“I thought it was a Modest Mouse song that I hadn’t heard before”. That was my mate Tom’s short and sweet bio for some band called Graveyard Train.
This article on Graveyard Train will really make you want to listen to Modest Mouse. But don’t do that just yet – check out Takes One To Know One first.
He never gave me the name of the song in question, but he was probably referring to the title track for the Melbournian six-piece’s new record. If so, he’s pretty much on the mark. Takes One To Know One burns with that brand of swampy nu-grass* that Modest Mouse have all but made their own: rambling but deliberate; staggering but sure-footed. It could have easily sat between Dance Hall and Bukowski on 2004’s seminal Good News For People Who Love Bad News — or, at the very least, as a B-side on 09’s No One’s First And You’re Next.
In terms of the record as a whole, however, even a band as eclectic as Modest Mouse offers too narrow a parallel; too small of a pigeonhole to shove this album into. There’s a lot more going on here than a testament to those particular Portlandian indie-ans**: in the brief distance between track one and track seven of Takes One To Know One, Graveyard Train trundles through a patchwork of musical meadows and sonic scenarios, and never stops in any one place for too long.
It’s a landscape populated by parasites, creeps and widows — ‘horror country’ and gothic folk cultivated in the shade of the very artists you’d expect from those genres. There’s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Close The Book); there’s Twin Beasts (The Creep); there’s echoes of The Drones and trace samples of Iron & Wine (She Likes To Eat The Skin); a fuzzed out blues edge in the vein of The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs (The Chrysalid). The Parasite is juiced to the eyeballs on the blood of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, for folk’s sake. They’re all pretty much beasts of the same farm, granted—but the magic of this LP is the way in which Graveyard Train manage to corral them into the one coop.
Takes One To Know One is a dynamic record with an inspired coherence: tender ballads wending into guitar-driven sludge; light instrumentation dappled in the shade of a sinister lyricism; three unique vocalists babbling about death, rebirth and getting drunk (“bompabompabompbompa-bomp”). It’s the kind of controlled chaos that Modest Mouse do so well. Better still—and in the growing trend of those artists like The Drones and Twin Beasts—it’s all conceptually stylised into a distinct, Australian ‘badlands-blues’ aesthetic.
Outlaws are in. And these nu-grass indie-ans are carrying the fire.
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*as in ‘nu bluegrass’ (patent pending)
**as in ‘purveyors of indie music’ (patent pending)