On your living Room Floor – From Album “An eye for a brow, a tooth for a pick”
Hands in the Air – From Album “An eye for a brow, a tooth for a pick”
At 25, vocalist Joe Mcguigan has been playing in bands for almost a decade. Touring and recording with various bands as a teenager, Joe wanted his new band to incorporate the energy of his earlier groups but closer reflect his then tastes. He formed Ground Components with Indra Adams (bass), Dallas Packard (keys) and his brother Simon (drums) in 2002. All night jam sessions began with renditions of their favorite songs while they wrote their own material. Early live shows would be constructed from a set of originals often doubled with a set of covers ranging from Elvis Costello to Otis Redding, old punk tunes and classic reggae.
The release of their debut EP (November 2003) established them as one of Melbourne’s new favorite live acts, filling local venues and opening for touring acts such as Spoon and M Ward. The EP also got them a spot at the 2004 SXSW festival in Austin followed by dates in the U.S and U.K. They returned to Australia to release their second EP, play Splendor In The Grass and a 20 + date tour of the country. Selected as the opening act on Spiderbait’s national tour in September, they ended the year with their second appearance at the Meredith Music Festival.
2005 began with their biggest shows yet – opening for Powderfinger’s national tour and a spot on the Big Day Out.
Fast forward to NOW
While many bands pump out an album within their first year, Ground Components have taken the time to put together a collection of songs that have stood the test of extensive touring, rehearsal and recording. Following on from two previous EP’s, this is the first full length release from the band. With previous recordings by Chicago engineer Casey Rice, the band opted to produce these tracks on their own. For the first time members Dallas Packard and Indra Adams have shown off multi-instrumental talents, between the two of them they play saxophone, trumpet, flute, clarinet, accordion, drums, guitar and of course piano and bass respectively. Not only are these songs their most elaborate instrumentally, but also the first chance we’ve had to hear the band fully explore their diverse musical influences.
The most obvious stylistic departure is the collaboration with Sydney MC Macromantics. As a teenager Romy Hoffman was once a member of Ben Lee’s Noise Addict but in recent years has been performing as an MC under the name Macromantics. After a few shows together, the band and Hoffman decided to mess around in the studio. One of the tracks they came up with was ‘Coming In All From All Angles’. It may be a surprise to hear a band like Ground Components pair with an abstract Hip Hop MC but somehow it works and is certainly one of the album highlights. Lookout for a Macromantics rework of the Ground Components track ‘Darkside of Dallas/Fistfull Of Dollars’ on her forthcoming album (the same track appearing on this album sans Macromantics).
Ground Components have made some ambitious choices when it comes to cover songs. Taking on some of the most sacred names in music history – reworking Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel, R&B standard Sticks And Stones (made famous by Ray Charles) and the Johnny Cash classic Jackson. You only need to look at Ray or Johnny as examples of how interpreting a song is an equal task to writing it in the first place. Whether or not the Ground Components versions of other songwriters are ‘great’, they do perform within the spirit of what makes a great cover song – they make it their own. Paul Kelly’s bushranger tribute ‘Our Sunshine’ is a late nineties oddity for the legendary Australian songwriter. Originally a rickety bluegrass song recorded with fiddles and all for the old-timey ‘Smoke’ album, it comes across like a lost page from a hundred year old Australian folk songbook. The version featured here is in a rock style but evokes the same Australiana spirit with it’s ‘fire and flood’ anthemic chorus. Perhaps the band’s most ambitious moment yet closes the album. Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding’ is considered one of the best moments from one of the best. Far from it’s folk-rock original, Ground Components mutate the song into a mad organ driven rap. Joe McGuigan spitting out the exhaustive set of lyrics in a song that clocks in just under 10 minutes.
Between the collaborations and covers the majority of the album is what Ground Components do best- simple, sharp songs. Musically straight forward with generally reflective personal lyrics, it’s basic without being inane. While the majority is in an upbeat fashion there are also songs like the ballad-esque ‘As The Winter Months Approach’.
Listening to ‘An Eye For A Brow, A Tooth For A Pick’ it’s impossible to fit Ground Components into a neat category. Their is familiarity but no obvious comparisons. The album references many styles and sounds, and sticks together with a natural cohesiveness.