Jamie Hutchings: The Golden Coach (2002)

Click to buy on Bandcamp.This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Bluebottle Kiss have, over the course of the past ten or so years, become stalwarts of the Oz indie rock scene. The Golden Coach is the first solo album from BBK mainman and prime mover Jamie Hutchings, and as such is a more restrained affair than his other works — certainly, it’s a little less histrionic than audiences have come to expect from the purveyor of intelligent chug-rock, though there’s still some floppy-haired pain to be found here, writ large.

Instrumentally, there’s a very alt-country/acoustic feel to The Golden Coach, horns notwithstanding. Tasteful pedal-steel drifts over the top of lazily-strummed acoustics, and basic drumming — including some fantastic, rolling-thunder sounding toms — keeps time. The occasional guest instrumentalists are drawn from Hutchings’s family and closest associates, and, like Bonny “Prince” Billy’s albums, there’s a feeling of almost unbearable sympathy, of closeness.

Hutchings’s vocals are, unfortunately, a little too much on the Bryan Adams/Dave Pirner side of emphatic. That’s not to say that he’s not a strong singer, or that there’s not some kind of emotion communicated in the melodies — not at all. It’s just that sometimes the grand gesture feelings that such an approach evokes are at odds with highly personal nature of the songs themselves. It’s puzzling. In other places, however — such as the gorgeously-chorused “Belles Of The South” — his vocal style takes on almost an Elliott Smith slant, though this could be more to do with the disc’s mix than anything else.

 

The disc’s overall sound is somewhat odd. There are the occasional flubs and sonic peccadillos of something that’s been home-recorded, but there’s also a great warmth to the tunes. Musically, they breathe and make the listener care. The only real problem with Hutchings’s songs is that he’s not afraid of a dodgy lyric. There’s an instance of rhyming “house” with “mouse” in “User Friendly” that never fails to grate. However, this is compensated for by the times when the writing is bang-on. Complaining that Hutchings never claimed to be Daniel Johns or Ben Lee in this case is no case of grousing — can they boast tunes about working while mental patients attempt to bum cigarettes off you? Not at all. There’s a feeling of realism that pervades Hutchings’s sketches; a feeling of romantic disappointment, the feeling you get when you watch a gig and what you’re hearing suddenly makes sense to you. A feeling of recognition is perhaps the finest thing that’s on display here — wrapped in understated instrumentation, it helps the disc to seep under your skin. For something recorded in part in a caretaker’s bedsit, it’s impressive.

The Golden Coach is, for its occasional hiccups, a fine solo effort. It’s a slow-burning affair that’s very enjoyable, and if the histrionics were rolled back just a touch, it’d be absolutely devastating.

First published on Splendidezine in January 2003. Jamie has recorded a couple more solo albums since then (all good) and is currently playing in a band called Infinity Broke, who have just released their first album. 

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