In the Replacements’ song ‘Alex Chilton’, Paul Westerberg declares his love of a certain under-appreciated band of ’70s power-pop pioneers by declaring “I never travel far, without a little Big Star,” before letting loose with a melodic guitar solo that could have come straight from the fingers of Chilton himself. A quick listen to the debut album from Brisbane indie-pop trio A Cartoon Graveyard reveals that they too have surely studied at the college of Chilton: the ridiculously titled The Men Who Stole Your Horse Are In The Woods With My Friend is full of ’70s pop melodies, catchy choruses, lo-fi riffs, and enough goofy lyrics to put even the most snobby music fan at ease.
Despite being recorded in a DIY home studio, this independently-released album has impressive range and sounds great. Opener ‘Over Water’ is a catchy mix of scratchy guitar riffs and a busy rhythm section, and is followed by perhaps the best song on the album – and certainly the most Big Star-esque – ‘Speaks Volumes’; a track that could be lifted straight from #1 Record. There’s something about this song that speaks of lost times and musical eras gone by that’s pretty special.
Showing that they don’t take themselves too seriously is lead single ‘Wayne The Atom’; a quirky, sci-fi tinged track with nonsensical lyrics like “Microwaves are in your head, you woke to find the pilot dead” before some uncharacteristically heavy riffing in the final third of the song.
Elsewhere, there’s an interesting instrumental Spanish guitar track in ‘Carlotta Valdes’ (possibly named for an unseen character in Hitchcock’s Vertigo), and the gothic theatrics of ‘Any Day Now’.
While the album runs out of steam slightly towards the end, there are enough ideas and pop hooks on show here to make this an ear-catching release. Well played, sirs.
Review score: 8.0 out of 10.
THE MEN WHO STOLE YOUR HORSE ARE IN THE WOODS WITH MY FRIEND IS OUT NOW. A CARTOON GRAVEYARD PLAY BLACK BEAR LODGE, BRISBANE ON JUNE 19.