Stella Donnelly - Thrush Metal

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-22
Stella Donnelly - Thrush Metal
Stella Donnelly - Thrush Metal

Stella Donnelly’s stunningly pure voice got me thinking back to the era of Hollywood musicals and searching for the lyrics to ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’, the melody of which reminds me a bit of Donnelly’s ‘Boys Will Be Boys’.  I was pretty surprised to see that the 1950s era song has a bit of a dark streak and more of a parallel to Donnelly’s content than I would have thought.  If you are totally heartless and have never seen The Sound of Music, in the song a young soldier, Rolf, advises his love interest, Liesl, of the dangers of men.  Rolf warns “eager young lads, and rogues, and cads will offer you food and wine” and more ominously “your life little girl is an empty page that men will want to write on”.  Liesl of course seems cheerily unconcerned as they happily dance inside a gazebo.  Maybe Rolf wasn’t such a clueless doofus after all. 

Sixty years on, Donnelly is much more worldly-wise on ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, a savage dialogue between a rapist and Donnelly as the victim’s defender.  The song with its delicate melody and Donnelly’s sweet voice is starkly effective given the bluntness of the words that you have no choice but to hang on every one - “you invaded her magnificence, put your hand over her mouth”.  Given the song’s initial debut in early 2017, Donnelly pre-dated the #MeToo movement by months and the song also bravely confronts convenient excuses, victim blaming and shaming head on.  The music box melody of the song reveals an ugliness that can’t be simply put back in the drawer.  (Note: I penned this review about a month ago, but it is being published on the heels of the rape and murder of Australian comedian Eurydice Dixon.  Sadly reminding us that the subject of Donnelly’s song will never be outdated).

'Boys Will Be Boys' is one of several highlights of Donnelly’s Thrush Metal EP which was originally released on cassette and digitally in the Spring of 2017 in her native Australia.  Quickly picked up by Secretly Canadian and released worldwide digitally in early 2018, I was third time lucky to find out about her EP on the occasion of its upcoming vinyl debut.  Donnelly is ex- of a few punk inspired bands, but smartly set out on her own.  With her vocal chops and candor she has a bright future.  Her original five song EP was appended with an extra track along the way and makes for a great introduction to her talent. 

The EP opens with one of its harder edged songs in ‘Mechanical Bull’ with a minor key insistent strum like PJ Harvey’s early work and with the same bluntness - “tits, legs, honey, sweet pea”.  Donnelly takes on the role of the title shrugging off all pesky comers.  Other songs highlight her crystalline voice accompanied only by guitar and compelling lyrics.  ‘Mean to Me’ is another show tune styled stunner that showcases her voice and details early relationship struggles, though Donnelly has the ace in the hole - “I know your mama loves me.”  The light huskiness of ‘Grey’ adds another shade to her vocals and the last and latest track ‘Talking’ closes with a bit more of the opening song’s gravity. 

If smoky New York night clubs were a thing anymore, Donnelly would be standing center stage speaking her truth between red velvet curtains with a single spot light shooting through the haze.  Thrush Metal is a great twenty minute launch into this sharply observant songbird's sure to be lengthy career.

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