Have you ever heard a song, only to later forget the name of the song? Perhaps, you heard it on the radio, or in the background of a television show or movie. Yet years, or in my case, decades go by before fate would reunite me with a song that remained in my subconscious but never surfaced. It constantly amazes me how music can unlock memories and if you are interested in exploring this further, I can wholeheartedly recommend John Powell’s Why We Love Music as it explains this topic beautifully.
Despite being a fan of Wendy Matthew's solo career, I hadn’t realised she was a member of the Australian supergroup Absent Friends. The song in question that I had forgotten for so many years was their biggest hit: I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You. Perhaps I could be forgiven for not connecting the dots as Absent Friends only released a single studio album and, after forming in 1989, disbanded in 1990. Still, it wasn't until I was perusing Ian McFarlane's exceptional Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop, that the penny dropped. I was like a kid at Christmas and immediately recognised the song. I had waited two decades to be reconnected with a song I had adored in my youth. Immediately, I began to sing along to the song as if I had only heard it yesterday. Somehow, my subconscious mind had remembered every lyric in the song. It makes me wonder what else I have rattling around in my mind! Finding this song again was a wonderful experience and it is an absolute pleasure to be able to share it with you, my dear readers, and look at the body of work that is: Here’s Looking Up Your Address.
Hullabaloo has an incredible groove and is the type of song I immediately associate with Australian pop-rock music. One aspect I don’t like, however, is the spoken word layered behind the vocal and instrumental music as I find it distracting. This element isn’t amplified enough to comprehend what is being said and it reminds me of the audible annoyance when you hear someone whispering.
Mean Streak will get you head bopping and toe tapping. Although, that pig-styled squeal is a little off putting. Despite that, Mean Streak is a great song that really utilises and benefits from the inclusion of a background singer. Is it just me, or are background singers now a thing of the past? I know some artists still utilise the services of backing vocalists, but I feel it is not as prevalent as it once was. Perhaps, I could be wrong, but there was a stage when backing singers were as well known and respected as the lead vocalist. Think Venetta Fields, Lisa Edwards, and Lindsay Fields from John Farnham's band. Farnham is an incredible vocalist, but let’s be honest, these incredibly talented backing vocalists made his recordings and live performances sound exceptional! Similarly, Wendy Matthews' backing vocal on Mean Streak adds sonic depth and an unmistakably catchy chorus. It really is an exceptional tune!
Sister continues the groove fest with Matthews taking lead vocal responsibilities. As you listen to her vocal delivery, you can get an idea why she was destined to become one of Australia's most loved female vocalists. Yes, I know she was born in Canada, but we have adopted her and we’re not giving her back! Truth be told, she is one of the greatest female vocalists in the world and I honestly feel she never received the recognition she deserves.
Hallelujah is a sonically upbeat track, but I find the ad nauseam repetition of the lyric Hallelujah to be fatiguing. It is a B-side and doesn't reach me on an emotional level.
Everybody Up is a fun song. Although, I do wish the lyric was delivered differently as it sounds distant and lacks clarity from the listener’s point of view.
I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You defies explanation. Simply listen and you will understand why I am left speechless. Matthew's solo effort, The Day You Went Away, is another song that leaves the same impression. Yes, I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You is a cover, but it is a cover done exceptionally well and is arguably better than the Eddie Floyd original.
The transition to Come Clean is a little rough compared to the easy listening aforementioned ballad as it has a pop-rock groove. That said, it is a great song and worthy of inclusion on the album. As I listen to Come Clean, I can’t help but think of it as a song that is a perfect mix between the musicality of Wham! and Tears For Fears.
The Water Is Wide is incredible! It is one of the best songs on the album and once again showcases just how talented Wendy Matthews is behind the microphone. Songs like this remind me of why I love music so much.
Harmony is a loose song with jazz elements. While I would generally appreciate this mash-up, it feels forced and therefore it is most certainly a B-side. That said, I can't help but wonder what Matthews could have done with this song. Although, upon further reflection, I just don’t feel the song was well suited to Absent Friends and the overall direction of the album.
I Had A Premonition returns us to a more familiar tone and is an exceptional, must listen, rock track. Just remember, the best experience to be had is when you turn that volume knob to the night. I Had A Premonition has been recorded, mixed, and mastered impeccably well.
Pomona's Place is another exceptional Wendy Matthews song. She just knocks it out of the park vocally. Similar to Harmony, there are jazz elements included, but Pomona's Place uses them as complementary tools to an already excellent pop-rock foundation.
Clemency is a solid song, but it is a B-side.
Here's Looking Up Your Address is an interesting instrumental interlude. From a musical perspective, it is lovely, but I find its inclusion to be disjointed to the overall album experience. That said, if Absent Friends would ever collaborate again, an instrumental album in this blues style would be incredible.
Thankyou, Goodnight is a song that has some nice elements, but it feels disjointed musically. It is subsequently difficult to engage with as the mind is unsure of which beat to follow. However, I do love that saxophone appearing throughout the song and the entire album, but sadly it isn't enough to hold this song together for me.
Hallelujah (Choruses) is an interesting way to close the album. To be quite honest, I'm not sure it adds any value and it leaves me unsure if I want to listen to the album again. That said, other tracks on the album demand my attention, so it will most certainly be enjoyed time and time again.
Here's Looking Up Your Address is an incredible Australian album and it’s a real shame that this would be the only studio album released by Absent Friends. If nothing else, it amplified Wendy Matthews' status on the Australian music scene. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same impact on ex-Models vocalist Sean Kelly.
For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of the album. Every aspect, from the recording to mastering, was done with perfection. While I would have gone with slightly different mixes, for a couple of the songs, that personal preference is as unique as the decision to mix the album the way they did. This is why music is subjective and we are not always going to agree regarding what constitutes a good song. I'm sure a song I would class as a B-side, would be someone else’s A-side. I don’t know about you, but I find that absolutely intriguing to think about.
Here’s Looking Up Your Address is sadly out-of-print on all physical media. I would love to see a re-issue, but not a remaster as it doesn't need it. In the meantime, you can purchase the album on the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) or on iTunes. If you prefer streaming, Here’s Looking Up Your Address is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.