Nothing Without You EP - Carney [Review]

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Nov 29 2009, 7:07


Nothing Without You

Carney are one of the few bands from the 00s (and by that I mean originating in the 00s, not just continuing into them) that I can really get into. No surprises that they have a pure heavy classic-rock sound, but for them it sounds organic and natural, definitely not an attempt to cash in on nostalgia or just ape other bands (I was going to put in a jab at Wolfmother here, but I haven't heard enough of either them or Zeppelin for it to be warranted. Hell, why should that stop me, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, WOLFMOTHER). The band itself is tight and powerful, and it's all drawn together by the sometimes-ethereal sometimes-raw always-genuine vocals of Reeve Carney, brother of lead guitarist Zane. No, I don't know what their parents were thinking either. And in other news, Reeve has just been cast as Spiderman in the Broadway musical I believe, so yay for him.

This EP is just four songs, but they are all high-quality and diverse enough for me to have high hopes for an LP soon enough.

1. Nothing Without You
2. Imperial Lover
3. There She Goes
4. Testify

Nothing Without You is the song that drew me in, and is probably still my favourite if I am forced to choose. It opens the EP with a barely-controlled yell of

I'm NOTHING! WITHOUT! YOU!

and then after a moment of quiet the song settles into its rhythm, mellow and understated, vocals cool and breathy except for those few moments where there is nothing for it but to howl. I feel like I need to know a lot more about music to be able to explain how great this song is. It's atmospheric, with a steady cymbal-heavy drumbeat, and guitars working around the spaces in the song. It's one of those songs where everything just does exactly what it needs to do without standing out above any other part. The lead up to the ending is fantastic, where the drums finally get a hammering before it ends just as it began.

Sometimes
I'm kinda surprised
You kept me alive
This long

I will be your lover
Holding you close to my heart
And forever
I will endeavour to show
Oh that I will be
Your lover


Imperial Lover opens quietly, with the vocals at centre stage again.

Imperial lover
I didn't know this was the way it was gonna be
We're pulling me under
All that it was
Is nothing but a memory


Something I tend to not realise is how good the lyrics to these songs are. They're not exceptional, of course, and the content isn't anything out of the ordinary, but they have a poetry and a flow that I haven't found in many places. The strongest thing about them is the way they meld effortlessly with the music around them, so that most of the time I don't notice a particular instrument, or the words he's saying, but I just hear the sound they have made with the combination. This song doesn't even really have a high point like Nothing Without You had, but it is captivating as a whole.

There She Goes runs with a classic theme and does it flawlessly: that of the everyboy watching the unattainable female, and dreaming about what they could be together, but without the courage to make a move.

There she goes
Once again
She's the kind of girl who'll drive a poor boy insane
As she strolls
Down the lane
Every word prepared eludes my heart can't explain

Maybe this time I'll be brave and tell her how I feel
Oooh, there she goes
You know I think it's time
I let her know
Oooh, there she goes
I don't think I can wait
Another day...


The chorus and the bridge both rise above the gentle verses, the boy psyching himself up out of his admiration, trying to find the nerve to go up to her. There is a wider variety of instruments (as far as I can tell, there's underlying organ, occasional flute and some form of strings in addition to the regular crew), and impeccable female backing vocals that come in at the high points and lift the song to a whole new level. Every note is considered, and though the guitar is nowhere near the front of the mix, on closer listening it is one of the greatest parts of the song. From a high point it shuts down pretty quickly, with descending ooohs and guitar, leading in to the five-minute closer:

Testify is a pure heavy blues-rock jam, complete with heavy guitars, extended jams, solid drums and a bassline I can't hear very well with my un-awesome headphones. The vocals are rougher for the most part as well, but not without that same haunting quality.

I just wanna listen to your heartbeat
Tell your people that you're still alive
There ain't nothin' sweeter than your mercy
I will testify


The strongest parts are without lyrics, where they just play. For the first half it just rocks hard, then there is an almost psychedelic section, complete with wordless wailing, both from the voicebox and the guitars, which settle down into silence. The intro repeats itself after this, with the opening lyrics all but acapella:

I don't wanna have to learn the hard way
I don't wanna fall along the side
Why'd I keep on learning I was (???)
I will testify.


Then the same thing, genuinely acapella.

Then the same trick as in Nothing Without You, but out of complete silence, and accompanied by the crash of the whole band coming back in.

It's ALL! for you
Gonna do it all for you
I'm gonna give it all for you
Gonna do it all for
You.


And the thing is done.

These four songs, in less than fifteen minutes, take me to another place. One of those pasts-that-never-was, or a world-that-could-never-be, where everything is heightened and means so much more than it does in this dreary reality. This band plays music like it's the reason they are still breathing. Reeve has incredible presence in the music, not just on stage, and I hope he stays a musician rather than heading more into acting, because I am selfish and greedy.

The one other song they have out officially, Love Me Chase Me is of course nowhere to be found in Australia, but I have used my extreme research skills to unearth it on a secret music website called "youtube". I had no idea about the whole circus theme either, but then I learned that for some reason they had access to the Carnivale sets at HBO, so I guess that's why. Warning: TIGER

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