Dirt Picnic. Skylines and Alleyways.

Gritty understated mastery from redundant smokestacks via the Inner West.

Fuzzed out licks contrast soaring phosphorescent progressions. Twisted winding vocals echo off a solid state back beat. Sweet distortion sweeps through atmos laden lyrical harmony from the land of weatherboard and iron. An all-embracing journey through fresh, raw love, enigmatic-stalemates and the fading light of grungy Australia. This is the first, second and tenth impression of Dirt Picnic, the Newcastle/ Inner West three-piece that embodies the heavier side of guitarist Chris Porter’s musical persona. Canadian born Chris describes their debut album Skylines and Alleyways as a down and dirty rock but he sells the band, himself on guitar and vocals, Andy Macdonald Bass and Lukos Hey on drums, a little short. There’s much more to this outfit than another set of generic Inner West wanabee rockers. Perhaps because of Chris’s love of Americana this understated down and dirty slow burn outing captures a rare mood that only comes from confident musicians who understand that great tracks, memorable sounds are as much about what you leave out as what you put in. If you’re looking for easy references consider that Skylines and Alleyway’s opener ‘No more hopin’ and a wishin’ would sit happily on an early amped up Son Volt album while ‘Hot air in the balloon’ exudes a smoother rock swagger to match the Drive By Truckers in their heavier outings. And Chris’s vocal style certainly borrows, mostly successfully, from the Jay Farrer school of sparse intensity. On ‘Just Like Dead Wood’ it simmers darkly as it travails the depths of threatened life. But who needs comparisons when you can enjoy homegrown songwriting talent that actually stands up to day-long listening scrutiny. Skylines and Alleyways isn’t perfectly formed, perhaps some themes are overly repeated, but it’s one of those few inspired contemporary rock records (Ok it’s a CD or download) that offers both light and shade, a rare layered depth. You want to spin it over and over again as the music compels itself into your aural subconscious. Yes Dirt Picnic are doing more than just something right, maybe it’s that raw first album energy or maybe it’s the heavy punk country moments that grab my ears. Whatever it is catch them before they get too good and ruin the whole effect.

by Neal Vaughan (380 words)