In contradiction to my attempts to maintain high standards, I have a predeliction (fetish?) for some things Perfectly Broken, or, more succinctly put in rock critic lingo, the DIY aesthetic. It’s how the Fall and Pere Ubu get away with being pretentious. They’re ‘garage bands,’ in that they do what they do without arena-filling, like Radiohead, or without the Oxford degrees.
What also hits my sweet spot are those bands who see nothing for their efforts, like the Replacements, my first real rock love. Australia’s Cannanes drive me slightly less crazy, but I’ve always kept an ear out for their music, in that their albums at least contain two or three pop gems, the type of four minute, twee miracle that bears no pretension whatsoever while it evokes four or five people playing in a living room at dusk in some suburb outside of Melbourne. The word ‘ramshackle’ fits, especially their singles collection ‘Witchetty Pole,’ which remains one of my most favored 90s releases.
They’re the band that spawned Randall Lee’s Ashtray Boy, a more focused outfit, albeit offering similarly acoustic pop songs. Recent Cannanes efforts have been a little more focused, too, hence 2000’s rockist and disappointing Communicating at an Unknown Rate, but not all is lost: their work with Explosion Robinson, former Sukpatch member and laptop agitator, while potentially disastrous, succeeds more often than not on 2002’s Trouble Seemed So Far Away.
So here’s four stellar tracks from 1998’s Arty Barbecue, an album not entirely stunning but undeniable when the trees start to bud. As they should today. Just try not singing the chorus to “Passionfruit.”