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My Friend the Chocolate Cake | Curious (Blunt/EMI)
In the last six years lyricist and singer David Bridie has put out (an overblown) solo album and some soundtrack work, while cellist Helen Mountford and violinist Hope Csutoros collaborated on the Cosmos Cosmolini project. Now the Melbourne outfit who so thrilled in the mid '90s with songs like Sirens and I've Got a Plan are back together with a new studio album and a sell-out tour of Australia. Old fans wont be disappointed: the MFTTC trademarks are all here. Wistful, piano-led songs underpinned by strings, double bass and brushed drums, the arrangements alternating between the joyful skiffle of I Guess it Don't Get Much Better than This and haunting ballads like More Heart than Me. The solemn mood (and lets face it, MFTTC do sombre better than most) is offset by some Penguin Cafe-style instrumentals (Muckheap). The pick of the tracks are I Like it Like This (beautifully mixed), the dark and urgent Swirl, and the protest song Kelly Kwalik Country. Over the record as a whole Bridie tends to rely on rather simplistic chord progressions, concentrating on atmospheres rather than innovative writing, (see The Mangrove Song). But, as ever with Bridie, the lyrics are exemplary, his subtle and cutting social commentary ("egghead prime minister" John Howard gets a mention) interspersed with the politics of personal relationships, as in Leave. On Kelly Kwalik Country the focus shifts overseas, to the thirty year independence movement of West Papua which parallels the struggle of the East Timorese. The sleeve profiles a colourful dolls house, the childlike innocence of the scene rendered fragile by soldiers and a rocket launcher on the roof, and image of Dubya frozen on the TV screen. For a major label release 'Curious' is a pretty deep record, an assured and re-assuring return.

Richard Bell
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002

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