AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: TIME OFF (AUSTRALIA)

August 01, 2010

Halfway - An Outpost of Promise

The third album from renowned local eight-piece Halfway has had some esteemed help during its four year gestation. Recorded by Wayne Connolly, with local legend/bridge christener Robert Forster sitting in the producer’s chair, this release encapsulates what makes Halfway such an intriguing proposition. The Conrad-ian title hints at the isolationist ideals that still lie within main protagonists John Busby and Chris Dale, however this time they feel closer to home than ever.

There’s gems littered all through this tight, lean set, ten songs trimmed of their fat and laid beautifully bare. The classic chorus of first track ‘Oscar’, a gorgeously melodic paean to late night ramblings, sets the bar high. The colonial intro of ‘110’ gives way to drifting harmonica as the late refrain “just don’t feel that way anymore” gathers poignant intensity. The mandolin guitar line within ‘Bluebird Tattoo’ highlights a new-found ease with poppier leanings, and while the slower numbers benefit from these subtle touches, the Being There-era Wilco feel to faster numbers ‘Tell Them I Called’ and ‘Stevie’ shows the lads can still throw a quality barnyard rocker your way any time they feel like it.

Music can often remind you of a certain memory or movie scene that captures the feel of a piece. This album conjures thoughts of the encounter with Levon Helm’s blind housebound character in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada when he requests of his guests, “You’re good people, you need to go ahead and shoot me”. An Outpost Of Promise is a similarly quixotic journey into the heart of Halfway country, holding onto hope despite isolation, in whatever twisted form that hope may take. It’s a world-class album from one of Brisbane’s most endearing talents, one that should see them propelled further into the deserved limelight.

HHHH Ed Matthews

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: ROLLING STONE (AUSTRALIA)

July 14, 2010

+1 records has a knack for two things – signing distinctly Brisbane sounding bands, and signing bands that require more than one tour bus. Halfway, like labelmates the Gin Club, have eight members and they make lush pastoral rock music that brings to mind the Go-Betweens. Unsurprising considering the record is produced by Robert Forster & engineered by indie rock veteran Wayne Connolly.

4 Stars **** Rolling Stone – August 2010 – Matt Coyte, Editor.

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: RAVE MAGAZINE (AUSTRALIA)

July 13, 2010
4 stars ****
Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Local country rockers under the guiding hand of Robert Forster

Halfway have certainly come a long way since their founding members relocated from Rockhampton some 10 years ago. In the subsequent period, they’ve become one of Brisbane’s premier rootsy rock bands, still observing their early influences of Big Star, Springsteen, Dylan and The Replacements. It will also be a worthwhile listen for fans of Bright Eyes, Ryan Adams and Drive-By Truckers. For latest album An Outpost Of Promise, they have once again turned to an Australian rock music veteran to oversee the sessions. 2006 album Remember The River was recorded under the production expertise of Radio Birdman’s Rob Younger. The celebrity producer this time is former Go-Between Robert Forster, with Wayne Connolly once again recording the whole shebang. Forster provides a crisp, clear experience for the listener with plenty of clarity between instruments and melody always at centre-stage. In short, he emphasises Halfway’s strongest elements. Hence, the pedal steel is given free reign in the John Steinbeck-inspired Tortilla Code (but, being Halfway, the group themselves have just the right balance of sonic layering and restraint). Further highlights include the atmospheric Sweetheart Please Don’t Start, the Motown-gone-country stomp of Tell Them I Called, the elegant opener Oscar, catchy guitar pop winner The Old Guard and the soulful, Hammond-infused 110.

MATT THROWER

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: LEICESTER BANGS (UK)

July 12, 2010

I was facing a forlorn evening in a Travelodge, miles from sanity, decades from perfection. What a sublime moment it became, on this night in a soulless wilderness, when I got out my MacBook, stuck this CD in the drive, and slipped on the headphones. Away you go, to anywhere, but in this case, with this band, it was back to the fine company that The Go-Betweens provided with every single album, that comfort that you get listening to those irresistible songs, so full of masterful imagery and swirling moments, being carried along by their glorious talent for making the best indie pop ever to come out of Australia.

I am no longer alone in a six by eight concrete box, I am surrounded by eight Queensland musicians, who came to the attention of Robert Forster through their acclaimed (and award winning) songwriting, who then produced this, Halfway’s third album of sublime, dark at the edges, indie pop love songs.

I do not wish to saddle them with the tag of being a ‘new Go-Betweens’, although that is hardly damning praise in itself. They are not that. What they are is one of those mighty fine Australian bands, under the influence of one of the masters of Australian music, plying their trade, and giving me a reason to get up tomorrow morning and face whatever comes along with a broad smile. Just as the Go-Betweens did, and I am very, very grateful for that small thing.

Kev A.

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: INPRESS MAGAZINE (AUSTRALIA)

July 09, 2010

Brisbane-based likely lads Halfway have created a quiet cracker of a record with third studio offering An Outpost Of Promise. Equal parts aching beauty and foot-stomping good times, the record is the work of a band coming into their own.

