Peter Bibby is finally back with his second studio album, Grand Champion. It’s been a few years between albums for the local Freo rapscallion, having released just a few standalone singles since his 2014 breakthrough debut Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician. In Grand Champion he has served up a treat for our ears and souls to devour.
Bibby’s mode is equal parts indie rock, alt country and new folk, but possibly the most recognisable and characteristic thing about him, which is consistent in Grand Champion, is the undeniably Australian style of singing, songwriting and story telling that is both self-effacing, brutally straight up and honest. No metaphors or symbols here folks, Bibby tells it how it is. And that is not to say his writing isn’t literary, it is, it’s just deceptively so. It’s this kind of slacker, laid back charm and style we have come to know and love, so it may come as a surprise to learn that Grand Champion is not chok-a-block with cheeky folk songs, but instead is full of longer tracks with a wide array of musical elements and genres.
The album is extremely rounded and cohesive, with different components, textures, styles and paces used to create intriguing soundscapes and divergent subjects are hashed out throughout its entirety, making it a more far reaching album. In Grand Champion, Bibby still allows his humour and storytelling to be the nucleus of the music, with that familiar speak-sing voice, but there is also a lot of detail and study in the album, albeit, done with a nonchalant, organic approach.
The album opens with the nearly six minute long track Palm Springs, a trundling ode to complete absorption and obsession with someone, reflecting on that feeling of being so in love you want to inhabit someone’s very being. The song rolls along easily, with beautifully toned country guitar and piano. It’s a good indication for the rest of the album – well thought out, classic but with touches of electronics, revolving feedback, weird tinkering sounds and creative key changes. It marks a confident step forward for Bibby and showcases his arrangement and writing prowess.
When it gets to song two, Medicine, it’s back to the Bibby we know and love; jangly little singalongs that have the wit and quip of a comedian and the familiarity of an old friend (and Medicine does in fact date back to before his first album). It’s definitely here where Bibby is strongest, and not because other songs on the album lack for anything, but simply because songs such as Medicine are just so damn great. It’s how he summarises the mundane, something everyone can relate to, and makes it sound interesting, that you can’t help but smile along to with a smug, knowing little smirk.
Likewise for Pissbird Flowertruck, where the violin and Johnny Cash-esque country rhythms brilliantly juxtapose against the fun, lighthearted and trivialising lyrics. There is also some cacophonic sounds, some yahooing, kissing sounds and a mass tangle of strings. If this song doesn’t tell you, nothing will – the guy is in love and he is pretty stoked about it. Work for Arseholes and Fuck Me put some social observation pep on the album whilst Wake Up Hungry serves up some more straight up indie rock n roll with swirling guitar and piercing feedback. Final track Hippies is a slow, steady track complete with ukulele and beautiful harmonies – a lovely, obscure finish to a triumphant album.
The album’s country and folk stylings are also reflected on the album cover; a man on horseback coming across a laid out man and his guitar. It looks like something straight out of a Clint Eastwood film. This genre may not be for everyone, and it’s not exactly in vogue, but you have to give kudos to the man for doing things his way and doing them well. The result is a brilliant, shimmering, defiant album that does more than enough to keep the listener on their toes.