CD Review of Redemption #39 by Michael Carpenter
Michael Carpenter: Redemption #39
Recommended if you like
Shoes, Raspberries, Queen
Big Radio
Michael Carpenter:
Redemption #39

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

p until, say, 30 years ago, Australia was considered the outer reaches of rock relevance. With the exception of the Easybeats, the Bee Gees, AC/DC, Olivia Newton-John and Little River Band, the Pacific Rim could barely muster enough native sons (or daughters) to convince the denizens of London and L.A. that they too deserve serious credence. Fortunately for those Down Under, the ‘80s and ‘90s saw a rapid ascension, with Australia and New Zealand closing ranks behind bands like Men At Work, Midnight Oil, the Birthday Party, the Saints, Skyhooks, the Hoodoo Gurus, the Bats, the Clean, the Chills and, of course, Crowded House. Since then, those realms have more than held their own in outputting first rate talent, so much so that they’ve carved their own niche through a specific take on pure pop passion.

Which brings us to Michael Carpenter, a gifted singer, songwriter, arranger and musician who’s amassed quite a repertoire, both on his own and in support of his fellow native sons. National allegiance aside, Carpenter operates with a genuine pop proviso, making unabashed references to bands like the Byrds, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and other hallowed forebears sporting a circa-‘60s pedigree. His two SOOP (Songs of Other People) albums laid bare those influences by mining a mint of vintage classics, some known, some slightly more obscure, but every one effectively reflecting his infatuation with retro allure. More importantly, Carpenter focuses on essentials – infatuating melodies, radio-reliable hooks, bucolic harmonies and the ability to mete out a winsome sound that ensures nothing less than an instant connection.

His eighth album overall, Redemption # 39, seems to follow suit, not surprising considering Carpenter and crew maintained the momentum with a pair of warm-up EPs (Give the Bone a Dog and New Dog-Old Tricks) late last year. Although only a single song made the cut, Carpenter’s giddy, free-spirited indulgence continues to prevail, bringing more than a hint of instant familiarity to songs such as "Workin’ for a Livin’," "I’m Not Done With You" and "I Want Everything." And naturally, the references still abound. "The King of the Scene," with its piano motif, collective harmonies and arched dramatic reading recalls Freddy Mercury and Queen at full throttle. Likewise, the psychedelic sputter of "Sinking" and the hodgepodge guitar riffing accompanying the title track bring echoes of Revolver, albeit in a more stripped down setting.

What’s different here then is not so much the sound – the buoyant, effusive approach happily remains a constant – but rather the approach. Unlike previous efforts, Carpenter plays practically all the instruments. He also adopts a "theme," one that suggests perseverance in the face of discouragement and despair. Carpenter’s liner notes allude to some sort of past predicament but it’s never described specifically. Nevertheless, song titles like "Sinking," "Falling Down," "Middle of Nowhere" and the title track itself allude to some sort of miasma. Happily for all concerned, Redemption appeared apparently none too soon.

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