It’s appropriate that local duo Filthy Lucre travelled to the US to record their debut album, Mara, a release that’s drenched in the Delta blues and with a garage rock aesthetic, reminiscent of the early material from The Black Keys and The White Stripes. It’s an honest, edgy recording, delivered with fat riffs, tight grooves and a whole lot of soul. Listening to Mara feels like a late night juke-joint with a bourbon in your hand.
It’s not all Americana though; like the Oils and John Butler before them, Filthy Lucre take inspiration from the blues while still managing a distinctly Australian flavour (frontman, Luke Marsh even incorporates some Didgeridoo into the title track). And also like those antecedents, the Adelaide duo knows that good rock’n’roll is more than just boy-meets-girl tunes, with a meaty, political edge to the songwriting (something that was once at the heart of our pub rock scene but, with a few exceptions, has sadly gone AWOL in recent years).
Those who have had the pleasure of witnessing the band live will be familiar with the big sound they are capable of pumping out; it’s often hard to believe there’s only two of them up on stage. Mara effectively captures the energy of their performance in the studio, the music here sounds best at high volume or through the headphones. And while it all appears to take a simple, honest approach, there are also some complex subtleties to the song crafting that makes for a satisfying listen. Probably the most endearing characteristic of the music is the undeniable chemistry between the pair, heard through the symbiotic relationship between Luke Marsh’s riffs and Ed Noble’s drumming: they genuinely sound like a band.
For a debut album, Mara is a remarkably consistent effort with a number of highlights. ‘Dover Street’ is a solid opener, with strong riff-work setting the template for the LP, while ‘World Corp’ follows up with some catchy groove.
‘Hand Made’ is a two-parter representative of the album as a whole: Part 1, featuring cowbell and slide guitar, drips with old school character before moving into the high energy riffs of Part 2. There’s then some effective space in the arrangement of ‘Brokebottle Blues’, its diverse sounds allow an interesting soundscape to build.
‘Boundless Plains’ is the high point of the album, a pacey number with frenetic guitar licks and fuelled by political invective (and appropriately introduced by the didgeridoo in the preceding instrumental title track).
A cover of AWOLNATION’s electro-synth track ‘Sail’ works surprisingly well, effectively reinterpreting the song in hard rock fashion. The piano at the end also provides a nice counterpoint to rest of the material on the album.
Mara is a very accomplished calling card from a local outfit who are deserving of our attention. It’s exciting to think that they’ll only get better from here.
Filthy Lucre will launch Mara at Jive tomorrow night (January 30th).
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor