Tex Perkins & The Dark Horses (Dark Horse/Inertia)

A quick scan of the songs titles gives an indication of what’s in store here…What Do You Want Now?, Looking At You But Seeing Her, Won’t Last Long, You Haunt Me, Easier Without You and…Things Don’t Seem So Bad After All. From the sounds of it, this collection of 14 songs is the documentation of a destructive relationship as seen through the eyes of one of the (self) destructive participants.

Australian Tex Perkins makes music in the grand tradition of such wounded souls as Nick Cave, Greg Dulli, The Eels and Johnny Cash, who he is currently playing in the stage show The Man In Black. (due to play in Auckland July 15th)

Perkins has, over the years, fronted The Cruel Sea, The Beasts Of Bourbon and collaborated with Don Walker (Cold Chisel) and Tim Rogers (You Am I). The Dark Horses first appeared around the turn of the decade, but by 2006 Perkins had declared them to exist “no more”.

Well, they’re back, and I’m glad they are. The 6-piece band consists of Perkins, long-time collaborator Charlie Own, Murray Paterson and Joel Silbersher along with new members Steve Hadley (bass) and Gus Agars (drums). Agars turns out to be a welcome addition, his rickety percussion contribute a welcome energy to tracks that could otherwise become moribund and dreary.

But as good as the playing is here (including occasional cello, violin and pedal steel); it’s Perkins’ lyrics that make this album special. He starts with the resigned What Do You Want Now? In which he points out to his partner, “I’ve done everything you asked me to, there’s nothing left for me to do”, and later, “You changed my mind so many times it’s hard to find which one’s mine”. The bitterness and anger that creeps into his songs remains throughout the album.

The singer is not simply pointing fingers at the other party however. There’s plenty of room for self-loathing and self-pity. As he points out in So Much Older, “well it won’t make no difference who takes the blame coz there’s so much distance between the words we exchange”. Resignation and acceptance finally kick in on Necessary Evil, “we are who we are, let’s face it, we love who we love, we can’t help it.” This mini soap opera ending fittingly with Things Don’t Seem So Bad…After All, but that same anger, bitterness and resentment that was apparent at the beginning of the album still seems to lurk just beneath the surface insuring that there will no doubt be another chapter added to this story.

This is songwriting at its most honest and gut wrenching. Perkins seems to be saying what all of us have undoubtedly wanted to at one time or another. That’s what makes these songs so effective and so moving. A minor masterpiece.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Looking At You But Seeing Her