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Howzat! Archive - April 7th 2010

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Truly great albums - think Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run, Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky and Ben Lee's Awake Is The New Sleep - tell a story. But does the album still matter in this digital age? Perry Keyes thinks it does. "It's the bigger idea that I go for," Perry says, "that's what makes it interesting for me." Perry's third album, Johnny Ray's Downtown (on Laughing Outlaw Records), is 16 tracks and 74 minutes. "Some people might think the concept of the album is a bit passé, but I just want to make my albums like musical movies or musical novels. I want to write lyrics so that when you hear the first couple of lines, you can see it." The butcher boys all shiver, just like dogs on heat/ The council hose the cum and the sundae cups off Suck Street

Andrew Watt, the creator of Inpress, now runs an excellent website - He recently reviewed Johnny Ray's Downtown, calling Perry "one of Australia's finest songwriters, albeit not one of our best known. And that latter fact is a crime far worse than many that Keyes describes in these 16 gritty songs." Perry writes what he knows, but sometimes worries that his songs won't translate because they're "too Sydney". Andrew agrees, adding, "his songs are very 'Sydney' and yet Sydney probably doesn't have the right attitude to deal with the likes of Keyes on a broad scale. Sydney lives for the quick fix and Keyes' songs tend to be the type that seep in through your pores slowly and remain fixed beneath your skin indefinitely … and for all his obvious resigned affection for his hometown, Keyes remains resolutely willing to tell it like it is." You could get a job or go on the dole at 14 and nine months/ You could go to jail with Neddy Smith and those other useless cunts

Many legendary boxers pop up on Johnny Ray's Downtown, including Roberto Duran, Johnny Famechon and Jeff "Hitman" Harding. "All my uncles were boxers, but I'm actually not a big boxing fan," Perry confesses. "I use boxing - wanker alert - as a metaphor. Because this album is so male-centric, I wanted to use a very male symbol. I'd already exhausted rugby league - and I didn't wanna piss off everyone in Melbourne again! Boxing is a sport where young men punch the fuck out of each other, and in a way that's what's happening to a lot of the guys on this record - their environment is doing it to them." I climb through the hole that I made in my arm

Perry's record reminds Andrew Watt of Springsteen's The River. "And it's somewhat disorienting," he writes, "that the song that best illustrates this is called Lou Reed & Robert Quine (no, I don't know why it's called Lou Reed & Robert Quine)." Perry reveals: "I actually wrote that song when I was 17. I used to sit in my room and watch Lou Reed's Live At The Bottom Line video. The band was Robert Quine, Fernando Saunders and Fred Maher. I'd have my TV turned up full blast and jam along. I'd written this lyric, but I didn't know a lot of chords, so I thought I'd just rip off Sweet Jane. I tried to, but luckily for me, there was a minor chord in there that I couldn't work out, so I kind of get away with it." Fast forward more than two decades and Perry is in the studio with producer Grant Shanahan and guitarist Matt Galvin. "Matty didn't know the name of the song, but he looked up, took a swig from his bottle and said, 'Perry, you know what I'm hearing here? Robert Quine.'" The lyric tells the tale of a kid Perry knew. "He was 16 and would drive his Valiant Charger around the streets, selling marijuana to the prostitutes on William Street. They'd throw in 50 bucks and he'd throw the drugs at 'em. He never got busted. Now he owns a couple of kebab shops." And it's a thin line between the dance and the killing floor/ Nobody's wasting a young man's time on morals he can't afford

How do we discover music? It might be a review, a song on the radio, or a tip from a mate. Four years ago, Howzat! got an email from Neil Rogers, presenter of RRR's The Australian Mood. He wrote: "I really like Perry's songwriting and said I would be happy to spread the word in Melbourne (note that I have no vested or financial interest in the record - it's just that I like it!)." Neil recently confessed that, initially, he wasn't sure what to make of Perry's debut. "It was a large chunk of music to take in and I had no reference points - I'd never heard of Perry Keyes. However, there was something that kept drawing me back to the CD and Perry's songs. I think it's the depth and detail contained within his lyrics, combined with his Springsteen/Costello/Reed music approach. His records keep getting better, and the new album is a classic." As Andrew Watt says, buy two, and give one away to someone who'll appreciate it. Perry Keyes launches Johnny Ray's Downtown at the Toff on Thursday, with Dave Graney.

Is Gabriella Cilmi's reinvention working? Her latest single rebounds from 26 to 16. But the album has a disappointing debut, at 17.

On A Mission GABRIELLA CILMI (number 16)
Sweet Disposition THE TEMPER TRAP (28)
Some Of The Places I Know GYROSCOPE (32, debut)
Black Box STAN WALKER (40)

Angus & Julia Stone spend a second week on top.

Down The Way ANGUS & JULIA STONE (number one)
Ten GABRIELLA CILMI (17, debut)
Conditions THE TEMPER TRAP (20)
40 Years True Blue JOHN WILLIAMSON (23, debut)
Purity Of Essence HOODOO GURUS (25)
A Book Like This ANGUS & JULIA STONE (28)
Wrapped Up Good THE McCLYMONTS (30)
Evermore EVERMORE (40)

Will You Shine? PERRY KEYES
Lou Reed & Robert Quine PERRY KEYES

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