“If you love the enduring power of guitar-charged rock’n’roll, Reverse Light Years is the kind of record that can restore the soul, feed the mind and heal the heart.”
One theory about popular recorded music is that the internet has changed things to a song-based economy so just keep releasing single songs and see what sticks.
I know, I feel a chill on my heart at the thought of it too. It’s like telling a writer that the world has evolved to a point where they should stick to 1000-word short stories in the future.
Naturally, a great band like Melbourne trio Even is having none of that and go the other way with this 80-minute, 17-song masterpiece.
You don’t say this about bands that have been around since the early ’90s too often: Reverse Light Years feels like their definitive statement. If you love the enduring power of guitar-charged rock’n’roll, Reverse Light Years is the kind of record that can restore the soul, feed the mind and heal the heart.
Some might ask, who has the concentration for 80 minutes of music any more? Which overlooks that we have always listened to music in our own time and in our own way. A side of a record while ironing a shirt, three songs saved on a favourite cassette mix tape, one song on repeat in the car for days. Whatever works. I’ve been listening to double album classics like The Beatles and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life (actually, that’s a double album plus a bonus EP) for most of my life and still not have listened to them all in sequence and in one sitting.
That’s how to approach Reverse Light Years too. There is so much to take in. Two months of listening and I am still discovering great songs I missed.
One positive outcome amidst all the gloom of the past two years has been that people have had so much time to listen to music, and plenty of time to make records too. Which is what the band has been doing in guitarist Ashley Naylor’s home studio.
You might not have heard of Even but you almost certainly have heard or seen Naylor, one of Australia’s most hard-working guitarists (for starters, long-time Rockwiz Orchestra member, in the bands of Paul Kelly and Vika and Linda Bull, with Perth power-pop masters The Stems, two albums with alt country duo The Grapes, and now as a member of The Church).
Even has always been a melodic band that sounds like they went to school on classic ’60s rock records (with the Nuggets collection of garage rock treats from the vaults probably at the front of the stack). Knowing that they were making a double album in a home studio, without deadlines, gives them the freedom to explore further, wherever the songs took them.
Of course there are immediately recognisable Even pop-rock gems like Cinnamon Edge and Dandy Stomp, the Who-like pulse of Six Monkeys and the hold-tight electric rush of Be Still, which sounds nothing like its teasing title suggests.
Naylor is a master of the tight, melodic guitar line, but here there are also songs where he has more room to move like the searing Miracle Drum, which sounds rather like Jimi Hendrix and his wah wah pedal found their way into a London session by The Yardbirds or The Move, circa ’67.
Stay tuned also for the mighty Gold Sunday on the album’s second disc and the lead guitar part at its conclusion. Yes, the solo is improvised but there is a lifetime of listening and playing to get to being in that moment.
Starlight Caravan stretches out like the desert sands across more than seven minutes of haunting psychedelia and guitarchitecture. After you’ve heard it you understand why The Church have enlisted Naylor to replace Peter Koppes.
Silver Rain slows down the tempo and shimmers like the last rays of summer, and the sublime Too Dumb to Quit falls somewhere between George Harrison and Badfinger, pretty much a dream place to be if you are a long-term Even fan anyway.
The album closes with the breathtaking Life in a Box. It is a song balancing pain and beauty in equal measure, with an arrangement so well constructed that you can imagine an orchestra playing all those glorious interlocking parts. Not as much fun as hearing what Even do with it though.
Eight albums in and still growing. What a band. Definitive statement? Thus far, anyway.
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