About Joe – the latest EP by gifted Australian singer/songwriter and guitarist, Brendan McMahon, is another fine release in his growing catalog. The Melbourne artist teamed up again with a batch of Australia’s most brilliant musical “gods,” for this amazing collection of travel-driven songs that go all over the map like an exotic musical trip. This is an EP that plays like an album, which is the mark of a truly great effort to make every song count. If there’s a part two in the waiting, it’s welcomed here, after hearing this colossal EP. It’s that good, and all that’s left is to describe the songs.
The EP kicks off with the slightly esoteric sounds of “Home” and it’s an instant breath of fresh air to hear. Make no mistake, Brendan is a folk artist but with a strong pop element to carry his messages. This is a great opener to get the set going, but there’s also a theme to follow with these five songs, and this one is a power pop ballad about a trip he took to China, and it describes the scenery when looking out the window at 4a.m. and reflecting about being a long way from home. The EP shows all promise once this epic song sinks in, and it prepares you for the rest of a good thing.
“Fall Down” is an appropriate follow-up to the opener, done with a slightly faster tempo and groove but in the same narrative tradition. It has a double entendre going with the lyrics but essentially covers the subject of rebuilding, using a home’s foundation as a metaphor for falling-down. As if the home is talking to its owners about needing repair. This is a more interesting track than the opener, but everything on this EP plays on equally solid ground. Musically speaking beyond the lyrics, the first two tracks show little to none of his excellent guitar skills because the songs don’t call for it.
This is where things take an interesting turn in the vocal department, and not only that, it gets more comprehensive in structure as well. The narrative feel of the EP picks up on this, the title subject matter “Gentleman Joe.” This follows a more spiritual vibe than the previous two tracks, and the female backing vocals take it over the top. It’s about being conditioned to “overlook all the good there is to see.” This is a very strong track, mostly for the vocal prowess and slightly religious storyline. It goes the distance to inspire the listener and keeps the flow of the music going, as he tells things from the character of Joe’s perspective as the song fades away.
After such a mind blowing track, things get yet even more different on “Doctor” with its low register vocals that take you by surprise at this stage of the EP. Many different things start to happen with this song, to indicate just how well rounded of a musician Brendan McMahon really is, especially if you’ve not heard any of his previous work, which I had not. The chorus picks up with a slightly higher-pitched vocal, and that makes way for some fantastic incendiary guitar fills and a blazing solo that show another side of the artist. This track proves altogether how good his guitar and singing skills really are on this killer EP.