Classic Albums: Gala Mill by The Drones

“Shut up! We’re recording”

Is the first thing you hear on this album just before the opening guitar chord starts. It’s the producer Aaron Cupples shouting at a dog barking but you can even hear crickets in the background too if you listen closely, it’s recorded on a 10,000 acre farm in Tasmania. So when he music does come it just crashes in like a uninvited guest. The lyrics for this opening track are an epic tale in the form of a song, if you listen to this songwriting, those lyrics and if you are not blown away I don’t know what to say to you. It has to the definition of great songwriting of lyrics for me but it’s just the first track on the album. If it does grabs you then you have eight more tracks after this one which will not let you go if you listen to the whole album.

Jezebel is off course from a story from bible, wife of King Ahab and the name came to be associated with false prophets. Off course this song is not really about that at all but a it’s named something else which was named after her. “Strontium-90 removed from milk” is the opening line of the lyrics because the track named after a radioactive cow called Jezebel, who was in the desert in Australia in 1950’s nuclear testing. In almost eight minutes of the song so much is covered it’s moved to the river Nile then Bethlehem in the second verse with machine guns, night vision cruise missiles and rides an Abrams tank,  then shooting a woman in a headscarf after she asked “Does my bomb look big in this?” which I always remember the joke on 90’s English TV show The Fast Show of the insecure woman asking “Does my bum look big in this?” in totally different locations but never in the middle east. So much great visuals it’s unbelievable and it just continues into the next verse with lines like “Meet the devil with extended ring finger” and we also met up with Daniel Pearl too, the journalist who was kidnapped and then later beheaded by Al-Qaeda and then a few line later he has to fall in love with a blind girl so she can’t see his shame. Anyway I can’t possibly do justice to words sung in this song. It’s just feels never ending but it does end in the end like all good things do. Just take any line or this one also most at the end “Goliath rides an oil drum raft through a cyclone in my ear drums” after recording this track the band listening back someone said “What the hell have we done?” The band also claimed they’re totally wasted while recording this and most of the album.

As a sidenote or something now this first song on the album shares the same title of another song written in the early 1950’s by Frankie Laine which has be covered by everyone from Edith Piaf to Tom Jones then everyone from Boyz II Men to Dizzee Rascal, Depeche Mode to Iron & Wine, Joan Jett to Sade have written even more songs called Jezebel over the years too. So now I just have to included the only official video clip from this album by the band, cut-ups of old stock footage seeming put together totally random. With only a drunk looking man with while open arms as the camera flying by as the chorus is sung “I would love to see you again”

It was the very first Drones album I got but I quickly found the earlier albums, this was their fourth and was released in early September 2006 so that makes it now a little over ten years old. Before this was the debut in 2002 Here Comes The Lies, both Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By and The Miller’s Daughter in 2005, Daughter was somewhat of out-takes from those two early albums but the band just released them anyway because they figure they’re never going to re-record they again or anything. Gala Mill was recorded in just a few days in March 2005 from the 13th to 19th actually. My first few The Drones shows was in Nov./Dec. 2006 and now those shows and the next years hold a special place because the fact over three or four gigs they played all these tracks and got to say these are still my faves of all their albums/tracks, they do still thrown in one or two in the years to come when seeing them again and again but it’s not the same as back to back Gala Mill songs. It just seems to be the perfect album, those earlier albums do have a bleak desperation not found here but it’s so much refined here on Gala Mill. Like the band had grown-up finally, Liddiard’s words are so much more consider here too. It’s Mike Noga‘s first as the drummer, he’s a Tassie boy who said let’s go down there to record the album too. It’s Rui Pereira last album but Dan Luscombe is already playing some really nice slide guitar on this album.

“My heart would hang me if I gave it a inch” is the opening line to Dog Eared then “It would sing you a sad one for the sake of seeing you cry.” This song now always reminds me of my old dog, a Staffie or Staffordshire Bull Terrier for long he was called Win or Winston for long because he was getting real sick at the time and only lasted to the start of the following year so it’s all to do with timing, I guess too. Win would make these sounds like he was singing and he did and he kind-off sounded like he was singing like this guy, that’s a great review of the singer here, Gaz sounds like sick old dog. I guess the whole album does remind me of Win but maybe because this ones called Dog Eared, he had the cutest little dog ears you can image too. The song was sandwiched in between two seven minute plus tracks on the album but this track four minutes something. With the next song I’m Here Now following with the opening lines and repeat chorus of “You’ve gone from perfect to divine, time heals and time forgets” I could just quote almost all these lyrics here but I shouldn’t do that to much more. The music has mellowed out a bit, their are smoking weed and drinking beers for this album, can you tell? Bass player Fiona Kischin said just before at the time of release “fans would think they’d gone soft” but it’s not the case really, just like earlier this year the band saying they made a groovy dance album and then releasing Feelin Kinda Free maybe it’s always been say something it’s not before hand and then fans will be thrown off when then do listen to it, them. Previously if drugs are sung about in songs they have references to heroin but I don’t think everyone in the band has ever been a junkie, maybe just known alot of junkies and make great subject matter for songs but I could be wrong? Maybe they just couldn’t get H in Tassie and they all were junk sick and just drinking and smoking to help though it. In all the interviews I’ve no one has never, ever asked say Liddiard if he has or hasn’t? But he always skates around all the edges in interviews, he never gives away much. Over the years it’s been like putting a jigsaw puzzle together but you only get one pierce every few months or even years.

