There’s a gap in the Australian music scene right now and Alexander Gow of Oh Mercy is doing his best to fill it. For a long time the likes of Crowded House, The Go-betweens, The Whitlams and Augie March were a strong presence on our airwaves, but in the next generation of artists those melodic songwriter hooks and bitter-sweet chord progressions have not been so prominent.
Gow is an accomplished songsmith working in this vein and it’s a very welcome thing. His songs are cleverly constructed and easy on the ear: warm acoustic guitars, catchy rhythms and some nice string arrangements in the mix.
When We Talk About Love finds its inspiration in heartbreak. The topic of loss and longing has provided much fodder for songwriting over the years and Gow makes a capable contribution to the catalogue with this album. A focused, and at times intense, approach to the subject matter could be viewed as both a strength and weakness of this work. There is a nice cohesion here, making this much more than just a discrete collection of songs; this is very much an LP in the traditional sense. Whoever says the album is dead should have a listen to this.
However, the focus on heartbreak and unrequited desire is quite unrelenting and, while the honesty and authenticity of the songs is warmly engaging, listeners might find themselves looking for the occasional letup. It’s in the music, though, that Gow provides the variety, moving through subtle changes in style to give the album some of the nuance that it needs. And, given the melancholic nature of the lyrics, it’s those songs with bright sounds and upbeat rhythms that are the highlights of the recording. Tracks like ‘Sandy’, ‘If You Come Around Tonight’ and ‘I Believe It’ all offer such satisfying contrast.
Gow has offered us part of his soul on this album. It’s refreshing to hear honesty like this, even better to have it wrapped up in such sweet melody.
When We Talk About Love is out now from EMI.
Read our interview with Alexander Gow here.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor