Co-produced by Dusty Wakeman and McCue herself, this is the second album from the Australian born singer, songwriter and guitarist. Without drawing too much of a comparison, there’s a definite nod towards the darker side of Sheryl Crow and some hints of Johnny Nash floating around in this album. The album also has an intentional early ’70s feel to it, as this is McCue’s favourite era.
McCue herself has a pleasant, though unremarkable, folkie voice, although her Australian accent only comes through in a few places. Her guitar playing, both electric and acoustic, doesn’t dominate and does a lot to enhance the inherent feeling within each of the songs. The choice of rest of the band is flawless, and there isn’t a weak link in the chain from that point of view.
Opening track Driving Down to Alvarado starts off with an intro that’s so country it could have you running for the hills before mellowing into what’s best described as an easy going twang. Bakersfield to Saigon is probably the best song of the lot, but it’s spoilt by some over-enunciation in places that’s particularly grating to English ears. Koala Motel itself is an agreeable enough instrumental track, although for the title track of an album you’d be expecting something with a bit more oomph, and certainly something more memorable.
Sweet Burden of Youth is the best piece of lyric writing on the album, and the bittersweet flavour is supported perfectly by the choice of accompaniment. Shivers runs it a very close second though. Bright Light of Day starts off in the seeming belief that’s on a Corrs album, and then tail-spins off into a piece of utter banality about walking home in stockings and whether you’ll still love her, or something like that. Jesus’ Blood appears to be some sort of anti-religion anthem, but just misses on all points and seems to be based around repeating a few choice phrases ad nauseam.
Variety is fine, and the more of it the better, but there needs to be a thread running through the album. The songs need to have more in common than the fact that they’re written and performed by the same person. That’s what’s missing from this album, and it comes across as being disjointed. Whilst she has undoubtedly made the right move in switching from the piano to the guitar, and she’s definitely on the right road, there’s still a long way to go.
All in all, the majority of the tracks on this album are utterly disappointing. The songs that aim at being deep and philosophical just don’t work on that level as McCue’s voice simply doesn’t have the weight for it. There are a couple of good tracks, and several near misses, but it just isn’t enough to carry the dead wood that makes up the rest. All told, it’s just not worth checking in to Koala Motel.