Augie March are an Australian folk-rock band led by singer, songwriter, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist Glenn Richards and are clearly a band with musical ambition. Formed in 1996 and taking their name from a Saul Bellow novel, this, their third album covers a huge amount of musical ground.
It’s a pretty difficult one to get into. Clocking in at over 66 minutes long, on first listen it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to end, especially as so many of the tracks are slow-tempo.
A couple of the songs grab you immediately, specifically the lead single One Crowded Hour and Just Passing Through which has more than just a passing resemblance to Razorlight (on a good day). One Crowded Hour in particular, is a magnificent song, with gently rippling guitar work, ably supported by some Dylan-esque vocals.
But while the rest of it, at first, seems self-indulgent and perhaps even quite pretentious, this is an album that rewards repeated listens. There are other gems here such as the powerful Victoria’s Secrets, the delicate Bottle Baby, and the affecting, gentle Bolte And Dunstan Talk Youth. The album climaxes with the lo-fi Clockwork, a stunning 7-minute epic that makes sense of much that has come before.
They throw in a sea shanty here (Thin Captain Crackers) and a spot of boogie woogie there (The Baron Of Sentiment) and it all amounts to a sprawling album with a multitude of influences.
Despite all of the great musicianship and complex songwriting, something is missing. It’s not quite as magical as it should be. Possibly the band took a bit too much on, working on so many different styles and going in so many directions.
It’s quite a worthy album and while every song is well crafted and taken very seriously, perhaps it needs a few more light moments. There is so much inventiveness here and it’s understandable that they’d want to get all their ideas onto record, but they should have kept a few back, had greater focus on fewer songs and made it a bit more listener-friendly.