Can't stop listening to Monsters of Folk

It was only a few weeks ago that I was sitting at the Meredith Music Festival, Melbourne's alterna-music mecca, wondering to myself if the current trend in music toward the folky/country-edged had run its course.

Band after band seemed to be churning out very competent and polished performances that just left me thinking meh. They seemed to be drawing directly from the old school sounds of 50s and 60s country and I really just found myself longing for some good solid dirty rock or even just something with some edge. Scene faves Wagons and Kitty, Daisy & Lewis  seemed to fit particularly into this mire but there were a number of other less memorable bands that were much the same.

The one artist who really seemed able to work this style was the great Paul Kelly - even Jon Spencer's Heavy Trash had me wandering off for a bite to eat half way through the set. (All of this might well be more a reflection of my non-addled state of mind, an overreaction to drinking/etc too much last time I hit Meredith and trying to balance the scales by swinging to far the other way this time around or maybe I'm just old and/or jaded)

Anyway, track forward to a small end of the year cd binge at JB (2010 plan is to budget much more effectively but any pre-2010 purchases don't count, right) - where I pick up new stuff from Calexico, Roland S Howard (vale), The Dead Weather (new Jack White supergroup), Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Monsters of Folk. All of them solid gold selections based on buzz read or heard from reputable sources.

It's Monsters of Folk though that has utterly dominated the cd player since I bought it on Thursday. This made all the more impressive by the fact that there's actually a small crack in the cd that renders the first 3 tracks pretty well unlistenable. I couldn't tell you exactly what it is about this album that has me so enthralled - one or two of the tracks veer dangerously close to the wrong side of the country line for me but taken as a whole, it just seems perfectly balanced and flawless. It's definitely got twang and all the other country touches that I heard at Meredith, there's just something extra in there that takes it to a whole new level.

Of course, it's not really fair comparing some well-liked and highly skilled Melbourne acts with a super group composing M Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes and Jim James from My Morning Jacket, all hugely regarded artists in their own right. For me the issue just seems to be that the Americans do it better and just get it more. Having been out of Melbourne for coming on to a decade now, I can't help but wonder (slightly tongue in cheek) whether the RRR mafia that guides the Melbourne sound has lost it's touch.

Or maybe it's a Melbourne thing. (though I have made the same criticisms of the Canberra music scene)

Anyway, if you haven't heard much of Monsters of Folk, here's a few samples