Whether it’s to cut through the mundanity or accompany the comfort of being somewhere completely familiar, a good playlist can make you feel right at home.
So polish off the old discman and untangle those headphones, as four writers take you through their suburbs, one track at a time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
Campbell Mowat | @CampbellMowat
If suburbia was a film, Californication would be its soundtrack. Since its 1992 release, the record’s juxtaposition of weightless ballads and fierce jams have been the staple diet for BBQ-goers, road trippers and even that distant cousin you only see on Christmas. However, the album’s suburban value seems to lie in its brilliant means of escaping such neighbourhood realities – thus, to visually capture the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound, I made an escape of my own down the Great Ocean Road.
“With the birds I’ll share this lonely view” rings out Scar Tissue in falsetto, the band’s introspective birds-eye view reflected in the first image taken on Lorne beach. The soaring bird encapsulates the “drifting, floating and fading away” described in the softly spoken track Porcelain; its words echoing the record’s ability to lift listeners into a soundscape of outer-suburban desires.
Likewise, Parallel Universe and Otherside place their focus on life outside of reality. From “a solar system that fits in your eye”, to the afterlife – a place where many of the Chili’s bandmates now reside. The second photograph, taken on a hike inland, stresses this alternate perspective on existence, while also chiming into the gritty nature of Around the World and I Like Dirt – tunes which use earthly metaphors to describe sex.
Despite its contemplative nature, Californication also allows the suburban masses to indulge in a snippet of the band’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll attitude. This demeanour is made clear in Right On Time and Get On Top – two tracks that bounce around like the lovechild twins of funk and punk. Their fiery sentiment emulates the destructive yet mesmerising flame, within the third photo.
The final picture, taken more locally in St. Kilda, depicts the overall sonic rollercoaster of the Chili’s seventh studio release. The palm trees reflect the album’s title – that is, the widespread adoption of the Hollywood lifestyle – while the setting sun projects the final words of the closing song Road Trippin’. These concluding words, dancing around an acoustic guitar, extend the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ voice beyond the soundtrack of suburbia. Their music binds together all suburbs, towns and cities into one simple category of “just a mirror for the sun”.
I’m typing this while sitting on the floor of my bedroom, listening to Camp Cope’s self-titled debut album.
The first time I listened to it was on a freezing night in August last year. I placed the record on the turntable, sat at my desk, and followed the handwritten lyrics on the inside sleeve word-for-word. Listening back on a 30-degree day in March, the album still gives me those wintry feelings.
All the photos I’ve taken have come from inside my room. I feel this reflects the album’s heavy introspection, alongside my own experience listening to it. (My cat was with me for that first listen, though. That’s why he’s in one of the photos.)
The first few lines of opening track ‘Done’ drew me in instantly. Just “walking on” after passing someone who looks to be in a bad state likely relates to everyone, ever.
There’s something uniquely Melburnian about Camp Cope – and not just because of their ties to local music haven Poison City Records.
Only a disillusioned commuter could tell us that “the ticket prices are going up/And the trains still aren’t on time/And the thugs that patrol the lines are the reason I’ll never pay my fines” in a song titled ‘West Side Story’ – a reference to Melbourne’s western suburbs.
But it would be completely reductive to say that vocalist Georgia Maq is ‘disillusioned’. She has a raw wisdom which shines through her brutally honest, jarring and emotional lyrics. This is clear through each of the album’s 8 tracks, but none are more poignant than the 8th – ‘Song for Charlie’.
“We all sat there in silence, listening to our mother cry” really hits hard – and that’s an understatement. I dare you to listen to this song without getting goosebumps (or crying).
This album is fucking beautiful. Pay close attention to the lyrics for the full effect.
In the early mornings and late evenings, when I get to finally sink into bed or watch the sun rise, there are few things more enjoyable than being in the quiet house. Because oh it’s good to be completely, finally home, without distractions, work or the fluorescent overheads most of us deal with for the rest of the day.
One of the tracks that captures this bliss best, is Casanova’s Last Words from the Go-Betweens classic record 16 Lovers Lane.
I have the album on regular rotation, whether at home to underscore the familiarity of being there or when I’m homesick, hundreds of kilometres away in another city. Round and round, up and down, this album couples the streets of suburbia with the excitement – and disappointments – of romance and relationships.
16 Lovers Lane is as much about love as it is about finding sanctuary within a person, perhaps complementing – or substituting – a stable, comfortable home. When Edward and the Magnetic Zeroes sang “Home is wherever I’m with you”, they channelled the ethos of 16 LL, albeit in a much more blunt, obvious way.
This album sounds like a stretched out lazy afternoon, just as the sun is beginning to set. Something familiar, but with a few unexpected bits too and there’s nothing more like home and the suburbs than that.
Courtney Barnett – The Double EP Lisa Divissi | @lisadivissi
“I take a hit from An asthma puffer I do it wrong I was never good at smoking bongs. I’m not that good at breathing in.”
French singer Camille named her 2005 album Le Fil which roughly translates to ‘the thread’. All the songs are ‘threaded’ together by one note that plays at a soft constant from the beginning to the end of the album. This is how depression feels once the immediate anxiety lifts; it’s in the background and it’s not until things are still that you can hear it properly.
Avant Gardener to me describes the mundanity of feeling this way, even as you attempt to lift yourself out of it. How funny, and how tragic, and how wrong it can all go. And why even bother. Even the tone of her voice is dissociated from the story she tells. She is a passive witness to the events of her day, even as she attempts to shake herself out of them.
I woke up thirsty and needing to pee at 6.30 one morning and stumbled into the bathroom. Oh what a wonder, oh what I waste, I heard Courtney sing in my head. The malaise I felt the day before had failed to lift overnight. A cool breeze wafted over my face as I sat on the loo, so I looked out the window and this is what I saw – and like steam the feeling evaporated.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!