Album Review: The Murlocs ‘Old Locomotive’

As a part of the stellar Australian label Flightless, The Murlocs have proved their prominence in the burgeoning Aussie psychedelic scene with each subsequent release. This creative streak is continued on Old Locomotive, The Murlocs’ third LP in which the Melbourne group showcase several moments of enveloping blues instrumentation. Although little variation of sound throughout the track list results in a select few unremarkable listens, these rarities are outshined by several of the record’s highlights.

Courtesy of the artist.

The title track itself begins just like an old locomotive would; an abrupt whistle of a steam engine immediately propels the listener into the dusty railroads of adolescence that the group explores throughout the album. Part of The Murlocs’ strength lies in the vocals of Ambrose Kenny-Smith, with his refined twang raising the incredibly lo-fi, garage driven sound of the record above the clutter that is rampant in this genre.

Kenny-Smith particularly shines on the lead single, Noble Soldier, where he ponders over the consequences of an alcohol-ridden existence. The style in which the band tackles such a subject matter through their glistening yet hazy sound depicts the brilliance of The Murlocs, as sun-bleached production clashes with darker subtext for a phenomenal effect.

This maturity towards thematic content is present throughout the record, with tracks like Violent Dreams, Daily Agony and Far From Fine conveying turmoil by their titles alone. On Daily Agony, a gritty riff frames Kenny-Smith’s frequent echo of “pressure pushed him over the edge, he can’t get the voices out of his head.” Daily Agony depicts The Murlocs at their best, with the shimmering instrumentation accentuating the haunted vibe Kenny-Smith’s vocals often evoke.

Courtesy of Jamie Wdzienkonski.

On account of the sonically identical approach the band takes to each track, a handful of cuts from the record lend themselves as throwaway listens due their stale sound, particularly Old Nester and Domino Effect. As such, the album doesn’t thrive upon repeated listens as several tracks wither into nothing worth revisiting. Nevertheless, on the latter third of the album lies Oblivion, a rolling tune that could easily slot into an old school surf flick. A swift guitar riff pursues Kenny-Smith’s lucid vocals until the band unleashes a swirling jam that concludes the track. Finally, album closer Household Hermit summates the record perfectly, as isolation and paranoia stand on either side of a mesmerising bridge that stands as one of the finer instrumental moments on the record.

All in all, in spite of some weaker tracks The Murlocs have delivered another fine garage rock record that at its worst is plagued by the occasional boring listen, but at its best is a fantastic addition to the current wave of Australian psychedelia.