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Gaz, Fi, Rui and Mike (left to right)

So here’s what I know about the the songwriter Gareth Liddiard, a bit of a bio if anyone wants to know? Born on November 20 but depending where you look the years of birth has been 1974, 1975 and even 1976 Wikipedia has five. Place of birth has always been Port Hedland, Western Australia then moving to London, England as a little kid before moving back to W.A. and Perth before starting school somewhere in the the northern suburbs. First instrument he learn to play was saxophone and then moving to guitar, starting high school bands with friends. Around Fremantle W.A. seems to be the base after high school and then playing in one of a few line-ups of local legends the Gutterville Splendour Six with much older singer-songwriter and Gaz was just on guitar. The earliest Drones recording is I Believe on the third album The Miller’s Daughter, recorded in a front room in a house in East Perth before moving over East. First to Sydney then down to Melbourne with best friend and former Drones guitar player Rui Pereira and then inviting Fiona Kitschin over to join to play bass, also meeting drummer, Christian Strybosch for the first three albums in Melbourne. Gaz also played bass with the early line-up of Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males and his debut album too, Dan had just moved down from Queensland. After The Drones debut album 2002, Here Comes The Lies it was a three year gap for the next one because of record label, legal and logistical difficulties. Then three new albums came out in less that 12 months over 2005 and 2006. Gala Mill was recorded over 12 months earlier so should have been out that year really. Most likely the second album should have been out in 2003 or 2004 not 2005, that album was rightly called Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By. Around that time Liddiard’s mother passed away too and she was the inspired the writing of some of those songs at the time included the most popular song by the band with Shark Fin Blues.

So you really can’t talk or in this case write about the rest of the album without the lyrics. His words are so important to the rest of the song, the next song on the album has a little intro if you have a copy of it you can read basically about a 1800’s convict, murder and cannibal Alexander Pearce. The track is as told from the executioner point of view, the story goes Pearce was asked before being pull to death “what does human taste like?” but the days before he was visited by the by the Chaplin who wrote his side of the story down but after his first escape no one seemed to believe him and it was only after a second escape everyone did and then off course put to death. It was a local Tasmania story/legend which It’s got to be written down there while recording or maybe he research it before hand. It’s the first of two songs set in convict times. Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce is a little over five minutes but feels so much longer, it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album with only Dog Eared, the next song and the cover track as the shortest.

I Don’t Ever Want To Change is the very shortest one at almost four minutes, if you want to known? This blog is after a couple of words from the track too, you know? “I lived in the country where the dead wood aches, In a house made of stone and a thousand mistakes” are the opening lines of the song. I don’t know why I haven’t written a whole post just about this song but I guess I’m right now. Gaz was thinking he was drying up as a songwriter or so he say somewhere at the time because he re-used one lines from an older song in this song “Though alone getting drunk on a beach ain’t a bad way to be” is how the 1st verse ends and Baby², the second track on Wait Long album has the same lines and almost the same lines just before it with just a little different, he also hoped no one would notices it but off course you do. One of my fave line is just before ending with “In two weeks flat I’ve seen the Zoloft put my baby in the grave.” Skip this next bit if you don’t want me to get too personal, according to my GP and Psych coming with my dyslexia was chronic depression, etc but they put me on the Z at first and it was a nightmare but maybe more about all this some other time, OK?

Both these two videos are from the DVD A Thousand MistakesWork For Me is just so wonderful maybe more so because the way it follows the last track. Bass player Kitschin takes on the lead vocal here as well, her and Gareth are longtime partners too but never have got married or anything, if you don’t know? Liddiard wrote the lyrics for her to sing, he writes all their songs, it’s pretty funny to write a song like that and then give it to your partner to sing. I Looked Down The Line And I Wondered is yet another amazing track and has the chorus of “Everybody finds their way round, They find their way down.” They is a old gospel track called I Looked Down The Line (And I Wondered) by Sister Rosetta Tharpe which this song is got to be based on. The cover track/old song Are You Leaving For The Country written by Richard Tucker and made famous by Karen Dalton could be a great one for one of my Cover Versions posts but what else do you say about it? The band dismissed from the live setlist after a short little while because no one liked it but loved it. The epic closing track Sixteen Straws might be a good Wicked Songs posts, other than saying the first verse is from old traditional song Moreton Bay, another convict song but the hell can you say other then just listen to it if haven’t before and/or listen to it again, it’s one of the best stories pull to song, it’s like it should be a novel. It’s one of the only Aussie albums to really explore the history of the convict times well over 200 years ago now.

It’s 2582 words right now so the longest post I’ve ever done! Also it’s two Classic Albums posts in just one week! I didn’t say before but you might already know this album was included in a book called The 100 Best Australian Albums, this was at number 21 in it and the opening song Jezebel was on the 5-CD comp album. Also was in the industry list of Triple J’s  Australian albums of all time at number 19 but off course it missed out in the main one, the listeners of the radio station. Gala Mill got to be a classic by now, right?

Gala Mill track listing and times:

1. Jezebel – 7:51
2. Dog Eared – 4:53
3. I’m Here Now – 7:45
4. Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce – 5:15
5. I Don’t Ever Want To Change – 3:59
6. Work For Me – 5:38
7. I Looked Down The Line And I Wondered – 5:29
8. Are You Leaving For The Country – 4:26
9. Sixteen Straws – 9:35

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So now finally signing off what do you think about Gala Mill by The Drones? Classic Album or not? Love it or hate it or never hear of it?

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