here to go back to the Howzat! archive
I WANT YOUR SAX
"Those who wish to sing always find a song." Benjamin McCarthy's
Twitter features that Swedish proverb. After nearly a decade
playing with Pete Murray and Kate Miller-Heidke, Ben has
found his song. And a wild song it is. His debut solo album,
Field Recordings, is the year's most diverse record, with
influences swinging from Prince to The Beatles, and Ben
Folds to Eagles of Death Metal. One song is called A To
B, but A To Z would be more appropriate. It's a thrilling
pop travelogue, with delightful detours. "The first thing
people say to me when they hear the album is, 'Gee, it's,
um, all over the shop,'" Ben smiles. "But that's me. If
I stuck to one genre, I'd be faking."
As well as a show-stopping ballad about a woman who has
a sex change, and a death metal song about Ben's cat, Field
Recordings features what could easily become the novelty
smash of 2010 - Poor Old Saxophone. Ben laments the demise
of the sax: "Circa 1975 to early 1990s," he sings, "if your
band had saxophone, your rock was bona fide … poor old saxophone,
you used to be so cool, now you're just old school, the
sorry sound of ridicule." The song is a history of modern
rock. "I'm sad to say you're not alone: there's the dancing
line of backing girls, whereabouts unknown/ Guys with 20
synthesizers, 50-piece percussion, join the poor old saxophone
and left without discussion." Ben traces the sax's demise
to the release of Nirvana's Nevermind. "The world changed,"
he says, "and it annoys me a little bit. As great as that
album was, I think it killed skill a bit. You can't just
pick up the sax; it takes some effort. But those poor guys,
they're now just so not cool. It hasn't even become a retro
Howzat! meets Ben at Lygon Street's University Café - "the
best pasta in Melbourne", he says. Ben moved to Melbourne
from Brisbane in 2003, spending most of the decade as a
key part of Pete Murray's band, before playing bass with
Kate Miller-Heidke. He also won $40,000 on Temptation, which
paid for his recording equipment. And he popped up on RocKwiz,
starring alongside John Paul Young, and wearing a Sharon
O'Neill T-shirt. Ben says a solo album was inevitable, and
he was inspired by something that Brian Eno had written:
"Maybe you've already done it."
Ben cites another proverb: "The gem cannot be polished without
friction." But how can you generate friction when you're
a one-man band? "It's difficult," he laughs. Ben played
everything on the album, which he recorded in the spare
room of the house he shares with his girlfriend, Anita.
He even stuck a Polaroid camera to the roof to take his
own photos - the result reminds of the guy from The Buggles,
or a crazed version of Buddy Holly. When Howzat! saw Ben
at the Empress, he introduced his band, explaining where
he bought his guitar and keyboard. But Ben is now looking
for a real band - an all-female band. "Ben needs women,"
he declares. Dirty Lucy's Nicole Brophy, who also played
with Kate Miller-Heidke, will be on guitar, so Ben is looking
for a drummer, bass player and keyboard player. "I need
chicks who can party and play quite well." He stresses that
he's not doing a Robert Palmer - "the only person wearing
stockings and lipstick on stage will be me", he jokes.
Benjamin McCarthy is a mad pop scientist. His dad - a one-hit
wonder - got him hooked on music and recording equipment.
Terry McCarthy was one-half of The Monitors, a studio-only
project during the days of pub rock. Dubbed "the Aussie
Buggles", Terry and his offsider, Mark Moffatt (who became
a major producer), had a Top 20 hit in 1980 with Singing
In The 80s, which featured the Blakeney twins, Gayle and
Gillian, in the video. The song has never been played live,
but Ben plans to include it in his live set.
Despite its celebration of the sax and some glorious 70s
sounds, Field Recordings is definitely a modern release.
It's available only on the net - as a free download or "whatever
you feel like paying" at benjaminmccarthy.com. Ben is also
planning to stream his own internet radio station and start
a podcast: "How To Listen To Difficult Music". And he's
promising to release a new album in the next six weeks,
writing on his site: "I'm not signed to a label, so man,
I'm just gonna do as I wish. As I make it, it's out there.
I'm unstoppable!" It's going to be quite a trip.
POP BOOM #2
The Pop Boom continues, with Popboomerang Records running
its second showcase this Saturday at the Birmingham, with
The Solomons, Brilliant Fanzine, The Futurists and Tim Reid.
The label is also getting set to release the third album
from Underminers, the band fronted by Hap Hayward from The
Dead Salesmen (who are re-forming for one-night only at
the East Brunswick Club on July 10).
Sydney band Amy Meredith leap into the Top 10, while 13-year-old
Cody Simpson - the Gold Coast's version of Justin Bieber
- makes his chart debut.
We Speak No Americano YOLANDA BE COOL (number five)
Lying AMY MEREDITH (10)
iYiYi CODY SIMPSON (25, debut)
Unbroken STAN WALKER (29)
Mr Mysterious VANESSA AMOROSI (31)
Seventeen JET (35)
ABC News Theme PENDULUM (38)
No Aussie albums in the Top 10.
Iron Man 2 AC/DC (number 13)
Immersion PENDULUM (18)
Down The Way ANGUS & JULIA STONE (20)
Innerspeaker TAME IMPALA (22)
April Uprising THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO (28)
Hot Mama Vibes ASH GRUNWALD (31, debut)
Golden Rule POWDERFINGER (36)
Poor Old Saxophone BENJAMIN McCARTHY
Covered By Snow DEAD LETTER CHORUS
Closer To You REBECCA BARNARD
Avalanche BRITISH INDIA
She's The One THE FUTURISTS
here to go back to the Howzat! archive