Released 08 April 2016 | Plus One Records / ABC Music P1-65 / P1-65LP
The Seconds and the Sky
For a band that redefined a quintessentially Australian sound on their 2014 classic ‘Any Old Love’, Queensland’s Halfway travelled halfway around the world to record their follow up ‘The Golden Halfway Record’ in Nashville, Tennessee.
Working with lauded producer Mark Nevers (Calexico, Bonnie Prince Billy, George Jones) and releasing for the first time through ABC Music, the band left to find a global sound and returned with an ode to adolescence in Halfway’s core duo John Busby and Chris Dale’s hometown of Rockhampton. The album’s first cut “Bret Canham’s Leather Jacket” tells the story of a kid they knew who, with his penchant for ‘weird’ clothes, hairstyles and music, stood out and suffered for it.
Canham refused to submit and flaunted it with a defiant smile before torching Rocky and headed to a relatively more tolerant Brisbane. Halfway’s story is drawn with a similar narrative arc. From Brisbane, it’s a long way to go to Nashville to make a record that’s not very country but very Rockhampton – just as Grant McLennan, who was conspicuously also a Rocky boy, had to go to London to write “Cattle & Cane.” It’s often, as they say, only the road out of town that leads you back to yourself. This golden album is another milestone on that road.
The Golden Halfway Record – The Weekend Australian
It makes sense that artists get better with age, for with age comes experience and thus a greater palette of colours with which to paint becomes available. Yet in popular music — in rock ’n’ roll especially — the common narrative arc is for young bands to burn brightly with their early releases before eventually losing some of the energy, hunger and joy that brought them together to make music in the first place.
There are exceptions to this trend, of course, and Brisbane band Halfway is one of them. The Golden Halfway Record is the fifth album that this eight-piece band has released, and it is the third album in six years on which the band has exceeded its own high standards. Any Old Love earned 4½ stars on this page in 2014; it was a near-perfect collection of songs that prompted me to describe Halfway as one of Australia’s best rock bands.
And after careful consideration I can only conclude that this album is perfect, and that there can be no doubt that Halfway is among a handful of the most talented and consistent acts in operation.
It’s a major statement to make about a band that most Queenslanders haven’t heard of, yet alone those who live in the country’s south and west, but all of the evidence can be heard in this sensational 11-song set.
Book-ended by a dramatic intro and outro, The Golden Halfway Record offers yet another significant stylistic leap for the performers and particularly for the primary songwriters, guitarists John Busby and Chris Dale. The progression from 2010’s An Outpost of Promise to Any Old Love was pleasing and commendable, but this is something else. Heard here is a band at the peak of its powers, to use a critics’ cliche, yet the most scarily impressive aspect of this ascent is that the octet may have only just passed base camp.
One can only imagine the summit Halfway yet could reach.
The trouble with writing, recording and releasing a perfect album, of course, is that the task becomes even harder next time. But that’s for the band to worry about, not us. We listeners get the pleasure of living inside such exquisitely crafted rock songs.
The album as a whole is so well plotted and paced that to pick single moments feels barely adequate, but to name just one, fifth track Welcome Enemy is a new high-water mark.
It pulses with an effortless wisdom and depth that belies how hard it is to write music so affecting with the same old ingredients available to every rock band in the world. From front to back, The Golden Halfway Record is exactly what its title describes.
It arrives with the highest possible recommendation, and an insistence that if you’ve ever enjoyed the combination of guitars, bass, drums, keys and vocals, you simply must hear this.
Andrew McMillen – The Weekend Australian
Halfway – The Golden Halfway Record – 4.5 stars themusic
“The Golden Halfway Record is a little bit country, a little bit indie rock’n’roll and a whole lot of satisfying.
Halfway aren’t your run of the mill outfit. For starters, their formative years were in Rockhampton – a tough town in the middle of cattle territory in Northern Queensland. Halfway are now based in Brisbane and have swelled their numbers to become an eight piece.
The Golden Halfway Record sees Halfway bridge the gap between Americana and power pop with just enough twang to deftly shade their bright melodies. Having taken the trip to Nashville to work with Lambchop’s uber-producer Mark Nevers, they have added a crispness to their dusty charm.
The first single is the brisk Brett Canham’s Leather Jacket, a tune that recalls a childhood friend who was unapologetically flamboyant in the uncompromising railway town of the band’s youth, even when it was to his detriment. There is many references to home as the narratives of core duo John Busby and Chris Dale tend towards the nostalgic with a healthy dose of guitar grunt and distortion coming along for the ride.
Five albums in, The Golden Halfway Record is appropriately titled. It is an album that is expertly crafted and has the extra sheen of a band not afraid to up the ante. The Golden Halfway Record is a little bit country, a little bit indie rock’n’roll and a whole lot of satisfying.
I LOVE HALFWAY. THEY ARE MY FAVORITE AUSTRALIAN BAND AT THE MOMENT.
It’s true I don’t really keep dibs on the scene these days, because I don’t have to, I’m not a rock journalist or anything and so I don’t even have to pretend I’m up with everything, or even anything, but I know what I like and I’ve seen Halfway play live a few times (and that’s more than I can say for most other acts), and I love them and I know they’re great because I’ve got golden ears, believe me! I’m still listening to their last album Any Old Love.
I’m not really sure how the business works these days either, but the fact that Any Old Love wasn’t more widely celebrated suggests it’s not so different to what it ever was. But if you think this new album is going to be a mere replay of that last one, you’re going to be disappointed – or, like me, delighted!
I mean, on paper, chuggalug bar-band country-rock or jangly pop is the last thing I’d want to hear, but that’s just an indication how good Any Old Love was – it transcended genre, by dint of majorly excellent songwriting and ensemble performances by a band as good and as terse and economic (their real strength as a sprawling eight-piece) as any I’ve ever heard. But as much as it’s a long way to go to Nashville to make a record that’s not very country, that’s what Halfway have done with this album, and more power to them, for following their collective heart.
This is a record that as all good records do, takes a step beyond its predecessor. It’s not very country, but a little bit. I don’t know how you’d describe it generically – I told you I wasn’t up with things – it’s just sort of pop-rock – there’s probably some stupid acronym for it – but does it matter anyway? when you can just slap it on and listen for yourself. The more important thing is that great songs still leap out and shine.
If Any Old Love was Halfway’s love letter to their deep roots in Rockhampton, this album is a calling card for their troubled adolescence there. It is a song cycle of bittersweet love that ends where you grow out of adolescence and fly the coop. Halfway go all the way.
Clinton Walker, 2016