Despite the Neighbours reference of Craig Dermody’s moniker, his second LP as Scott and Charlene’s Wedding sees him replace his native Melbourne for the bright lights of the Big Apple. The New York in which he has found himself, however, seems a far cry from any Sinatra-style glitz or glamour: it is a world of dead end jobs and alienation with no notion of ‘making it’ to speak of.
It’s a scenario known by many who have moved to the big city only to be spat out again. Rarely is there any glamorous or bohemian occupation to be snapped up; one’s finger is rarely anywhere near ‘the pulse’ and generally ends are met through a variety of menial and frustrating jobs. You went expecting Paris, you received Calais. On Any Port In A Storm, Craig Dermody taps into this frustration with insight and humour; a refreshing, youthful antidote for people whose lives haven’t quite worked out how they expected.
But New York’s finest have thrived in its underbelly, and Scott and Charlene’s Wedding are no exception. They combine the drawl of Dylan, the frenetic jangle and pace of The Feelies and the messiness of The Velvets: this record, for all its cynicism, is pure NYC, a feeling that is executed with particular authenticity for this Australian ex-pat. It shows the city to be more as a state of mind than a geographic location, with its scuzz, wit and disenchantment very much intact.
The standout track, ‘Fakin’ NYC’, is Dermody’s tale of homesickness and frustration: leaving his friends in Melbourne to find himself working as a doorman in New York, reluctantly pandering to the needs of models and stars. He half talks, half sings his way through the track, the insistent pace of the drums bolstered by a wailing, confused lead guitar that adds nicely to the disillusionment of the lyrics. There is a humour to his aggravation, however, with tracks such as ‘Gammy Leg’ matching his woefulness with wit. Elsewhere, ‘Jackie Boy’ further shows Dermody’s deft storytelling ability whilst ‘Clock Out And Leave’ shows the certain romance that working dead end jobs can have: a nice contrast to the aforementioned ‘Fakin’ NYC’.
Although there are bands in New York who may have more cohesive or consistent sound and ethos, there are few who write songs with the charm of Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Whereas arts like Parquet Courts are knowingly, and self-indulgently, cool and aloof, Craig Dermody is the antithesis: he is self deprecating and sceptical- what his contemporaries across the pond might call a ‘regular guy’. Not that that particular Americanism makes any particular sense in any other vernacular; what does make sense is songs that can be related to the world over, not just in Williamsburg, and the songs on Any Port In A Storm fall very much into this category. A brilliant record.
8Jon Clark's Score