Recorded by the ridiculously talented Wayne Connolly with Robert Forster (The Go-Betweens) on production duties, An Outpost Of Promise does not falter once, providing as alt.country soundtrack dripping with confidence but not too self-conscious to wear its heart on its plaid-clad sleeve.

Opening track Oscar will have its catchy chorus of “books, booze and Oscar de la Hoyas sweet hands” swirling in your head for days after the initial listen, and It’s OK, with its giddy harmonies and insta-likability, would not be out of place on a Jayhawks record.

Sweetheart Please Don’t Start strains and soars in a fractured and gorgeous ode to heartbreak and the John Steinbeck inspired Tortilla Code simply shines. First single Stevie is a rocking affair, sounding something like Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen getting drunk together in a bar. Heaven.

It would be easy to say the vocals are the star on An Outpost Of Promise, but every member of this eight-piece makes an unforgettable contribution with pedal steel, organ, guitars, banjo, kick drum and brass melding together seamlessly.

An Outpost Of Promise is a record for the ages-classic, straight-up and completely unpretentious. No one could accuse Halfway of being cool or fashionable, but you get the sense the band are too busy being pretty great to give two hoots about these kind of labels.

Now pour yourself a whiskey and get on board.

Ned Pearse – Inpress (AUS) July 2010

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: THE COURIER MAIL (AUSTRALIA)

June 26, 2010
****

HERE it is and how sweet it is; another magic LP from roots-rockers Halfway.

On this third album the eight-piece Brisbane ensemble veers away a tad from that multi-layered approach of previous and much-acclaimed releases.
Frontmen John Busby and Chris Dale (2008 Grant McLennan Fellowship winners) have again written most of the material. And again this pair’s polished and thoughtful work is filled out in fine style by this most organic band and its guitars, percussion, keyboards, pedal steel and more.

But here, under the production of Robert Forster (Go-Betweens), Halfway’s epic sound is pared back a touch.

There remains the appealing mix of alt country and rock ‘n’ roll rhythms, there remains a dedication to their original sounds and heroes from Dylan to Springsteen, from Paul Kelly to The Go-Betweens.

But the Forster influence allows the vocals, and soaring harmonies, to come to the fore in a collection of timeless material. For these boys can write as well as sing; lyrics of life and loves ring true and strong.

It is difficult to single out favourites from a 10-track wonder but Oscar, 101, Sweetheart and Tortilla Code are up there; the stomping Tell Em loses a little freneticism of the live version but showcases Halfway’s rocking credentials. It’s that same swagger the early Rolling Stones had.

This is a fine piece of work, a great travelling companion and a local album with international appeal.

Bruce McMahon

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: WHISPERIN’ AND HOLLERIN’ (IRELAND)

June 24, 2010
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

In soccer terms, Brisbane’s HALFWAY would be on a hat-trick right now. They’ve already hit the back of the emotional net with their two previous albums ‘Farewell to the Fainthearted’ (2003) and 2006’s ‘Remember The River’, but with their Plus One Records début ‘An Outpost of Promise’ they have the opportunity for promotion to a much bigger league.

They take that chance in style, as it turns out. The result of some intense rehearsals with producer and legendary Go-Between Robert Forster, ‘An Outpost of Promise’ is the sound of a drilled and confident band working together to take co-frontmen John Busby and Chris Dale’s gritty, hard-won songs of truth and heartbreak to another level altogether.

Halfway have always impressed me with their swaggering, roots-tinged Rock’n’Roll sound, but never before have they sounded as focussed as they do here. Forster has clearly brought out the best in them as a unit and they shine straight off thanks to the wonderful opening track, ‘Oscar’. Jangly and immediate, its’ Power Pop swing is allied to a suitably memorable chorus (“books, booze and Oscar de la Hoya’s sweet hands”) and coloured by banjo, pedal steel and a glorious Hammond organ solo from Liam Bray.

A slew of succeeding tracks are equally exhilarating. The guitars mesh beautifully on the punchy likes of ‘It’s OK’ and ‘The Old Guard’ while the strident and effortlessly melodic ‘Tell Them I Called’ not only finds the Brisbane boys at their catchiest, but confident enough to let a horn section pep up the chorus. ‘Stevie’, meanwhile, is a heartfelt tribute to Busby’s one-time band mate Steve Sutherland and the plans they made while they were in their teens. The song catches both the expectancy and urgency of youth right on the nail and the musical backdrop is a glorious, full-on rush.

Yet it’s to their credit that Halfway can still convince even when they slow it down a little. Songs like ‘110’ and the yearning ‘Monster City’ are coloured by banjo, harmonica and pedal steel and their tales of after-hours promises made and secrets shared have an irresistible universal appeal. ‘Tortilla Code’, meanwhile, is a dustily affecting, John Steinbeck-inspired affair and by some way the most Country-sounding thing here. ‘Sweetheart, Please Don’t Start’, meanwhile, is the record’s big, heartstring-tugging ballad. The sound of love straining across the miles, it begins slow, fractured and pleading, but has almost buckled under the weight of the epic guitars by the time it finally releases its’ grip.

