Australian band Big Merino is a genre-blending, vocal harmony-driven band featuring Stuart Davis (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Craig (lead guitar), Peter Richardson (bass), and Colin Sevitt (drums). The band proves they can take on any type of music with ease. They also prove the talent that they possess. One minute you are taken back to the roots of Americana, but the next minute you are flung into a flight of rock, and then to a swampy blues sound. They will also take you to a funky place or directly to an Afro-Cuban rhythm. All throughout their album “Suburban Wildlife”, there is a huge play on melody and harmony, as well as epically designed soundscapes featuring instances of brass and string ensembles.
Stuart Davis has a soft spot for beautiful harmonies, turning them into one of the band’s trademarks. As a result, no matter which way the album leans, the band manages to merge all the different styles approached into a cohesive unit. Every band member is essential for this record to work musically and Davis’ warm voice and great lyrics, make “Suburban Wildlife” a diverse highlight of its genre-blend. Big Merino manage to expand any expected limits with a whole lot of credibility, easily capturing the listener in their world.
Despite the uplifting and euphoric melodies and harmonies, overall, the record has a serious nature, with many tunes here capturing introspective lyrics complete with matching themes. The basic foundation to this lovely band is clearly the strong songwriting and the highly skilled musicians behind the music.
Opening track “Black Cockatoos” is a classic acoustic driven Americana-styled track, with breezy guitar strums combining with a warm and fuzzy organ line and the robust vocals leading into a gorgeous chorus.
The rollicking rhythms of “How Can You Be So Sure” has several instances of brass blasts, and features a killer guitar solo. For anyone who’s new to the music of Big Merino, this is a song that demonstrates the broad scope of their musical palette.
Until the Caribbean beat sets in on “Turn This Boat Around”, and then you realize that Big Merino’s musical palette is even broader than what you first thought. The chorus is soaring, as those harmonies come to bear in spades.
There are absolutely killer chord progressions in “Hand Grenades” where the guitars work their butts off producing a blend of crunchy and sprawling six-string timbres. Much of which is repeated in a harsher, southern rock version in “Blackwater”, which also features rich multi-voice harmonies.
This is an act that knows how to make music, regardless of genre. So when they fall into the slink and slide of “Love Letters from a Fool”, you realize they have absorbed everything from the cradle to now, and blend it into an eclectic mix of great music for a fun ride.
When you listen to this album all the way through you will notice one thing in particular. The sum of the tracks cannot be defined by a single genre or sound. There are many. If you want another single-genre cookie cut album, you’ll have to keep on looking beyond this.
If Big Merino weren’t so talented, this project would have fallen apart long before the brilliant duet on one of the album’s standout tracks, “Hands in the Fire”, comes into play just after the soulful rocker, “Sometimes”. That the band’s arrangements are airtight and performed with brio, are again confirmed on “Dramamine”.
Can anyone listen to “Maybe I Was Sleeping” without tapping their foot and bobbing their head to the beat, or singalong to the melody? From the opening verse, this song is infectious, as is the entire album. Rooted and enriched within a lot of different styles, “Suburban Wildlife” should easily attract listeners of all types of music. All of the 10 tracks here showcase the band’s abilities, making it one of the most solid records of the year so far.