Two new songs (June 2017)
Mr Boogie Man Bar, April 8th 2018.
Tago Mago in Thornbury, April 27th 2018.
Joe’s Farm Gate in May.
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A Taylor Project album – Doreen, Doreen
Doreen, Doreen is Melbourne alt country band Taylor Project’s fourth album. It follows Life, Death, Prizes (2011), Love in the Time of Scurvy (2010) and The Happiest Girl in the Whole Wide Street (2008).
Taylor Project are twin sisters Sarah (lead vocals, guitar) and Liz (mandolin, violin, piano) Taylor; Andrew Bonnici (formerly of Khancoban – electric guitar, lap steel, synths); drummer Scott Boydle; and bass player Jason Emilionowicz.
The sounds on Doreen, Doreen range across country and folk, Nashville-esque ballads, comical acoustic numbers, and experimental mashups. On the first three tracks, the muffled piano ballad and mellow trumpet of Cool Change give way to the colonial folk rock of Guilty Wretch, and then to the washing machines, op shop organs, and sampled 1990s cassette tapes for job seekers of Detroit.
The lyrics are distinctive: at times informative, other times evocative of times and places that the writers (Liz and Sarah) have spent time thinking about. As with preceding Taylor Project albums, geography is often a central character: from rust belt Detroit, to the post war irrigation schemes of Shepparton (The Orchard), a jail cell in the 19th century New Zealand gold fields (Guilty Wretch), and suburban amphetamine labs (Doreen). There is also a fascination with nature: not Nice Nature, but Nature in its cycles and its indignities: “the obscenity of spring / pollen is just semen” (Waiting on a Fool).
The songs conjure optimism and decay, youth and aging, power and powerlessness. In their resignation they give an almost affirmative vision of intimidating forces – like economics, love, or violence – as inevitable cycles that shape and remake individuals, with neither malice nor sympathy: “there’s fixed rate or there’s varied rate / or there’s just a kick in the head” (Doreen), “In the bar tonight is the unbending instinct / which is not concerned with dignity” (Detroit).
The cover art to Doreen, Doreen shows a beloved old piano and even more beloved old cat in Elmore, northern Victoria, where six of the songs were recorded. The other five songs were recorded in – where else?! – Doreen, in the new northern suburbs of Melbourne. The inset photos feature Melbourne Airport’s fantastically huge car park at sunset. After the photos, the band and their shovel soon got moved on (politely, but with little fanfare) by airport security.
About Taylor Project
The forensic lyrics of Doreen, Doreen and other Taylor Project albums can be partly attributed to day jobs. Liz has a PhD in urban planning, and spends her days writing research on car parking, giant chicken farms, and alcohol regulations. Sarah works with databases and is writing a PhD on the historical geography of live music. She spends her time writing code, reading about bands who have long since broken up, and making maps about the effects of labour casualisation.
Andrew works night shifts at a newspaper printing factory, and quite enjoys it because he can spend his days with a synthesizer and a deaf cat. Scott drives a community service bus, plays in several bands (but not the Creedence Clearwater tribute band anymore) and has a superhuman knowledge of 1960s and 1970s music history. Jason is an artist, bureaucrat, caustic wit and Geelong Cats fan.
What puff can be said about Taylor Project? In the absence of a label, awards or reviews (good or bad), writing these things feels like that scene in the Simpsons where Marg is making up a convincing resume (“homemaker: 1980 to present”). It’s a strange thing to write when a band is long running but, by most objective measures, not particularly successful. Just as Marg had some help from Lisa, it is often easier to describe yourself through the eyes of others. Here are some comments and factoids about Taylor Project drawn from other people’s reactions:
- Taylor Project have been played on wonderful community radio stations in Melbourne (RRR, PBS, 3CR, North West FM) and beyond (Bendigo! Wollongong!)
- They have also played live on 774 ABC.
