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Album Review: Cast of Yesterday- Tim Wheatley

It’s long been held that to achieve major commercial success as an Australian artist, you need to eventually relocate, either to America or the UK. The Go Betweens, the Saints- I mean, before Splendour in the Grass it had been years since we’d seen Kevin Parker. Just ask Powderfinger; while you can wow Australian audiences from overseas, you can’t wow audiences overseas from Australia. Fledgling Australian alt folk singer-songwriter, Tim Wheatley, has reversed this process somewhat, having visited the US extensively since 2012 and making that relationship a more permanent one with a move to LA after recording his debut LP ‘Cast of Yesterday’ earlier this year.

The album should appeal to American audiences. Armed with a classical acoustic technique and a tastefully smoky, earnest voice, Wheatley weaves a tapestry with his expansive country-folk. Country is a genre that is often misunderstood and is underappreciated because of it. If the arid, orange, spacious album art isn’t a clue, the recurring motifs of isolation, duty and escape (which all take their cues from small-town miasma and arid loneliness) should be a tell-tale indicator. Country is a genre as much about theme as it is convention, and though ‘Cast of Yesterday’ has a healthy sprinkling of harmonica, banjo and strings, it is predominantly an acoustic, lyrically driven sound that opens it up to the more universal classification of alternative rock.

All four songs from Wheatley’s 2014 ‘Crooked Colours’ EP were included on the album, and provide reference points throughout ‘Cast of Yesterday’ around which Wheatley creates a tender story of regret and disappointment. Opener The Heathen, which will surely be a single at some point, is a threatening song that bubbles and broils barely below the surface, describing a “handsome devil” who becomes a “heathen… when molly takes hold.” Given the sheer amount of country Australian towns grappling with substance dependency problems, Wheatley’s intricate lyricism takes on another dimension. 78 Benz almost reads as the epilogue to The Heathen, the natural conclusion of a relationship doomed from the start. One of several ballads on the record, 78 Benz capitalises on a catchy rhyme, easy melody and universal themes to be one of the early highlights. This cut illustrates one of Wheatley’s strengths: how easily he can project himself onto the lyrics. He does the exact same thing on lead single Valerie, which is a reasonably straightforward, Pete Murray-esque acoustic tribute to the eponymous Valerie. A worthy song, for sure: but a slightly puzzling choice for a single, given the wealth of choices on the album.  Hot for August is a bluesy, dark rumble, one of the most experimental tracks on the record, and is intelligently followed by title track Cast of Yesterday, which is delicate as a flower with its high pitch and somnambulistic melody.

In the way Wheatley crafts his songs and creates sonic narratives he is a little like fellow Melbourne artist Lawrence Greenwood aka Whitley. Both love a sparse build-up to the chorus and a quickened-tempo breakdown after (as on Burning the Midnight Oil and Whitley’s Killer). Lyrically, Wheatley engages in the sort of pseudo archaic sentences favoured by the likes of Marcus Mumford especially.  Occasionally this becomes a little tiresome, particularly toward the end of the album, when Wheatley betrays his inexperience by lumping same-sounding songs together and failing to break them up with any tempo changes as earlier in the album. To say that substantially detracts from the album, though, would be like saying your dinner was ruined because your bread roll was stale. It’s a good thing there’s a national tour coming up, because we might not be seeing much of this prodigious young talent after that. The world’s at his feet. 7/10

 

Track Listing


1. The Heathen

2. 78 Benz

3. Valerie

4. Hot for August

5. Cast of Yesterday

6. The Other Woman

7. Burning the Midnight Oil

8. Dumb Luck

9. The Company That We Keep

10. The Messenger

11. Man in Waiting

12. The Way of the Gun

 

Tim Wheatley 'Cast of Yesterday' Album Tour Dates

THUR 27 + FRI 28 AUG

GYMPIE MUSIC MUSTER | GYMPIE

 

 

SAT 29 AUG

THE TRIFFID | BRISBANE

 

 

SUN 30 AUG

THE GRACE DARLING | MELBOURNE

 

 

FRI 4 SEP

THE METRO | SYDNEY

 

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