Augie March

Strange Bird

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AllMusic Review by

The cruel irony of making a brilliant record is that the whole world will never hear it. The sheer improbability of aligning the stars and blasting a hole in pop culture for the work to reside is the kind of romantic notion that has launched a million bands. Australia's Augie March may be a tiny blip on the global radar, but that could all change if this second release, the mesmerizing Strange Bird, gets into the right hands. Fourteen tracks of pastoral beauty, labyrinthine arrangements, and breathtaking prose render the listener unable to take it all in one listen. Wordsmith Glenn Richards' love of poetry -- the lyric booklet has an index of first lines -- is evident throughout, and although his vocals are often mixed far too low, his distinctive cadence recalls a young, mush-mouthed Ray Davies. In the heartbreaking "Little Wonder," folksy guitars, swirling brass, and delicate piano wrap themselves around delicious imagery -- "On the wall behind some furniture there's a stain in the shape of Africa/O fear walks tall, when it's halfway up the hill with its friend alcohol" -- and sordid observations -- "Somebody blew their brains out in this room/I can feel it like it happened just this afternoon." On the raucous "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers," burning coal fuels train and band, as the narrator proclaims, "Onward and on, this strange-wrought bird/Onwards and over the black coffee earth." The closing tune, the Roger Waters-inspired "O Song," laments the painful birth of a lyric and the empty nest it leaves in the heart of the writer. The group is adept at balancing the brutal, the epic dirge "Brundisium" and the beautiful and minimal "The Night Is a Blackbird," with a grace and dexterity that can only come from years of acquaintance. Those years have been well spent as Strange Bird is that rare piece of work that seems destined to age with you. One can only hope that this colorful bird from down under has, among all its other attributes, the gift of flight. [In 2004, Spin Art released a version of Strange Bird in the U.S. which included videos for "Little Wonder" and "the Vineyard."]

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