Friday, February 15, 2008



Jason dropping in.

My posts are rarely going to match the broader themes Bill gets going on the blog. This one is (sort of) an exception - but it ain't no sweet soul sixties vocal group.

The blog this week has been about love songs as we led up to Valentine's Day. It seems fitting to finish the week with a break-up song. I had really been considering "Can't Stand Me Now" by The Libertines until political events this week in my homeland instilled some pride from a distance. So I've gone for an Australian song and it was The Cruel Sea that crept onto the pod.

The Cruel Sea are all about their talisman: singer Tex Perkins. I remember seeing him in the early 90s at one of Sydney's inner pub rock venues (Hopetoun Hotel anyone?) with his band The Beasts of Bourbon. Like many who see the man prowl a stage for the first time, I thought "dude".

"The Honeymoon is Over" is all about Tex telling a lover its over and spelling out exactly what she's going to miss out on as a result - and his list is the first time I've ever been able to accurately define something as "pithy". Tex doesn't sing it as a song, more of a directive, to both of them:

I'm gonna send you back to wherever
The hell it was you came
And then I'm gonna get this tattoo
Changed to another girl's name

There's not really a melody to the vocal - its bordering on spoken-word - and the soaring slide guitar almost masks what really makes this song: Tex's staccato delivery. The words are mostly mono-syllabic and each delivered with the same emphasis, no up-and-down, to create the impression of a preacher hammering home the point: "cos-the-kind-of-fool-you-made-me-feel-I-never-live-it-down". To top it off, Tex grunts, clicks, pops and hollers like a man leading a migration of wild brumbies. The simple and direct words belie a very clever song that's topped with tonnes of gusto.

I couldn't drop The Cruel Sea without adding High Sheriff (Of Calhoun Parish) - a song which came with the "Black Stick" single.

Originally sung by Tony Joe White - one of the earliest exponents of swamp-rock, its got a real swampy acoustic guitar riff to anchor the track. The rhythm is also driven by the guitar - there are no drums. You've got a hand-clap and a bit of tambourine but the track rolls with a faux-tempo created by muted guitar squelch (think of the sound at the start of Radiohead's "Creep").

The song is about a Louisiana boy who spurns the advances of the Sheriff's daughter, only to have her accuse him of molesting her. Daddy throws him in jail only for him to escape into the woods (Tony Joe based it on the real daughter of a Calhoun Parish Sheriff).

To truly appreciate Tex, you need to see him - check out the video for "Honeymoon..". The black t-shirt that begs to hold a cigarette pack in its sleeve; the boot cut jeans; the height of the man; the greased-hair; the lank; the original dude.

Photo: Sydney Opera House, 2002. Taken by Jason Bryant.


1 comment:

Corbett said...

Take a look at for some amazing footage of Tony Joe White hamming it up on the Johnny Cash Show. It's a really cool performance. Cool guitars, cool hair, cool horns. Enjoy.