There is something distinctly swampy happening in Australian country (and country-related) music at the moment – although perhaps it would be more correct to say it’s ‘billabongy’, as this is music that draws from American traditions but which has its own, Australian, identity. Hat Fitz and Cara, and Cash Savage have released recent albums that have the grit, grunt and heart that characterises music in this category. Let’s now add Max Savage to it.
Savage’s new EP, False Idols, opens with ‘Undertaker’, and he growls his way through this song and its meaty lyrics. The next song, ‘Maple’, with its echoes of Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, is almost sweet. The differing styles indicate that Savage will alter his singing to suit the song – that he will ‘serve the story’ – and that immediately makes him intriguing (as well as adaptable).
There are further echoes of Ryan Adams (and Ryan Bingham) in this eight-song EP, and that’s not a bad thing. I’m surprised that Adams doesn’t turn up more often in the songwriting and performance of other artists, given how seminal his work has been and how accomplished a musician, singer and songwriter he is. Perhaps he’s not more emulated because he is so pre-eminent – he’s a hard act to follow. Perhaps, then, only the brave or foolhardy attempt it. Max Savage doesn’t seem foolhardy, and he certainly doesn’t take all his cues from Adams – he takes just enough to establish a style – so let’s put him in the brave camp. And he’s certainly not copying Adams’s songs – a lot of the lyrical content of the EP is embedded in religion and Australian folklore. Adams wouldn’t know an altar if he fell over one and, for obvious reasons, he doesn’t write about Australia.
This collection of songs – and at eight songs it’s really almost an album (for the very reasonable price of $7) – will appeal to country music fans as well as those who like to pretend they only listen to ‘rock’ but who secretly gravitate towards anything with a country-esque chord progression. From the look of the cover art, Savage is positioning himself as the wild young rebel of Australian music – and gods, don’t we need one? Give me someone a bit untamed and spirited any day. It’ll be very interesting to see what he does next.
False Idols is available to buy and download on Bandcamp. The EP will be launched on Monday 4 November at The Workers Club, 51-55 Gertrude Street in Fitzroy (Melbourne) at 8.30 p.m.