The Guild League - Private Transport

matcd023  /  December 2002
The Guild League - Private Transport
cd   $10.00

digital   $8.00

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The Guild League - Private Transport

matcd023  /  December 2002

Brilliant debut album from an international parade of popstars featuring 13 wonderfully eclectic songs about love and travel recorded between San Francisco and Melbourne over a period of a year. Heartfelt lyrics and ace vocals courtesy of The Lucksmiths Tali White, paired with music from a truly collaborative cast including members of The Lucksmiths, Sodastream, Poundsign, The Fairways, The Aislers Set, Red Raku, Art of Fighting, The Killjoys, and Blackeyed Susans. Highlights include the jangling-guitar travelogue "Jet-Set...Go!" which takes in Spain, Yorkshire, Las Vegas and Thailand before its joyous finale in San Francisco..."The Photographer," a strum and bass still life memory of a sea-side moment sung over a loping, looping bass line, with layers of acoustic guitars and frantic drums... and "Siamese Couplets", a lazy hip-hop/pop tune with junky percussion, a soaring chorus and lyrics that attempt to capture the sensory overload of south east Asia while maintaining the distinction of being the first and possibly last song on Matinée to be rapped! From odes to breakfast and London to stripped-back heart breakers and instrumental laments, "Private Transport" is a refreshingly diverse album that exceeds the potential of such a distinguished cadre.

  1. Jet-Set... Go!
  2. The Neatest Hand
  3. Cosmetropolis (London Swings)
  4. Balham Rise
  5. The Photographer
  6. Baggage Handling
  7. Dangerous Safety
  8. What Adults Do
  9. Siamese Couplets
  10. Gravity
  11. A Maze of Greys
  12. Cornflakes
  13. A Faraway Place


Tali White, a member of Australia's best indie pop group, the Lucksmiths, presides over the Guild League. For this record he rounded up friends in Australia and San Francisco, including members of #Poundsign#, the Fairways, the Lucksmiths, Sodastream, and the Aislers Set, among others. It would be very hard for members of so many great bands to make a bad record; in fact they have made a very good one. White has a breathy and pure voice reminiscent of Nick Drake or Colin Blunstone, maybe even Paddy McAloon, very personal and hushed. His songs are reminiscent of the Lucksmiths', obviously, and also the Go-Betweens. They share a wry, observational tone with that legendary group and are filled with little phrases and details that add much pleasure to listening. "Jet-Set..Go!" is a charming travelogue that celebrates White's favorite places, "The Neatest Hand" is an ode to nice handwriting, and "Cornflakes" begins with a few words on the joys of breakfast cereal and goes on to cover winter and the joy of love. The record is chock-full of chiming guitars both electric and acoustic, propulsive rhythms, lovely vocal harmonies, and clever yet simple orchestration. There is a strong balance of dynamics throughout with a nice mix of up-tempo tracks and ballads and even a dazzling near-a cappella tune, the album-closer "A Faraway Place." The only wrong note is "Siamese Couplets," and it is a mild one. Some people may even find Australian-accented rapping charming. At least there is a nice chorus and a trumpet solo -- it's hard to beat a good trumpet solo. Any fan of the Lucksmiths will instantly fall in love with this record, as will fans of the indie pop sound of today. Private Transport is an early favorite for an indie pop best of 2003 list.   --All Music Guide
Do you remember how the Lucksmiths used to sing about 'The great dividing range'? Well - now Tali White (their lead singer) is singing about crossing it. Because 'Private transport' is a record about love and London and the bits in between, and I'm not only saying that because it sounds pretty. In time (I've owned 'Private transport' for almost three months now) I've come to see this record as a collection of poems. They're poems made up of music as well as words - it's not just the lyrics that make each song feel like a perfect hymn to something or other, but the way music gives them life, too. Like that moment in 'Siamese couplets' where the way he says the whole town stops for falling rain is enough to make you imagine it even if you don't know the words. Musically, 'Private transport' is... er... it sounds like... Well, truth be told, it sounds like the Lucksmiths. Not really like them but I've got no other way to describe it other than a looser, funkier, jazzier Lucksmiths. Tali and his friends - and there's a whole lot of them: the Guild League on this record are made up of sixteen people, including members of the Fairways, the Lucksmiths, Sodastream, Poundsign, the Aislers Set, Red Raku, Art of Fighting, the Killjoys, and Blackeyed Susans and yes, that makes them (much as I hate this word) a supergroup... what was I on about? Oh yes! Tali and his friends play around with different musical styles a fair bit: there's a song that I - at least - consider a waltz of sorts ('Cosmetropolis'); an acoustic sort of song that Tali sings like an angel and makes me want to cry ('Balham Rise'); a particularly well-written and oddly but aptly titled instrumental ('Baggage handling'); a song that gives birth to what's been acknowledged as indiepop hip-hop ('Siamese couplets' and, trust me, it's not half as scary as it sounds and actually pretty good). Finally, there's an a cappella gospel that constantly reminds me of the Housemartins when it shouldn't ('A faraway place'). Which, by the way, is not only the closing track of the record but a moment of exceptional, soul-redemptive beauty at that too. Seemingly inspired from the way the waves crash against the shore (sand goes out, wave comes in), it is the sort of song that makes me feel like flying. Lyrically, ‘Private transport’ is a collection of love letters or rather love notes, a travelogue of all the places one can visit on the way from Australia to London and back (which with a round-the-world ticket is pretty much everywhere) and lists of things that describe Tali's life. At least, that’s what I think it is but I have an overactive imagination as you should know by now. In any case, it is beautiful, clever and witty and full of spot-on lines that break my heart that seem to come at least two in every song. From 'small hopes are defeated small battles are won as we swim through the fog and the fear and the feuds because London swings like a lover's moods' to 'nights spent alone walking blind towards home, holding fast to the things we believe in' it paints a colourful and touching picture of a modern life spend around the globe in a way that makes you envy it, and I know someone who claims that this is the mark of a pop genius. No, really.   --Friends of the Heroes
Rock is no stranger to supergroups, but the concept has fallen by the wayside since the late 1970s. Maybe it was the punk influence, which decried any kind of excess while blasting out three chords and the truth, but chances are the massive egos of the individuals involved in most all-star gatherings caused the idea's downfall. For the last true rock supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, Roy Orbison died a few weeks after their first album was released; the unholy alliance of Orbison with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and . . . Jeff Lynne was no more, as was the supergroup compromised of equally famous rock stars. And Jeff Lynne? Whose banana did he have to peel to get that gig? But while those dinosaur megabands are at the point of extinction, a new way to collaborate is taking over the indie music scene. Take one (relatively) unknown songwriter, surround him/her with friends from other bands and watch the magic happen. This strategy worked for Gordon Lightbody and his roving band of Scottish indie musicians -- aka the Reindeer Section, whose delicate, pretty songs over two albums are easy on the ears -- and now it's working for Tali White and his intercontinental band, the Guild League. White, who wrote and sings on every track for the band's debut album Private Transport, employs friends from Australia and California, tapping the Lucksmiths (White's own band), Aisler's Set, the Fairways, and Sodastream, among others, for help. The result is a sometimes quiet, sometimes jangly -- but always engaging -- album that showcases White's talent for breathy vocals and sharp arrangements that just so happen to include 13 other musicians. If the album title isn't warning enough, White's lyrics are obsessed with travel. "Jet set … go" is the album's first single, and jaunts along at a quick pace as White sings about skipping from Spain to London to Vietnam to San Francisco and leaving behind the worries of everyday life: "On the banks of the mighty Mekong with beers / Getting old is the least of my fears". The travelogue-like descriptions may as well be used by the tourist boards for each locale; White paints each stop as the perfect vacation spot. The next stop on the journey is a long stay in London with "Cosmetropolis (London Swings)", complete with a blast of horns and a saloon-ready romp on the piano to help the song live up to its title. A tale about the 9 to 5 life in England's capital city, White longs for spring and summer and Friday nights on the town; he's drawn to the simpler things in life that give so much pleasure. And that is White's other focus throughout the album. Songs such as "Balham Rising", "The Photographer", "Gravity", and "Cornflakes" are celebrations of the everyday happenings that are overlooked. White found a way right to my heart -- a song about the wonders of cereal -- but never tries to be overly cute. His voice gives the songs a calming foundation and never overwhelms the playing of his many friends over the course of 13 songs. White's orchestration is simple but nothing short of inviting. The cello and violin are used liberally, never more beautifully than on the instrumental "Baggage Handling". Another highlight, "A Faraway Place" uses an upright bass and handclaps to abut a cappella interludes and gorgeous vocal harmonies. "Siamese Couplets" features White, uh, rapping in a distinct Australian accent about the joys of Southeast Asia . . . it's a quirky little treat. Private Transport puts forth a fantastic foot forward for the new and improved supergroup concept, and any fan of the Lucksmiths.   --Pop Matters
