Reviewed by Sue Davidson
The Dirty Lie album was released in February 2016. All the tracks were recorded and produced by Ivan in his studio in Burwood. This latest release has Ivan’s distinctive sound and style looking a lot more refined than his last album Restless Soul, his no nonsense take on modern rock and uncompromising lyrics are well honed on this album, this is a release that has you glued to the edge of your seat from start to finish. This album has the potential to become permanently etched into history, the catchy riffs and melodies are definitely worthy of earworm status. The film clip that was made for the track “Insane” has Ivan’s earlier influences of 70’s punk rock stamped all over it, the clip was mostly filmed in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
The album kicks off with “Amnesia” which could almost be mistaken for Soundgarden with its simple but effective distorted power chords in the intro.The rhythm in the verses and the 70’s organ intertwined with the guitar demonstrate the heavy influence of the 80’s on Ivan’s music. It is hard to not like this track, the lyrics are a definite political statement about the fear that has been foisted upon people since the tragic events of 9/11, and the confusion that resulted. The black and white film clip is a testament to Ivan’s creative sensibilities, it contains some cool surfing wipeouts which could distract you from the track’s political element, but oddly enough only tends to cement it into your consciousness all the more. The chorus poses a question to the listener, and presents the challenge to examine oneself inwardly. For a song that has so much going for it musically, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship that went into the lyric writing to not only have you tapping your feet to it but to also be thought provoking at the same time.
Title track “Dirty Lie” starts off almost like a simple three chord shoe gazer, then shifts back a gear to allow the vocal to grind away with an almost seething indifference. The bridge presents an air of sarcasm that perfectly sets up the chorus to send home the message that we are utterly fed up with being lied to constantly by governments and powerful corporations. The lyrics daringly challenge the listener to identify with the author’s frustration and righteous anger about the state of inequality caused by a minority of elites who own most of the world’s wealth. When quizzed about the subject matter of this song Ivan referenced the book 1984 by George Orwell, and pointed out that the motivation for writing this song was to hopefully wake people up to the simple fact that we have been fobbed off with a total lemon by the ruling elite. In this conversation Ivan stated how perplexed he felt when playing this song in venues like the Esplanade in St. Kilda, and how exasperating it was for him to deliver such an honest assessment of what’s been happening in the world only for audiences to react with puzzled looks and ignorant indifference. He went on to say that he was quite perplexed to receive this type of reaction, and laughed about it saying that the irony of this is that it felt like he was looking into a mirror and that he was just as puzzled with the audience’s reaction as they were about his song.
“Insane” starts with a dramatic guitar pick edge dragged down the strings, after this gains your attention the drums bring you into the song sounding like Green Day’s Dookie album but more uptempo. The lyrics in the verse have a deliberate disjointed character about them and are delivered in a slightly manic way which complements the gritty guitars. This song has a deceptively complex arrangement considering the simple chord progression, but surprisingly still manages to remain accessible. Even though the lyrics don’t seem to form a coherent narrative throughout the duration of the song you still find it impossible to not gravitate towards this song. The well placed stops showcase Ivan’s skills as a musician and songwriter. The film clip adds another dimension by being made in such a way as to present the viewer with a visual collage of disjointed footage. At first glance it gives the impression that it was slapped together without too much thought going into it, when watched more intently you can appreciate the artist’s take on the fast pace of life in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne. The bendy guitar solos add a type of simplistic raw energy and are cleverly slotted into the arrangement. This track with its raw energy is difficult to dislike due to the clever arrangement that leaves you wanting to hear more.
The fourth track “Talk To Me” was released as a single in 2001. It was put out as a limited edition of a thousand copies which sold out quickly. The track was recorded and produced by Mark Woolrich at Soundguys in Chadstone. The band that Ivan had formed at the time was called No Rain after the Blind Melon hit song. There is a B-side titled “Toss and Turn” on the CD which makes this disc rare as it is a track that Ivan has no intention of re-releasing. If you happen to be fortunate enough to lay your hands on a copy of this disc the B-side is well worth a listen, as it gives a rare insight into Ivan’s songwriting abilities at a very early stage in his career. I asked Ivan what his thoughts were about this release and his response was not one of embarrassment which you would half expect being that it was 15 years ago, but one of nostalgia. He went on to say that “Talk To Me” was a very important song for him as an artist and that it was this track that kicked off an amazing musical journey for him spanning well over a decade. The reason for its re-emergence is not one of nostalgia but a realisation that this song is still relevant in 2016.
