Review – Geoff Jenke
Down the Shops is not a “new” Even album, but rather a compilation of cover songs the band have released along their long journey. I remember when I first became an Even tragic, around 1998, at the release of their second album Come Again, I was impressed with the bonus disc that came with the album. It was a collection of covers and songs I didn’t know, but soon found out they were “B” sides to earlier singles. (Hands up if you remember “B” sides”).
Even have never shied away from doing the occasional cover song, you just have to see them live to see that and generally they do it well. Guitarist/singer Ash Naylor is a human jukebox when it comes to playing covers. A few years back at an impromptu solo gig, Ash was playing solo and Even songs, when he asked for any requests. I said There She Goes by The La’s and he just delivered it beautifully.
The 13 songs on the album are chronological, from 1996 to 2019 and start with ‘Til the End of the Day (Kinks) which was on the 1996 Don’t Wait single. The version retains all the passion and intensity of the original Kink’s version. Ash has never hidden his influences and The Beatles remain one of the biggest. Even’s cover of And Your Bird Can Sing is a joy. The jangly guitar of the original recreated to perfection by Ash.
(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear, covers all the glory of punk, new wave and rock in one short 2 minute 50 second song. Even prove a male can do the vocals as well as Debbie Harry and the band are as explosive as Blondie were on the original single. This song has always been one of my favourite Even covers.
The first real surprise on the album comes via a lead vocal by Wally on the song True. (No not THAT True) Originally performed by Sydney band Carton, a band unknown by me, Wally channels Ray Davies to the fullest to give a truly wonderful performance. Maybe Wally should do a Keith Richard and get a song on each future Even album.
MC5’s Shakin’ Street doesn’t quite live up to the original but it is the sound of a band having fun. This one from the Rock and Roll Save my Life single. For Always comes from the Stems tribute album The Great Stems Hoax (2002) and shows why The Stems were/are one of Australia’s great bands. It is a bit ironic, as Ash recently has been playing with The Stems live.
Show Me Some Discipline comes from The Sunnyboys tribute album Happy Man (2005) while Arthur comes from the Hoodoo Gurus tribute album Stoneage Cameos (2005). Both songs faithful covers of the originals.
For Your Love (The Yardbirds) was a strange release. Not sure how or why this come about but was a 2005 Even single with Ross McLennan on vocals, limited to 150 copies. Yardbirds were moving from blues to pop band at this time and this was the reason Eric Clapton left the band. A very nice rendition of the song by Even.
Living in a Childs Dream comes from the compilation album Tomorrow is Today: A Tribute to the Australian Psychedelic Scene 1966-70. Originally recorded by The Masters Apprentices, this is a slight disappointment, but then to be fair, no one could ever come close to the original version, which is a true Aussie classic.
Posies, Solar Sister from Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies Revisited album (2008) is a basic run through of the song. The passion is there but the power is missing. Pretty Vacant is a great live recording of the Sex Pistols infamous song. Who said punk died? Resurrected by Even in 2014. Brilliant!
The final track was on a 3-way single with The Meanies, You Am I and Even from 2019. Even do a darn good job of the Meanies song, The Reason Why, sounding more Meanies than the Meanies at times. And so, they should, Wally’s “other” job is bass player in the Meanies.
This is a wonderful collection of cover songs, songs that are no longer available or in the case of some, have never been released on CD. If you don’t know Even, probably not the place to start to listen to Even (try any of their albums) but it will be the place you will end up at once you get to know the band.
The cover adorning this set was painted by drummer Matt Cotter, an accomplished artist who spends a lot of time in the Northern Territory working with indigenous artists. It depicts a corner shop out of the 50’s/60’s and the vinyl is worth buying just to frame the cover or the inside painting of the band. A thing of beauty and a joy forever. This cover could only work for an Even record.
Now for a collection set of all the original “b” sides that have not appeared on albums (there are many), followed by a live album please.
And of course, a whole new original album would ne nice. Not asking for too much!!!!