We All Want To – We All Want To
Damn, that Tim Steward can really write a song.
In 2010, this is no real revelation: after all, Steward’s distinctive vocal delivery previously led the wonderful Screamfeeder, a Brisbane-based, self-proclaimed ‘noisy pop’ trio who emerged in the early 1990s. While they never quite achieved the wider success of alternative rock peers like You Am I or Jebediah, they remain one of the nation’s finest acts. Though Screamfeeder never quite hung up their boots – last year, they even toured a Don’t Look Back-style reprisal of their 1996 classic Kitten Licks – Steward’s creative soul evidently remains restless.
In many ways, We All Want To could be considered a spiritual sequel to the songwriter’s past affiliations. Here, alongside four collaborators, several of Steward’s stylistic hallmarks remain intact. Minus one exception in the recorder-based ‘A La Mode’, the songs are arranged around guitar, which alternates between clean-picked phrases and sheets of pleasantly-distorted chords. Like Screamfeeder, central to this band’s appeal is the vocal interplay between genders. In co-singer Skye Staniford, Steward has found a remarkable foil. Their softly-spoken melodies entwine beautifully on standout track ‘Japan’, whose lyrics concern a sense of equilibrium often overlooked when travelling the world. Steward counts off the destinations he’s visited (“There’s stamps in my passport that say I’ve been to Japan / Germany, and Mexico / I watched the Christmas lights come on in Amsterdam / The sky was all aglow”) – but there’s always “as many goodbyes as there are hellos”. He and Staniford conclude that “The stamps in my passport mostly say / There’s as many comebacks as gone-aways”. They seize and reprise that final line in the coda, as their bandmates crash around them in tightly-orchestrated chaos. Forgive the extended analysis of just one track, but in ‘Japan’, We All Want To reveal their songwriting template: mood, restraint, tension, release.