Like Drawing Blood

(Creative Vibes; 2006)

By Aaron Newell | 19 October 2007

A couple of nights ago I was talking with Jens Lekman. We chat all the time (we both regularly ruin parties and never understand what girls say), but on this occasion, to my surprise, he did not politely ask me to stop making collect calls to his mobile phone until after he consoled me. And even then, we talked for a bit about Melbourne, Australia, where most of Earth’s good things are or are from. “I’m planning on moving there,” says Jens, “Maybe soon, for at least a year.” Why? “Just, you know you can tell when a city is on to something — there’s so much good music going on there right now, and so many people that I love to be around.” I say that we’ll have to hang out, he crumpled up a piece of paper (on which a song was written) and said the reception was getting bad, had to go.

Jens gets it. And I don’t get out enough, obviously, but I do walk home from work every day to do more work at home, where the coffee is freer, but shittier, justifying capitalism. And sometimes on the weekend I will even go out to brunch. This is important, because I live in Carlton North, and I go for brunch in Fitzroy, and there’s a heap of young people in both of these neighbourhoods in all the houses that have bicycles instead of penis cars in their parking spaces. In my experience these homes are rented mostly by inexpensively-well-dressed twentysomethings who are polite, friendly, and have solid taste in music.

I know the polite and friendly parts because sometimes I see them talking to each other. I know the music part because everywhere I go from Carlton North to Fitzroy and in between I cannot escape Gotye’s album. And it’s not just the single “Learnalilgivinanlovin,” which you can find on our August podcast and is a trumpeting soul-swinger and sounds like Jamie Lidell’s follow-up to “Multiply” except without that lookatme! thing Jamie does. This past Saturday, in real time, I was walking to Fitzroy (home of Polyester records — whatup Nate) and I heard Like Drawing Blood playing. I heard it four different times in twenty minutes. I don’t hear the standard Nokia ring tone that frequently. The first time it was out of a car (one of the turntablistish Cut Chemisty/DJ Shadow Brainfreezey jams at the end of the record). The second was at a restaurant (the new jack swing song about telephone customer service that almost sounds like it lifted the bassline from Originoo Gun Clappaz’ “No Fear”, which Levins should blend sometime — call me). The third it was out of some dude’s bedroom window (“The Only Way”, which is the best pop song ever in the world to sample an accordion and use it almost percussively, and be about death, but make me dance). The fourth was that song again, but from a car, again. That one wasn’t as exciting as the others. But this has happened on other days, too, so it’s almost safe to go outside without an iPod now.

Wally was born in Belgium, he speaks Flemish and English and probably a lot of some other languages. He moved to Australia when he was a tyke. He doesn’t live in Melbourne, he lives in a nice beachside community outside of Melbourne, because who the fuck wants to live in a big city if they can live by the ocean and don’t have to commute to work, right? Wally doesn’t have to commute to work. He’s in a couple of bands, and his fantastic new little solo record which is purportedly being reviewed sometime soon on just sold over 10,000 copies in Australia alone with no label, no budget, no band, no promo, just word of mouth, lots of contagious “real life” play out of houses and cars, some radio, and two crates of one dollar records and a laptop. And it sounds, by turns, huge, tender, delicate, witty, like full-band throwback soul and, at one stage, like Devotchka. But also like Cut Chemist’s “The Lesson” series, but only if you can get to the end of the record without putting one of the earlier-tracked songs on repeat. Gotye drums for Sydney-based indie-popper The Basics (at the Empress Hotel on Nicholson St. every Thursday this month), but, like, why? Dude’s got one of the most affecting and adaptable pop voices (ok so there’s even a weak latinesque spy-jam on Blood that he actually saves, which he probably just set up so he could show off, anyway).

But to actually finish a point here, I didn’t mean “Why is he in another band?” I meant “The lead singer of that band must actually be Sting if Gotye’s on the kit.” There. He writes beautiful harmonies, tactfully layers and overdubs, and even has a few James Brownish style explosions cached away for listener “holy fuck” saying.

The record is entirely sample-based except for one bassline, which Wal wasn’t feeling, so he digitized and chopped that, too. All the sampled records were bargain-bin throwaways (think Blockhead, but with more French folk records and dirty synthetic R&B television-only jams). This fact in itself is freakish because there’s probably two “loops” on the entire record, and the songs refrain, lilt, climax, fade, and breakdown like the Dap Kings and Guy and Organized Noize were all in his bedroom. “Puzzle With a Piece Missing” sounds like the Police jamming “Spottieottiedopalicious” with the Junior Boys. It’s probably not fair.

So, generally, Melbourne, the best music city in the world according to Swedes, is freaking out about this record, without really freaking out about it, because due to some secret conspiracy no one’s actually talking about Gotye or selling his record on the front racks or putting posters up over Shannon Noll’s telephone-pole face with the Like Drawing Blood’s finger-painted artwork (done by Wally, himself, but when he was 4). People are just buying it, quietly and politely, and enjoying it, openly, and answering a shitload of questions like “What’s this?” with “Ok, oh fuck, it’s spelled g-o-t-y-e, but it’s pronounced like the French designer guy.” And shop clerks have learned to sell Like Drawing Blood to dudes who ask for Vidal Sassoon’s new album.

And his biggest inspiration was the KLF. Very little else need be said.