recruiting Stephen Marcussen to help them refine the roots part of their roots rock sound thanks to his work with Dawes, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Decemberists.
Smith’s voice draws you in from the get go, an arresting, nasal tenor that calls to mind the great Tom Petty on rambling rock tracks like “There’s A Dark Side To That Moon” but, as previous critics have noted, takes a Dylan-esque edge on wordier, contemplative tracks like “Useless Friend.”
“Less You’re Near” contrasts a sunshine sense of nostalgia with careful, measured pacing to create a perfect driving-with-the-top-down tune. Many of the songs present themselves as expansive, ambitious road-ready jams thanks to the ever present, upbeat pairing of drums and guitar, but the band never overshadows the vocals, which are the main show on this effort. Smith proves himself capable of true versatility as a frontman, surprising listeners with the sudden downtempo shift of the darker “For Too Long,” which unfolds with a hesitant, confessional tone. Fallon Cush is a little alt-country, a little rock, a little roots, and as they continue to grow both as a band and as singular musicians, we can only hope that they’ll continue to shrug off easy classification, experimenting all along the way.
The nom de plume for Sydney Australia wunderkind Steve Smith, Fallon Cush has maintained a consistent track record thus far courtesy of two previous albums that have won glowing reviews from a host of knowing critics and pundits. This latest effort promises to continue that trajectory, given its mix of melodious mid-tempo tunes and concise yet catchy rockers. Smith and associates have built their reputation on a sound that falls midway between English pop and echoes of Americana, with neither tack overshadowing the other.
If anything, Fallon Crush occasionally takes its cue from famous precedents, as on the tracks “Haunting” and “The Honeycomb,” which bring to mind Kiwi cousins Crowded House, or the song “Kings of Ransom” which sounds suspiciously like the Faces fronted by Ronnie Lane. Happily, those references don’t detract from Fallon Cush’s agreeable approach, which incorporates both billowing ballads and a more assertive style. Smith’s winsome vocals generally keep the music in accessible terrain, all cooing melodies with the occasional upward spiral. An excellent offering overall, Bee In Your Bonnet is not only an ideal introduction, but, like its predecessors, an essential acquisition all on on its own.
Fallon Cush is the vehicle for songwriter Steve Smith, a veteran Sydney musician that has dabbled in power pop, but really has great success with melodic rock Americana style. Influences heard are mainly Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, The Band and The Byrds. This new LP has Steve, Glen Hannah (guitars), Scott Aplin (keyboards) and Josh Schuberth (bass, drums) along with backing vocalists Suzy Goodwin and Stephanie Grace to round things out.
It starts out with the slow build of “There’s A Dark Side To That Moon,” but you notice the rich sound and production once the chorus kicks in. The piano and jangling guitars lead “Less You’re Near,” and even though the style is Dylanesque, it clearly sounds like original Fallon Cush. Some brilliant music follows; “Kings Ransom” is a mid-tempo charmer and slow ballad “For Too Long” is a wistful memory that sticks with you. And the album is even stronger after the mid-point with the melodic “The Honeycomb” and excellent title track. One thing I’ve noticed about Smith’s music over the years is that he gets better with each album. Highly Recommended.
ALAN HABER'S PURE POP RADIO
If Bob Dylan were an out and out pop artist while still playing with rock conventions, he would trade his songs under the name Fallon Cush and he’d be called Steve Smith, a Sydney, Australia musician with three-decades of experience under his belt. Bee in Your Bonnet is a top-flight collection of engaging songs that features Smith’s commanding vocals and engaging instrumentation. A great long player.
FALLON CUSH, April
NO DEPRESSION, Lee Zimmerman
There’s something about the Aussies that’s always found them right on the mark when it comes to crafting pop perfect sounds that almost always ensure universal appeal. Whether it’s the Easybeats, the Bee Gees, Men at Work, Little River Band or one of dozens of other outfits from the Land Down Under, Australia’s home team seem easily able to shrug off their insular environs and open up with songs tailor made for an overseas audience. The latest outfit to serve as home country ambassadors is one that goes by the name of Fallon Cush. Two albums on, the band, fronted by singer/songwriter Steve Smith, offer a set of songs with an easy ambiance and a sound so pop perfect, it’s likely Paul McCartney, Eric Carmen and Neil Finn would offer up their ready nods of approval. From the seductive sway of “Forever After” and “In the Nick of Time” to the amiable embrace of “Every Waking Hour” and “Honey Honey,” they prove themselves a band well-heeled in both melody and delivery, so much so that April already sounds like it’s destined to be a classic. Suffice it to say, it’s that good… and more.
Fallon Cush – April
I covered Fallon Cush‘s debut in November 2011; on the group’s sophomore release April, they turn in more winning melodies, and (in places, as on “It’s a Line”) they rock out a bit more. Here they sound a bit less like Crowded House. A quiet, folky approach wedded to an unerring melodic sensibility means that April is enjoyable through and through. There’s no funny business here: straightforward, song-based arrangement and production, and Steve Smith‘s vocals out front where they belong. Think of April as Australian Americana that leans in a pleasingly pop direction; there’s not a weak track here.
NOW THIS ROCKS
Fallon Cush returns in June with the release of his second album, “April”, which follows an acclaimed debut we reviewed in October, 2011 (review here). The songs on “April” set a different tone, as described in the words of singer/songwriter Steve Smith, "The record is really about reconciliation, fresh starts, tearing down walls, and building bridges”. In addition to exploring new lyrical themes, the musical styles on “April” flirt heavily with the type of Americana rock Tom Petty popularized.
