The Middle East
The Recordings of The Middle East
5 Track, LP (2009, Spunk!)
Related: The Middle East.
When Spunk vetted some of our country’s young talent with February’s Spunk Singles Club compilation, The Middle East and Leader Cheetah became the collection’s most visible faces. And now each has its own Spunk release: Leader Cheetah’s The Sunspot Letters and The Middle East’s debut EP, The Recordings of The Middle East.
The latter is a touch mysterious, with no credits besides the basic recording information. We can glean from MySpace that The Middle East is a six-piece from Townsville and even see who’s in the band, but not who plays what. Thus we’re left to dwell on these solemn, haunting songs without distraction, which works to the band’s advantage.
Opener ‘The Darkest Side’ is the best of the bunch, slaying us on first listen with a long but beautifully delivered refrain about, well, blood: “And it’s the darkest side of my heart that dies when you come to me/And it’s the golden ticket I win when you kill my enemies.” Surrounding such poised lyrics are references to Panadol, Sim City and a working father who abandons his dreams to support his family. The refrain is sung in shuddering male vocals, and another guy and girl sing lead at different points.
‘Lonely’ follows the same strain of molasses folk, pitched between Belle and Sebastian and Tindersticks and textured with mandolin, banjo, trumpet and accordion. The lengthy running time (7:27) and eventual crescendo recall The Middle East’s rumoured post-rock beginnings, though cries of despair are displaced at the end by lilting harmonies. The gorgeous Singles Club offering ‘Blood’ is centrepiece, displaying much twinkle and sway, while the shorter ‘Fool’s Gold’ is pleasant but floats by without as much resonance.
Named for a section of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, ‘Beleriand’ packs a punchy start with heady effects pedals, later slipping into flighty falsetto and scratchy experimentation. It’s a different side of the band, and while it doesn’t entirely captivate, it’s a cathartic finish for a promising EP. If The Middle East can produce an album of the same calibre and consistency of tracks like ‘Blood’ and ‘The Darkest Side’, there’ll be no stopping them.
by Doug Wallen