By Nick Argyriou.
BIG SMOKE – TIME IS GOLDEN (Remote Control)
The sprawling country, psychedelic wig-outs, sweet-tempered songwriting and tone that tips its Stetson to everyone from The Band to The Boss, Big Star to My Morning Jacket on Big Smoke’s debut record is something to behold. A faultless beast in terms of sonic interplay, engineer Shawn Everett’s (Alabama Shakes) mix is perhaps one of the more intense of any Australian record this year.
There’s an aura about Time Is Golden, a kind of otherworldliness in the way the tracks unfold, and it’s of course due to the fact that the band’s leader and singer-songwriter, Adrian Slattery, was taken down by the cancer that he was diagnosed with in 2015 in May of this year, right as the record was ready to fly. You couldn’t pen a more poignant, heartbreaking and cruel story if you tried, yet Slattery was resilient until the end. Bandmates and brothers Luke Brennan (drums), Alex O’Gorman (bass), Tim Baker (guitar) and Joe Cope (keyboards) help to realise Slattery’s dream in the most bullish of manner.
Time Is Golden is a statement of intent – ambition personified – songs that needed to be released into the ether and bury themselves in our souls. With the mountain of grief and melancholy associated with this sorrowful tale, the record conjures a triumphant, euphoric feel.
This is Big Smoke going out with an opus, a majestic roar. It’s all harmonies, evocative keys and guitar jams, yet refined and textured and never overplayed, even when Tim Baker shreds ‘All Along the Watchtower’-esque on the title track or keenly dabbles in Steve Vai-like riffs on ‘Kiss Me Once’. There is no doubting that this is best 2016 Australian record of the year material. Just incredible.