Rounding out Fallon Cush are Scott Aplin (keys), Chris Vallejo (bass) and Josh Schuberth (drums, bass). With Glen Hannah on guitar and renowned vocalist Lily Dior on backing vocals, and mastering completed by Greg Calbi (Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, The Antlers), the songs have a refreshingly organic feel not unlike the past couple Black Crowes records.
“April” begins with the spritely tune, “It’s Line”, which radiates radio-friendliness with its bright verses and catchy chorus – one of my favorites from Fallon Cush. “Honey Honey” also makes a favorable first impression with its simplicity and charm. The soulful delivery of “Sight To Remember” gives the song a distinctive Joe Cocker vibe. I loved how the breezy feel of “When You Say” was followed by the feisty charge of “Renegade Blues”. Finally, be sure not to overlook the beautiful “Where Your Name Is Carved”, which brings some piano into the mix along with some spectacular harmonies.
Overall, “April” represents a big step forward for this band – catch them while they are in bloom.
Fallon Cush continue to nicely mine a delicately harmonic line in gentle and soothing country-tinged pop-rock on their sturdy sophomore album. The group’s characteristic fragile warmth asserts itself once again with sumptuously tuneful and thoughtful results. Steve Smith’s reedy voice projects an engaging feeling of easygoing intimacy and introspective. Moreover, Smith’s smart and thoughtful songwriting grapples with life’s constant hardships and addresses the need for reconciliation as well as the basic desire to keep on plugging away no matter what with utterly winning resilience and straightforwardness. Kudos are also in order for the divinely melodic arrangements. The gradual tempos and laid-back beats trudge along at a pleasingly relaxed clip. A lovely and touching album.
Steve Smith writes slow churning dramatic ballads where you see the hook coming a mile away and it still knocks you on your ass. Fallon Cush has something in common with the Green Pajamas, Crowded House and the Black Sorrows but are entirely distinctive. April is a powerful collection for those who like their rock dramatic and melodic.
“It’s a Line” has Celtic blood and the feel of a misty green forest. Lily Dior joins Smith on harmony for the exquisite “Forever After” and numerous other songs, including the Appalachian “Honey Honey.” ”In the Nick of Time” is in the same park as and Genesis/Pink Floyd and “Where Your Name Is Carved” sounds like John Lennon in song and voice. ”Renegade Blues” is an exuberant power pop Porsche.
The new Fallon Cush album, April marks a distinctive change in style. The first album flourished with power pop; April sticks mostly in the genre of Americana and Folk. The rootsy reflection of “Forever After” has varied orchestration and memorable guitar chorus. A bit like Lennon and Glenn Tilbrook Steve Smith’s emotional plea in the melody of “Honey, Honey” resonates beautifully.
The tension is released on the weary “In The Nick Of Time” where the lyrics concentrate on saving a doomed relationship. But most impressive was the piano melody of “Where Your Name is Carved” – it recalls the best of Andrew Gold and Mike Viola and it’s my favorite here. Fans of Steely Dan and Bruce Hornsby will enjoy the compositions “Sight to Remember” and “Every Waking Hour” with its wonderful lyric and spot-on guitar melody. No filler here, and things pick up in tempo on “Renegade Blues” and a touch of Dylan is heard on “Frank & Margaret.” Overall, no sophomore slump here – a great LP from Smith that’s highly recommended.
Fallon Cush, though ostensibly the vehicle of Australian singer-songwriter Steve Smith, effortlessly tap into the pop traditions of Crowded House, Marshall Crenshaw and The Jayhawks. Which is to say Smith writes perfectly crafted hook-laden songs, and his regular band supply an animated, always appropriate, roots-pop backing. I’m sure that’s an over simplification, but isn’t that the joy of great pop music; Fallon Cush make the process sound effortless, and the listener reaps the benefits.
There 2011 self-titled debut grabbed plenty of headlines and found itself on plenty of year-end best-of lists. I’ll be amazed if “April” isn’t just as successful. Its charms are many and will surely appeal to anyone with an appreciation of great tunes, grown-up songwriting and an insatiable desire to join in on a chorus.
Just about everything here would sound perfectly at home on a quality radio station, but I must mention a few tracks in particular or I won’t sleep tonight. Opener “It's a Line” sets the scene with lush Hammond organ underpinning a melody which could have been lifted from an early Be Bop Deluxe album, but retains an earthiness which connects on every level. “Forever After” is ambitious and marvelous, and tips its cap to both Gary Louris and Jeff Tweedy, while “Honey Honey” is quite simply a perfect example of rural, honest-to-goodness, country-pop.
Fallon Cush return with their second album to once again give the lie to the term 'Americana'. With his relaxed, almost lazy vocal style and easy-on-the-ear approach to song writing, Steve Smith is almost stereotypically ‘the guy from down under’. It suits him, there is no pretence, just consistent Australian flavoured Americana.
The voice of Bob Dylan blends with the harmony-layered radio-friendly vibe of Neil Finn. The words are personal enough to interpret into our own lives and the partnership with production team Chris Vallejo and Greg Calbi has really helped Fallon Cush to flourish. If there is a criticism then it is that 'April' is written, performed and produced with such distinction that there isn’t much room for that raw, honest edginess that similar acts like the Allman Brothers always left open in the mix. It’s just that, after the first poptastic sensations of album highlights “Forever After” and first single “Honey Honey” there is a tendency to find yourself on familiar ground.
