An unfortunately eclectic sound
About 6 years ago one of my favourite bands was george. This band of five: Nick, Paulie B, Geoff and sibling singers Katie and Tyrone Noonan developed a sound that was at first embedded in progrock and jazz and went on to a more nuanced unique style.
Over some years they released three EPs. One self-titled which was only available when you attended gigs. The next two, You Can Take What’s Mine, and Bastard Son/ Holiday, are probably what started a strong underground following and this was when I first heard them. I was listening to radio station JJJ’s Hottest 100 and the songs “Spawn” and “Bastard Song” grabbed me.
I think it was perhaps the first time I’d heard both a male and female lead singer in the band, who seemed to divvy up between themselves the songs they’d written.
I quickly snapped up the two available EPs and saw them live at my first music festival (in fact it was my first gig or concert too) Homebake just after I’d graduated High School, the day before my schoolies trip were set to leave our Sydney homes for Brisbane (funnily enough where george came from).
Next came the Special Ones single and I was still absorbing (in particular) Katie Noonan’s lush voice. However unlike the rock sound of You Can Take What’s Mine the band seemed to be moving towards a softer sound. Their edge moving from the bashing out on the guitar to a punchiness to their vocals. It wasn’t a bad sound, don’t get me wrong. It was pleasantly assertive against the sweeping soulful orchestral sound that was starting to come through.
Though a few reacted against this, deciding to abandon the band before their debut album came out I couldn’t resist them.
By the time the album was released I’d heard half the songs on the album and they were overplayed on the radio to the point of near boredom. I still like their debut album Polyserena but I couldn’t help but get a little sick of it.
And I wasn’t the only one. JJJ stopped playing them (except for perhaps one token song off the second album), the underground following disintergrated and was replaced by mainstream listeners who found the radiofriendly pop appealing.
In fact a few seemingly naive girls sang Katie Noonan’s songs, “Special Ones,” about empowerment and strumming up the courage to leave abusive relationships, in their auditions for Australian Idol. One teenage girl even confused “Special Ones” with Missy Higgins’s “Special Two.”
In another episode of Australian Idol Katie Noonan showed up to help some the contestants with their singing. I think this was when I started seeing this lead singer, in particular, going towards a completely different sound. One which might be overproduced and overhyped, and nothing at all like their humble beginnings and meangingful attitude.
To Katie’s credit she, and her band members, are not snobs and never will be. Unlike a lot of bands with massive egos they’ll play for all their listeners and appreciate everyone that listens to them, whether they be mainstream radio listeners or those with more selective tastes.
It’s worth noting that these guys are not about money and never will be. My friend and I went and saw george live out the front of the Opera house for free because I was a member of their fan forum. That’s the kind of attitude this band has.
Their second album didn’t deviate too far from their sound and I actually found it more appealing than the debut because it was more focussed and they really utilised the orchestra they’d brought in to fill out their sound. The only drawback is the simplisticity of their lyrics, usually endearing but in the case of political songs just moralising.
Since the disappointing response of their second album they’ve all gone off to do side projects. Elixir, with members Nick Stewart, Katie Noonan and her (now) husband Isaac Hurren, is a gorgeous soft jazz acoustic style of music. I didn’t hear much of the others.
Katie Noonan is about to release her own album. At first I thought this could be cool. Finally hearing her voice centre stage, conducting it the way she wants. She always talked about how she wanted to put forward an eclectic sound, explorative, where she’d be everyday learning what sounds work for her and what don’t. For a lot of artists this approach pays off.
But I think in this case Katie’s sound suffers. If you take a look at her myspace you can see just what direction her sound has gone in: here
“Quiet Day” is not quite as overproduced as “Time to Begin” but that’s probably because it’s one of her older songs (from the “Breathe In Now” single, released from the debut album). However “Time to Begin” sounds like a rattle in a tin. Seems like Katie has relaxed a little and sung into a mic and let someone do the rest on a computer.
Highly disappointing considering how talented she is on the piano.
george are on a break at the moment but hopefully when they’re working together again they’ll return to form.
If nothing else you can’t help but admire some of their influences. On their Special Ones single Katie and Ty sung together a cover of the Church’s Under the Milky Way
*Bonus* george – She Smiles
You can buy george music from their website