- As well as the pubs and bars of Melbourne and country Victoria, they have played at festivals including Yackandandah, Maldon, the Guildford Banjo Jamboree, Bendigo Blues and Roots Festival, and the Renaissance Festival.
- They don’t have quite a defined genre – who does? – but suggestions from a poll this week included: “Colonial folk”, “Forensic folk”, “Indie folk”, “If I were you I would ditch the folk bit”, “Colonial forensic indie”, “Death metal”, “Comic folk-core”, “Contemporary traditional”, “Indie folk melancholia”, “Alt folk country”, “Americana”, “Indie folk alt country”, “Suburban gothic”, “Meta”.
- Recently one of Taylor Project’s Facebook friends reported “Courtney Barnett is doing a live gig in my street! I thought it was the Taylor Project so wandered over but alas. I’ll take it anyway.”
- Once, at the Old Bar, a stranger – and, incidentally, a local celebrity – said that they listened to a Taylor Project album on repeat for the entire weekend away with friends.
- At another gig, someone came up to announce that he had driven from Wollongong to hear Taylor Project in person because he couldn’t stop listening to one particular song.
- Stevie Sterling (aged 4, no relation to band) knows all lyrics to past Taylor Project CDs.
- At a country gig, an older listener said that he often listened to Love in a Small Town, because it gave him hope that his girlfriend of decades past would “come back to me next time around”.
- Several people have professed to spending the weeks following a breakup listening to Taylor Project on repeat. They could have chosen Phil Collins, or the Smiths, but they went with Taylor Project! This is very flattering. Making Other Plans is a breakup favourite.
- A few of their friends and acquaintances have generously asked why Taylor Project aren’t a bit better known. There are plenty of potential reasons, but poor DIY marketing (like this) would definitely be one of them.
- Taylor Project feature in the Monash University Publishing Annual Report 2014 for playing at a book launch.
- They have also been played in tractors.
- Liz and Sarah receive text messages several times a year from people who are driving past Wangaratta. This relates to their 2010 song Don’t Cry For Me Wangaratta.
- For the same reason, they were once reviewed in the Wangaratta Chronicle, and compared to The Captain Matchbox Whoopie Band (who wrote the 1974 hit, Wangaratta Wahini)
- Friend Val says: “Wanted to mention that I am really enjoying your new CD – great music, clever and sophisticated but also totally easy to like. I think you’re getting better and better – I hope someone in the business spots it and you get rich and famous :-)”
- Friend Ian says: “Just heard the whole album “Doreen, Doreen” for the first time, played it twice in a row – and I guarantee it will be on high rotation on my CD player (yes I still own such a monstrosity) this summer”
- Corinna Jane, reviewing a gig at the Old Bar in Fitzroy in 2014, reported “the band knows its way around a melody, that’s for certain, and their song themes are never bland or run-of- the-mill. Delicious close harmonies showcased the hilariously maudlin ballad, Doreen, after which the band premiered its brand new song, The Orchard. The guy next to me leaned in and noted ‘They’ve given Johnny Cash a run for his money with this one!”, and he was right.“
About the Songs on Doreen, Doreen
- COOL CHANGE
“In the morning we won’t know / why we ever wore those clothes”
Waking up on a morning in Melbourne, with construction noises and restless piles of leaves on the street.
A simple ballad recorded live around the old piano in Elmore. Voice, acoustic guitar and trumpet float over the muffled room. The Taylor Project YouTube channel has a film clip for this song, featuring the futuristic yet grotesque “mini me” figures of Sarah and Liz made at Office Works.
- GUILTY WRETCH
“They know the biggest rule of all / is always be a man”
Nelson, New Zealand, 1866, as multiple murderer and olden days scumbag Richard Burgess awaits execution for the Maungatapu murders. Based on the (mis)adventures described in his confessional memoirs Guilty Wretch that I am. Richard’s main goal in his last days seems to have been to blame everyone else where possible, and justify the rest.