Minor quibbles aside, April is a sound all-rounder. Steve Smith and Fallon Cush have earned their stripes and if they manage to punch their way into the Americana scene beyond their own shores it will be richly deserved.
Following the huge acclaim of their power-pop flourished self-titled debut, Fallon Cush returned to the studio during the latter part of last year to begin the process all over again, this time with the organically composed, Americana fused April - an 11 track harmonically driven release with reconciliation, bridge building and fresh starts at the forefront. The memorably tuneful “It’s A Line” leads the track list with toe tapping infectiousness reminding us of just why Fallon Cush bathe in success. “In The Nick Of Time” - a gently composed, upbeat number about overcoming the negatives and carrying on with a better mind - is a perfect example of the albums theme of reconcile.
A sound that remains both distinctive, yet familiar of a certain John Lennon, Gerry Rafferty (and many others I can’t quite put my finger on) quality, “Where Your Name Is Carved” is an ear-pleasing, mid tempo arrangement led beautifully by piano and harmonically held by a layer of voices whilst the organically led “Honey Honey” and “When You Say” provide a further two toe-tapping gems both with memorable lyrics and delicious guitar solos from Glenn Hannah.
The album is a surprisingly good collection of songs I find myself liking all the more. Easy to listen to and incredibly easy to like, if you like simple tunes with infectious melodies then Fallon Cush’s highly enjoyable April might well be the album for you.
Australian 6-piece doing a straight up rock/pop sound in the Tom Petty vein with hooky songs and a crunchy pop feel. Main songwriter Steve Smith seems to know his way around a hook and this is pretty solid.
SOMETHING ELSE REVIEWS
Fallon Cush takes a darker, more contemplative turn with April, after the fizzy power pop of its self-titled 2011 debut.
That difference in tone is readily apparent from the first, as the opener “It’s a Line” jangles out with a classically Lennon-ish whine – and a similarly insouciant attitude. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Smith again handles the main vocals, with Lily Dior shading the choruses with a delicate, barely heard sweetness.
From there, Fallon Cush continues in this largely downbeat fashion, examining the scattered pieces of a relationship across 11 new tracks mastered by Greg Calbi (Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon) at Sterling Sound in New York City.
“Forever After,” with a country-inflected sound straight out of America or early Eagles, initially finds intertwining guitars paired with a murmuring organ from Scott Aplin. Smith eventually ramps up into a lonely little groove, nearly approximating the muscled hooks Fallon Cush, only to quickly slump back into the track’s initial loping sadness.
A broken romanticism shoots through “Honey Honey,” which might have been a Wings-era Paul McCartney love song on another album. Here, though, guitarist Glen Hannah’s ringing solo plays with a billowing sorrow – underscoring the over-arching theme of separation and disquiet surrounding April. There are hopes – dashed, it sounds like – for reconciliation on “In the Nick of Time,” a lithely grooved country rocker.
Fallon Cush haven’t completely abandoned their previous musical persona: Smith gathers himself for the anthematic sweep of “Where Your Name is Carved,” again aspiring to the perfectly constructed narratives associated with Elton John in the mid-1970s.
Still, whatever dreams he’d had of working things out have turned to ash. Songs like “Sight to Remember,” a heart-breaking bit of nostalgia, make it clear that things will never be the same – a jarring realization made real by the track’s interesting stop-start tempo, courtesy of a rhythm section that includes Josh Schuberth and Chris Vallejo.
In this darkening twilight, a song like “When You Say” – which rambles along at a more spritely pace – might sound emotionally out of sync, in a lesser band’s hands. Here, it fits in just right, like a wild night on the town from someone trying to forget what’s really bothering him. The rollicking “Renegade Blues” – which takes place later on the same oat-sowing evening, I suppose – is propelled by a frisky combining of protest-folk pacing, a piercing guitar that could peel paint off a barn, and a hard-eyed vocal. And then? It’s gone, as Fallon Cush are next seen – literally – washing down the walls with turpentine in an effort to excise any lingering signs of a girl long gone.
If the previous two tunes represented the boisterous misadventures of a devastated lover on an angry binge, the endless-midnight of “Every Waking Hour” takes you to the bottom of that brown bottle – to the quiet, empty place that he’s inevitably surrounded by the next morning.
“Frank and Margaret” arrives then, like a fever dream, with this Dylan-ish song structure – told in a third-person narrative – that snaps the listener awake from what had become a confidentially engrossing journey. Still, truth be told, whether personal or created out of thin air, the stories aren’t all the much different.
More interestingly, Fallon Cush has suddenly leapt onto a locomotive Americana groove – and it heralds a nearly complete return to hooky form through the final moments of April.
“Sleeping Giant,” with a melancholic beauty that recalls Crowded House, brings the album to a ringing, beatific close. But not before Fallon Cush constructs perhaps the finest blending yet of these Americana influences with their innate sense of power pop style.
JUSTIN KREITZER, Atlas & Anchor
The Australian-based folk pop band Fallon Cush has released their aptly-titled sophomore album, April, just this past April. The band is essentially a stage moniker and recording vehicle for singer, songwriter and guitarist Steve Smith. The rest of the band is rounded out by his friends, keyboardist Scott Aplin, bassist Chris Valejo, and drummer/bassist Josh Schuberth, as well as guitarist Glen Hannah and the beautiful jazz-inflected vocals of singer-songwriter Lily Dior. Released just last year, their self-titled debut album dealt with a rough breakup, but a new year and a new album offers hope and Smith now sings of Spring-like rebirth and new awakenings, hence the album title. The bright Country leaning pop melodies prove to be the perfect weapon against the breakup blues.
“It’s A Line” opens the album with jangly guitars and stunning close knit female vocal harmonies from Lily Dior, that perfectly blends alt-country with 70’s power-pop for a great introduction to the band’s laid back and unique sound. The standout track “Forever After” features a thick wall of rafters-reaching vintage organ and a revved up, care free chorus tailor-made for rolling the windows down and cruising the country roads in the sunshine. The bittersweet “Honey Honey” follows with a rollicking rhythm, some excellent country-fried guitar runs and a super-catchy sing along chorus that will have you singing along in no time. Songwriter Steve Smiths songs are steeped in a classic pop sensibility and with songs like “In The Nick Of Time”, it shouldn’t be long before the rest of the world catches up! The standout song is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s take on 60’s folk-pop with its golden-hued male/female harmonies and gentle yet moving melodies. Further proof of his penchant for classic styles are the Beatles-esque melodies of the piano led “Where Your Name Is Carved”, which sounds like a long lost John Lennon anthem. “Sight To Remember” is built upon acoustic guitars as singer Steve Smith adopts a Bob Dylan-esque drawl to his voice and adds in a melodic guitar solo for a dusty, saloon-worthy jam. “When You Say” features a strutting, Rickenbacker-like bass line that bounces and reverberating guitars that shimmer and it all sounds like if the Beatles if they had written the soundtrack to a spaghetti western movie. The blues rock swagger of the shuffling “Renegade Blues” also stands out with its lyrics about growing old and losing some of that youthful swagger. “Every Waking Hour” slows down the pace on the aching ballad of classic country proportions that is adorned with all of the traditional musical instrumentation you would expect like wispy guitar lines and room-filling organ along with more gorgeous and soulful vocal harmonies from Lily Dior that blend effortlessly with Steve’s smooth and expressive voice. The upbeat “Frank & Margaret” picks back up with a complicated story of elderly love and stalking that puts the spotlight on Smith’s excellent lyrics and ability to weave a captivating story within a song. Closing out the album is an alternate version of “Sleeping Giant”, which was a standout track from their debut album. This time around though, the already propulsive song is pumped up with a hint of XTC’s quirky brand of 60’s-loving folk-pop added to their Americana sound.
With their latest album April, Fallon Cush have created another engaging nostalgia-laced album that sounds like a scan of the radio dial blasted from the golden days of country, rock and pop with just enough of a modern touch to avoid pastiche.
KEVIN MATTHEWS, Power of Pop
This writer was duly impressed by Fallon Cush’s eponymous debut album - “for fans of good old fashioned pop-rock, Fallon Cush will warm the cockles of your heart and give all music lovers genuine hope for the future” - went the review. With new album - April - Smith and Fallon Cush move in a new direction or so we’re led to believe. According the band’s website - “April marks a distinctive change in Fallon Cush’s history. The first album flourished with power pop; April rests in a healthy dose of Americana while retaining Fallon Cush's pop sensibility.”
To be honest and completely objective, April basically finds Smith continuing from where he left off with the first album. It just may be that Smith considers the music on April to be Americana but there is precious little that be rightly described as country-folk-blues on this mainly 80s-influenced pop-rock. Perhaps this reference arises from the fact that Smith is largely influenced by songwriters (Elvis Costello, Glenn Tilbrook & Chris Difford from Squeeze, Neil finn from Crowded House for instance) who manage to infuse a little twang into their pop-rock agendas but beyond that it’s quite difficult to imagine any Americana fan considering these songs to be part of the ‘genre’.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se. Frankly, it matters not what was going on in Smith’s mind when he wrote and recorded these songs, what does matter is the final product and believe me, by and large the music on April contains strong writing, lively performances and memorable melodies. From start to finish, the faithful listener will be guaranteed a fairly consistent quality that will keep discerning lovers of good old fashioned pop-rock music well satisfied enough to not only savour April right on through but to seriously consider utilizing that repeat button on more than one occasion.
WILDY HASKELL, Wildys World
Coming off the success of Fallon Cush’s self-titled debut album, it wouldn’t have been surprising if singer/songwriter Steve Smith aimed for the same power-pop alley again. Smith instead chooses a completely different direction for Fallon Cush, delving into the deep roots of Country and Americana. Combine this musical transition with a subtle talent for storytelling that sneaks up on listeners and Fallon Cush has something special cooking for April.
Fallon Cush kicks things off with “It’s Line” and an obscure Partridge Family reference. The song is well crafted and in the vein of late-90’s alt/acoustic pop. There’s a quiet catchiness to this number that will stick with you, and it’s a great way to start off an album. “Forever After” opens as a melancholy remembrance but turns into a vibrant little rocker reminiscent of 54-40. Fallon Cush eschews pure sentimentality on “Honey Honey”, instead building a romantic metaphor out of the gentle intermixing of strings and sounds in a smooth Americana arrangement.
“In The Nick Of Time” stays on this gentle path, falling into a complacent sound that is appealing yet somewhat repetitive. Fallon Cush breaks the train with the balladeering feel of “Where Your Name Is Carved”, complete with Beatles-esque vocal harmonies and a literate singer/songwriter pastiche. In “Sight To Remember”, the reconnection with an old love interested is documented in glowing terms.
Listeners get a full dose of melancholy on “Every Waking Hour”, a wonderfully tuneful look at the slow desperation of missing the one you love. This paves the way from “Frank & Margaret”, a modern tragedy made up of two people who want very different things out of life. Fallon Cush gets points for creating a compelling story song here, where the characters come to life. It’s a nice piece of songwriting, and delivered with plus energy.
Fallon Cush offers up a highly competent effort on April, delivering solid songs with solid performances, and adding in the occasional flash of brilliance.
Heute möchte ich Euch mal wunderbare Musik vom fünften Kontinent empfehlen: Australien. Singer/Songwriter Steve Smith aus Sydney ist der Kopf von Fallon Cush, einer aus sechs Mitgliedern bestehenden Band. Das vor einigen Wochen erschienene zweite Album ‚April‘ glänzt durch sensiblen Folk- Pop mit Country- Anleihen und eignet sich hervorragend um in Fernweh zu schwelgen. Vor allem wenn man wie ich jemanden im Verwandtenkreis hat der vor kurzem dieses großartige Land bereisen durfte und die vielfältig gesammelten Eindrücke auf seinem Blog Robert’s Weltvermittelt. Herrlich!
AGAINST THE CIERZO
Puede que la exuberancia mostrada sea tan breve como este mes de Abril con el que dan título a este su nuevo disco ; los de Sidney regresan con un impecable ejercicio de inspirada factura , fresco , cálido , sólido , suenan a los mejores sin arruinar su personalidad pero con el deseo de compartir el ideal , el espíritu ; en April evitan la visita tan frecuente a los lugares comunes que remitían en su bonito y anterior album de título homonimo , pero siguen sorprendiendo y fascinanado a cualquiera que quiera hayar
FALLON CUSH, Fallon Cush
Rolling along the casually flowing sonic prairie with a winningly warm, delicate, and harmonic sound, this band really comes through with flying colors on their impressive debut album. Steve Smith’s pleasantly nasal voice projects a breezy’n’easy vibe with engaging directness. The arrangements keep things spare, simple, and tuneful, with the guitar, bass, and drums neatly bringing the thoughtful lyrics and gentle melodies to lovely, tender, and captivating musical life without ever drawing too much attention to themselves. The songs for the most part are pretty mellow and soothing, with the occasional rousing full-blooded rocker tossed in for good measure. A very nice little beaut.
If your idea of musical bliss includes Crowded House, this is a record you need to hear. Not really sounding all that much like Neil Finn and company, Fallon Cush – an Australian studio aggregation – crafts warm and intimate songs that are strong on harmonies and subtle-yet-catchy melodies. Crystalline production and expressive playing supports the hooky songs. The disc is littered with reflective, contemplative tunes that have just the right amount of energy, but rarely rock out in a big way. This is an album that will stay with you for a long while.
Fallon Cush was born almost in spite of front man Steve Smith's stubborn individualism. Smith, a twenty-plus year veteran of the Australian Indie scene, went into the studio to record with a group of long-time friends and collaborators including Scott Alpin (keys); Josh Schubeth (drums); Bill Gibson (bass); Matt Galvin (guitar) and Bert Thompson (drums). The songs had never been heard before; really just rough outlines of melody, lyrics and guitar. What started out as a recording session turned into a Kafka-esque transformation, and before long a new band, Fallon Cush, was born. Smith has long had an almost preternatural fear of bands, stepping away from (Australia's) Catherine Wheel before they could sign with a major label as he feared they had reached their creative peak. But even Smith knows better than to walk away from the siren song of The Muse. The band's debut album, also called Fallon Cush, was released this summer.
One of the advantages of the creative process used by Fallon Cush is the loose, organic sound that often results. Fallon Cush captures this aura in a catchy Americana-style medium, evident from the opening notes of the first track, "Tiny Town". The song has a solid, commercial sound with distinctive pop sensibility and a killer chorus. "The Trouble With A Moonlit Night" features plus songwriting and an affably informal style. The melody here drives the song, with sonically appealing rough edges ala early Badfinger or Beatles recordings. Fallon Cush impresses with the simple force of songs such as "Kiss You Awake" and "Disintegrate", and the sweet melodies of "Sleeping Giant" and "Dog Day Afternoon". Perhaps the highlight of the album is "The Great Divide", a catchy, messy and loose tune that's as close to a live-to-tape experience as you'll find. Fallon Cush closes with the solid sensibility of "Postcard", a perfect bookend for an experience that might be fleeting but will last in memory.
Fallon Cush may not stand the test of time. There's no telling when Steve Smith might pull the plug, as he would consider it dishonorable to continue any band beyond its creative peak. But there's a sort of low-level magic that thrums through the songs on Fallon Cush. Even in its quieter moments, Fallon Cush is filled with a creative energy and drive that's palpable. Smith's willingness to surrender the development of the songs on Fallon Cush to a group creative process has raised his art a notch, while retaining the individualism he so fiercely prides. By all accounts, Fallon Cush is an artistic success.
POWER OF POP
Australian singer-songwriter Steve Smith is the person behind Fallon Cush, this ‘band’ moniker being Smith’s preferred persona in lieu of using his own name. That said, this eponymous album is very much a group project with Smith recruiting the likes of Bill Gibson (bass, backing vocals), Matt Galvin (guitar), Scott Aplin (keyboards), Josh Schuberth (drums) and Bert Thomson (also, drums). The aforementioned players are well known in Sydney music circles and are all seasoned players, which is borne out in this accomplished effort, despite being recorded in only seven days!
