d.rogers – ‘neath the dark of fuses blown

The d.rogers story goes something like this: former Klinger guitarist Dave Rogers takes off to Japan to teach English classes while the band takes an indefinite hiatus and eventually splits. From his Japanese hub Rogers releases a CD-R of original acoustic tunes The 14th Turn, only available via mail-order. Somewhere along the line Rogers decides to become known under the slightly more obscure name d.rogers and moves back home to Melbourne. Gone are the JJJ-approved power-pop riffs and energetic live shows of Klinger (‘Hello Cruel World’, ‘Ben Lee’, ‘Acne and Peroxide’) and in their place, ‘neath the dark of fuses blown, Rogers’ second solo album and a reflection of his immense songwriting talent.

Despite the stark black-background and neon-Japanese-sign cover artwork and the moody title, Rogers’ work is country-tinged pop at its finest. Recorded in three Japanese studios throughout 2005, ‘neath the dark is classic Aussie pop to be filed alongside the likes of Bob Evans and Josh Pyke.

Aside from album opener ‘Got to be Sure’, all of the album’s tracks clock in at the 2.5-3 minute mark, and with the entire longplayer spanning a mere 29 minutes, Rogers makes not certain to outstay his welcome. Nothing could be more possible; for with ‘neath the dark, Rogers has created one of the local albums of the year.

‘Fuses Blown’ features some understated accordion and, a minute in, kicks into some skewed Pavement-esque power pop for 20 seconds before an abrupt ending. It may be the most Rogers rocks out, but the other tracks are no less enjoyable. ‘Days of the Weak’ is underpinned by a slow, staggering beat but is highlighted by catchy Beach Boys-approved backing vocals over droning background guitar noise.

The likes of ‘I Won’t Stop You’ and ‘Half the Time’ are perfect summery pop; no studio trickery or intricate overdubs, merely well-written tunes allowed to shine with perfect production (by Rogers himself, no less). Several tracks are littered by accordion and minimal percussion, with the additions perfectly introduced and placed into the mix  as to not overshadow Rogers’ guitar or at times fragile voice.

Other highlights include the charming ‘Pulling up Stumps’, which maintains a steady beat and despite occasionally reaching a sense of noisy urgency, always retreats to the original beat. ‘Paper Cuts’ – a quaint, piano-afflicted duet with Ivy Durante – proves to be one of the strongest tracks on the album, with the pair sharing vocal spars and Rogers offering some snappy lines such as “I’m a changed man / I’ve turned over a forest of leaves.”

Radio single ‘Wrong, Wrong, Wrong’ is 90 seconds of speedy acoustic country riffing with lyrical niceties “there’s nothing wrong with singing about love, my love / there’s nothing wrong with being friends, my friend.”

With Klinger kicking around the Melbourne music scene for close to a decade (despite never releasing a full-length album), the band’s songs about the suburbs, high school, and laundromats became a mainstay on the scene but Rogers has managed to incorporate his former band’s pop sensibilities into softer, gentler songs with the same successful result.

With ‘neath the dark, Rogers has created an gem of an unpretentious album which represents everything good about Aussie pop. Don’t miss it.