written by Chris Familton
It wasn’t long after Jack Ladder began touring his last album Love Is Gone that he began a transition to the sound that pervades his latest full length Hurtsville. That sound is one that embraces big open spaces with soaring effects-laden guitars and a sparse and more textural rhythmic approach. Ladder (Tim Rogers) has shorn his music of the bluesy soul overtones that coloured his earlier work and stepped into a glistening place that leans on more varied reference points while still retaining a cohesive sound.
The first single Cold Feet is a wonderfully bittersweet tale of a doomed relationship with a repeating guitar motif that keeps you glued to the song before you are drawn in deeper with the teasing riff/solo that leans forward near the song’s conclusion. It sets the mood perfectly for an album that benefits primarily and essentially from the relationship between the singer/songwriter Ladder and his sidekick/guitarist Kirin J. Callinan. It is the latter’s playing that shapes, warps and adds depth to the songs. Without him the songs would be 2D – missing the essential elements that bring them to life.
A doomed 80s tone seeps through many of the tracks on Hurtsville like a John Hughes film translated into a dark cabaret. Short Memory is a Lynchian take on Bauhaus – melodramatic and gothic and it works well. Position Vacant finds Ladder doing his best Tom Waits while on Blinded By Love he sounds scarily like Nick Cave. It isn’t all shadow-play on the album, Dumb Love returns to lighter ruminations on love and on the close Giving Up The Giving Up he is at his most relaxed and natural. Ladder has found a form for his songs that matches the weight of his impressive voice and though the album has inconsistencies it confidently grows Ladder’s status as one of this countries more talented sons.
out now via Spunk / EMI
this review first appeared in The Drum Media (Sydney)