“Angel” has a sound and style which sits oddly somewhere in between Tenpole Tudor’s “Swords Of a Thousand Men” and The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz”. The shuffle beat of the drums in this track give it a groove that keeps it rhythmically interesting, the lyrics are not its strong point but the music is played in such a way that it does keep you curious enough to want hear it right through to the end. The harmonies in the chorus give it an extra dimension and show off Ivan’s underrated vocal abilities. The most interesting part of this track is the pipe organ solo in the middle section. You can definitely hear the influence of artists such as Deep Purple and Ray Manzarek of The Doors in there.
“Summer Serenade” comes totally out of left field when listening to this album from start to finish; considering how the mood of the album starts one would expect that this track would be totally out of place. Curiously enough it has the effect of being a perfect antidote to the previous tracks. This song is the standout track of the album and puts Ivan’s music into a league of its own. It begins with a sublime melody played on a flute backed up with some folk/country strumming on an acoustic guitar. The cello’s swirling crescendo sets up the backdrop to the mood of reflective melancholy. There are influences from artists such as Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, The Seekers and the melody on the cello has a similarity to the Black Sorrows. The lyrics stand in contrast to the previous tracks which adds a depth that shows a very different side to Ivan’s songwriting. This track is a rare gem amongst the attitude-riddled world of modern contemporary rock, to put this type of track on this type of album is gutsy to say the least, one can only stand back and marvel in admiration of such a bold move.
Track seven “Where Were You” puts the mood of the album back on the lyrical trajectory of earlier songs but without the grungy guitar. The synth arpeggios in the middle provide a distinctive pop flavour. The staccato strings riddled throughout the rhythm section give a chugging sound which serves to create a sense of motion to the overall sound, the middle section is cleverly broken up into two parts by a change in the drums, and the various stops throughout the track compliment the lyrical hook “where were you”. You can appreciate the care that was taken to arrange this track so that it sounds as tidy as it does. The film clip is also a very slick production and has some interesting shots of a guy in a wing suit flying through some spectacular gorges. This is probably one of my favorite clips as it shows off Ivan’s skill as an artist to make such odd and fascinating film clips to go with his songs.
“All That I Need” begins with a catchy acoustic guitar melody reminiscent of the country/rock sound of many of James Reyne’s songs. The choir sound in the background gives a real sense of space. The subject matter is not excessively thought provoking or overly philosophical which makes this song easy to listen to. It serves the purpose of adding a nice dynamic to the album. It’s not hard to guess who the song is about – his wife and soulmate. Ivan once told me that without her influence in his life, her unconditional love and encouragement, and her unique ability to understand what makes someone like Ivan tick, putting together the albums Restless Soul and Dirty Lie would never have been possible.
“Free” starts off sounding vaguely like the Little River Band’s “Hang On”. The ocarina used in the melody gives an unmistakeable sound, and is used intermittently throughout the song. The lyrics paint a picture of confusion and sets the mood toward a general feeling of empathy. When asked what this song was about Ivan’s mood instantly became sombre; he went on to describe an experience that he had one morning whilst doing some work for an elderly lady who had always been polite and kind towards him. A slight disagreement broke out over something trivial and ended up with this woman tearfully apologising and confiding in Ivan about the recent suicide of her seventeen year old granddaughter, and that the funeral was on that day. Ivan said that this absolutely floored him and he was genuinely moved by her outpouring of grief; he unashamedly told me that the experience left him in such an emotional state that later that day he went home and cried for several hours.
The tenth track “You” has a very Doors-like character to it, with the subtle use of an electric piano in the rhythm section and an upbeat tempo it seems to move effortlessly from verse to chorus without needing too many dramatic changes. The lyrics in the verses seem to suggest an air of dejection and it’s hard not to let this mood continue on into the bridge and chorus. One can only speculate as to whether the chorus is meant to be interpreted as cynicism or just blatant sarcasm. No explanation of this was forthcoming – when asked about this track Ivan responded with a shrug of the shoulders and the remark “It is what it is”. The beauty is in the choice of instruments, the wonderfully placed electric piano solo and a harpsichord track that gives it a distinctly 60’s vibe. The track finishes with an almost mantra like repetitiveness that ends in a whisper followed by the sound of a thunderstorm.
Dirty Lie is an album that epitomises an artist at the peak of his career. From start to finish it showcases the songwriting genius of an artist that can effortlessly capture the mood of the times. Whether its dealing with the politics of the day in songs like “Dirty Lie” or “Amnesia”, or touching on certain social issues, the brutal honesty and sincerity are hard to dismiss. This album definitely has a social conscience and it wouldn’t surprise me if it manages to define a generation. The defiant mood of this work is in stark contrast to the production line of manufactured carbon copies that mainstream music has continually produced.