There are few opening lyrics that would set a more Australian tone for an album than “Shark attack on Tuesday/They shut the beaches down”. Who better to song these words, which come from a track called Home Free, than one of Australia’s rock mainstays, Mark Seymour. Well known as the frontman of the Hunters and Collectors, The Undertow is his relatively new project, and Mayday is their third album.
References to every day Australian living are scattered throughout, including a tribute to the communal journey to and from the footy on Football Train, paying homage to the stoicism of working class men on the slow song Thirsty Old Men, and a ballad of banality of life in Adeleide in Irish Breakfast.
I think what I enjoy most about Mayday is that everything about it is really down to earth. Mark Seymour has been in the business a long time, but you can tell that he is still passionate about his music because it comes across in his vocals. He is really committed to his singing in every song, and is able to pull off some big notes at the right times. In FIFO (another reference to another Australian lifestyle) he puts everything into the line “I’ve been working seventeen years on a FIFO” and it takes the song up a level emotionally. There’s also a sense of being personal in that each song seems to be a different story, whether it be anecdotal, like Courtroom 32 or more generally about need for support in a relationship, like in Carry Me Home.
This album is a good reflection of why Mark Seymour is a constant figure in Australian music, rather than someone who has come along with a few hits and fizzled out over time. It gives us honest songwriting that is recorded just the way you would imagine they would play it live. The songs are quite simple in structure but are captivating in their storytelling style of delivery. Although the acoustic guitar is present throughout the record, there are also electric sounds here and there, including some fierce blues guitar soloing in Oblivion and Asylum. Seymour has said in interviews about this album that he has been listening to a lot of blues recently, so it’s cool to know he can be influenced by certain musical styles and adapt them seamlessly into his own songs. Mark Seymour is chugging along with The Undertows and they don’t show any sign of stopping any time soon.