The Steinbecks "At Arkaroo Rock" (Matinée Recordings)
When the Sugargliders' "A Nest With A View" primer came out last year, we got so excited that we listened to it over and over again, forgot about everything else in our lives, stayed up through the early hours writing a somewhat over-earnest review and then fell asleep on the sofa.
You'll be relieved to hear we have no intention of doing the same this time: our only goal (a Longmire goal, natch) is to try and convey how overjoyed we are that this new single from the brothers Meadows exists, and to meekly apologise for how the mighteous Steinbecks featured only as a footnote in that previous review, with us sleepily mumbling that we hoped they would one day get their due before we clicked on "publish" and turned in for the night (although for those of us a certain age you must forgive us fleeting imaginings, on listening to this 3-track 7", of how it might have looked as a Sugargliders EP for Sarah, perhaps with a label showing Baltic Wharf, or the bus from Temple Meads...)
But back to the present, and "Arkaroo Rock" taps at the window, smiles, flutters in and nestles happily in the pulsing folds of your heart, just as you'd expect from artists whose music has been delighting us for a quarter of a century. Moth-delicate, with gently cascading vocal lines and a glistening spun web of guitars, it's a song about how we all stand so small when we set ourselves against the long passage of time, and it operates at a dizzying level of exquisiteness, somewhere on the plane of the Butterflies of Love, or the Steinbecks' Australian cousins the Lucksmiths at their brittlest.
Indeed, to the extent that we suspect that the single's slaloming gorgeousness is not going to be properly recognised by an ungrateful world, it reminds us of the latter's underpraised and equally pretty "Get-to-bed Birds" 7" swansong on the same label. (The optimist in us insists, though, that these records' brilliance *will* one day be unearthed and treasured by future generations, just like the cave paintings at Arkaroo).
Ahem. Middle track "All Desires Known" picks up where "Yr Jacket" left off (the Steinbecks, like the Sugargliders, somehow sound more brutal when they strip slow songs down to bare bones) before the excellent "Cabin Fever", the feistiest song of the three, injects harsher guitar tones and some increasingly anguished falsetto.
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Our review of the Steinbecks' "Recorded Music Salon" set, a frightening number of years ago now (you can p'raps get a sense of just how long ago by the fact that we took the opportunity to slag off our then-bête noires the Verve, Starsailor and the rightly long-forgotten Alfie) opined that it proved:
"not only is there life after the sugargliders, but that life is rich, rosy and - despite occasional flaws - full of possibilities"
We'd hazard that, for once, we were right. "At Arkaroo Rock" emerges unblinking and proud from that wonderful, foggy swirl of possibilities, making us feel like the richest people in town.
In this ghastly summer of royalist sycophancy, this torrid spell of unflinching and unnuanced heat, this is a single that comes as fresh and thrilling rain. And so we fall in love with them, all over again.