The Age of an Entitlement is one of the most important Australian albums in a long time. The fourth studio LP from The Basics strikes a flawless balance between insightful social commentary and skilfully crafted songs that are in equal measure catchy and moving, serious and fun. It’s about time rock’n’roll took on the current socio-political climate, and the Melbourne three-piece puts themselves firmly in this milieu with an album title aimed straight at Joe Hockey.
The political invective is front and centre of the softly acerbic opening track ‘Whatever Happened to the Working Class?’ and the frenetic ‘Time Poor’, containing lyrics that are both angry and satirical. Challenging apathy in the face of asylum seekers, climate change and casual racism, there’s a cheeky reference to “racist crap from Andrew Bolt” and provocative rhetoric: “What about basic fucking human rights?” It’s a very good question.
But the album is much more than a fist pumping polemic. This is a band in perfect equilibrium; you can hear it in the way the three of them work together as a cohesive musical unit: Kris Schroeder on bass, Tim Heath on guitar and Wally De Backer (Gotye) on drums, and blending lush harmonies and catchy rhythms. Recorded over just a few days at the Abbey Road Studios, everything sounds fantastic.
In an era of bedroom producers, The Basics are band in the true sense of the word. Some might wonder why Gotye would return to playing pubs after his world-conquering Grammy successes, but listen to this recording (or, better still, catch the three-piece live) and it all makes perfect sense.
This balance extends to the song-writing: yes, there’s anger at the current state of politics, but we also get humour, personal reflection and good time grooves. In ‘Roundabout’, for example, De Backer’s silky vocals glide over breezy, summertime pop, while in ‘Good Times Sunshine’ he delivers in catchy, McCartney mode.
Meanwhile, Schroeder gets confessional on ‘Every Part of Me’ and ‘To Think of You’, singing bitter-sweet reflections on lost love.
‘Tunaomba Saidia’ is the most interesting track on the album, an affecting song that humanises the plight of asylum seekers. The pertinent blending of African music, a by-product of Schroeder’s time spent in Kenya working with the Red Cross, poignantly underscores the subject matter while providing an infectious, joyful tone.
‘Hey Rain’ is beautifully structured around the band’s rousing harmonies. It’s hairs on the back of the neck stuff with a delightfully Australian flavour. The recording then rounds out with ‘Feels Like Love’, a bluesy number that uses some great atmospherics to bring things to a close.
The only questionable choice here is the absence of 2014 single, ‘The Lucky Country’; the powerhouse track would have fitted perfectly with the other material here.
The Age of Entitlement is an album for the ages. Taking on Australian politics in 2015 with the same clarity and passion as Midnight Oil did in 1982 with 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, The Basics present a fine collection of engaging songs delivered with feeling, humour and acumen.
At The Upside News we’ve always avoided using the star rating convention, but this is an album worth breaking our own rules for: 5 stars!
The Basics are about to embark on a national tour that will bring them to Adelaide on Tues 20 October, playing at the Grace Emily. The Age of Entitlement is available now.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor