In And Out Of The Light
CD | DL
Brand new LP by long-running Australian cult act the Apartments, their first since 2015’s No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal…Ian Canty goes flat out trying to see the light…
Originally formed in Brisbane Australia in 1978, the Apartments have split and reformed a couple of times over the years. They first ceased operations in late 1979, when band’s main man Peter Milton Walsh joined fellow Brisbane-ites the Go-Betweens. This union was not fated to last, however, as the personal chemistry of this GBs’ line up did not gel. Stints with Out Of Nowhere, the Colors and Ed Kuepper’s Laughing Clowns followed, but Peter reactivated the Apartments’ name in 1984.
They were signed to Rough Trade in the UK and released their debut album The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years. An independent chart hit and also successful in France (where they still retain a considerable fanbase), their progress was stymied by the label’s problems. A period of extended downtime was the prelude to a busy 1990s when they released four albums.
The Apartments have continued over the years with a revolving door-style membership, apart from the ever-present Walsh. However, long-standing Apartments drummer Nick Alum and bass player Eliot Fish have supplied Walsh with a solid base to work from, with French singer Natasha Penot and guitarist Antoine Chaperon also pitching in. They’re among the players on this new LP, which was unusually recorded across the world, with contributions set on tape in Sydney, London and a few locations in France too. The final mix was put in place a day before Australia locked down for coronavirus.
Very much a cool and haunting mood piece, In And Out Of The Light spins its various perspectives on a failing relationship through eight dream-like snapshots. The gentle strum of Pocketful Of Sunshine begins the album with Walsh’s parched sounding voice wanting to provide hope to the song’s presumably doomed subject. Write Your Way Out Of Town has a lazy spring to it, drifting along very prettily. The song is almost Pocketful Of Sunshine in a negative, where the same bad feelings pass and time eventually healing.
There’s a hole in the life of the protagonist of Where You Used To Be, something that can only be reasonably filled by thoughts of the past. He’s dealing with loss and being reminded of it on a daily basis, while the tune skips along in an endearingly chipper fashion, providing a neat juxtaposition with the lyrics. What’s Beauty To Do? is possibly the most upbeat piece on the album, with gleaming guitar and nicely galloping drums. But its more dynamic thrust is a cover for the song pinpointing that sickly feeling in the stomach when you know you’ve lost someone you loved for good. It’s funny when the stereotypical love song is all about hearts, when the physical response I have experienced is more to do with a hefty punch to the middle and this is adeptly captured here.
Moving to the second half of In And Out Of The Light, Butterfly Kiss is the Apartments’ beautiful baroque pop embellished with a solitary and plaintive trumpet. The song alludes to the Jack Nicholson film Chinatown and includes the line “Even the guy that I was in twenty-ten is a stranger to me now” – what a great lyric and how truthful too. I certainly can dig it.
Thunder and rain heralds the start of We Talked Through Till Dawn, then just piano and voice. There’s the feeling that Walsh is close to the microphone, entrusting the listener with his confidence. This is a more confessional lyric that looks at the pointlessness of trying to talk through and save a relationship when it has broken down. I’ve done this myself and know the feeling, when you’ve reached the end of a conversation and nothing was going to change. All you had done was wasted a night. It takes special skill to tease this out though, something the Apartments achieve with panache.
Having a title that could make you think of hardcore punk (if you didn’t know better) I Don’t Give A Fuck About You Anymore is unsurprisingly scathing in tone. Though specific to the relationship that the words address, it talks of the healing that takes time and the realisation that life goes on and things do get better. It’s a curiously positive negative statement. The final piece in the puzzle of this album is The Fading Light, with piano and voice before the guitar bursts through. This song delivers a sense of closure, even if some wounds just won’t heal.
In And Out Of The Light is an excellently realised and aptly named record, acutely depicting real hope and despair, the two sides of the same coin. Love turning to hate, then acceptance that both those feelings do abate as time goes on, eventually leaving things open for a new start. All things considered, this is a much truer depiction of human relationships than usual in pop music. The Apartments play these songs with a finely-honed subtlety that leaves spaces for breath, but also turns to wrap the words in something of real beauty where necessary. In And Out Of Light is a joy imbued with a certain darkness and that is all part of its appeal.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here