Hello Me to You
Imagine you could fuse the driving force of power pop, great melodies and singer songwriter musings delivered with a punk urgency. Throw them in the oven and cook slowly. You might also sprinkle Beatlesque turns, traces of a Phil Spector production and some unusual chord arrangements to create a musical tension that occurs when certain sound waves collide. Victor Stranges grew up in a city in industrial Melbourne (Australia) and as a teenager in the 1980s he played in underground punk group, Drunk 'n' Disorderly. This Clash/Stiff Little Fingers infused experience was a common one for Melbourne bands at the time; loud music, beer, violence and, er...more beer. Some fourteen people were hospitalised from one show alone. Billed with other acts at the time including Weddings Parties Anything, The Johnnys, Celibate Rifles and Bastard Squad, the band gained a reputation for drawing a loyal and enthusiastic following. The punk movement was the catalyst for an interesting musical direction and drawing from such great writers as Strummer/Jones, Elvis Costello and Ray Davies, Victor embarked on a journey of thumbing through their songbooks. He played in several Australian groups including Caravan and more recently, Victor Stranges & The Methinks. Their album, "Heading Back To You" (2002), was recorded at Lo Ricco Sound Studios (Melbourne) and features Michael Stranges on bass/guitar (Ripe, Kim Salmon, Morning After Girls), Darren Aquilina on drums (Dada, Klown) and David Milne (Red Ant, Ice Cream Hands) on piano/organ/keys. The new album, "Hello Me To You", is the first "solo" album for Victor. It was recorded, engineered and produced at his new home studio in Melbourne, Australia. Having the home set up has enabled Victor to have a lot more control over the final production and the result is a bona fide pop record. "I've been listening to a lot of Matthew Sweet and The Kinks lately," he says. The album kicks off with the only co-written track on the album (with Matt Swanton), Morning Star. Weaving through an almost endless complex chord structure in the verse, the song resolves to the dumbest of dumb and infectious pop choruses ("do, do, do, do"). The second track, Hello Me To You, is probably the most hook laden song that Victor has committed to a recording. The Kinks styled song points to the late 1980s/early 1990s era when vinyl was "well and truly gone" from the mainstream. The song describes a mismatched romance ("I thought you liked The Replacements but Bon Jovi was what you meant") and is also a glimpse into the record retail business ("on Fridays we were rigging the charts, my contribution to modern arts"). Other stand out tracks include the Wilco meets Neil Finn song, "When The Morning Comes" which has a hypnotic piano that keeps you humming along. "Memories" is an interesting pop ballad; very Roy Orbison/Elvis Costello, both in it's lyrics and sweeping 1960s Phil Spector production. "Is There Someone To Thank For All Of This?" could well be the perfect pop song on a parallel universe with strings in the middle eight section a la Paul McCartney. The album jumps around different styles of music frequently. None more apparent than "The Colour Of Your Street Is Gold" which is a gospel song that Al Green could easily cover, complete with Motown style backing vocals. Though stylistically different, "You Can't Buy Happiness," is a seven minute closing track and plainly asks the question, "where is my Lord today?" Not that different to something that Chris Bell from Big Star would ask on his most personal songs. Hello Me To You is an ambitious pop record with a spiritual yearning thrown in the mix. This is ear candy that speaks to the soul...turn it up!