Since Kevin Mitchell’s alt-folk alter-ego, Bob Evans, first appeared in 2004, the side project has become the equal of his main gig with Jebediah, garnering critical and commercial success, and winning a stack of music awards along the way. Much of this acclaim can be traced to Suburban Songbook in 2006, which established Mitchell’s striking song-writing credentials with one of the best Australian albums of that decade. His talent for melody and lyrical observation is again a feature of this fifth studio album.
It’s appropriate that the name of the latest Bob Evans release is Car Boot Sale. There’s an engaging immediacy to the songs here, and it really does feel like Mitchell is offering his hand-made wares down at the local craft market. Not only are all the tracks lovingly constructed, they’re also nicely polished, with everything coming in at around three minutes in length. Mitchell knows his way around a song, building in the right musical hooks and respecting the art of concision.
As with previous Bob Evans albums, Mitchell has a knack for reflecting on issues that are everyday and personal, such as in his wistful contemplation on fatherhood, ‘Happy Tears’, and the simple honesty of ‘Some People’. But some of the best moments on the record come when the focus is turned outwards, such as ‘Race to the Bottom’, which hides scathing observations within a beautiful melody.
In that sense, this a finely balanced album, perhaps more so than any of the previous Bob Evans offerings. There are also some more ornate arrangements here. ‘Old News’, mixes a breezy pop chorus into baroque alt-country, while ‘Matterfact’ is Beatlesque in its construction and album closer, ‘Stuck On You’ builds nicely from unadorned piano and guitar to a wall of sound. It’s a fair contrast to the demo-like creations that this solo project began with more than a decade ago.
This is a strong album in which Mitchell’s keen sense of song-craft continues to shine. It might be true that there’s no track here that quite nails it in the way that ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time’ managed on Suburban Songbook, and it that sense Car Boot Sale doesn’t completely reach the heights of that seminal album. But taken a whole, this LP is greater than the sum of its parts, packed with wonderful melodies and incisive observations, and reminding us once again of what a great talent we have in Kevin Mitchell.
Car Boot Sale will be released this Friday, 17th June through EMI Australia. You can read our recent chat with Kevin Mitchell HERE.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor