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Spookyland – The Rock And Roll Weakling EP

Him the damn good carpenter, the damn good sorcerer, the damn good songwriter: the silly fucking thing about Marcus Gordon and his Spookyland troupe are just how damn good they actually fucking are. If you don’t see what I did there, then you probably haven’t heard ‘that song’ by the up-and-coming Sydneysiders: namely, the single track that yowled its way into the hearts of the folk at Pitchfork* and NME — as well as some 25, 000 others — in the space of a fortnight.

spookyland

Spookyland have finally dropped their debut EP – the Rock and Roll Weakling – and you know what? It ain’t half bad!

The Silly Fucking Thing is an earnest breakup ballad: at once downtrodden and uplifting; tender and sinister; lovely and hateful. Gordon’s venomous caterwauls screech with a sense of alienation, loneliness and vulnerability. And yet, the 22-year-old’s never been in better company. Spookyland is no longer one man, but four. They’re about to drop their debut four-track EP, Rock and Roll Weakling, and Silly Fucking Thing might just be the fourth best song on there.

Anyone that’s heard the second single and title track from the release will appreciate the shift toward a band aesthetic. Rock and Roll Weakling is a full-bodied piece of sun-kissed psych folk in the vein of groups like The Flaming Lips and MGMT—jangling guitars, cresting percussion and braying harmonicas giving body to Gordon’s distinctive vocal style.

It’s the difference between a bellyaching bedroom poet and an artist in full command of their craft; between a wailing guitarist in the corner of the pub and an electrifying act in the centre of the stage. Gordon still stands at the helm of it all—but Spookyland is a band, no mistake, and it looks as though that’s the way it ought to be.

Blood in the Rain, the EP’s blistering second track, takes a darker turn. Bluesy slide-guitar and sludgy vocals channel elements of the gothic western, as Gordon drawls about suns, guns, and women sucking their thumbs–tipping his old Stetson hat to the goth-rock moments of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (see Jack the Ripper, Loverman and Stagger Lee) with a tune that could have soundtracked The Proposition.

It’s also one of the best songs released this year.

Gordon’s throaty snarls, barbed with menace and bestial passion, are blood-chillingly brilliant; the lyrics are nightmarish and evocative; and the three or so minutes of searing post punk show a dark side to Spookyland that was only ever insinuated in Silly Fucking Thing. It’s this dark side that makes them such an exciting prospect in the current music scene: an indie-folk group besmirched with some kind of gothic depravity, unafraid to spread and beat its raven wings.

And Blood in the Rain is a soaring, rabid triumph. And then there’s Adventure Song: the sprawling, kaleidoscopic ballad that closes the EP. Like Bob Dylan staggering through a desert of Dali’s reckoning, Adventure Song is a surreal parable of psychedelic soul-searching starring Bigfoot, Van Helsing, and a native Indian girl with a mammoth-tooth necklace. It’s the kind of deliberated, profound epic that shouldn’t have come from a band this young: the complex accumulation of surreal images staged perfectly over the rising, body-high wave of instrumentation.

By the time the song’s final act kicks in—the final act of the entire EP, for that matter—things get self-reflexive. “The kind of sound that makes men build statues 25 feet above the ground”. It might be a slight overshoot for Rock and Roll Weakling—but that lyric put a shiver through me just in time for Gordon’s closing words: “and then a shiver ran through my bones, as thoughts of Paradise left me alone. And I held my own”. Amen.

It’s as dark as it is light: a playful, apocalyptic vision. And it’s this ironic dualism, between darkness and light, which seems to lie at the heart of the band. Spookyland: the name itself is evocative of a childish Gothicism — a world of innocence and naïveté interloped upon by grim fantasies and evil impulses; a child’s dreamscape haunted by the ghosts of grownup nightmares.

These are the dreams and nightmares of Marcus Gordon: that psychonautical cowboy, stepping out of youth and into young manhood, his painted face resembling some bastard child of the Lone Ranger and Ziggy Stardust. And indeed, if Ziggy is a harbinger of hope in the final years of humanity, then Gordon is surely the post-apocalyptic prophet.

True to irony, the future looks bright.

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*Who, of course, compared Marcus to Jeff Mangum. Classic Pitchfork.