A colonial folk rock tune built around jangling guitar and military drums. The storytelling verses give way to choruses with staccato metering: “those jury men / they’ve just been told, different laws / than my own”.
“We will all be unemployed / we are all Detroit”
Rust belt Detroit, and post-industrial Manchester. The lyrics refer to Robert Kuttner’s 2013 article, “We are all Detroit”, which noted that “Detroit is partly the victim of economic trends far beyond its control”. As are we all…
Slow soundscape built around a washing machine sample (Simpson top loader), 1974 Hammond Sounder from Brotherhood of St Laurence, MPC 500 sequencer, a trumpet, and some cassette tapes from the early 1990s giving advice to immigrants on how to find non-existent jobs (“That’s it! Tomorrow I’m going down to the CES…”)
- WAITING ON A FOOL
“Those taxis and sirens were calling in the night again”
Memories of being young, waiting for someone stupid enough to go out with you. Everything charged with anticipation. One of several Taylor Project songs referring to silos – here a reference to a memorable night in Fargo, North Dakota.
An upbeat, rhythmic indie pop song with strong hooks and layered electric guitars.
- THE ORCHARD
“Machines to make a new cemetery / of the fruit trees of our youth”
The abandoned orchards of SPC Ardmona, near Shepparton, being pulled out and burned when they were no longer profitable. The concept of food trees being considered non-profitable is 21st century economics, but the song also harks back to the Menzies era, when irrigation channels promised prosperity.
A dark gospel folk song, with violin. The chorus lyrics (“spare that tree”) are borrowed from a 19th century proto-environmentalist folk song.
“Remove all suspicion by waving on occasion”
The newly developing outer suburb of Doreen, Melbourne, in the wake of an amphetamine related murder. A real one – Liz read about it in the news. The neighbours hadn’t suspected anything because the guy had sometimes waved and said hello. Police “would like to talk to two men driving a white ute” (don’t they always?) Alas, crime can be in many places, even in new suburban estates named after the heroine in C.J Dennis’ classic Australian poem, The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke.
Suburban gothic, a comically stripped back sing-along folk song.
- MIGHT AS WELL BE THE MOON
“With all these strangers that you know /
this might as well be the moon”
A quiet street on a Northern English mill town in the late 1960s, with eyes behind parted curtains watching a girl’s every move. A place more hostile, to some people, than the face of the moon being broadcast on TV.
A 1960s swing ballad or Nashville Sound. Lap steel and tremolo mandolin. Evokes Gene Pitney’s A Town Without Pity.
- THE END OF THE AFFAIR
“If I have time / I’ll count my lovers”
The end of the second world war, celebrating in the streets. The name and lyrical references come from Grahame Green’s novel, as the embittered character mourns the end of the war because it also means the end of a love affair.
Alt country, swinging twang and heartbeat kick drums.
9. SITTING ON A TRAIN
“See this country in the dark / the trees like body parts”
An overnight XPT train from Sydney to Melbourne, watching the familiar dryness of the Victorian landscape come into view. There’s a film clip for this song on the Taylor Project YouTube channel.
Described as “sparse yet dynamic”. An atmospheric, slow burning alt country song about the strangeness of home. Featuring train drum beat, reverb-heavy guitar and harmonium.
10. GOOD WOMEN (ALT. VERSION)
“They don’t do it too early / they don’t do it too late / good women always exfoliate”
The magical fairy land where women aren’t being blamed for anything and everything, including the actions of others. A satirical song of gender politics, violence, and absurd logic, which would almost be funny if it weren’t heard every day.
Electronic drone blended with delayed vocals, swelling guitar and violin.
11. A PLACE TO GO
“The music most wanted by the people most not / with just a place to and a place to leave”
Anywhere where poor people leave the countryside and arrive in a new city, and write music about it. The most famous example: Memphis. But a theme seen over and over in the history of music.
Baltic flavoured waltz (Watch out for the screaming at the end though).