It’s far from Holly Throsby’s fault that the whole pretty-girl-with-a-guitar aural assault pattern has been annexed by a certain Ms Marshall – the Australian chanteuse has been wooing audiences in her native country for some years without the Northern Hemisphere so much as batting a long-lashed eyelid her way. Things are about to change, though, as her 2004 album On Night has now been granted the glorious honour of a release in these fickle lands via the relatively unknown Woo Me! Records. Its quality ensures that a delay has not dated its contents one iota.
Throsby’s all-too-clear accent will perturb some newcomers – she doesn’t shy away from skipping syllables and neither does she hide her roots by adopting the kind of crispness associated with Nina Nastasia and Cat Power – but ultimately it adds greater depth to these recordings. They are never sterile, and although lyrics are consumed by the wayward ways of the human heart, not once does a sense of over familiarity dawn over the listener. Indeed, rarely does the dawn break at all: many of these songs are set under a bright full moon, and titles allude to this. I present to you ‘Waiting all night for you to come home’, ‘Some nights are long’ and ‘As the night dies’, your honour.
Although subject matters are well documented around these acoustic parts already, Throsby never slides over into comfortably traditional torch song territory. Yes, there is heartache aplenty – the tone of her voice so often suggests as much before a key line whispers forth from her lips, a slither of her soul escaping like cigarette smoke from the side of an ashtray – but hers is not a wholly unrequited love. Lust, too, rears its troublesome head, tempting the protagonist away from its previous fixation: “You want me to come up to your room, and I want to too, but I’m with him… So what do we do now?” she sighs, voice quivering in the night’s chill, on ‘Don’t be howling’. Confusion is rife, and even when a chapter is closed the doubt remains, rendering the individual helpless to progress. The simple, straightforward lyrics of ‘Damn that new body’ illustrate this perfectly: “…a new body keeps you warm. I know what I said I’d feel, but I don’t…” Just reading such words aloud is crushing enough; hearing them delivered over a barren backdrop of broken guitars and dusty piano only ups the emotional ante further.
So to summarise: no, On Night is nothing new compositionally or intellectually. It is what it is, and fantastically so: a document of one woman’s ups, downs, sideways glances and slipped-through-fingers fortunes. It is hopes and dreams stripped raw, recorded and packed off to strange ears in foreign lands, comforting and alien at once. Ultimately it ends with a sour taste lingering on the lip; words that need to be said are buried under a stubborn silence. But Throsby will walk these halls again, and answers will be found around previously unexplored corners.
Consider this, then, the entire opening chapter of an already timeless story – Throsby may be low in the female singer/songwriter pecking order at this minute, but come the midsection rush of her tale she’ll be calling the aforementioned artists peers without an inclination of irony.
8Mike Diver's Score