by Thomas Bedward January 02, 2020
The latest in a long line of rough-cut releases from one of Australia’s most prolific and arguably infamous independent names, ‘Old Songs’ marks the jagged return of Imbred and his sixth appearance on our pages. Released in the tail end of 2019, ‘Old Songs’ rose to prominence on Soundcloud, garnering hundreds of listeners and instantly dividing opinions.
It’s no secret that Imbred’s sound can be abrasive to some. Categorised by heavy grunge overtones and a defiant, DIY punk ethos, he’s the very embodiment of an artist who makes music for his own personal preservation. Over the years there’s been a macabre fascination surrounding his work, and while most, unfortunately, seem to find his rough vocals and unapologetic style as an easy target for mockery, a treasured few have stuck with him and watched his style develop.
In ‘Old Songs’, Imbred has published a new collection about a girl he loves, stating fondly that ‘love is complicated, but worth it”. It’s a unique release as always, tying together twelve tracks, including a rare foray into acoustic territory, that are arguably his most personal and accomplished to date.
Opening with a maelstrom of rustic, and slightly out of tune guitar, ‘Old Songs’ fuses a newfound sense of melody into his more traditional punk leanings, leading the mix unashamedly with the introspective single ‘Alone’. In usual cult-fashion, Imbred’s vocals surface to bring their forlorn and unpolished style to the track, layering the instrumentals with an emotive and undeniably raw quality. It’s the first taste of what’s to come, with the album then diving headfirst into a torrent of lovesick shades, covering elation, melancholy, hop and of course, loss.
The acoustic-driven ‘I Do’ sounds like it’s plucked from an early ‘In Utero’ writing session, as do following numbers ‘Sunshine’ and ‘I Love You’, who all play with a similar rumbling tone, and from there the album descends into a patchwork of hollowed Nirvana-esque tracks that roll with a sympathetic, almost innocent appeal. For the most part, ‘Old Songs’ is a far more gentle and delicate release than any of Imbred’s previous work, and while it's great to hear that growth in his melodies and instrumentals, it’s catastrophic for his vocals, particularly in tracks like ‘Smile’, ‘Dream’, and ‘Misery’.
There is a definite pattern at play in his compositions, with each song on ‘Old Songs’ rolling into one another in a lacklustre, somewhat shapeless form. It’s not ostensibly a bad thing for the release, creating a singular vision of Imbred’s own making and amplifying the overall nature of the album.
Lighter and more poetic than his previous release, ‘Old Songs’ acts as a natural follow-up to his previous album ‘Love’, as well as an impressive progression that sees Imbred willing to tackle more light and joyful topics.
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