The Fauves – Japanese Engines

Death, taxes and records by The Fauves, some things in life are a certainty. The Melbourne quartet have been a mainstay in Australian pop/rock music over the past 23 years and this has seen them notching up 1000+ gigs and an ARIA-nomination. Now up to album number ten, Japanese Engines is the poppy question to precede another new effort, the so-called dark and rough German Engines due out early this year.

Japanese Engines was three years in the making with the group proudly admitting that both records took a mere four days to record, meaning they had 1456 days to plan things. On their website they say: “Not since Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion I and II has a band thought this big and acted with this level of wanton disregard for convention”.

The Fauves were never a band to bow to silly things like rules or convention because you certainly don’t give yourselves an arty name like theirs for nothing. Part of their charm has been in crafting obtuse and witty lyrics that are often quite funny. They were never ones to succumb to self-parody and at their best they use great pop hooks and weird time signatures to keep things interesting.

Across eleven songs the boys produce pop/rock music. Occasionally this is chiming and upbeat while at other moments it is slower and more country-tinged. Don’t Say When starts things with a tender tale about a fledgling relationship. Andy Cox is begging for things not to end with a sweet sound that is reminiscent of Georgia Fair and boasts the inoffensive, pleasant-on-the-ears vibe for which The Eagles are known. You’re My Type is the story following the break-up. Having re-entered the dating scene at the ripe age of 40, Cox opted to use the internet and put his self-described “patented post-modern poetry” about the matter to chords that bounce and rumble like Jarvis Cocker’s Further Complications.

It should be noted that Cox has been likened to musicians like Tim Rogers and Dave McCormack over the years. This has seemed an appropriate comparison given the fact they all possess creative and honest voices and an often-unparalleled ability to write tunes that are excellent and relatable. But with Cox’s easy, subtle humour and wit you could also draw lines of similarity between him and the aforementioned Cocker. It takes a rare artist to come up with lyrics like: “Subjugate yourself to fate” like in No No No or “Write yourself off today but leave a little bit for me”.

But don’t go thinking that Japanese Engines is one bed of roses because for a start there is the dirty laundry of infidelities aired on Flag Of Convenience. Then there’s 3 Minute Mile, which sees a gloomy and languid track coupled with feelings of lost hope before Cox admits, “I’ve been so low” on Give That I May Grow. The latter song is an interesting one because these dark lyrics are coupled with music that is upbeat and stirring. Let’s just say that you could have a person under the blackest cloud and feeling so low that they’re close to the earth’s core and yet hearing this music they could effectively spring right up and dance with nary a care. Elsewhere we also get sounds that are similar to 78 Saab’s music and a wistful ballad in The Playboy Mansion.

On their tenth effort, Cox has exorcised some demons by pouring his heart out over his failed relationship. Of course, this isn’t anything particularly with artists like Gotye, Felix Riebl and Kris Schroeder all doing similarly as of late (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg). On Japanese Engines however, the desolate feelings of heartbreak, loss and despair are matched with lots of softer and lighter moments. Indeed, The Fauves are a band whose longevity and ability to craft intelligent and solid tracks mean lots of people will take it for granted that they’ll always be there. Then again, if they’re offering faith and hope for people going through similar circumstances then this can hardly be a bad thing. In short, this is one highly relatable, stormy and sublime record.