It is probably a cliche to observe that the music of Fallon Cush is very much in the style of the sophisticated folk-pop-rock of the Eighties and clearly references the likes of fellow Australasians Crowded House, the Go-Betweens, the Mutton Birds & the Church. No doubt that fans of this special epoch of pop-rock history will be thrilled to know that Fallon Cush (the album) totally lives up to the ambitious expectations it sets for itself. Many times over, it must be stressed.
Within the first four songs, Fallon Cush loudly declares its musical agenda with Smith’s languid vocals (reminiscent of Neil Finn), guitar arpeggios that recall vintage 60s Byrds (or classic 80s R.E.M. – same difference), suitable piano fills, warm vibrato organs and mid-tempo rhythm sections. When these elements are handled with sensitivity and intelligence, they imbue these straightforward tunes with a timeless quality that certainly recalls that golden age of 80s song-craft that Smith obviously admires.
The opening “Tiny Town” is a memorable examination of small-town reminiscences presented in a smooth vignette – “…like I used to feel, in that tiny town, when the lights went down…”, the melancholy piano ballad “Over Me” follows to foster reflection of a failed relationship embellished by a soaring chorus – “Yes I would die if you weren’t there by my side if you’re over me, if you’re over me…” simple, direct and highly effective.
The atmospheric “The Trouble With A Moonlit Night” is hopelessly romantic with a sting in the tail. Evoking a wind swept nocturnal encounter, and the pain of loss and yearning with sublime words – “crickets chirp on the lawn and the day’s warmth, hangs around longer than you would have thought…” and “while cats still on the roof counting their lives, we sit on the porch in the soft glow but the secret we can’t share but we both know…” – it will bring tears to your eyes, if you allow it. Then there’s also the folk-rock extravaganza of “Kiss You Awake” – with chorus harmonies, and melodies which would not be amiss on a late 80s college rock LP, for sure.
The rest of this delightful album, does not stray from this ‘formula’ (if indeed that is what it is) of superior songwriting matched with pristine performances throughout. Sure, on the edgier “Where You Been”, Smith takes a turn into 80s pub-rock (Elvis Costello/Squeeze) and delivers an authentic sonic punch, if only to demonstrate his versatility. But it’s probably fair to say that Smith and co are more at home sending chills down spine with more languorous material like the heartfelt “Sleeping Giant”, the jingle-jangle heavenly “The Great Divide” and the sweetly fragile “I Won’t Dream Tonight”.
And with the pleasing “Disintegrate”, Smith wraps up a very strong collection of pop songs (in every sense of that word), lamenting the demise of a certain “Johnny Ray” – with a track that contains a greater sense of classic rock (think: Pink Floyd, The Alan Parsons Project) than revealed on any other time on this powerful album. For fans of good old fashioned pop-rock, Fallon Cush will warm the cockles of your heart and give all music lovers genuine hope for the future.
A group of accomplished studio vets from Australia recorded this debut album and had it mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Fallon Cush is fronted by Steve Smith, and joined by Scott Aplin (keyboards,) Matt Galvin (lead guitar,) Bill Gibson (bass) and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. Smith has a cadence similar to Tom Petty and/or Mike Viola and the album displays an easy-going pop jangle on most songs.
“Tiny Town” starts things out as a mid-tempo rocker and I hear a little Dylan meets McCartney on the brilliant “Over Me” with a solid guitar solo in the break. Another gem is the majestic ballad “The Trouble with a Moonlit Night” that Sir Paul would approve of. The production is full and clean, and stylistically matches well except the faux-Elvis Costello like “Where You Been.” The strong guitar strums of “Dog Day Afternoon” leads you down a wonderful melodic path and its my favorite track on the album. It ends with “Disintegrate,” a dramatic guitar and organ jam that fades off in the final minutes. Influences from The Beatles and Byrds are most prominent, and that’s a real good thing for lovers of classic rock. A very rewarding and mesmerizing listen.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
Fallon frontman Steve Smith’s is familiar from ‘90s Aussie band, Catherine Wheel. (A fan of the English Catherine Wheel, I was amused to find his was also good, though different—folkish!) With this debut, his new group reconnects his older talents, the kind that lead to his CW being invited to tour with Crowded House. His voice is like Gerry Rafferty (“Stuck in the Middle With You,” “Baker Street”) if that Scot sang light R.E.M.-ish tunes developed on acoustic guitars, colored with flavorful pianos/organs, electrics, and bass and drums. It’s exquisitely executed, but like Crowded or Costello, risked being too mannered if this Steve wasn’t such an accomplished song-“Smith.” Musical/lyrical romance abides, but it bedevils, being secretly distressed (“The Trouble With a Moonlit Night”) or passing (“Over Me”)—adding flesh to his singer/songwriter bones. Nice.
MUSIC RX BLOG
This CD has a sweet magic. First, the vocalist immediately reminded me of George Harrison. And the songs, of perhaps the type of music he might be doing these days, if he was still around. 2nd, they are from Australia, so they have a Crowded House influence running through these songs, which make most of them great pop songs in the vein of what we'd love to hear again from the Traveling Wilburys.
Lot's to love here.
It may just become a real favorite of mine.
SOMETHING ELSE REVIEWS
Fallon Cush grows more confident with each passing song on their self-titled debut. Perhaps because singer Steve Smith put this together on the fly, enlivened by passion and not weighed down by heavy planning.
Smith, who wrote all of the songs, began by assembling a group of well-known Australian musicians including bassist Bill Gibson (perhaps best known for his stint with the Lemonheads), guitarist Matt Galvin, keyboardist Scott Aplin, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. Fallon Cush was then recorded simply on an old-fashioned 16-track, and at break-neck speed, as the group put down 10 songs in just 7 days in Sydney. The album was later mastered at London’s Abbey Road, where a number of rock masterpieces were fashioned by the likes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
There is so much to love about Fallon Cush. And the results, nifty and polished though they may be, only hint at where this amalgam could go.
