The Murlocs Calm Ya Farm
The Murlocs explore new countrified territory on their seventh LP, Calm Ya Farm, now out via ATO Records. While their previous album, Rapscallion, rocked out with garage-psych flair, this newest offering from the eclectic Melbourne-based quintet delivers a sound with much more bluesy twang and butt-shaking stomp. But this is no earnest and starry-eyed hoedown either. Frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith (also of the prolific psych-rock project King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard) delivers satirical and at times surreal lyrics full of world-weariness, but never without his mischievous sense of humor. The band’s overall sound, too, could never come across as just straight ahead country rock. The personnel here (including the bassist Cook Craig, Callum Shortal on guitar, drummer Matt Blach, and Tim Karmouch on keys) bring a lot of experience and mastery in the garage, punk, doom, and psych realms. (Craig is in also King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard with Kenny-Smith; Shortal plays with Orb, and Blach drums for Beans.)
The overall effect of Calm Ya Farm makes you dance away the absurdity of a world on edge. Kenny Smith described the process and product of this most recent record: “With this record we tried to steer away from all the distortion and dirt and grit, or at least let the grit come off a bit more clean-sounding…Instead of a bunch of people bashing away, it’s more intricate and precise—but at the same there’s a warm, summery, youthful feeling to most of the songs.”
Calm Ya Farm starts off with “Initiative,” a song focused on wobbly desires toward stereotypical adulthood. “It’s about recognizing the need to start taking responsibility for your life instead of always living in the now and killing all your brain cells along the way,” Kenny-Smith explains. “Not in the sense of dropping everything and getting an office job, but just trying to take things more seriously and making sure you’ve lived a life that’s full.” “Initiative” also has an intriguing video directed by Guy Tyzack, where the viewer follows Kenny-Smith wandering through the hills of Australian suburbia.
Another standout track is the recently released single, “Undone and Unashamed,” featuring Kenny-Smith’s first-ever sax solo! In contrast to “Intiative,” where having the “rebel spirit” seems to be celebrated, “Undone and Unashamed” dips into the darker side of committing your life to the endless party. The lyrics say it all: “Strutting down the sidewalk, hopscotch footpath with your wrist in a cast/Whiskey cigarette breath toothless sipping from his hip flask.” The video for “Undone and Unashamed” (directed by Jack Rule) will turn you upside down, or at least try to.
My favorite songs on Calm Ya Farm, though, are “Queen Pinky” and “Catfish.” “Queen Pinky” motivates me to strut around pushing all the bullshit out of my way, like a queen does. Kenny-Smith’s lyrics are all a-glow with love for the queen in question here: “Count your blessings and be thankful for the queen / She’s just doing what she can to work her routine…All hail queen pinky.” According to the band, “Queen Pinky” is a romantic serenade to Kenny-Smith’s new wife, which makes it seem even more special.
“Catfish” musically captures the longing of online catfishing, with all the sonic seduction you would expect. The chorus stretches out, wiggling its fishy whiskers at you, a lush soundscape glittering, full of Craig bringing layers of mellotron, strings, and other equally alluring instruments. Kenny-Smith’s vocals, too, on this track, sink into the lower range of his tenor talents, and the effect is hypnotic.
The Murlocs (photo by Izzie Austin)
The Murlocs will celebrate Calm Ya Farm by touring the UK and Europe in September, and I have no doubt these gents put on a fantastic show, so if you’re on that side of the pond, check out their tour dates and get there. (See our coverage from their Nov. 2022 stop in NYC) For the rest of us stateside, take a dip this summer into the sunshine sounds of Calm Ya Farm, and hopefully The Murlocs will come visit us again soon.
Calm Ya Farm is available now via ATO Records and is available on all major streamers.