For Fans Of
Amends flew under my radar until this second album was about to drop. I didn’t know their 2019 debut LP, ‘So Far From Home‘, existed until a week ago, before Amends‘ latest body of work arrived, and retroactively sought it out. By contrast, ‘Tales Of Love, Loss, And Outlaws‘ is on a whole other level than their previous full-length: it’s more ambitious and realised. These 11 tracks are bursting with heart, suburban blues, vintage rock filters, tighter songwriting, better hooks, and a deeper sense of maturity and life-lived commentary than what Amends have shared before. This is a warm and fuzzy mix of chorus-driven alt-rock, story-telling folk, lively working-class punk, and even some country, just minus the racist baggage. Think The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, Murder By Death, The Menzingers and Chuck Ragan coming together to score a Western classic out of Western Sydney.
If you’re a fan of the artists mentioned above, then you’ll be in very familiar territory with the songwriting that propels ‘Tales Of Love, Loss, And Outlaws‘ forward. Yet what lends Amends and this sophomore some actual identity than just well-intentionally recreating their favourite artists and composers is that third part, “Outlaws”. For over the course of this lovely record are resounding, ear-worming spaghetti-western tracks with loud ringing guitars and marching rhythmic patterns that sound like the score to a bloody final stand, a tense stand-off between gunslingers, or a horse-back bandit on the run from the law. Some may think that that’s a little tacky or a bit corny, but thankfully, this isn’t their review: it’s mine, and I dig that shit. Yee, and I cannot stress this enough, haw.
The rapidly-paced and eagle-eyed ‘The Medicine Is The Drink‘ is the first whiskey-dunked taste of this style before the hastening tempos and dynamic country folk-rock of ‘White Bear Lake‘ hits, slowly growing from slide-guitar quiet to circle-pitting punk action. Then there’s the slow and solemn rattlesnake, ‘I Gave My Heart Away a Long Time Ago,’ with soft crooning, percussive rolls, bassist Ellen Tamp’s violin playing, fluttering cello parts from Sarah Balliet (Murder By Death), and a recurring plucked acoustic-guitar figure. Put this trio on when you next engage in cowboy shenanigans in Red Dead Redemption 2. That heartland-rock vibe bleeds into album-closer ‘Willingly Return To Darkness,’ which plays out as a happy medium between the different styles Amends blend and an acceptance of the things about yourself that you can’t change. To head back into that dark place of one’s own volition. These four songs I enjoyed the most in my time with ‘Tales of Love, Loss, And Outlaws‘; Ennio Morricone would be proud. But that isn’t to say the remaining seven are meh or bad. Far from it!
‘Fighting A Losing Battle‘ is a choice opener, a strong first foot put forward by the band for any returning ears or fresh faces, really highlighting their knack for quality refrains and how far they’ve come in two years; a commentary on warring against the passing of time as your twenty’s come to an end. Amends clearly adore Against Me!, so it makes sense and is a real win for the group that Laura Jane Grace herself features on the melodic folk-punk anthem, ‘Walking Backwards,’ duetting with frontman Luke McDonald. It’s a fist-pumping, endearing weekend number that features a nice little harmonica melody for good measure. ‘Everything Is Gone‘ starts off with a moody mid-tempo riff that sounds like it’s been pulled straight from a less macabre, unreleased Alkaline Trio deep cut, but with an Amends spin on it, and that’s no bad thing. The sun-bathed and self-reflective ‘What Else Would I Do With Myself‘ is bright and soulful enough to keep you nice and toasty during the coming Aussie winter, and the shimmering, delay-soaked guitars in ‘It’s Been Heaven Knowing You‘ was beautiful.
I love when artists give a convenient album title that perfectly summarises what their record will deal its lyrical hand in. ‘Tales Of Love, Loss, And Outlaws’ communicates exactly that, with these 11 songs encompassing all three of those aspects as a collection of short stories, layering together both the personal and the fictitious. It’s about the things we love, that which we lose and can’t change, and the things that we desperately hold on to; that which we fight for. While I might not be into every song on offer (hello ‘I’m Not The One That’s Lost’), and while the record may drag its heels a tiny bit in the second half, there’s some real gold here. In pulling heavily from Against Me!, The Menzingers, The Gaslight Anthem, Murder By Death, and Chuck Ragan, and with added spaghetti-Western resonance and drive, Amends achieve this theme wonderfully. Resulting in a somewhat unoriginal, definitely familiar but nonetheless honest and lovely folk-punk and alt-country experience. A great example of a band really pushing themselves and brilliantly recalibrating their sound. With ‘Tales Of Love, Loss, And Outlaws,’ Amends are one of the most interesting bands in Australia right now.
1. Fighting a Losing Battle
2. Walking Backwards feat. Laura Jane Grace
3. I’m Not the One That’s Lost
4. This One, for Example, Is About Grief
5. The Only Medicine Is Drink
6. It’s Been Heaven Knowing You
7. White Bear Lake 03:29 8. Everything Is Gone
9. What Else Would I Do With Myself
10. I Gave My Heart Away a Long Time Ago feat. Sarah Balliet
11. Willingly Return to Darkness
‘Tales Of Love, Loss, And Outlaws’ is out now: