Growing up and living in Australia, the music of Paul Kelly goes beyond something that’s just always there and taken for granted. It’s seemingly part of the fabric of the country. I imagine it’s similar for Americans and Bruce Springsteen. Plenty of people love the music of Kelly, no one ever seems to hate it, and it’s perfect for when a crowd of different generations, lifestyles and general persuasions get together.
Having a barbecue where your yobbo mates, conservative grandparents, weird neighbours and everyone in between will be in attendance? Whack on a Paul Kelly 2-disc Best Of, and everyone will be happy. And while he’s been there for my entire life, so easy to take for granted, I’ve never once gone beyond those Kelly 2-disc Best Ofs. Which is what makes Paul Kelly’s Post such a perfect candidate for Aussie Week 2.
The epitome of the Australian troubadour for the last three decades or so, I think one of the reasons Aussies love Paul Kelly so much is that he sings about Aussies. But not the quaint, bushie Aussies of Slim Dusty or John Williamson. He sings about the urban Aussies. The people of From St Kilda to Kings Cross, Melbourne and Sydney’s mirror image inner city suburbs, both famous for drugs, hookers and general seediness when this album was recorded. Kelly’s gentle, folky touch can make anywhere seem romantic and tragic at the same time.
Take away the slight country twang in the guitar, and White Train could be one of the best songs The Beatles never wrote. The vocal harmonies and general floaty sound are like latter day John and Paul. And given Kelly’s history for loving a bit of the ol’ Sweet Lady H, I assume the content of White Train is a lot darker than the jaunty feel of this song would ever suggest.
I could do without the minimal, almost experimental darkness of Blues for Skip, bit if these kinds of diversions are necessary for Kelly to churn out his otherwise always reliably tight song writing, it’s a small price to pay. A small price that’s more than worth it for the coming of age stories and vivid, nostalgic memories of his home town in Adelaide.
After the country tinged guitar of Satisfy Your Woman, and the folky sound of pretty much every other song on Post to this point, nothing could have prepared me for the sexy, sexy sax and ballady piano of (You Can Put Your) Shoes Under My Bed. This is an OK song, I guess. It just in no way sounds like it should be on this album. Even Kelly’s voice adopts this weird nasal tone that I’ve never heard from him before.
Luckily, we’re back to standard operating procedure with the acoustic guitar filled, Dylanesque Standing on the Street of Early Sorrows. Another trip down memory lane in the style of Adelaide, once again showing that nostalgia, when in the right hands, doesn’t have to be vomit inducing.
The music of Paul Kelly goes beyond something that’s just always there and taken for granted. It’s seemingly part of the fabric of the country. And while Post doesn’t contain any of those radio friendly hits we all know, it makes a very good argument for going deeper than those hits and getting stuck right into his massive catalogue.