SALARY Upside Down Island gets 8/10

Salary
Upside Down Island
Independent

8/10

Salary seem more like a gang than a band. The nine-piece are a formidable force live, taking over and literally spilling off the stages they play on all around town.

The group was built around songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Sean Gorman’s songs (great name, but no relation to this writer!) Originally a solo project, he took it to the stage, adding members and instruments until they became the behemoth they now are. And with the release of Upside Down Island they’ve managed to distill all that multi-layered epicness into a polished debut.

The band’s ambitious line up comprises of a medley of guitars, bass and drums, along with synthesiser, mandolin, accordion and violin. It’s a fascinating fusion of instruments with the ability to take their sound in many directions. Gorman’s experimentation with auto-tune vocals also adds a unique point of differentiation, giving some songs a Bon Iver quality.

D D Dub is the smooth, bassy instrumental intro, complete with sax soaked grooves, serving as something of an orchestral tuning up of the big band, before launching into the great Beyond – a majestic, rising song which is quite defining of their sound. It starts as a slowly loping number that builds up pace, as do Gorman’s vocals, with a chugging acoustic guitar and driving sax leading the charge. When the whole big band fires up together there’s real power behind it, with a swagger reminiscent of Arcade Fire and the E Street Band.

At times Gorman voice is fragile and restrained, other times when reaching full flight, it takes on a raw and rocking edge. His lyrics are sometimes obscured, subtly understated and laconically enunciated, or more about harmonic intonation and gritted-teeth moans. With repeated listens they reveal themselves to be thoughtful, pondersome and personal.

On One Friday I Was Bored he sings tales of Perth suburban life, friends and family. As with the music, it’s relatable and accessible. In fact many of the songs reference our sun-soaked city – 40 In The Shade, In The Indian Ocean and Sandy City, which again recalls Springsteen, and this time for good reason, as it in fact lifts the melody from The Boss’ Atlantic City, though in a clever twist the lyrics are taken from Bad Religion’s We’re Only Gonna Die and Do What You Want.

Elsewhere on You Don’t Know My Style, a similar mashup style is employed, with lyrics taken from Wu Tang Clan and The Rolling Stones (“Get off my cloud,” Gorman sings in the chorus), without sounding at all like either. Anything goes in Salary-land.

The title track is a joyously upbeat number that juxtaposes a ska beat with a skiffle vibe on the verses, then a faster rock beat on the chorus with the harmonic auto-tune vocals again in full effect.

Nowhere is the band’s rollicking power better exemplified than on perhaps their finest moment to date, Mini Moke, wisely placed as the album’s final track. A live favourite, it’s an epic finale that builds and builds with every member of the band playing their heart out, culminating in Gorman’s impassioned howl “Daddy hold my hand!” (the deeply personal lyrics deal with the death of his father) before the layers peel away to the bare bones of a solitary guitar momentarily, and the band kicks in once again and rises to a soaring crescendo.

A promising statement from Salary, proudly born in WA,. There’s plenty to like about this motley crew.

ALFRED GORMAN

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