“Tiny Town,” perhaps Fallon Cush’s best cut, begins with a lightly insistent strum before soaring into a power-pop jangle. Smith echoes early John Lennon here, two parts nasal melancholy and one part sneering rock ’n’ roll street urchin. Smith cops to a longing look back, lamenting how he “used to feel, in that tiny town, when the lights when down,” but he hasn’t stopped thinking about getting out. No way: “Today,” Smith sings in a sun-drenched harmony, “can right my wrongs.”
An elegant romanticism is similarly blown apart by an unsaid misstep on “The Trouble with a Moonlit Night.” This swirling keyboard wash ascends behind a lonely piano, as the band bashes toward a Beatle-y epiphany of hippified reverie. The trouble, see, is “a light that leaves you nowhere to hide, while cats sit on the roof counting their lives,” Smith sings. “We sit on the porch in the soft glow, with a secret that we can’t share but we both know.”
As the group charges through these sessions, admittedly, it doesn’t always move far enough past its principal influences. For every “Over Me” (channels Bob Dylan, but adds a modern pop-craft in keeping with Crowded House), there’s a “Where You Been” (its stamping urgency is too close to Elvis Costello). Fallon Cush gets it almost exactly right on “Dog Day Afternoon,” which updates a Pete Townsend riff with an arching new-wave vocal. Then, there’s the loving nostalgia of “Kiss You Awake,” which they toughened up with a mod beat out of Denny Laine era Moody Blues. But Smith and Co. can;t get around the obvious Byrds influences on “Great Divide,” right down to the ringing guitars and layered, soaring vocals.
In a way, the doggedly optimistic “Sleeping Giant” seems to cop to the name-checking, perhaps the inevitable result of a session marked by such immediacy. “Once you’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all,” Smith shrugs, finally.
The album ends with a perfectly wrought moment of emotional dichotomy, however. A lullaby-like placidity envelops “I Won’t Dream Tonight,” belying the turbulent times its protagonists are enduring during a long evening of arguing. “I watch the words I thought were mine,” Smith sings in a damaged falsetto, “fall out from your lips and hit the ground.” He often reaches for genuine emotion on Fallon Cush, and here he finds it. Then the finale “Disintegrate” storms out, with an insistent guitar rhythm and one of Smith’s most committed vocals.
He sounds, here, like a street singer, both in the sense of singing to the back of the room, and also singing as if his life depended on it. Once the larger band joins in, the lyric begins to coalesce around a repeated chorus, before Smith returns to the verse with a controlled fury. All of a sudden, Fallon Cush has dropped the Beatles pretentions for one of Abbey Road’s other most famous tenants: Pink Floyd.
As gorgeous and occasionally mannered as Fallon Cush had been before, this is intriguingly experimental, and it points to greater heights yet still to be reached. As of now, Smith says, the group has no plans to tour. Maybe they should. Fallon Cush sounds like an exceptional group that is just getting started.
Melodic Australian heartland rock with elements of Black Sorrows, Byrds and Pink Floyd. “Tiny Town” could almost be an Eagles song but of course lead singer and song writer Steve Smith has his own voice which has a quiet tensile strength. Guitarist Matt Galvin is frequently epic and somewhat similar in style to Mark Knopfler. Smith’s vocal bridge on “Over Me” raises the song up a level. The stomping “Where You Been” features Scott Alpin’s churchy B3 and Galvin’s epic guitar solo.
Riding on softly jangled guitars “Sleeping Giant” is their most Crowded House sounding song but hardly derivative. “The Great Divide” combines Byrdsian jangle with Rascalish chorus to exquisite effect. Galvin supplies a typically stadium-ready guitar solo. “Disintegrate,” the last song, references Johnny Ray and Dexys Midnight Runners and falls solidly in the latter’s tradition missing only the horns and strings.
2011Candy Says: Fallon Cush do music as if they have been around for ever. We are hearing some Bob Dylan influences on this song, take that as an endorsement, we don't give out Bob awards that often!
Good pop music, a wise man once said, accomplishes the tricky balancing act of being both instantly familiar and yet original. Fallon Cush, the band name of Australian singer/songwriter Steve Smith and his mates, manages just that, invoking influences as diverse as Elvis Costello, Squeeze, the Byrds, and early Rod Stewart. Yet even as Fallon Cush recalls some of your favorite old records, the compositions on this self-titled 10-song release sparkle with freshness and personality.
None of the players Smith has assembled here qualify as household names, but they each hold impressive resumes and include bassist Bill Gibson (bass, backing vocals), guitarist Matt Galvin, Scott Aplin on piano and organ, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson. While Smith’s vocals dominate, Fallon Cush is very much a band album, with ensemble playing that often recalls the genial British pub rock of the late 70’s (a direct forerunner to the punk and power-pop scenes of the 80’s). While the album was hastily recorded and mixed in a matter of days, Smith had it mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, resulting in a buoyant, bright sound throughout the album.