By the time they sign off with the gorgeous, broken’n’blue alcoholic reverie of ‘Bluebird Tattoo’ they’ve long since earned the prize. ‘An Outpost of Promise’ is not only a sublime Roots-tinged Rock’n’Roll album, but Halfway’s finest record by a country mile and one deserving to be bracketed with hallowed names like The Triffids and The Go-Betweens. And I don’t say stuff like that too often, believe me.

Tim Peacock

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: MESS+NOISE (AUSTRALIA)

June 23, 2010

Call them alt-country, call them roots-rock. The accuracy of genre identification matters not, as at the heart of the matter lies a simple fact: Brisbane’s Halfway are damned good songwriters. That the key writing duo of John Busby and Chris Dale are past winners of the Grant McLennan Fellowship – a $20,000 Arts Queensland grant – is not surprising given the strengths of their third LP.

Recorded by Wayne Connolly and featuring a Robert Forster production credit, it’s their most ambitious and considered work to date. Even at their most scintillating – ‘Sweetheart, Please Don’t Start’, a five-minute long, achingly beautiful epic – Halfway are characterised by a rare kind of understated cohesion. There are very few sharp edges on ‘Sweetheart’, and I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment: it’s the most gripping song here by a long way. Built on a recurring refrain (“Not like some old love/You’re more like the sea/A heart’s coming home, love/And they wash you to me”), it’s only in the final 90 seconds that the song is injected with a sense of urgency through an increase in tempo and the appearance of softly-distorted guitars.

For the most part, though, these uncomplicated songs are stripped of extraneous gloss. Complemented by a sparkling six-piece – including banjo, pedal steel, keys and percussion – Busby and Dale write songs that speak to core human emotions. The laconic ‘110’ (“In my corner/I just don’t feel the same anymore”) assembles a smoothly-flowing rock song around a reconciled relationship, while opening track ‘Oscar’ eases the listener in with the LP’s most memorable hook (“I don’t pretend to know what’s in your head/Books, booze, and Oscar De La Hoya’s sweet hands”).

The assured ease with which all eight members gel on this record will appeal beyond their alt-country roots, putting them in a similar class to fellow Queenslanders The Gin Club. It also helps that in Busby and Dale, Halfway are led by two masters of their craft.

by Andrew McMillen

AN OUTPOST OF PROMISE :: TOM MAGAZINE (AUSTRALIA)

June 17, 2010
5 stars

Halfway are consistently excellent with their delivery of heartfelt country flavoured rock and roll albums, and their latest offering, An Outpost of Promise, is no exception. Recorded live in the studio by engineer Wayne Connolly (The Vines, Josh Pyke, You Am I), the record was produced by Australian music legend Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens. It is well crafted and superbly recorded. Featuring a rich palette of songs, the themes explore stories of love, loss and human tragedy. The narratives are reminiscent of Paul Kelly and Springsteen.

Opening track ’Oscar’ recalls a late night conversation tainted by wine and regret; a note left behind and the familiar ache of unanswered questions. ’It’s OK’ is hook-laden and infectious with swirling Wurlitzer organ and wonderfully confident singing by Chris Dale. It jumps out of the speakers like he’s right there in the room beside you. The dynamic ’Tell Them I Called’, already a foot-stomping live favourite, builds to a crescendo finish of kick drum, electric guitar, pedal steel and brass, leaving the listener eager for more. ’Monster City’ is set to a backdrop of weeping pedal steel guitar, banjo and mandolin and conjures poetic images through lyrics like ’Moonlight splits the trees and flying foxes sing/it’s a song we know now, something drunk and proud’. ’The Old Guard’ is a swaggering electric rocker delivered with power and punch – a fittingly rousing opening to the second half of the record. ’Sweetheart Please Don’t Start’ relates feelings of angst, love and separation, building powerfully with John Busby and Dale trading vocal refrains and harmonies as the musical and emotional tension climaxes at the end of the song. Busby and Dale seem like they were made to sing together – each intuitively singing off the emotion in the other’s voice. This is one of the great strengths of a band burgeoning with talent. ’Tortilla Code’, credited as being inspired by a John Steinbeck novel, starts with the lament of a pedal steel guitar. The song develops into a picturesque ballad revealing subtle instrumentation. ’Stevie’ is another muscular rocker destined to become a crowd favourite in the live arena.

Showcasing the power of the 8-piece band in full flight, it builds to a crescendo, which has become a musical signature. Closing track ’Bluebird Tattoo’ brings the tempo down to a hauntingly beautiful conclusion, telling the story of a couple comfortable with each other’s shortcomings and human faults; secure in the love they still share after many years. Featuring restrained electric guitar, a sweet mandolin refrain and an organ solo that swells wonderfully in the latter stages, it delivers the sublime descriptive line, ’Busted knuckles and a Bluebird tattoo’. The album is also available as a limited edition vinyl release.

[Andrew Prentice]