Based in the southern NSW coastal town of Gerringong, Salty comprises multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriters Alan Moore, Sean (The Pun) Batman, Rob (The Comfortable Chair) Spence, and Glen (Honest John, Trophy Wives, 3 on the Tree, Phlegm Fatale) Colley.
As a live event, I managed to score an invitation to a special-guests-only show of theirs at Rose Valley in February engineered by Mark (3 on the Tree) Harris and featuring members of Honest John, Trophy Wives, the Jimmy Nicholls, and very special mystery guest Brendan “Karma County/Dead Marines” Gallagher. Salty were second-last on the show and did a brilliant job for a very laid-back and ultra-casual event. They are obviously very well-known south of Kiama, north of Berry, and east of Gerringong, and the crowd was dancing through originals and covers alike. I managed to almost-live tweet their penultimate number, a cover of They Might Be Giants’ 1990 cover of The Four Lads’ 1958 hit “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”.
I was quite surprised to find 100 Fallen Stars to be a full 10-track album. Neither of Glen’s or Mark’s former iterations managed that many titles on a single release so for $10 through the bandcamp site you’re getting value for money. And the pedigree keeps impressing with Syd Green in the line-up/list and the recorded/produced by-line. Syd is best known for his drumming prowess behind 1990s powerhouse Killing Time/Mantissa, but his post-90s work is just as remarkable.
My interest was well and truly piqued when Glen made the announcement that this new collective was in the studio, and with whom. They certainly know how to mix it up, with some extended 4:00+ ballads alongside some short-and-sharp sub-2:00s pop and ska.
1. Leaving It Behind (Colley) 4:40
Glen and the Gretsch through the twin-reverb, backed vocally by Alan and Sean then suddenly BANG- the whole band joins in. And with the chorus adding depth at the end, I am taken away from everything I expected from the band and delivered somewhere entirely, and happily different.
2. Man Alive (Colley) 2:57
I remember this one from the February gig. Upbeat, rocky; reminiscent of No Van Gogh in its poppiness but rough, raw, distorted, and fun with its bee-bop-a-loo-bop chorus.
3. Shire Ska (Batman) 3:04
Pork pie hats. The Specials. The 1980s. Listening to Jono & Dano on Triple J of a Sunday afternoon instead of doing my homework. And that thin and punchy bass. And that … is that a kazoo? Do I like? No, I love!
4. Lonely & Blue (Batman) 1:59
The title may suggest something slow and sad. Expect nothing like it! Rockin’ blues, more like Continued the upbeat vibe established in the Shire, like those short-and-sharp tracks the Beatles put on their earlier albums, with a little electric-slide guitar to shake it up. This track genuinely made me happy!
5. That’s what (Spence) 1:25
One that sticks with you, thanks to that catchy bass riff. I came home that night wanting to pick up my own bass and start playing it. Imagine Fred (B52s) Schneider “singing” a ska number and that’s what you get with That’s What.
6. Recense (Batman) 4:53
A Wonderwallesque ballad that had me thinking of the sing-along part of the Almost Famous road-trip. Alan contributes some nicely placed harmonies and Glen slides a David Gates/Bread riff to round the track out.
7. Saving All My Happiness (Spence) 3:02
This brings out the banjo, which they used at the February gig and utilises the same effect as Mumford and Son found with their success a few years back. Rob stands in a class with Broderick Smith, Sue Foley, and Chris Wolstenholme as singer songwriters with some truly inspiring ideas and Happiness and Fidelity stand among anything these artists have created and delivered.
8. Long Line (Colley) 2:07
The banjo/folky feel continued with Long Line (again, nothing like the Angels’ when they took theirs) which finishes almost as soon as it starts. This is classic Glen at his poppy best, taking me back to a Trophy Wives gig at Cronulla 16 years ago where I first heard No Van Gogh, described then as “bright and happy Rembrandts Closer To Free”.
9. The Shakedown (Colley) 3:19
Glen’s ultimate contribution to this collection retains the banjo to emote some Spaghetti Western/Roland (The Stand) Walker folk-rock feeling, with vultures circling at one time while he waits for an outcome that is likely not to happen any time soon, as Roland found as he walked, and walked, and walked…
10. My Fidelity (Spence) 4:26
A song of the sea by those who are lucky enough to live by it closes the effort with the jangly-twang we were promised in the opening bars of Leaving It Behind returning to intro this one. Rob delivers once again.
I’m just ticked that my ISP wouldn’t let me stream it uninterrupted. Spoiled the vibe somewhat, taking a good three hours to stream through a couple of sittings. My favourites: Leaving It Behind, Shire Ska, and Recense, with an honourable mention to That’s What and Long Line.
I could think of no better to spend a tenner: if ever you were looking for an unsigned act to support in an altruistic way, this is the one to seek out. Many bands expect you to pay this much for a single or EP. So you really know you want to!
My heartiest congratulations go to Alan, Glen, Rob, Sean, and Syd for a job very well done!
100 Fallen Stars from Salty: Four Rising Stars!
See also Jeff Apter’s recent review in the Sydney Morning Herald