We here at The 13th Floor were lucky to get a visit from Sydney based singer-songwriter Damien Binder, who popped in to promote his new album A New World, his fourth solo effort, and he very kindly played three songs for us. Recorded in both over here and across the ditch, Binder’s roped in a few mates, to flesh out a bigger sound, including Sydney producer Michael Carpenter (Perry Keyes, Youth Group, Bryan Estepa), long-time partner in crime musician Bob Shepheard, drummer Wayne Bell (Bic Runga, Tim Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Gin Wigmore), guitarist Dave Hatt (Bryan Estepa Band) and Kylie Whitney (BV’s).
Binder’s been making moody alt-rock for the last ten years, having split from Second Child after a five year stint. The band shot to local fame in the early 2000’s with their debut “Slinky” and were regular openers for international acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Fugazi, Hunters and Collectors and Nirvana. As a solo, Binder’s sound is a little bit more mellow. Still, he’s enjoyed good company, performing SxSW (Austin, Texas), supporting David Gray, Marianne Faithfull and Ani De Franco. And he’s been nominated for an APRA Silver Scroll Award – twice!
On A New World Binder looks to ’80s English jangle-pop and Aussie indie for his template. Parallels with Commotions, The Go-Betweens, The Church and The Triffids are obvious, especially on the title track. There’s also a little self-deprecation in there, a true Kiwi trait – “I used to be less cynical….will my love go round, I drift through empty towns”. Breaking Beyond Me starts off with a familiar Lloyd Cole intro but finds its way towards classic DD Smash, with a great commercial hook in the chorus. Not all of it’s perfect, though. The softer Won’t Let You Down Again is a trifle too saccharine for my tastes, leaving the sugary sweet after taste of a Poison power ballad.
If there’s a theme running through this album, then it’s the yearning to rekindle lost relationships. Time and again you get the inkling that Binder has a few unfinished chapters to complete. He pretty much spells it out on You I came Back For. It chugs along with a mainline groove reminding one of Ron Sexsmith at times. Over is even less subtle “Now it’s Over, It’s Taking me Over”. Binder doesn’t believe in burying his feelings in dense, unfathomable prose to get his point across. He’s about the conversation, not the intrigue.
Binder’s music borders on country at times but is predominantly main road Indie. You can totally see it working in a Melbourne pub – the kind with ancient brick walls, stained glass windows and brass taps. With its familiar indie commercial swagger it would fit right in with a good Pinot or a craft beer as it breezes along. Nothing too challenging here. Only the closing track, Way Gone really grabs your attention. “Excuse me, I’m trying to work here….” Binder looks up from his guitar to address his audience and acknowledge there might be someone actually taking the time to listen. And so they should.