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Darren Hanlon | Early Days (Candle)
Originating from a 'shed/house in Scarborough, NSW,' Early Days showcases seven slices of humour-fuelled pop-stylings from Darren Hanlon, an Australian (and thus more tuneful) Billy Bragg with a melodic gift on a par with Evan Dando. With the gorgeous voice of Jodi Phillis adding warmth, the opening chimes of Title Fight: Heart v Mind set the scene for what is an oddly old-school collection with the focus firmly on memorable melodies and irony-free hopelessly romantic lyrics. At its most throwaway, as on She Cuts Hair, Early Days has an almost cockney charm, working class vignettes showcasing a way with a cliche - "As the town hall clock struck three / I delivered my soliloquy / She wouldn't give the time of day to me / But she gave my pride a short back and sides." But it's on the likes of Beta Losers, with its irresistible chugging rhythm, honey-sweet harmonies (courtesy of Rebecca Yondale) and relationship/technology analogy ("I feel like I've been dumped but I've been superceded"), or the acoustic, affecting Magazine Theory where Hanlon shows his folk-pop leanings and sounds most at home. Closing with the more considered, self-addressed Falling Aeroplanes - "Songs are made of air / They can't be any use to her / Better off trying to catch falling aeroplanes" he opines over a lone banjo before reverting to clever wordplay: "I'm gonna build a song for us / With four verses and a chorus / On real estate your words inspired / There we'll live rent-free / Sleep on beds of melody / And leave the key change with the seasons" - Early Days is a refreshingly agenda-free, endearingly unpretentious record with heart.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001