Deciding to name your band after one of the most momentous events in (soap opera) history is a bold move. Yet, popular culture wise this moment was massive. In the UK, 20 million people watched Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (Kylie Minogue) marry in 1988. Yes, 20 million people watched an episode of Neighbours on the same day. Presumably the coming together of two blonde fresh faced pop stars was Austalia’s Eighties equivalent of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di.
Scott & Charlene's Wedding is the project of Craig Dermody, an Australian now living in New York, who nods to the gutter, which for Dermody was a place of immense frustration, and a source of inspiration. The themes on Para Vista Social Club are familiar, and the message is blunt and to the point. Essentially it’s the same ol’ lo-fi fare that’s come full circles from the Nineties, but I don’t know, it kinda fits with the grey skies and general sense of apathy that fills the air this time of year.
I suppose scuzzy would be the most apt way of describing S&CW’s sound. Post-Velvets guitars, earnest vocals; these are jams you’d write in front of an audience of empty wine bottles, beer cans and pizza boxes that have gathered over a heavy weekend. Dermody evidently wasn’t happy with his lot when he wrote these songs, and his continual depressive tone throughout the album reflects that unsatisfied feeling.
Originally Para Vista Social Club was a limited release back in 2010, with only a couple hundred self-distributed copies produced. Dermody gauged his sparsely populated shows and calculated that he might be able to sell that figure; the covers were hand painted, and had the personal touch of an artist who deeply values about what he produces.
‘Born to Lose’ begins with Dermody on the edge of despair “and I quit my job / I don’t wanna drive trucks no more”. His petulant move left him with “no rent money to pay my bills”. By ‘Footscray Station’ he’s “still driving trucks”. That’s the hopelessness of the dead end life; jobs that are uninspiring, blurring across your CV, leading you to leap into the temporary safety net of the weekend, which often is wasted due to a double header of Friday night and Saturday night drinking.
Sure he’s no Stephin Merritt, but Dermody’s diary-like lyrics are surprisingly poignant, and I suppose being a guy who works a shitty job, and drinks to forget about it, I could relate to the splendidly grating strain on ‘Rejected’. But just when you think you’re going to get a whole heap of self-loathing, ‘Every Detail’ spirals off into a Velvetsy freak-out, and then ‘Wiseman at the Station’ - the beginning of which reminds me of a derelict version of Rocket from the Crypt’s ‘Used’ - becomes the most accessible track of the album. The record has depth, and though the wallowing and woe makes you think of Thurston Moore haircuts, self-harm scars and tight fitting second hand clothes, it shouldn’t be consigned to the cooler than thou waste unapproachable waste basket.
I read Para Vista Social Club as a concept album of sorts. A guy is depressed with his crappy life, turns to the vice life, somehow has an epiphany and enters a dreary dream state, musing on all that has passed him by. I can’t quite put my finger on why an album that is essentially mostly scuzzy licks and whining is actually an endearing piece of work. I’m content to wallow with Dermody, and I’ll make a toast whilst half-cut to Scott & Charlene’s Wedding.
7Richard Wink's Score