Immigrant Union, an Australian alt-country band led by Brent DeBoer (The Dandy Warhols) and Bob Harrow (The Lazy Sons) have released their second LP in advance of a U.S. tour. The mix of songs have elements of folk, psyche and pop done with a fair amount of Byrdsian jangle and steel pedal guitar. Starting with “Shameless,” it’s a little like The Jayhawks, leaning on the steady rhythm as the focal point.
The folky “Alison” is a major highlight, an earworm that burrows into your head about a guy who finally realizes he’s being taken advantage of by his girlfriend. “I Can’t Return” is another gem with a memorable chorus that gets denser as it goes along. “Wake Up and Cry” starts with a circular arpeggio that reminds me a little of The La’s played at half-speed.
After listening to “In Time,” I felt a sense of deja vu, as the harmonica and acoustic strum reminded me of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” While DeBoer’s vocals are comfortable, they tend to blend into the background on many songs and we only get some authentic country rhythms on the rousing “Lake Mokoan.” My favorite song here is the most pop-friendly one, “The Trip Ain’t Over,” which has a really nice progression of chords and some quizzical lyrics.
“War Is Peace” is like a faux-gospel around the campfire. This Country Joe & the Fish-style protest song is about “playing it safe, keep your head in the dirt” and “keeping a shred of hope,” the irony being the nihilistic lyrics. The final song, “The End Has Come” features singer/songwriter starlet Courtney Barnett in the lead and a distorted twang that brings the album to a dark close. Although the band’s style can seem rigid in spots, there was enough variety to prevent things from getting too predictable. Overall, this is a pretty good album that will grow on you.
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