David Carlin EP launch: ‘Some People Like the Sound of Their Own Voice’

David Carlin’s music has always had a streak of exhibitionism to it, which seems odd to say given that his musical stories are (I truly hope) 100% fictive. I last saw him perform on his guitar a year ago at The Wesley Anne. Since then he has dialled up the theatrical aspect significantly. Fake babies with annoyingly real cries; multiple costume changes, including a disrobing; and a booming voice-recording of his real-life girlfriend as a whiny, pissy alternative version of herself. These touches bring levity — the audience all laugh when each of them is rolled out — and could easily add up to being just a bit too hammy. The show is at The Butterfly Club after all, host to some enjoyably silly cabaret singalongs, burlesque nights, and general raucous campiness.

But Carlin’s subject matter is gritty and probingly intimate. So instead of being there for easy laughs, those comic moments grease the way for some rather thorny songs. His narratives are intricate and raw, every mundane detail of the bad decisions and regret picked over and delivered with a delightfully underplayed deadpan. Somehow this makes the pain expressed in the songs almost funny, or at least easier to stomach in an if-you-don’t-laugh-you’ll-cry kind of way. There are moments when the rawness is nearly too much, and I’m squirming in my seat. The discomfort has a thrill of perverse pleasure wound up with it, though; not unlike the penny-drop moment of a Roald Dahl short story.

The narrators, morphing from song to song, are mostly sympathetic but not particularly likeable, which — just to be contrary — I find rather charming. There are quite a few fun contradictions in Carlin’s music, with its the deadpan/kitschy delivery (think Tim Minchin with less camp and more darkness). The shitty person telling disarmingly human stories. The deeply ordinary moments given sweetness by some folky fingerpicking. It all adds up to an experience that feels cathartic yet rompy. The audience could have been left feeling down given the grim themes, but instead we all seem kind of… energised.

– Rosie
Rosie Werner-Grant is a Perth-to-Melbourne transplant who misses the feeling of rain bringing happiness. She enjoys tinkering with plants, reading Oliver Sacks, and sleeping at wildly inappropriate times.

You can preview or buy the EP in iTunes, or follow David Carlin on Facebook.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Dave Carlin.