The Pearlfishers - Open Up Your Colouring Book

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:2014-04-28

David Scott and co have been on a long musical hiatus (hard to believe it’s been seven years since Up With the Larks), but they’ve more than made up for it with a massive 16-track, 70-minute opus which restores our faith in the kind of lighter-than-air, laundry-fresh, hummable tunes Brian Wilson used to write 50 years ago. In fact, the first line on the album is “It’s a beautiful day so get out of bed” and if I didn’t know better, I’d think Scott was tongue-in-cheekily taking a good-natured jab at his muse. 

‘Diamanda’ is aglow with syrupy harmonies, tinkling ivories, catchy choruses – it’s America-meets-Teenage Fan Club. A tasteful string arrangement adds a melancholic air to the autobiographical ‘To the Northland’, while his songwriting collaboration with New York songwriter Amy Allison is another nostalgic trip down memory lane – the kind of story songs Wilson wrote in his sleep, but always found favour in the hearts of his audience and on the charts.

There’s also a 70s AM radio sheen about the album. ‘The Way My Father Talked About Vincent’ is a trembling ballad of love and loss which kepts steering my mind back to Henry Gross’ 'Shannon’ (coincidentally, about Wilson’s dog). ‘Silly Bird’ is vintage also Wilson, with stratospheric vocals and dancing vibes (of the xylophone type). 

‘The Last Days of September’ sounds like the theme from one of those movies of the week about a dying girlfriend (complete with tearjerking harmonies that won’t leave a dry eye in the house), while the almost theatrical arrangement and soaring swell of the epic tale, ‘Gone in the Winter’, reminded me of the myriad of unforgettable characters which people the songs of legendary songwriter Dory Previn. Even ‘I Don’t Want to Know About It’ and 'Her Heart Moves Like the Sea Moves' drag ol’ Billy Joel and Barry Manilow out of the mothballs for stirring piano ballads that’ll have them waving lighters in nostalgic appreciation.

Perhaps that’s where the album title comes in – a melancholic look to the past when the teacher encouraged the kids in class to open up their colouring books. You just knew that good times were around the corner as your imagination was set loose on new creations. Those days are gone and perhaps the lost innocence is something Scott feels has weakened our lives as we rush through jobs, mortgages, marriages, kids…  

If it would only be like it was back when I listened to love songs on the radio and rolled around in the tall grass after class with not a worry to ruin my reverie. The title track, a gorgeous arrangement which rivals Randy Newman at his best, would seem to lend a little credence to my conclusion.

The whole album is just brimming with the sort of sugary confections Macca once championed: “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs/ What’s wrong with that?” I’m sure glad Scott listened to what the man said. Welcome back!

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