Smith’s antipodean bona fides become immediately apparent on the album’s first track, “Tiny Town.” The song’s catchy hook and Smith’s pinched, reedy voice combine to recall kiwi pop idol Neil Finn of Crowded House, with bassist Bill Gibson adding tight harmonies on the chorus. The lyrics recall Smith’s origins in a “tiny town” and how those memories continue to follow and haunt him. Nostalgia also plays a key role on “The Trouble With A Moonlit Night” and “Over Me,” the latter of which is a classic unrequited love song that benefits from a delicate piano part from Scott Aplin and a tasty but restrained guitar solo, while downbeat ballad acoustic guitars and Alpin’s piano lend the former a classic feel.
Things proceed apace until “Where You Been” issues a wake up call with its martial drums and insistent chording, a throwback to early Elvis Costello & The Attractions with its riveting blend of vintage organ, guitars, drums, and tambourine. A distorted guitar solo adds additional bite. This track really lets the whole of Fallon Cush show off its rock chops and becomes one of the highlights of the album. Descending acoustic guitar chords usher in “Sleeping Giant,” a lilting waltz with an airy folk lilt. Here Smith lectures the listener on being content with what we have and not consuming more than we deserve. “Be careful, they say, of what you wish for,” goes the cautionary lyric, “or you’ll wake up one day with a wolf at the door… or a sleeping giant on the floor.” Tinkling piano and shimmering cymbals accentuate the message.
The flourish of layered guitars and staccato drum beats that begin “The Great Divide” mimic the memorable intro to Nick Lowe’s power-pop classic “Cruel To Be Kind,” and the track retains that Eighties new-wave flavor. There’s a bit of Squeeze at work too in the sophisticated chord changes, clever backing vocal melody and taut guitar solo. Smith extends that Nick Lowe vibe on “Dog Day Afternoon,” a far cry from the stark, violent film it’s named after. This “Afternoon” is a sunny, upbeat celebration of life with somewhat enigmatic lyrics but no shortage of pop energy. “I Won’t Dream Tonight” segues nicely into a reflective ballad showcasing strummed acoustic guitars, a bit of jazzy piano, and sparse percussion from what sounds like bongos. In the manner of an American standard from the songbook of Gershwin or Berlin, Smith conjures melancholy and regret with the line “one last breath, face the light, I won’t dream tonight.”
The band ratchets up the energy for the finale, an up-tempo rocker called “Disentegrate” that combines R.E.M. jangle with an almost gospel-like fervor. Chorded acoustic guitars add a nice melody before the band kicks in for a full-bodied crescendo. Then those lovely acoustic guitars re-enter and harmony vocals take the song home in a style reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Steve Smith certainly did well in choosing the musicians for Fallon Cush. They bring his songs to life with vibrancy, elegance, and the true spirit of an ensemble. No single instrument dominates, as keyboards, guitars, and vocals mesh to accentuate both melodies and lyrics. There are some classic hooks and memorable licks here which fans of both 80’s power-pop and modern-day indie-rock will savor.
INDIE MUSIC CRITIC (CD of the Week)
Fallon Cush’s self-titled album is a seamlessly polished sound that anyone with the ability to hear will likely dub as a great record. Recorded in Sydney, Australia and mastered at the infamous Abbey Road Studios, the group’s efforts culminated into the album within just seven days. With Steve Smith at the forefront, well-known Australian musicians keyboardist Scott Aplin, guitarist Matt Galvin, bassist Bill Gibson, and drummers Josh Schuberth and Bert Thomson come together to make Fallon Cush. Plain and simple, this album is one to be in the collection of any music lover. Mostly a bevy of low-key, relaxing numbers, a few buoyant tracks are thrown in to spice things up and keep the energy flowing. One of the more upbeat songs is “Where You Been,” which has a certain late-60’s feel with Smith’s ever-so-slightly off-key vocals carrying the listener through. The middle brings with it an electric solo that’ll have you off your seat, air guitar at the ready. “The Trouble With a Moonlit Night” is a dreamy, romantic and faintly wistful ballad that keeps you mesmerized and ready to snuggle with your sweetie on a summer night. “I Won’t Dream Tonight” has a similar tempo, but lacks a hook that gets stuck in your head as the previously mentioned song does. Steve Smith has a just detectable nasally voice, sort of like Tom Petty or John Lennon. “Over Me” even has a Beatles-esque quality in the drumming pattern and guitar work. “Disintegrate” ends the album on a high note. Beginning with a snappy, acoustic sound and transitioning at 1:30 into a fuller, more dramatic sound with percussion is a surprise, yet a very well-received evolution. This happens once more, the music enveloping Smith’s complementing vocals, and eventually the song drifts off, leaving the listener wanting more. Fallon Cush certainly knows what they’re doing, no doubt about it. While a couple tracks left a little more to be desired by way of being a bit more varied, by and large Fallon Cush is an enjoyable CD you won’t want to miss.
NOW THIS ROCKS
Fallon Cush “Fallon Cush” – Fallon Cush is otherwise known as Steve Smith, a singer/songwriter from Australia. He and his band breeze through the 11 tracks on their eponymous debut, delivering an array of generally mellow and bright acoustic folk rock with 80s overtones. Most of the tracks don’t quite have a sharp enough hook to maintain my attention, but every once in awhile there is a needle in the haystack. For example, the upbeat drums, jamming organ, and fiery guitar solo make “Where You Been” stand out like a sore thumb among the other tracks – and that is a good thing in this case. “Where You Been” is easily my favorite track – I wish there were more songs like it. “The Great Divide” is another winner, boasting shimmering guitar tones, a memorable chorus, and effective backing vocals. “Dog Day Afternoon” and the pleasant “Over Me” are also worth a spin. Recommended if you enjoy Neil Nathan, David Mead, or Grapes of Wrath.