Review Summary: A good, solid live effort that shows its influences but comes up with very listenable music with dark lyrical overtones.
Some of the best music to come out from Australian musicians in recent times seems to visit the dark side, at least once in a while. Nick Cave, the late David McCombs of The Triffids, Ed Kuepper, formerly of The Saints, The Go-Betweens… The list is quite a nice one and not so short. It doesn’t matter whether it is the exploration of the Southern Gothic (Cave) or just mournful situations (Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens and his “When People Are Dead”), they don’t only seem to have a penchant for it down under, they actually do it well. The music setting can be both melancholic or energetic, it usually turns out into something you really want to listen to, no matter how heavy the subject matter is. Well, here’s another name to add to that list - Michael P. Cullen, joined here for Live at Lazybones, a live EP, by the Soul Searchers, a seasoned set of independent musicians from Sydney.
As evident by his earlier material like the True Believer album and this live EP, Cullen owes quite a lot to his Aussie counterparts like Kuepper, Forster, and particularly Cave. This is not only evident in the lyrics content (where he certainly draws upon on North American inspirations like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits), but in his vocal inflection where particularly on some tracks here (“Black Dog”, “Black Coffee & Cigarettes”) he definitely sounds like Cave. And that certainly is not a bad thing. While like Cave Cullen also likes the Southern Gothic themes, he adds a bit of the early Tom Waits’ touch, akin to some themes from Dashiell Hammett novels.
Musically, the band has an excellent touch, giving Cullen’s sound something of the energy early The Saints albums had (the two closing tracks, “Believer” and “I Walk Alone”). The same could be said about often touchy live recording techniques, which truly shine here, particularly evident on “Believer”. As far as Cullen’s songs are concerned, two are excellent (again, “Black Dog”, “Black Coffee & Cigarettes”) two are very good (“Believer” and “I Walk Alone”), while only one really has a very apt title - “Nothing Special”, although it is partly saved by the band not missing a beat.
While Michael P. Cullen is yet to prove that he can reach the heights of his inspirations, Live at Lazybones is a good, solid effort that can serve as a path that he should continue on, no matter how dimmed the lights might be.