After 25 years as the honey-voiced singer of The Blackeyed Susans, Rob Snarski has released his debut solo album, “Wounded Bird”.
Produced by Rob and longtime bandmate and collaborator Dan Luscombe with Yikesville studio boss Shane O’Mara, “Wounded Bird” foregoes the lush arrangements of The Blackeyed Susans for a stripped-back and intimate sound palette.
Think Ricky Nelson meets Mazzy Star or the Everly Brothers if they’d been raised on a diet of Big Star’s Third.
“Wounded Bird” wasn’t originally conceived as a solo album. For several years, Rob and Dan had been working on a follow up to their contemplative ‘There Is Nothing Here That Belongs To You’ album of 2004. Until one night, Dan suggested the new album should come out under Rob’s name alone.
‘Who would I blame if it all went wrong?’ Rob thought. Of course, a few things did go wrong. Whole recording sessions went missing, courtesy of corrupted hard drives and stolen computers, leaving Rob to contemplate the worth of what appeared to be a cursed recording.
Fortunately there was a coterie of musicians to assist him wrest fortune from disaster: Luscombe and O’Mara, JP Shilo and Phil Kakulas from the ‘Susans, as well as Clare Moore (vibes), Bruce Haymes (keyboards), Ashley Davies (drums) and ‘some guy called Ralph’ from Machine Translations.
The result is a beautifully sparse album, which finds joy in the spaces in between.
One of the most profound musical experiences of Rob’s youth was hearing the golden hits radio station wafting over the valley of his family’s rural property on the outskirts of Perth in Karragullen. Working on the family orchard he was captured by the crooners, Roy and Elvis, coming down from on high, their voices carried and twisted by the valley winds.
Themes of love rejected or betrayed play out across the album. The characters wounded by the madness of everyday life: There’s ‘Henry Small’ - who sets sail on a sea of alcohol through the neon streets of a careless city; and ‘Johnny Only’ a man from ‘a different generation’ coming out ‘in a not-so-different world.’
They travel through the wintry, nocturnal landscapes of ‘It Starts With Snow’ and ‘Engine Driver’ in search of forgiveness and redemption. Finding it, at least momentarily, in the summery, beachside pleasures of ‘Temperature’s Rising’, which hints both at the hope of renewal and the destructive forces inherent in the heat.
“Wounded Bird” may be as pure an expression of Rob Snarski’s oeuvre as we are yet to hear. His first solo album may have been a long time coming, but it is worth the wait.
"One of the great romantic singers. A Costello-like knack for rhyming couplets.... the perfect solo album: satisfying the rusted-on fans and hopefully gaining the wider audience he deserves." - FOUR AND A HALF STARS Jeff Jenkins, STACK
The Songs of Wounded Bird
‘Henry Small’ – a poor chap grapples with a break-up, drifting in a sea of alcohol and neon lights, wandering the streets, simply hoping to dissolve. A song from a different world and age.
‘One Last Song’ – a morning song, hiding beneath sheets and skin as the world moves around a couple and their cat.
‘The Black Caress’ – a folk tale of sorts, lost in a Morricone musical landscape… a tale of a man scarred… literally.
‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)’ – classic country. A cover of the marvellous Everly Brothers classic, layered with butter melting harmonies… so sweet, so sad.
‘Johnny Only’ – a coming out song, a different generation in a not-so-different world; a man simply wanting to be free.
‘Lay Of The Land’ – backwards guitars and ominous weather looms ahead as the air lays still and words hang in the air, a couple of old friends discuss their past.
‘It Starts With Snow’ – an older song Rob wrote for a short animated film called “Colleen Spencer” made by Annette Trevitt which was part of the Melbourne Film Festival several years ago. The Bull Sisters also covered the song on their album “Love Is Mighty Close”. Not as pretty as it sounds but then again unfaithfulness never is.
‘Tender Like A Bruise’ – spooky ethereal keyboards (played by Bruce Haymes) weave through distorted guitars, in a bilateral reading of addiction to people and feelings, sort of good and sort of bad.
‘Temperature’s Rising’ – summer in Australia … there’s the great escape from the unrelenting heat to the beach… and on the other side of the coin there’s the fear of fire and devastating heat – not a healthy combination.
‘Christmas Card From A Drunken Sailor’ – vibes (performed by Clare Moore) roll through a simply beautiful Christmas song. A card, an explanation, a realisation, all that bad behaviour way back then, well it all makes more sense now.
‘Engine Driver’ – a lost song written by Gordy Blair (ex-Coral Snake/Dave Graney Band) for Rob to sing. The song has the biggest arrangement on the album, orchestral yet still lonesome, sheer beauty rings through. As true to the original recording as the chaps could get.