AOTW Review :: Big Scary ‘Not Art’

July 1st 2013

Most albums try to make a statement, but Big Scary’s new album asks a big, fat question…

The Melbourne duo approached their second album without any artistic intention, then named it Not Art. And yet, they readily admit the album is indeed a work of art. Tom Iansek (vocals, guitar, vox) and Jo Symes (drums, vocals) are challenging the label ‘artist’, by engaging the listener in an internal debate led by the question, “What is art?”

Iansek says their album cover “makes you question who the artist is in that work: mother nature or the photographer?” Big Scary’s redefined approach to songwriting asks a similar question: does music belong to the artists making it, or the musical world that makes them possible?

Not Art marks a reinvention of the Big Scary sound with a newfound prominence of piano and harmony, supported by subtleties of synth, brass and strings. Iansek’s solo work under the moniker Dads introduces a folk influence, while Symes’ newfound hip hop rhythm, somehow brings it together to create something unique.

The duo have left behind the rock-heavy sounds of their debut, Vacation, to find a more emotive sound, bearing resemblances to Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors. Like those artists, the album came to life in New York, and was mixed by Grammy Award winning Tom Elmhirst (of Black Keys and Amy Winehouse fame).

The questioning begins with opener ‘Hello, My Name is’ hitting every beat with fuzzy guitar and jarring cymbals, and prompting the question “how can this be a song?” Then you’re a struck with a chord progression, rapid vocals, and perfectly matched percussion. Instantly, it all makes sense.

The second single of Not Art, ‘Luck Now,’ explores a newfound intimacy.

As the album progresses, so does the band’s experimentation. A diversity of genres and influences are brought together in the singles ‘Phil Collins’ and ‘Luck Now,’ a track whose repititious “it’s just called repetition re-done” hints to the band’s reworking of the past to create something original.

The standout has to be ‘Twin Rivers’, a song that leads a delicate piano intro into a solid wall of synth, harmony, drum and string. The solemn chant, “this is my idea of fun”, suggests we may be lucky enough to hear more of this sound.

The band has also reinvented the naming of songs. Admitting their evocatively named ‘Why hip hop sucks in ’13’, is supported by no such sentiments for the genre. Rather, the song pays homage to an influential hip hop artist they want the listener to discover. Compared to other tracks, the song actually uses few hip hop elements; instead, it features gospel singers and a string arrangement.

This album asks a lot of questions, but doesn’t provide many answers. It forces you to consider “What is Art?” and “What is Not Art?” Reward yourself with a listen, and make up your own mind…

Not Art was FBi’s Album of the Week 21 -28 June 2013


Who :: Big Scary

Where :: The Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville

When :: Friday, 30th August from 8pm

How Much :: $20 +BF – Get Tix


Big Scary | AOTW


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