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MEDIA: Reviews: Tickety Boo

Tickety Boo

by Noel Mengel - Courier Mail (Brisbane)

4 stars

STEPHEN CUMMINGS is like that old weatherboard house you always fancied in your street. Architectural fashions and coats of paint come and go but that house is still looking good. And the craftsmanship in the construction is of a kind that's harder to find these days. All of his albums are good but Tickety Boo - his 15th solo studio set - is exceptional. It's a little more detailed in arrangement than some of his recent work but always tastefully so. In guitarist Billy Miller he has found a foil to match Andrew Pendlebury, who worked with him in The Sports and on some of his solo albums. The album is dedicated to Cummings' mum who died this year and he has done her proud. Songs like Here She Comes and Happy City are examples of the vigour running through the performances; the country-tinged (as per Van Morrison or The Rolling Stones) Great Stereo could have passed muster as a Sports single. And his love of rockabilly fuels the Buddy Holly wonder of Kiss Me Honey. Eyes Lock: Heart Stops is gentle, jazzy, you could imagine it floating from that house on your street on a summer night. And the thumping Bob Hope: the Death of Vaudeville and Television is another example of Cummings finding interesting subjects in popular culture. Cummings is one of the best singers we have and one of our most under-valued songwriters. Tickety Boo finds him in great form, the house still sturdy while plenty of others around it have been consigned to landfill.

Tickety Boo

by Shaun Carney - The Age (Melbourne), 13 November 2009

4 stars

Stephen Cummings' recent recorded output is proof you're never too old to learn new ways. Three years ago and into his fourth decade as a vocalist and songwriter, he applied himself for the first time to the guitar, getting virtuoso friends such as Jeff Burstin to help develop his technique. It revolutionised Cummings' musical approach, as evidenced by the complex, unpredictable melodic structures that ran through last year's Happiest Man Alive. Cummings' greater facility as an instrumentalist has also liberated his voice. On Tickety Boo, Cummings variously belts, croons, croaks and free associates; the occasionally mannered restrained style employed in the past is nowhere to be found and producer Billy Miller regularly applies studio treatments to the vocals as well. Cummings inhabits a wide variety of personae in these songs: there's the distracted, sardonic stoner finding himself at a party on Great Stereo; the exasperated cultural critic on the high-volume Bob Hope: The Death of Vaudeville & Television. Cummings sounds undaunted and full of humour here, like a man with little to lose.

Tickety Boo

by Andrew Watt - Hey Hey My My website - 11 January 2010

Recently I had to choose between watching the ARIA Awards on television and sitting down at the computer and reviewing Stephen Cummings new album.

Hello Stephen.

Unlike many of the artists gracing the stage at the ARIA's Cummings latest effort amply justifies its existence - the first hurdle that needed to be leapt by the notoriously self-critical Melbourne artist.

It's a largely small scale album - recorded in a low key way with a small group of collaborators with producer Billy Miller playing guitars and "most stuff". John Annis and Bill McDonald are the other plays constituting the core "band".

Cummings traverses some interesting ground though despite the small cast and realistic ambitions at work. I love the album's opening track, Now Here She Comes. It is probably the albums most expansive track, it manages to build to quite a sweeping, panoramic song but maintains a sense of urgency and tension. It's got an almost Tom Petty feel.

The other end of the album offers another song that will fit into my theoretical Stephen Cummings "Best Of" album. I'm Your Number One Fan needs to be a low budget "Made in Melbourne" film or perhaps a gritty "streets of our town" novel. It is a narrative of two young Melbourne indie kids who meet, party, fall in love, form a band, get big on community radio and fuck things up through apathy and a desire to make it in the advertising industry. It's not the sort of message the kids watching the ARIAs tonight should really be exposed to. They might get ideas.

In between these two gems are plenty of other worthy songs. The title track is a strange little song with a vocal that borrows from Willie deVille, while Don't Use The Telephone could have been lifted from Mark Gillespie album with some guitar playing that channels Ross Hannaford. It's slinky and charming.

I have no idea what Bob Hope did to offend Cummings but he gets his own back in the curiously titled Bob Hope The Death of Vaudeville & Television. It's not a nice song but one that few other artists would have even attempted.

Later in the album Cummings has a crack at a Duane Eddy style rave-up on Happy City and an Eddie Cochran/Buddy Holly/Bodeans inspired Kiss Me Honey. They both pass muster.

Tickety Boo is a very good album. It finds Cummings in idiosyncratic good voice and there enough adventurous spirit in the songwriting to show that there's plenty of ideas left for him to explore.

The time was better spent than it would have been had I watched the ARIAs.

Tickety Boo

by Ellie Freeman - Rave Magazine - 9 February 2010

Let's do the time warp again

Veteran Australian muso Stephen Cummings' newest album is a different approach to his previous solo outings and a return to his rocker days in The Sports. Largely owing to Cummings' age, there's a definite retro taste to this album. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. Most of Tickety Boo is an excursion in dreamy '60s psychedelic pop. The downside to retro is that it obviously sounds dated. Eyes Lock: Heart Stops, for example, is a song that Chef from South Park would listen to and say, "Hey now, that's a bit cheesy". If your idea of getting sexy is to make love down by the fire with Barry White crooning in the background, it might be your thing. But Cummings' musicianship really shines in his more adventurous outings, like the ranty rock & roll beat poetry of Bob Hope The Death of Vaudeville & Television and my personal favourite, I'm Your Number One Fan - a sweet, modern-day ballad about two lovestruck indie musos. While pop and nostalgia are nice, Cummings' real strength lies in substance and passion. It's a pity there isn't more of it.

Tickety Boo

by Mitchell Peters - Our Brisbane website - 12 May 2010

We've lost count of how many fine albums Stephen Cummings has made. This, recorded with former Ferret Billy Miller, is another reminder of the terrific work Cummings is capable of.

There's plenty of clever wordplay, choppy melodies and harmonies to burn. The set opens strongly with the hook laden 'Now Here She Comes'. The title track is a neat slice of whimsy, and the album builds a head of steam as Cummings moves forward while giving a subtle nod to his own past.

After the bump and grind of 'Bob Hope The Death Of Vaudeville', the artist hits you with the rather beautiful, 'Eyes Lock: Heart Stops'. The tune could have come from his masterpiece This Wonderful Life.

In 'Happy City' he's recalling his rockabilly roots. With 'Great Stereo' it's as if Cummings has conjured up the ghost of The Sports circa Reckless [1978].

Lurching further back 'Kiss Me Honey' sees Cummings channelling Buddy Holly with what sounds like Rockpile as the backing band.

The album smacks you between the eyes from the outset. Check it out. This guy 'works without a safety net'.

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