Image Courtesy of The Falls
Constant readers of Timber and Steel will know our love affair with Sydney duo The Falls. Just search “The Falls” on our site and you’ll probably be overwhelmed by just how often we write about them. So we were super excited when their debut EP Hollywood landed in our mailbox ahead of it’s 3rd August release.
Would Hollywood live up to The Falls’ live show? After all these are songs I’ve seen performed on stage on a regular basis for well over year. I feel like I know them inside out – I definitely know them well enough to sing along in the choruses – but it would remain to be seen whether the recorded versions would live up to what The Falls deliver week-in week-out at their Folk Club residency.
Hollywood opens the same way The Falls’ live show always does, with the beautifully harmonic “Please”. With the single guitar and dual voices opening the track this feels like exactly what I’d expect from The Falls. The piano, strings and drums add an extra element to the song without overpowering its fundamentals, providing just the right amount of accompaniment. This is an absolutely beautiful track at the best of times and with the pitch-perfect production thanks to Tony Buchen, it reaches new heights in its recorded form. Wonderful.
“Home” was the debut single from The Falls (the video is below) so it’s recorded version is already pretty well known and has received a bunch of radio play. As with “Please” I love how subtle the strings are on “Home” and the clapping/vibraphone add a quirky touch to the song and drive it forward. This was perfect choice as a first single as it captures exactly what The Falls are about – tight harmonies, indie-folk melodies and lyrics that deserve a second listen.
The press release that came with Hollywood played up documentary aspect of the EP, how it moves through Simon and Melida’s relationship – “the love, the betrayal, the heartbreak”. “Million” is one of the most painful songs on the EP and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful as a result. There’s something really special about the way Buchen uses the drums on this track, beginning with staccato floor tom and building into a frantic march that interplays with Simon Rudston-Brown’s rhythmic fingerpicking guitar and Melinda Kirwin’s foreboding piano. By the time the song reaches its bridge, you’re completely drawn into the song and wanting to save the protagonists. This is storytelling folk music at its best.
“There’s the girl that I love, there’s the girl that makes me mad as hell”. So starts the John Lennon-esque “Girl That I Love”, easily my favourite song from The Falls. Somewhat unexpectedly the track opens with a light percussion before Rudston-Brown’s voice and guitar take over, the sweet melody lilting through your ears. As always Kirwin’s melodica solo gives the song a retro touch and I love the way the bells are used throughout. The song’s bridge – “here we go, like a rollercoaster” – is driven along once again by the drums and percussion, lifting “Girl That I Love” to a level I’ve not heard in The Falls’ live show.
In the liner notes for Hollywood there is a thank you directed at “The boys who stomped and clapped”. I can only assume that this refers to the percussive “Hey”. Melinda Kirwin leads the vocals on the track which almost makes it feel like an answer to Rudston-Brown’s “Girl That I Love”. When the drums come in about two thirds of the way through “Hey” for the first time I think it might be overkill – the stomping and clapping is a nice touch but the full rock drum kit just doesn’t sit quite right.
The EP’s title track, “Hollywood”, is reportedly the most emotional for the duo given it was written about the Sydney hotel where they held their residency (and also wrote the EP) until they were abruptly asked to leave earlier this year. “Hollywood” truly is a beautiful and a fantastic way to end the EP. Once again Simon Rudston-Brown is channeling John Lennon in his vocals (and the melody seems to evoke Julian Lennon’s “Saltwater”) and Melinda Kirwin sings with so much emotion, it’s just beautiful. Once more I feel the drums are a little heavy handed – it’s interesting how much they added to the songs at the start of the EP yet overwhelm the songs towards the end – but the strings are just perfection, especially in the bridge.
Overall Hollywood is exactly what I wanted from The Falls – a recording that captures the pitch perfect harmonies and energy of their live performance and enhances it through solid production. The final tracks do suffer a little from a heavy handed drum part but overall the EP is sublime. If all is right in the world Hollywood will be The Falls’ first step on the road to world domination – Kirwin and Rudston-Brown are master songwriters and performers and the EP is a wonderful example of their music. We may write about The Falls all the time but if they continue to release music like this that isn’t going to stop any time soon.
Hollywood EP Launch
Saturday 4th August – The Empress Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 5th August – Pure Pop Records, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 11th August – Hellen Rose Schauersberger Laboratorium, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 16th August – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 17th August – The Hi-Fi, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 22nd August – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA
Thursday 23rd August – Fowlers, Adelaide, SA
Friday 24th August – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 25th August – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart, TAS