Through posting comments, photos and videos on Pinky Beecroft’s PBrectangle social network and blog and writing reviews of the June and July Melbourne gigs of his band Pinky Beecroft and the White Russians I came to the attention of his PR company, and they offered me a review copy of his forthcoming album ‘Somethin’ Somewhere Better’. I happily accepted and have been listening to it over and over for several days.
The first thing you notice about the album is how straightforward it is in terms of arrangements. It’s not exactly minimal like John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band (his 1970 debut solo album) but it is far from the fat synth and wah wah guitar of the arrangements and mixes of Machine Gun Fellatio albums.
The songs are the focus of this album more so than the sound or the persona of the lead performer. According to the press release the songs were recorded live. They are certainly not over arranged or over produced. Having learned most of the songs from two live shows, it is surprising to hear how the studio versions sound, and to work out what some of the lyrics say. The album sound is fresh, light and natural throughout (unlike the over filtered, overmixed, overproduced rubbish prevalent now), even more so than the EP, which was recorded in 2006.
It opens with a brief outtake of studio chat called ‘Prosperity’s purposes’ that segues into ‘Scarlett‘, a demented narrative about a high school dropout who becomes obsessed with a picture of Scarlett Johansson in the magazine he has just shoplifted. It builds to a great groove and gets a real thrashing live.
‘I will tear it down to make you happy‘ is fast and ragged, with a jaunty rhythm that seems to be about high density housing (and perhaps schizophrenia).
‘This song has only got happy words‘ is delightful. It was played in the encore of the June Melbourne gig and is extremely catchy. I can imagine it playing in an ad for something summery. The melody will tease you. It sounds like something you know, but whatever that is you can’t think of it. Even the Hammond organ part sounds happy.
‘Sunflowers‘ starts with a gentle piano melody but soon becomes more intense with a tough guitar riff that is a suitable counterpoint to a lyric about a damaged relationship. Actually I’m not entirely sure what it is about, but it’s getting better each time I listen to it.
Pinky remains focused on sex and drugs and rock and roll throughout the album. ‘Real good time‘ (which the band opened its last two Melbourne shows with) is a charming song about the shambolic hedonism of living for the moment and not letting opportunities slip by.
‘Someone for everyone‘ is the radio single and is a surreal story about the search for love and the perfect someone. ‘Floor‘ is another immediate favourite. It has a whimsical melody and confessional lyric about being drunk but amorous: ‘I might not be so good in bed / but I’m alright on the floor.’ This kind of clever lyric is typical of the best MGF songs like ‘The girl of my dreams (is giving me nightmares)’, and suggests that Pinky was the preeminent songwriter in that band.
A reworked version of MGF’s ‘Unsent letter‘ is more upbeat than the rather melancholy original and it becomes even more so live. The reason for its inclusion is unclear. I would be surprised if Pinky was short of material for the album (he’s also been playing a reworked ‘Just bcoz’ live). Maybe he’s making a statement about reclaiming it.
‘This hangover‘ is a fast thrash with a 1970s metal riff that could induce headbanging. It makes me think of my first night in Melbourne in 2001 when I saw various metalheads, goths, punks, bikies and speedfreaks headbanging and slamdancing to ‘Let’s be Frank’ (a song about the character Frank in David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet) at a Bigger than Jesus gig in the Espy front bar.
Of the EP songs, only ‘Fabulous driving‘ (still my favourite PBWR song) makes it on to the album (the album release should contain the EP as a bonus disc). The slower delicate songs like ‘Fabulous driving’ demonstrate what a brilliant writer Pinky is. The extroverted nature and tremendous energy of MGF shows tended to distract from the melodic qualities of the songs, but now the priorities are reversed. The songs are all important.
The cover of Blondie’s ‘Call me‘ is dark and dirty. The album concludes with ‘My haircut will come back around‘, which contains wryly humorous comments about the fads of fashion. It builds to an epic jam by the end that is mesmerising live.
On the EP, ‘The new Miss Sweden‘ tells of the happy accidents that bring the protagonist into bed with the new Miss Sweden and a woman from Venezuela. Apparently ‘this happens all the time’.
‘Got control‘ has great groove and is a gem for the lines ‘So I wrote another song / It’s acoustic / And it’s way too fucking long / But it sounds fantastic.’ ‘Glorybox‘ is a relatively restrained but authentic cover of the Portishead song.
Some of the songs may be unfinished MGF material, and there’s nothing wrong with that. ‘Make your selection, press OK’ on the EP is co-credited Ford/Johnston (Pinky and MGF bassist 3K Short), as is ‘Real good time’ on the album. ‘I will tear it down to make you happy’ is credited Abbott/Ford/Leggo (MGF drummer Bryan Ferrysexual, Pinky and MGF guitarist LoveShark).
In an alternate fantasy world Pinky could be a kind of louche Bryan Ferry playing his moody songs in moody clubs to an audience of moody alternative types. In the real world of pub gigs, however, a balance of fast and slow songs is required, and in the PBrectangle this balance has been the subject of discussion amongst fans. If you’ve just heard about the Pinky Beecroft and the White Russians, this is the place to learn more.
The album is released on 23 August 2008. Chaos has a special deal where, if you order the album online before 14 September, you’ll get two free tickets to the September gig nearest you (Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney). Judging by the two shows I have already seen, Pinky Beecroft and the White Russians are a formidable live band, and this deal is a bargain.
The album is fantastic, and should be played while driving, while mellowing out late at night, while tying your shoelaces, while relaxing on the weekend, while chatting someone up, while shagging, or with a nice sherry after dinner. Pinky is on the rise again.