The Whitlams

Love This City

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How do you follow one of the biggest and most unexpected Australian successes of the 1990s without losing your originality and quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor? That was the challenge that faced the Whitlams when they came to release a follow-up to 1998's Eternal Nightcap. The result is Love This City. Whereas its predecessor had focussed on two major themes (the death of former frontman Stevie Plunder and long-distance relationships), this disc is less cohesive, covering a wide range of subject matter. The song style is different here, too, as Freedman allows his piano to take a back seat to guitars or brass on a number of tracks. The city of the title is Sydney, and many of these songs relate to its changing face -- the less-than-complimentary reaction to the commercialism of the Olympic Games ("You Gotta Love This City"), the infiltration of gambling machines into suburban bars and clubs ("Blow Up the Pokies (1999)"), and the modernization of some of the city's old-fashioned landmarks ("God Drinks at the Sando (1997)"). The Whitlams rarely set a foot wrong, although their stab at a lament on the plight of the East Timorese ("400 Miles from Darwin"), while commendable, is out of place on an album so otherwise lacking in a political agenda. Elsewhere, the Whitlams are at their witty lyrical best on the rock of "Chunky Chunky Air Guitar," the piano-driven "Thankyou (for loving me at my worst)," and the anthemic protest song "Blow Up the Pokies (1999)." This is a superb collection of songs from a brilliant band, which makes it all the more unfair that after the sublime Eternal Nightcap, anything less than perfection leaves the listener with a slight sense of disappointment.

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