[Psychedelic Pop – Walking Bird Records – 2019]
Eighteen years after releasing their self-titled debut record, Adelaide psych-pop outfit The First Third are back with their second album called, yep, The First Third 2nd Album. The First Third are Vic Conrad on guitar, keys and vocals, Keith Davis (guitar and vocals), Colin Gellard (bass) and Craig Rodda (drums). These four long-time collaborators are helped out along the way with contributions from a number of friends, each adding various forms of instrumentation to the musical pot.
The vinyl album contains 10 songs, and also comes with a bonus CD version containing everything on the record plus an extra three songs, inserted at the mid-point. The impressive packaging features front cover artwork supplied by Gellard, and a sumptuous rear cover colour photograph of the band, courtesy Rachel Thompson.
Turn Me Loose opens things up in a delightfully ramshackle manner, evoking musical memories of Syd Barrett and Anton Newcombe. These themes pop into the listener’s consciousness at various points in the record, along with a host of other 60s echoes. Pearly Dew Drop Day further serves to set the musical landscape with some nifty keys and electric guitars coming to the fore. How do people write such spaced-out backing vocals? Also present are elements of the later work of The Beatles, particularly in the nuggetty The Luckiest Man In The World, – where Gellard’s lurching bass and the bluesy guitar are contrasted with Conrad’s disarming vocal – and again in the solo section in Everybody Leave.
The three CD-only inclusions, QMS, The Lies Don’t Stop and 2 Midnights In A Jug all sit well in the midst of the album. They offer something a bit different so it’s of no little value that they are included on the CD. The way-out joy of Mr Mind Tools, replete with Rodda’s rumbling drums, sounds like something you might hear on a 1967 Beatles/Stones collaboration, if there ever had been such a thing. None of the influences cited here detract from the quality of this album; it is a considered and well-executed record, one that stands up to repeated listens. The album closes with the plaintive Happy Returns, followed by Stranger Than You; similar to the opener, but a lot rockier.
These guys have been doing this long enough to be in complete control, musically speaking. Every note, every beat, is there for a reason, and performed with skill. When a particular instrument steps into the musical spotlight, it is easy to appreciate the quality of the individual musician that is contributing to what is an attractive and intoxicating overall sound.
Conrad and Davis share the songwriting credits for the album; the songs readily sit side-by-side. Perhaps it could be said that Davis’ songs carry a little more US influence while Conrad seems to favour the other side of the Atlantic, or maybe it should just be defined as Adelaide. The only major difference between the two songwriters’ efforts is the lead vocal role. The lyrics move between bubblegum tales of boy/girl attraction, psychedelic prose, and most things in-between; it’s all good fun, there’s no overarching theme or message.
The album was recorded by Tom Spall. Conrad and Spall’s production is solid; every song features a fair degree of nuance, and most of it is easily discerned on the first or second listen. Overall, it appears to capture the sound and mood that the band is looking for.
Despite the wide and varied nature of the surface-level style, lyrical content and the pace of the songs, there’s a fluency to this album that encourages the listener to immerse themselves in the whole damn thing and just go along for the trip.
Purchase The First Third 2nd Album from Mr V Music, 115 Semaphore Road, Semaphore.