Pluto Jonze - Eject
It was a hip hop show. My girlfriend hated hip hop. Not just a general dislike either. But none of my mates liked the enigmatic Buck 65 so she was on girlfriend duty for the night. I was more than a little apprehensive, I didn't want her to have a horrible evening. We arrived at The Factory Theatre in Sydney, took a seat near the stage, grabbed a frost and waited for the opening act.
I needn't have worried. Buck 65 is a genius, and she is now a full blooded fan. However, even if he were to stand there and drunkenly yell red head jokes at her all night I think she'd still have considered it a success, because the man opening for Buck was Pluto Jonze, a beanstalk of a boy who set his stage up with 1980s bubble TV's and a weird instrument I'd never encountered before that involved him rubbing his hand up and down it as if he were polishing his fireman's pole on a lonely saturday night. Yes, we both fell in love with Pluto that evening, and I learned even more than just the name of his weird instrument.
Australian music has never been my fortay, outside of the staples and major label successes. The alternative scene was just too 'scene' for me, and it took Pluto to remind me that it isn't about who's in the crowd, it's solely about the music.Watching him that night was an excellent experience. He was clearly nervous, yet his spacey, dance-age fusion of indie starch, folk freedom and electronic expression transported the (admittedly small) crowd to another landscape for a while. And only the best can do that.
His debut EP was an enchanting affair, full of all those qualities he portrayed in his live show, with an added spit and polish that was refreshing from a bedroom artist. "Final Second of Life" transferred brilliantly from live to record, and the only criticism was a lack of songs. So finally, when I signed in to Spotify 3 days ago and saw Eject was available, my cravings were satisfied.
Eject is the kind of crowning achievement moment that not all indie acts share. It's the culmination of incessant hard work and promotion, rather than the lightning strike of a huge hit single. Sure, "Eject" was mildly successful, and "Plastic Bag In A Hurricane", an inauspicious title for such a gem of a song, was spun regularly on local radio, but I'm sure Jay-Z wasn't desperately trying to set up a meeting. Instead, Pluto has done things the tough way, working tirelessly on his music in his own studio the way so many hopefuls have and will. But they don't quite have the talent of this young man..
"Hispedangongonajelanguiro". Yes that's the title of the first song, and no it isn't some form of Mary Poppins homage. Although it is just gibberish, I saw a tweet recently where the bloke, clearly devastated by the NSW Blues origin loss, adopted this as his calming mantra. It doesn't mean anything, but it's a light and airey pop piece that actually echoes the recent music of ex-Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale. It sets the mood perfectly, this record is meant to be fun. 'Are you in the picture do you get it now? Capiche?'. We're not in for a shoe-gaze mope fest or a chillwave critic chaser. Jonze encourages us to dance like no-one is watching and it's as refreshing as a cold beer on a christmas morning.
The title track carries this theme, a lazy acoustic guitar rides under a chorus that pleads 'I want to eject, I'm sick of these sad sad songs'. It's a call to arms not only for those making enjoyable, upbeat pop music, but also for Jonze himself. Almost as if he tore down his Morrissey and Depeche Mode posters and plastered his walls with Mylo Xyloto artwork. The weird voice-over is a little unfortunate, as if he was too lazy to come up with a proper verse, it's not an easy signature to sing over. Still, it defines his decidedly mature yet at the same time child-like seeking of wonder and excitement. A caged bird who wants to fly but isn't sure exactly how to yet. "See What The Sun Sees" is a spaced affair, evoking images of Jonze flying around from cloud to cloud gazing down on the world with untainted eyes. "Love The World Like A Child" is another example of this yearning, a heavier, drop-beat that feels a little uneasy despite the message, 'chase me around the banana tree', 'romp and stomp like a new born baby'.
If the message is pretty uniform, the sound isn't. I can't pretend to know his influences, but they must be far reaching. He blends the new age nostalgia that someone like Jacco Gardner managed with a penchant for experimentation that mirrors the likes of Beck and The Flaming Lips. The sounds are always familiar and enjoyable, yet diverse enough to be seriously impressed that this is an entirely solo effort. The slower "All Washed Up" employs a lof-fi pop groove bass line tempered by a mournful acoustic guitar, and Jonze's chorus is catchy and listenable. "Erasure (Let Your Love Go)" is a stomping track that blends perfectly with his falsetto, recalling the work of Powderfinger, and more recently Bernard Fanning's solo work. Then there is the re-working of 'Meet You Under Neon'. A decent track originally, this piano based number is a vast improvement. Me and my girlfriend from that fateful gig are still trying to figure out exactly what the lyrics mean. I think it's about a booty call 'underneath the sign, the usual time, the usual place', she thinks it's a first date 'ruffled my old hair in the taxi mirror'. Either way it's an excellent re-work of a track that is brilliant live, and I can't wait to hear it played on a really good sound system live with a hazy stage and the eyes closed.
Of the highlights, and there are many, it'd be remiss of me to neglect "Speak With Your Feet", a track that flutters along with the fragility of a butterfly learning to fly, and stabilises itself with rolling strings and his strong falsetto. Another example of his musical dexterity, it sounds like nothing else on the record and yet is perfectly placed in it. 'Help me out, you know I need ya'. Speaking with your feet usually means to let your actions speak for you rather than explicitly stating something. Jonze delivers one of his rarer vulnerable moments on this track. It's opens an interesting door to this record. Scratch below the pop veneer and exposed positivity, this is a record with a latent sadness and vulnerability. Almost as if Pluto is not just trying to convince us to be happy but himself, and these songs are his form of a mantra, repeating the message until he not only thinks it but feels it too. The final track is called "Come On Sunshine", another piano and percussion based track, 'don't you be ashamed to cry' is delivered to someone else, yet it could just as easily be attributed to him. The music is actually quite brilliant, it backs this theory up perfectly. It is hopeful, with choral backing, yet that piano delivers a mournful riff, completing the juxtaposition.
8.2/10. Yes Yes 8.2, what a stupid mark. It's not quite an 8.5 but better than an 8. It's a record that reveals itself to you after a few listens, but it's not an onion, the reveal is sudden and complete, which is even more gratifying I think. A hopeful piece that at first appears as though Jonze is one of the happiest indie rockers of all time, yet once those cracks appear in his lyrics and the music you get to see the full picture. Wonderfully varied sonically, this is the indie-pop record of the season for me.