The Apartments – No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal

I had to review this record, I just had to put it to paper, put it out there; if twenty people hunt this record down after reading this, well then, they’ll send it forward to another twenty, and the cycle continues.

This record deserves a continuation, a place in decent record collections.

This is the 5th album by The Apartments, and hands up, it’s the first I’ve heard. It’s that Southern Hemisphere thing when bands just don’t push through or crack markets. Signed to Rough Trade in 1984 the band have released four albums prior to this, with some very notable success in sales and tours in France. But for the most part, widespread commercial success has eluded them.

Formed in 1978 by Peter Milton Walsh, a former guitar player in the Go-Betweens, in Brisbane Australia, Mick O’Connell, Peter Whitby and Peter Martin make up the remains of what has essentially been the same band since 1978.

The emotional core and back story of this record rests around the death in 1999 of Walsh’s at the time 3 yr old son from a rare auto immune disorder, he fought the disease for two years but the battle was futile.

No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal became the lament of his sons life, his therapy, his release; it’s just that he seemed to be writing with the intention of never ever sending them out into the world, for his own listening only so to speak. In 2007 he began stepping out into the public arena again with some low key shows.

A chance meeting with a young French singer, Natasha Penot, who’d previously covered his work resulted in the recording of one of the songs he’d kept hidden, one from the notebook, and ‘Black Ribbon’ was released as a 7″ single in 2011. Late in 2013 work began on the record that became No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal with Wayne Connolly, a Sydney producer, at the controls.

There’s an undeniable sense of pain on the surface of this record, an emotional investment no Artist should really ever have to make, theres a Brisbane post punkness to it, there’s a Bacharach arrangements magic to it.

There is an incredible spine tingling reality and sense of loss from ‘Twenty One’ with descriptions of birthdays never to be had, wedding photos never to be seen, memories never shared. ‘September Skies’ could have been lifted off the Go-Betweens 16 Lovers Lane, it has it all. It’s heartbreaking, it’s beautiful, its uplifting, affirming, and it’s as I said, an emotional investment beyond any belief.

I’ve spent now I’d say, three weeks solid with this record in my ears, I’ve had tracks on repeat for hours, I will listen to this record for the rest of my life, it will conjure up the same emotions every time, I know it will, I’m sorry I missed this record in 2015, but I have it for life now, and to put that into context the last record I’ve had such a strong emotional investment in was ‘Hats’ by The Blue Nile.

Listen to record, invest in it, take the time, take the deep breaths with him, walk the paths he’s walked with him. You’ll be better for it.

There’s a payback deal written deep in the genetics of this record.

Listen to it, send it on. Please send it on.

Words by Patrick Barrett