Some albums evoke a powerful rush of familiarity -- the artist perfectly describes something you've felt or gone through before. Others make you want to get inside them and experience the events they portray. Private Transport is, by turns, each of these. I wouldn't call it a concept album, but it does stick fairly close to two main themes: travel and love. The songs explore various facets of these topics -- traveling with the one you love, missing the one you love while you're away, being nice and cozy with the one you love once you've returned home. The "traveling" parts either remind you of your summer hosteling through (insert foreign continent here) or make you wish you had done it, and the "love" parts are tender without being saccharine, depicting relationships between characters more fully realized than is usual in songs. In "The Neatest Hand", band nucleus Tali White sings about a distant girlfriend's letters: "Goddamn! I love your handwriting / So much I hope you know / That I pore over every word you send me when I go." I'm not sure how autobiographical the lyrics are, but they're very personal. The Guild League is a collaboration of sixteen musicians, a side project of the Lucksmiths' Tali White. It's a loose enough group that its members are listed in the liner notes as "The Guild League, on this record", yet their sound is mature and fully developed. The music on Private Transport often seems to come from the time when producers brought in string sections to record a simple pop song. Jaunty piano, trumpets and brush-played drums in "Cosmetropolis (London Swings)" give the song a seventies-sitcom-theme quality, while the half-step-up whole-step-down progressions and plummy backup "ooh"s in the chorus of "Jet Set...Go!" make it the sonic version of a faded beach-day photograph. As this is gentle, intelligent music, using a diverse array of instruments and both male and female singers with obvious British-sounding accents, the ready comparison would be to Belle and Sebastian. However, The Guild League lack that clinically-depressed streak -- they're eternally optimistic. "Dangerous Safety" breaks from the bulk of the album's major-key cheeriness, and White emotes a bit more. The track's bittersweet chords and lyrics evoke a satisfying melancholy ("A year you've been isolated / Touch made you so elated"). The group continues to surprise right up to the CD's end, displaying their choral chops with a madrigal ("A Faraway Place"). As with many such understated bands, The Guild League can't escape a certain dullness. While contemplative ballads like "Balham Rise" or "Cornflakes" have a quiet beauty and are as comforting as being inside when it's raining, they are naturally overshadowed by the album's more buoyant moments. These songs aren't bad -- they're just not as good as the better ones. Overall, though, Private Transport is a very special record. Don't leave home without it.   --Splendid
Ditto for the Guild League who of course feature various Lucksmiths as well as members of Sodastream, Poundsign, The Fairways, The Aislers Set, Red Raku, Art of Fighting, The Killjoys, and Blackeyed Susans. Lucksmiths' Tali White deals with all the lead vocals on the Private Transport album (Matinée), as indeed he did on the superfine 'Jet Set Go' single that I raved about a while back. The album delivers magnificently on the hopes raised by that single, and really is a gem of a record that swings, sashays and skips through grey urban streets pricked with the hope of Spring, and which, particularly with its eloquent bursts of horn and keyboard recalls the kind of coolly sophisticated Pop made by Vic Godard around the time of, say T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Or, since Tali White's voice is so much more Bert Jansch than Frank Siantra, how about The Guild League as a strange cross-hemisphere Pentangle, and indeed a song like 'The Photographer', with its wonderful lolling bass softly lights up the skies in much the same way 'Light Flight' does every time I hear it. Private Transport is a gorgeous album that holds an enviable arsenal of talent and texture, and is certainly one of the delights of the year so far.   --Tangents
The Guild League honcho Tali White sings and drums in Aussie troubadours The Lucksmiths. Tali's set is a warm-sounding, brass-, string- and organ-embellished affair that recalls certain moments of late 60s/early 70s Kinks records, but played by Melbournian indie types in the here and now.   --The Big Takeover Magazine
All hail the mighty Guild League—all 16 of them—for bringing fun back into indie rock! Seriously though, these guys give something rarely seen in the underground scene: a little swing, a little flourish, and the feeling that they know they’re making you dance. As Pavement proved for years, having a little attitude in your indie is fine, as long as you back it up with some serious songwriting chops. The Guild League do just that and more, taking the listener on a bumpy boat ride through a CD with the vocals of a Belle & Sebastian but the moxy of Jarvis Cocker. What could be a novelty act turns into a surprisingly cohesive effort—even the nearly a cappella “A Faraway Place” works in its own way. The Guild League roll the dice, and come up snake eyes nearly every time on this impressive debut. Your hipster friends might make fun when they hear it, but they’ll be at the record store the next morning—count on it.   --Shredding Paper
For those who haven't obtained The Guild League's Private Transport, do yourself a favour and mark down the music shop or bookmark the website of your favourite mail order retailer selling this album as your immediate next stop. The album is one of the best releases in a long while, boasting a diverse musical range of talents that features members of the Aislers Set, Poundsign, Fairways etc. Marshalled by the immensely talented vocalist from the best guitarpop combo in Australia today, Tali White of the Lucksmiths has managed to fuse all 13 songs into a musically cohesive collection that stays close to its central theme of travelling. Sweet refrains of love rejuvenated woven alongside forlorn melodies of withering hopes while traversing across the oceans. Just like Alain de Botton's wonderful compendium dealing with a somewhat similar issue in the book, "The Art of Travel", Private Transport seeks to probe into that familiar enigma of how one's perplexing thoughts about life and the people around you never quite leave you even as one is physically displaced in a faraway place. On the contrary, one's very presence in a place assumed to be a serene getaway somehow magnifies the very issues that you are seeking a temporal reprieve from. Private Transport is like a reliable compass tracking a pensive mind in a state of flux. "Tired and frozen the path we've chosen it seems like a circular maze...incubating the plans that we've laid. across oceans and nations airports and bus stations eventual connections are made. and nights spent alone walking blind towards home holding fast to the things we believe in. like this dream I can't shake.... - A Maze In Greys" Tali is undoubtedly one of the most witty and perspicacious lyricists in the world today. Roll down the honour scrolls please: his name should be inscribed in gold ink flowing from a gilded pen. As one reviewer puts it, even cynics will be swayed: "your hipster friends might make fun when they hear it, but they'll be at the record store the next morning - count on it". Little wonder that some already consider Private Transport as a strong contender for one of 2003's best albums.   --Peekaboo