The Guild League - Inner North

matcd034  /  September 2004
The Guild League - Inner North
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The Guild League - Inner North

matcd034  /  September 2004

Eagerly anticipated new album from distinguished Australian outfit The Guild League. Formed as a 16 member collaborative side project by The Lucksmiths front man Tali White, The Guild League released the jaunty single "Jet-Set... Go!" in 2001 and the wonderful debut album "Private Transport" the following year. Since then, the band has condensed its line-up and geographical focus. Described as "twelve songs about turning points, trust and the sky" the new album is the culmination of a fertile period of songwriting between White and guitarist Rodrigo Pintos-Lopez. Often performing as a trio with cellist Cressida Griffith, the Guild League has built a loyal following. Musically, the intricate guitar and rich cello shape the "Inner North" sound. Around this rides White's rhythm guitar and galloping piano, the exemplary work of drummer-about-town Marty Brown (Art of Fighting), and bursts of brass from Guild League guru/engineer Craig Pilkington (The Killjoys). As always, Tali wraps his distinctive voice around words that warm and chill in equal measure. His lyrics shift like the Melbourne weather, from the sunny sensuality of "Citronella" and "Shirtless Sky" and the twilight optimism of "Animals" to the pre-dawn loneliness of "Time Please Gents" and the bittersweet saturation of "Falling Ovation" and "The Storm." Having gelled as a band, The Guild League has produced a self assured and cohesive second album. "Inner North" is unhurried, wryly humorous, proudly diverse and humbly beautiful.

  1. Animals
  2. The Storm
  3. Trust
  4. Citronella
  5. Shot In The Arm
  6. Why Wait?
  7. Time Please Gents
  8. Scientists
  9. Fingers Of Sun
  10. Falling Ovation
  11. Where Are You Now?
  12. Shirtless Sky


How on earth did I ever pass over this for so long? It’s criminal. And it’s not as though it was one of those things that sits in the unplayed pile for an age simply because I don’t recognise the name. Oh no indeed; I knew the name The Guild League so very well having loved their first Private Transport collection of course, and the thought of a new record featuring the sublime tones of the Lucksmiths’ canny crooner Tali White should surely have had me ripping open the jewel box and slipping the disc into the stereo with fevered anticipation, yes? Well, yes, dammit. It should. That it didn’t is a source of more brow furrowing, though truth be told I’m also rather pleased it somehow slipped through the net, to be rescued as one of those end of season gems that light up the globe as nights slip like inky fingers down the page of the year. You probably know already that the first Guild League record was made by Tali and 16 mates from around the world. It was a joyously exuberant Pop album. Inner North sees the group trimmed more than a little; now essentially comprising Tali, drummer Marty Brown, guitarist Rodrigo Pintos-Lopez and cellist Cressida Griffith. The result is a record that breathes with a marvellous spaciousness; a record that focuses its attention on telling beautiful downbeat tales of suburban Melbourne meanderings and musings with a hushed clarity that soothes those brows and (un)settles hearts. Not that it’s slow-core feeling sorry for itself nonsense, no-siree: songs skip a scuffed sneaker along cliff paths and swoon into the sunrise; they daydream of fingers brushing in the dark of cinema seats and they hide in the corner of attics to shed tears at years gone by and opportunities forgotten. Inner North is one of those slow-burning records that return again and again to leave their melodies haunting your reveries. I can’t think of many others I would rather have to usher out the old and beckon in the new.   --Tangents
The Guild League is a loose collective of artists who have come together under the 'presidency' of The Lucksmiths' Tali White. The roll call of members past and present reads like a who’s who of Melbourne’s finest exponents of gentle acoustic music – Richard Easton, Clare Bowditch, members of Art Of Fighting and Sodastream, etc etc. No doubt someone will give this nascent "scene" a name in due course – but for now, it remains pleasurely unaffected and responsible for some of the prettiest music to come out of this city in recent times….including this record. For 'Inner North', the follow-up to 2002’s 'Private Transport', The Guild League consists of White and songwriting partner Rodrigo Pintos Lopez, along with cellist Cressida Griffith, Killjoys' multi-instrumentalist Craig Pilkington and Art Of Fighting’s man-about-town Marty Brown on drums. The pared-down line-up has surpassed itself with this record. 'Inner North; is a beautifully conceived and perfectly executed portrait of a year passing in the city of Melbourne, of the seasons breaking and receding, of love swelling and fading like waves on Port Phillip Bay. The sights, sounds and smells of nature reverberate through White's wonderfully evocative lyrics, evoking a city passing through autumn into winter and through an inclement spring back into another burning summer. You can almost taste the salt whipped onto your face as White walks along the freezing winter seafront in 'The Storm', smell the wafts of spring as he drives along the Great Ocean Road in 'Citronella', and feel the emptiness of the endless summer sky in 'Shirtless Sky'. White’s guileless vocals are complemented beautifully by lush, pastoral arrangements – Griffith's cello, in particular, lends this album a quiet, stately beauty. The result is a seamless blend of music and poetry, of word and emotion, one of the best albums of the year so far.   --Inpress Magazine
Tali White is a genius. This much we know. The very fact that he’s in two of the best bands in the world tells us as much. But there’s something else at work here. ‘Inner North’ may well be the best album released this year, and even a contender for the best ever released on Matinée.‘Inner North’ sees a definitely maturing of the Guild League sound. The band’s debut album was full of jaunty pop songs, and, whilst the POP will never leave Tali White, ‘Inner North’ is a far more serious, some might say maudlin, record.‘Animals’ is symptomatic of this change. It features a spinetingling, soaring vocal by White – his voice sounding stronger than ever. ‘The Storm’, meanwhile, is my favourite. Above a Smithsian jangle, White sings about the worst day of his life, bad weather and has the fantastic ‘fear is a feeling that will never cover everything’ refrain. Essentially, this album is very much about Australia. Whilst ‘Private Transport’ extolled the virtues of Tali’s much-loved travelling, ‘Inner North’ remains a defiantly domestic affair. Which is kind of nice. Also nice is the excellent production, which only enhances the pop songs. In short, this is a polished affair, and, for once, that’s a good thing. The Guild League rule my world.   --Tasty
Australian indie pop collective the Guild League cut their ranks from 16 to seven on the beautiful and fluid Inner North. Sophomore records are notoriously spotty, if only because the listener's first exposure to the group is their only frame of reference, so when a loosely assembled "supergroup" puts out a second record that sounds like a veteran, joined-at-the-hip "band," it's all the more impressive. Lucksmiths mouthpiece Tali White has one of those voices that most indie songwriters yearn for. For one, he can actually sing, but it's the winsome -- in a graceful, non-whiny way -- words that escape his clear tenor that so effortlessly complete the package. An unabashed romantic, he's up for both simple debauchery ("Let's get arrested or smashed by these old buildings covered in ash" in "Time Please Gents") and the self-absorbed dual narcissism that infects newly minted lovers ("Now that the sun revolves around the both of us/What will all the scientists do" in "Scientists") with equal fervor. Inner North is a far more plaintive affair than the colorful yet patchy Private Transport. Relying almost exclusively on the co-writing and tasteful guitar work of Rodrigo Pintos-Lopez and Cressida Griffith's warm cello, it owes more to the '70s soft rock of Seals & Crofts than it does Belle & Sebastian -- the vocalist that White most resembles is Love's oft-overlooked second fiddle, Bryan MacLean. White can be wordy, but the musicianship is so consistently surprising -- Gus Rigsby's horn arrangements are like those tiny mints everybody keeps buying -- and the songs so respectful of brevity that they never overextend their welcome. In the end, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the nostalgia of it all, and when White, in the sparse closer, refers to the "quiet burden of your absence," you can't help but wistfully peek out the window.   --All Music Guide
Human beings are more often than not pre-occupied with examining themselves. Our art is dedicated to celebrating, bemoaning or questioning what it means to be human. Is it arrogance on our parts, to be unwilling to see ourselves as insignificant blips in something much bigger? Maybe such notions just don't make for memorable pop songs. `Inner North' the latest album from indie "super group" The Guild League is full of such catchy pop songs, unashamedly dedicated to rejoicing in the conundrum of humanity. The band's sound has been pared from their debut effort `Private Transport' which brought together 16 international musicians. The smaller line up is more representative of the groups' live shows and echoes the domestic focus that permeates "Inner North", with Melbourne musicians predominantly used. On "Private Transport" vocalist/lyricist Tali White spoke frankly of travel, distance and the all-conquering power of love, with tunes penned around lovesick letters and climate changes. For "Inner North" the holiday snaps have been put away, making space for a mood of quiet reflection and lounge room companionship. The subtly intricate music is centred around Rodrigo Pintos-Lopez's lilting guitar, Cressida Griffith's cello, White's smooth vocals, Marty Brown's wire-brushed percussion and brass flourishes from Craig Pilkington. Lyrical imagery aims to re-present the muted scenes of the familiar, rather than throw the vividly exotic at the listener. The beauty of the walk to a bus-stop or the thrill of a lover's smile is put on par with exploring ancient ruins and crowded marketplaces. A sense of nostalgic reflection tinges the opener `Animals' which flows like the childhood car trip the lyrics speak of. White elegantly traces the trajectory of his life back down the ribbon of asphalt to his beginnings, observing "All the patterns of the past are gone..." This song, along with others such as the stripped back "Trust" and bassy "Why Wait?" see White experimenting with his vocals more then previously, his distinctive voice and undeterred Australian accent cutting cleanly through any distractions. The music in general on this album, still employs the heartfelt, quirky pop elements of `Private Transport' as well as introducing a more folk-based, dare I say it adult-contemporary sound, which results in the vocal rounds, of `Animals', `Trust', `Where Are You Now?' and `Falling Ovation', and elaborate guitar lines. The other musical elements are sustaining enough for the sound not to become overly fey or saccharine and the ripe sensuality of images means the songs stay grounded and accessible. `The Storm' captures perfectly the hold-your-breath, contained heat, anticipation of a summer thunderstorm, with a release of chiming guitar and raucous brass. `Citronella' sticks to a watery, elemental theme this time evoking a lilting languidness to express the essences of summer; ".warm frangipani and ripe mango." The string part adds perspective, depth and possibility, with rolling handclaps breaking the heat-shimmer, like the sudden refresh of the ocean on sun-warmed skin. `Shot In The Arm' is a change of pace, with lyrics delivered in a tongue-in-cheek, almost spoken word style and trumpet interrupting the otherwise frenetic flow of the song. "Time Please Gents" tells the story of the drunken, Friday catharsis of white-collar workers, would logically demand a similarly upbeat accompaniment, but is surprisingly and successfully formed around sparse guitar and White's persuasive, fragile vocals. The employment of unexpected lyrical/musical crops up frequently on the album and is a testament to the success of the song writing partnership of White and Pintos- Lopez. Of course the album wouldn't be complete without the obligatory songs of love and devotion, from the self-referential `Scientists' noting; ".and even pop songs sound so true, now that you let me look at you" to the jazzy "Falling Ovation" which you can't help but hum on sunny days. "Where Are You Now?" ushers in a more sombre moment with White struggling to gain perspective on separation from or loss of a loved one. Griffith's subtle backing heighten the sentiment of lines like; "I've been waiting for change as if I had a choice and I find myself quietly craving your voice." The final notes of `Inner North' are somewhat ambivalent, the closer "Shirtless Sky" is a breezy tune about missing someone. It is a warm way to end, though I can't help feeling a tad unfulfilled - I want to witness the reunion, not just the "thirsty absence." Perhaps though, it's in fact a crafty way of making sure I hit the replay button on this very listenable record.   --Oz Music Project
The first Guild League album, Private Transport, had The Lucksmiths' Tali White and a gaggle of his friends leading us on a trip around the world; the album's handily crafted pop songs were filled with the starry-eyed confusion and ecstasy of travel. On their second album Inner North the Guild League feels less like a gang of explorers - they've dwindled down to White and two others (with guitarist Rodrigo Pintos-Lopez co-writing many of the songs). But that's more than appropriate for the songs, which are sadder in both style and content. While the album still has its moments of energy (witness the spunky "Shot in the Arm," which is more in step with the last album), overall the atmosphere is melancholy beauty. White's vocals are more carefully developed than ever (he sounds like a crooner in places, and I don't mean that as an insult), and his melodies are splendid as always; he uses both to capture a sense of loss and a yearning for a brighter tomorrow. "It's all coming undone," White declares on one song, and that's the basic theme of so many of the songs: a relationship unraveling. That "what happens next?" feeling is everywhere, along with White's poetic descriptions of scenes and settings. All of the songs perfectly capture complicated emotions; perhaps the album's most sublime moment, and one of the many that are quietly devastating, is the final track "Shirtless Sky," where the pain of absence emerges through a day where the weather is exactly the kind that the departed lover enjoyed most ("my heart is thirsty in your absence/knowing that your idea of bliss is days like this"). That song, like the 11 others on Inner North, is a prime example of how a pop song can be simultaneously gorgeous and heartbreaking, bringing listeners right into the hearts of the musicians.   --Erasing Clouds
Soft and gentle orchestrated indie-pop of the old-skool, all galloping jangles and sweeping sentiment. Opening track ‘Animals’ sees singer Tali White adopt a Martin Rossiter-esque quiver as they tip-toe through foppish tulips. The LP is a shot in the arm of early summer sunshine, with a vague hint of dampness in the air.   --Vanity Project