You know Giggs? Yes, as in the rapper. Nowadays he’s all about drinking cinnamon tea with Drake, but back at the start of the career he was a proper hard-nosed MC who made tough, nasty street-rap. However, because he came from England rather than the United States, his bars were also full of the humorous everyday tit-for-tat one found in grime.
One of his early singles, 2008’s ‘Uummm!’, is notable for two reasons. The first is that it cemented one of Giggs’ catchphrases, which is basically him just grunting loudly on-beat ('uhhngh!'). The second is that features an all-time great lyric; ‘Hollow Meets Blade and that Ard sh*t/Came up from the dirt like a parsnip’.
‘Came up from the dirt like a parsnip’ is the sort of thing that lodges in your brain for life and influences all of your subsequent interactions with the word ‘parsnip’. As such, it’s hard for this Norman Records™ chum-swiller to listen to 'When The Tree Bears Fruit', the debut LP from Australian band Parsnip, with fresh ears.
Sure, this is an album of charming twee-punk in the vein of Girlpool or The Courtneys. Yeah, songs like ‘Lift Off!’ render positivity in melody in a manner that Jonathan Richman would be proud of. Of course, it’s a winning opening gambit from a group that we’re rooting for.
But you know what? On every single one of these indie-pop ditties I’m just waiting for someone to barge up to the mic, shout out the SN1 crew and then launch into a verse of Dracula-voiced gutter-rap. And until we get Giggs to reprise his verse from ‘Uummm!’ over one of Parsnip’s summery jangles, this Norman Records™ text-chump won’t be able to sleep easy in his bed.
Parsnip, Hollowman, you know what to do. Uhhngh!
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Consider the humble parsnip. Eternally doomed to be mistaken for the potato, yet still it persists on our plate. Why? Because it is imbibed with a dogged determination that we should all learn from. Parsnip (the band, not the vegetable) shares this characteristic. Their new album 'When The Tree Bears Fruit' is a colourful, nostalgic trip into the most blissed-out side of proto-punk.
'When The Tree Bears Fruit' is a really whimsical charming album. There are a few elements that just really endear it to me. I love how 'Lighthouse Beacon' stops so suddenly you think that your ghettoblaster has conked out again and I love the almost-childlike vocals that pepper the album. I'm constantly reminded of nursery rhymes, with its sickly sweet melodies, slightly out of tune singing, and creepy lyrics like "little sprout shooting out the ground". At times it really does sound like kids are singing these songs. It's completely weird but in the best way possible.
Although the instrumentation, surf guitar, meat and potatoes bass and drums, and Modern Lovers-y organ, remains pretty familiar, the arrangements are kept fresh by rhythm changes, intricate song structures, and dissonance. I like how they've adapted the kaleidoscopic Californian psych sound but always kept it in check with a solid rhythm.
Parsnip have all the charming qualities of 'Paper Mâché Dream Balloon' by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Daniel Johnston's entire oeuvre, and the Ballet's 'Matchy Matchy'. They should be writing jingles, scoring films, and appearing on the Jonathan Ross Show. I can't wait to hear what they do next.
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