The Broken Needles | Terra Nullius | Rating: 8/11 | Reviewed by: Kilby Shepard |
Years and years ago, while their mates were be-bopping to yet another Kylie Minogue remix, four Australian boys must have dusted off some old LP’s by the New York Dolls, Steve Earle, Neil Young and Merle Haggard. A few years later and only slightly past their boyish years, The Broken Needles were born. Their debut release is self-produced and called Terra Nullius.
“Detritus” kicks off the record with slow blues riffing and a stumbling drum beat before Mick Galloway’s vocals sneak in and make their home at the front of the mix where they stay for the rest of the album. Galloway’s voice turns to a David Johannsen snarl in “Saltflat Baby,” a screeching guitar rocker with a keyboard mash-up clocking in at well under three minutes.
“Saigon Pussy” could’ve been born from the CBGB underbelly, as Galloway’s singing takes on an accusatory, punkish tone backed by a steady, menacing down-stroked acoustic strum. The vocals become a marked contrast to the melodic rhythm guitars and Dick Dale-like tremolo picking on “Take it Easy.”
There’s fuzz box guitar breaks and a Neil Young-sounding intro on “Cocaine Blues,” and somewhere between Pete Yorn and Whiskeytown falls “(I Am Not The) Resurrection.” Galloway narrates more than sings as the album takes an alt-country turn on “Abattoir Song” and “Ruby.”
Highlighting the album is “Cheap Gin,” a bluesy, honky-tonk ode to afternoon self-medication that could start the night just as easily as it could end it, with a drunken sing-along of the sha-la-la-la-la fadeout. The video for Cheap Gin (YouTube) is captivating, to say the least. It’s a voyeuristic glimpse on youth and letting the good times roll. If you’re a Gen X-er, it’s a reminder of the age when there’s no such thing as week night drinking because any night was okay for drinking, before levels of responsibility crept in and got in the way. If you’re a Gen Y-er, the video could be you and your roommates now, tonight, having fun and re-living it tomorrow in a booth over a Denny’s Grand Slam.
The album does have its uneven moments. “Toy Horses” is a soft piano ballad that sounds out of place, and the mixed up tempos and saxophone in the six minute and two second “Tropical Disease” are more like a free form jam compared to the album’s other songs that feature a traditional songwriting arc. This is a young band, however, and consistency in the recording and songwriting process will come around in future releases. For now, Terra Nullius is an impressive debut that swings the pendulum between bluesy rock and dirty country.