Fraser A Gorman at The Sebright Arms
Australian musicians in London tend to attract big Australian crowds – Fraser A Gorman is no exception. The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter plays to a room that is at least one-third Antipodean. Bathed in a warm red light, zoned-out and swapping hometown gags with hecklers, he could be playing at a beach hut back home.
Gorman’s music is refreshingly simple. His plaintive voice and slow, open chords aren’t loud, but his sound is surprisingly full – especially when his rhythm section drops out, as on slow-burning weepie Blossom and Snow.
Gorman is as irreverent between songs as he is focused during them, cracking wise and weird, thanking the “real fancy” crowd for coming to his party and explaining, with some intensity, his motivation for writing Skyscraper Skyline Blues: “The women and men who clean windows… that’s some gnarly shit. Not enough people are talking about it, so I thought I’d better.” He half-chides, half-begs a lover to stay close in Broken Hands, which is similar enough to Bob Dylan’s style to be a pastiche, right down to the urgent vocal upswings at the end of painful lines.
On Never Gonna Hold You Like I Do, he’s more of a moon-eyed Mac DeMarco as he spots an ex-lover with “a guy who looks more like a grizzly bear / than the guy [she] used to know”. Cooing female backing vocals are provided by male James Fleming and Andy Thomson, but the effect is earnest rather than funny. Gorman performs the same vocal alchemy throughout his set: his mournful whispers turn opportunity and romance sour in Big Old World, while a blissed-out road trip becomes almost too sad to bear in Passenger Side.
Some of Gorman’s lyrics are jarringly flat (“You fit me like a glove, down in the book of love”) but the intelligence of his better ones suggests that’s a deliberate ploy. At their best, his words are disarmingly frank. Gorman has the same talent as Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus or Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields: the ability to craft arresting lyrics using the simplest words in unexpected places. More than once, the Sebright’s atmosphere turns due to a single line: “Did you hear about the boy from North Melbourne? / Nearly killed himself sipping life from a lead paint-filled balloon.” (Big Old World)
These little slips of misdirection give the set real depth. Gorman is packs an emotional punch and delivers wry observation, but the hazy overlap between the two is where he excels.
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Photo: Alisa Ali
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Watch the video for Broken Hands here: