Calm Ya Farm by The Murlocs–Album Review
Calm Ya Farm by The Murlocs–Album Review
Since you’re reading this in Psychedelic Scene, I’m going to cut right to the chase. If psychedelia is what you want to hear, you’re better off sticking with the other project that Murlocs frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith is better known for: King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard.
But if, like me, you enjoy that musical moment in the Seventies just before hard rock, prog rock, psychedelic rock, and heavy metal went their separate ways, you might find Calm Ya Farm worth a listen or two–all the more so if you’re also a fan of Southern Rock. Despite being an Australian band, the Murlocs manage to sound as if they would not be out of place if you rewound to 1975, drew a line between Muscle Shoals and Nashville, and then put them on that line a little closer to Muscle Shoals. The album it most reminds me of is Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken. So, if that’s the sort of thing you like, then Calm Ya Farm might be right up your alley.
As you would expect from Ambrose Kenny-Smith, the sound is very harmonica-forward and generally pretty bluesy. The guitar is charmingly fuzzy around the edges, and overall the songs are catchy,
If I have one overarching complaint about the album, it’s that I’m pretty sure the lyrics are very clever, but the mix makes it difficult to pick them out. This is most notable on the second and third tracks, “Common Sense Civilian” and “Russian Roulette”. The first is a lament about political and experiential divisions: “We’re losing our common senses” is the refrain for the way the Left and Right don’t seem to share much of a consensus reality anymore. “Russian Roulette,” on the other hand, deploys a fantastic couplet I’ve never encountered before. Of course, “cylinder” rhymes with “Dillinger.” Why wouldn’t it? The key and tempo change at the end of this track makes me wish they’d done the whole song like that. The final track on the album is named “Aletophyte,” and it’s a great word for a concept very familiar in Southern Rock. I suspect I’d like the song’s lyrics if only I could understand them.
The Murlocs manage to sound as if they would not be out of place if you rewound to 1975, drew a line between Muscle Shoals and Nashville, and then put them on that line a little closer to Muscle Shoals.
If you’re listening to the album in order, be aware that it mostly gets better the deeper you get into it. “Undone and Unashamed” sounds kind of like a twisted take on “Preacher Man”. The guitar solo is catchy; the saxophone solo made me grin, and I bet it will you too.
From here on, let’s look at some of the remaining songs from a more psychedelic-centered viewpoint.
“Centennial Perspective” starts out sounding very much like “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” but then lopes off into surreal blues-rock.
“Captain Cotton Mouth” and “Catfish” should probably be viewed as a matched set, the crickets ending the first leading into the second, and all three of Cottonmouth, Catfish, and Crickets being common “C” creatures of the South. “Captain Cotton Mouth” sounds like the spookier bits of 2010-era Drive-By Truckers, and it feels like it could have used another verse.
“Catfish” is the most overtly psychedelic-sounding song on the album. It’s in 3/4, which in this instance makes it sound like it’s staggering in a circle and about to fall over. This song also slots into the very small genre of “Australian Southern Gothic” in that it reminds me of Nick Cave’s first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel.
“Forbidden Toad” might well be about our favorite Sonoran amphibian. We can certainly decide it is since it’s instrumental. I get Camper Van Beethoven “Key Lime Pie” vibes off this one, which makes it rather easy to imagine it’s about driving through the desert while on hallucinogens.
In summary, it’s not a particularly psychedelic album and I don’t think it’s going to make anyone’s list of 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, but it’s packed with catchy, toe-tapping Southern Rock tunes with a lot of blues harmonica. If that’s your thing, give it a spin.