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The Basics - Keep Your Friends Close (2009)

the basics

The Basics

Keep Your Friends Close

Tracks

1. Fear Of Failure
2. With This Ship
3. The Day Mairead Goes Away
4. Home Again
5. What Do You See In Me?
6. The No. 1 Cause Of Death Amongst Youth Today
7. Trouble In My Head
8. The Executioner
9. Keep The Door Open
10. All Or Nothing


Review by Liam Tracey

In 2004, a little three-piece from Melbourne called The Basics released their first long player, "Get Back".

You only had to look at the cover of that album to see these three lads – Kris Schroeder, Wally De Backer and then guitarist Michael Hubbard – were retro rockers. They had matching outfits (smart ones, too), shaggy haircuts and the blissful smiles that only true rock and roll can bring to your face.

Fast forward to 2007 and there they are again (now with new guitarist Tim Heath) in matching grey suits on the steps of St Kilda’s iconic Espy.

In that time, The Basics developed what could, for all intents and purposes, be labelled a cult following. They were the reincarnation of The Beatles, the Kinks and everything else great about 60s rock.

A band can not let itself grow stale, though.

The Basics know that and they know how to solve the problem: by evolving out of the 1960s, moving from retrospective grey suits into hip, matching wetsuits or perhaps nothing at all (see recent photoshoots if you need a clearer picture).

2009 sees the release of The Basic's third long player, "Keep Your Friends Close", an album with an all too appropriate title. It wasn't too long ago that diehard fans at the East Brunswick Club were given a sloppy threat of a final ever gig.

Thank god Mr Schroeder didn’t follow through with that.

If you are familiar with The Basics in their live sense, "Keep Your Friends Close" might actually sound quite familiar – they have been road testing some of the songs for a while now.

Of course, that means that tracks like the formidable With This Ship had the practice it needed for the record.

As a complete product, though, "Keep Your Friends Close" might surprise even the closest to the band. It is a considerably softer record, despite what the singles released thus far might say about it.

Add to that the fact the trio has ditched the retro sound almost entirely and you’ve got something quite new here.

Fear of Failure and All or Nothing act like bookends, placed at either end of the record respectively, encasing the contents between two gentle folk tunes.

The aforementioned single is the real kick start to listening pleasure at track two, though, and heads the record in the right direction. The themes throughout the album cover relationships loved and lost, both personally and as a band.

There are sadder undertones on the album, too, with the Heath penned and vocalised, Trouble in His Head. It is the lesser-seen sad side of The Basics. The Executioner shows a delightful twist on their sound, also, with Jake Mason adding some chilling saxophone.

There is plenty that remains from the tried and true Basics sound, though, none more prevalent than the amazing harmonies they have been so loved for in the past. The Crowded House sounding, and heavily harmonised intro track, Fear of Failure, sees each member sharing the lead vocals and is an absolute pleasure.

What Do You See In Me? is arguably the best harmony culprit and you will find it hard to not want to add your own voice in.

As in most of The Basic's previous work, De Backer (who also helms the side project of Gotye) and Schroeder share the vocal duties on all bar one track, and just like on the previous two records, you will be struggling to decide whose voice you love more.

Schroeder probably wins for having the majority of tracks on lead vocals; though if the remarkable Money had appeared here instead of on the "Like a Brother" EP, De Backer may have had the edge.

"Keep Your Friends Close" might not be what you expect from The Basics, but that is a very good thing.

What they have delivered on album number three, aside from a selection of great tracks, is evidence of their ability to evolve as musicians. The flashbacks to the best times in rock and roll have been made, and we loved them, but now it’s time for something impressively new.

That is what they have done here. 

RATING: 4 out of 5



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