Augie March are approaching the long awaited release of their sixth studio record, in Bootikins. A beautiful album of music once more spearheaded by Glenn Richards‘ recognisable songwriting style and romantic flair, Bootikins heralds Augie March’s return to form. It’s made us realise how long it’s actually been since we’ve heard from the group and well, how much we’ve missed them.
Ahead of the album’s official release tomorrow, we’re sharing it with you today, along with a special look at Bootikins from Richards himself. Have a read along today and sink into these new sounds (to be performed for the first time in Melbourne tomorrow night).
BOOTIKINS by AUGIE MARCH
Probably the oldest song on the record, had a prior incarnation as a frenetic, high energy beachball-in-a-crowd-of-drunks style tune which, when recorded, sounded like a deflated beach ball covered in throw up. All for the best, reworked as a fancy demo at home and salvaged the only good thing about the early version which was Kiernan’s little Hammond organ tag.
Mellotron sax drones do their work undermining the ostensibly chipper melody and reinforcing the droll and accusatory tone of the words which take aim through a cracked, opaque pane of glass at our nation’s increasingly tenuous day of ‘birth’. For those who hadn’t noticed, (because really, who would?), the title is a play on “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the track is in that 5/4 time.
Originally a commission for a separate project still underway, “Borrowed Verse”, this is an adaptation of the Kenneth Slessor poem, Mephistopheles Perverted, or Goethe For the Times. I took a few liberties with the phrasing and dropped the odd word but nothing that alters the intent or even really the rhythm. The following is a very internet age summary of the poem’s theme from The Poetry Project:
“To creatures such as fleas, material objects have no value nor any meaning. Although, to humans, as this story shows by example of the king, material things are such to be proud of and flaunt. The king doesn’t know how worthless the sword that he possesses is, but he carries it high and proud. He only, really, cares how it looks to other people, for that is the truth about materialism; it is never for you, but for others.”
I wanted this to sound something in the other-realmly realm of other-worldy, spacey rock, like “Brighton Rock” Queen or a speed enabled Donovan, and I think it got half way there. Very much a drums and bass Melbourne tracking followed by a Hobart pasting of noise, a patchwork studio creation. The maniacal laughter is me tracking about twelve times after a long night out drinking. Best fun I’ve had recording. My neighbours think I’m insane.
“The Third Drink”
One of the tracks recorded live by Tony. Probably a favourite of mine going in, I think it’s a great recording. I’m not sure we got it as good as it could’ve been but as Tony was fond of saying, “It’d be nice to have a year, and Abbey Road”. His mix is brilliant and the song, a meditation on, well, the third drink, is pretty good too.
“The Long Wait and See”
This was another demo we stuck some stuff on. Good home mix makes for a creepy soft apocalypse early in the album. Bushfires inform this one. Strange brew.
“The Heaviest Stone”
Obligatory pop song, I don’t know why. I felt like I wanted to be in Teenage Fanclub on a sunny afternoon and there you have it. Of course I’m not sure the Fanclub ever referenced the dense musings of Sir Thomas Browne though they did have an instrumental called “Neil Jung”, if I recall. Jess Cornelius was not at all put out when she turned up to the studio for a backing vocal session and was told, “Ooh baby baby,” were the main words. Instead she got in character and hit it right in the sweet spot. Some would say it’s a waste of a great singer, I say it makes the track.
The last track written and recorded. This was where the concept was starting to reveal itself, probably a little late given that you should have the concept prior to its execution if years of watching business people on TV has taught me anything. I’d written a bunch of songs whose narratives were those of repulsion, failure, wasted ambition, disappointment, regret, humiliation, and the general parlous state of human civilisation. But I hadn’t written a cool rocker for a while, and this came out of not listening to, but imagining early Marc Bolan, Bowie, maybe even some Paul Di’Anno era Maiden, but mostly that post hippy electric nonsense. Cool song. A cool song to tie things up thematically. Between starting this track by track and now editing it I had a nice interview during which I felt like I explained this better by using the metaphor of the Poena Cullei:
“The person was first whipped, or beaten, with virgis sanguinis (“blood-colored rods”, probably), and his head was clad/covered in a bag made of a wolf’s hide. On his feet were placed clogs, or wooden shoes, and he was then put into the poena cullei, a sack made of ox-leather. Placed along with him into the sack was also an assortment of live animals, arguably the most famous combination being that of a serpent, a cock, a monkey and a dog. The sack was put on a cart, and the cart driven by black oxen to a running stream or to the sea. Then, the sack with its inhabitants was thrown into the water.”
Replace the parricide, which it usually was for this fate, and the poor animals with the other songs, and imagine the dreadful noise of them all sewn up and chucked over to the shallow sea of indifference that is our present culture*, you have Bootikins, the title track, the gut thread.
*This is verifiable
“When I Am Old”
One of a few that were written as poems then later shaped into very simple compositions which I very quickly got to four track tape. Again, admirably translated to much thicker two inch tape by Tony Cohen, this is a good example of the riches that can be found on every Augie album if you just spend enough time with them. A good honest scout we have sent out into the icy wastes to freeze, die and get pissed on by zealots and ruffians alike. Completely live to tape, a good achievement.
Here’s something I wrote late at night a month ago. It’ll have to do. Years of doing this track by track stuff, I begin to suspect none of it gets read and Jesus, it’s a pain in the arse to do:
“The break in the song is something Glenn heard when he was in a campsite outside Addis Ababa 2016. It was claimed to be a recording of ancient people speaking, maybe even singing, recorded by a fluke of nature on spinning clay. Glenn recorded it on his mini tape recorder which was a small thing his father had given to him many years previous, and which Glenn only thought to carry as a talisman, maybe in the case of the worst events a means to get one last peerless lyric down. It ended up recording the most extraordinary noise and is now an interruption to his otherworldy guitar solo in the middle of the very odd song poem describing a moment or two in the exiled poet Ovid’s life and contrasting it hubristically with his own inglorious expulsion from the darkening metropolis of Melbourne.”
Stupid, like the rest of this nonsense. But if it gets anyone reading either or both of David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life and Christoph Ransmayr’s The Last World, then euge! (which is apparently Latin for ‘hurrah!’ and not Trump for pants missile). To the track itself, it’s eugely known in AM circles that nobody else wanted the weird noise in the middle, but I held my ground like Varus in the Teutoborg Forest, and thusly was decimated – but only psychologically in my case – and history will show that the small non-musical interlude remained and would become as significant to our campaign as the afore alluded to massacre was to the reinvigoration of the Roman march north, which was headed by none other than Germanicus who did sire one Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, or, Caligula.
Great, strange song, and I really like my mix, the sparseness is something I’ve searched for throughout the universe and was achieved incidentally by the combination of a hasty tracking and a stupendously lazy approach to processing on my end. False Modesty battles gamely against the horde of brittle but numerous Spruiks.
“I Woke Up in Borgolombardo”
Written on my phone as an email to myself, upright and leaning heavily on a sticky bulwark of a hot, hungover train on the way to Como, (note to travellers in rural Italy, do not buy the first class ticket, there is no first class, nor even seats), I picked one town and immortalised it in a song that nobody from that town will ever hear. This song is like a rare scent to me, and occasionally one of its delirious lines will waft up my mind’s nostril and take me to that place where I never set foot but whose tiny creek I know the temperature of in mid Summer, and whose people, in one dimension or timeline elected me mayor despite a run of extra marital affairs, or indeed because of.
Of course there are countless examples of “If only I hadda…”, “If I could turn back time…”, “In another life…etc etc” bullshit in pop music but they are to this track what Sliding Doors is to sophisticated multiple/alternative timeline fiction in film. That is, horrible schlock. Of course many will find the song tedious, doesn’t got hooks, chorus don’t pop, whatevs. But they’ll be wrong, this is my favourite song on the album. You know what’s tedious? Everything else.
“What strange cordials were propositioned me to taste,
And whose underwear would circle my waist?”
“I Hurtle Back to a Conservative Locker”
Best song title yet. Certainly one of the flag wavers for for the menacing, crass narrator present throughout the album; maybe a flag raiser too if you’re one of those busy online people fighting the good fight against any and all risque premises in the arts. He’s dreaming all the time, lost in a miasma of green rage. But he knows he’s dreaming, hence the story and his ability to tell it. The question is will he wake up and find that after those fifteen odd seconds of hypnogogic horror the waking world, blissfully, does not contain all the dismembered relationships and permanently offended love, or will it be the same nightmare only sans the fog?
I think this one chugs along alright and Tony got us good again, but it needed more drive so I’m not giving it the best pass today – because we didn’t give it the best pass yesterday. Still, I liked it from the demo on, and instantly heard Elvis Costello singing the backing vocals in that hysterical upper range. His manager declined to respond.
Not my favourite track and I pushed for an edit that removed the entire song with the exception of the sublime sax solo at the end. That didn’t fly. Best part along with the sax is Tony’s production, sounds like a million bucks stuffed into a Gladstone bag. The term I think originated with Mitt Romney and the text is pretty easy to read, just a bit of song mockery. Virus with legs and all that. Just getting dumber and angrier etc, so this is our contribution to the mess, a dumb, impotent down stroker. Augie tries to do Guided By Voices and ends up just doing Augie. People seem to like it. People, whatevs.
Bootikins is released on February 23rd via Caroline Australia.
Augie March will perform at The Velvet Room in Thornbury – the show is sold out! Follow the band online at www.augiemarch.com.au.