Fun fact: the word "contrast" is the mostly commonly used phrase in all music reviews. More than "the tranquility of Radiohead". More than the "subtlety of Tom Waits as he waits for the 413". Even more than "angled guitars piercing the wolf hands of time". Speaking of which, the Heavy side of the equation here is Chris and Myles, aka CJ and Milky, aka Formerly 66.66666% of Wolfmother, 66.66666% of Palace Of Fire and approximately 20% of the Dolly Magazine's 2007 Top 10 Hottest Fellas In Rock list. Speaking of fellas, the Lighter half of this discussion isn't a fella at all. Quite the opposite. A pint-sized lady/rock-legend called Miss Sarah Kelly, formerly of theRedSunBand, currently of the band we're discussing here.
Side note: I once made the foolish mistake of saying something about "chicks with guitars" to Peabody's leading man, Bruno 'Bon Juor' Brayovic. He immediately corrected me in his usual Woody Woodrow abruptness, booting my words with his size eight Converse All-Stars and informing me that, because of my narrow-minded comments, he'd commissioned Sarah Kelly to stab me with a butter knife. Still waiting for Lady SK-47 to jump out of the shadows and pivot my pancreas. But, at least now I have a rough idea on how it'll feel, as on several occasions throughout Strange Dreams, Kelly's frequently stunning vocals pierce through my weak thoracic enclosure, ripping out my medium-sized intestines and then delicately plucking at them like a harp player serenading the fifth anti-christ.
Unfortunately, there are no harps on this album. Instead it's packed mostly with drums, guitars and other loud noises. A key attribute to any musical experience attempting to shake your bones, volume is utilised here as an additional weapon, making up for the fact The Good Heavens Gang only rolls three deep. But that's triple the size of the original plan, with the initial incarnation consisting of just Sarah Kelly and her thoughts, her feelings and, most strikingly, her fears. Fears of not wanting to "just get to fifty and die", fears of ending up with someone who likes the Rolling Stones, fears of heartbreak around the corner, fears of being forever indebted to local crime boss Bruno and his loyal army of Peabodies.
Kelly's effortless delivery perfectly suits this feeling of apprehension. Rarely attempting to compete with the axe-wielding rhythm section that surrounds her, she floats her vocals above the anarchy, toe-dipping in lyrics between the thrusts of testosterone, sweat and amplified guitars speaking loudly about Rugby League and Resches. Whilst, the contrast (bingo!) of this record might seemingly be an important factor, it's fairly irrelevant. This isn't oil and water, mixed in a jug and thrown in the eyes of the toughest boys via a majestic flick of the wrist from the daintiest princess in the village. In fact, unlike that last sentence, there is a genuine sense of logic here, whereby the music exists in a discovered middle ground, two layers operating on their own tasks rather than simply emphasising their obvious differences.
At times, however, this means that both sides pull back. Declarations of war are occasionally downgraded to minor bar brawls. Moments of tranquility and heartfelt tenderness are squeezed into micro-pauses between shifted gears. There's an element of restraint from both sides, wary of the endpoints of their counterparts and not willing to become the solitary focus.
And that's why this album works so well. Strange Dreams isn't a competition between delicacy and rock 'n' roll vehemence, but simply the amplification of some brilliantly constructed pop music. Compassionately delivered quips, projected in an aggressively large font size onto Geddy Lee's granite forehead atop Mount Rush. Poetic beauty like this has long been scribbled onto the masculine pissing contest arenas of our world, and thankfully a lady with the balls and skills to convert these sonnets into genuine face-shaking rock songs has finally done so.