There’s a little bit of everything on this record. The latest solo offering from the brother half of brother-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, Smoking Gun was recorded in 2008 in an old water tank and released under the pseudonym Lady of the Sunshine.
The first few tracks begin rather familiarly, with the same acoustic folk sounds and imagery that brought Angus and Julia so much coverage back in the days of their earlier releases.
Lady of the Sunshine brings, quite aptly, those same summer sounds but with some fresh twists on the topics of sun-kissed love and lazy long-hour days. It’s hard not to feel a little bit in love with Silver Revolver and Home Sweet Home as you hum along to them.
White Rose Parade brings a turn of the table, and with the aid his old man’s telecaster, allows Angus to deliver a grungier track in the vein of blues infused surf-rock type anthems. Not surprisingly then (though maybe it was just the treatment of the vocals on this track), there was something very The Beautiful Girls about this little tune.
Following this was the mostly too blatant Jack Nimble, being laden with lazy-type appropriations of the nursery rhyme of the same name. As an effort to retell the story as a modern moral cautionary tale, I found this one a little hard to swallow and a little too didactic to be an easy enough listen. Or maybe that was just the point. Either way, while I can appreciate the folk/fable mentality behind Jack Nimble, I can say without hesitation it’s definitely not one of my favorites. This, plus a distortion guitar solo that I found a little at odds with the rest of what was going on.
Big Jet Plane and Daisy Chain settle down again into familiar ground, the former which could be cousin to Paper Aeroplane off Angus and Julia’s 2006 EP Chocolates & Cigarettes – and not only because of obvious title similarities.
Like White Rose Parade, the title track Smoking Gun, moves towards a heavier sounding aesthetic, even though the arrangements are kept simple enough.
The direction of the album ripens in tracks like The Wolf and Anna where Angus reconciles his obvious folk abilities and with his more recent rock sensibilities. This skewing of more conventional genres sees Anna not without similarities to the investigational sounds of the Vines 2004 release, Winning Days (sounds like a stretch, I know. Just trust me).
Kings Black Magic reintroduces the beast (from 2007’s A Book Like This) and I get the feeling that this one may have been on the back burner for a while. It’s kind of like a B-side track with the insertion of a genre-relevant (read: rock) chorus, but as I’m not one to argue with recurring themes and imagery it didn’t bother me.
Dead Man’s Train is a folk-like ballad that’s incredibly easy on the ears, and at the same time pretty melancholy, whilst Lady Sunshine is similarly revealing, bittersweet and a really nice ease out for the record. There’s a little more optimism to this one than to Dead Man’s Train, and I’d say on that note I’m also feeling pretty optimistic about the future of Lady of the Sunshine beyond this debut release.
Though there are a few small kinks in the consistency of the thing, there aren’t many bad words to go around. I’d say I’m pretty keen on it actually; it might be due for another spin already.