Perry has been writing songs since he was a kid and has played in a variety of bands. Most notably, in the late eighties, he fronted “Perry Keyes and the Stolen Holdens” a band which, in our experience, everybody had heard of, but no one actually saw. Mark that down as just another of the many mistakes you made growing up.
Perry has done that – grown up, I mean. He’s lived, he’s experienced, and he’s drawn on it all in a way that will make all those who care to investigate his album far richer. Hopefully it’ll make him far richer too, in a literal sense, but that’s another story.
So anyway, Perry is great, but why? Well, think about all the great songwriters and they all have the ability to evoke a sense of time and place, an ability to find beauty and truth in the ordinary lives of people, at those times, and in those places.
Think Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey, Paul Kelly’s Melbourne and Richard Buckner’s first marriage. Perry Keyes’s turf is inner city Sydney – Redfern, Alexandria and Waterloo – though he heads further west on occasion. It’s a suburban scramble where no one has any money, least of all Perry, and where the hopes of working people are beset by drugs, cheats and that hardy perennial, plain old bad luck.
Perry’s songs are, not to put too fine a point on it, beautiful – poignant narratives set to hauntingly beautiful melodies, tunes that lodge firmly in the brain, carrying stories that do far more serious damage to the heart. In a world where the powers that be (whoever they are) have decided that the art we are exposed to should be shorter, glossier and far, far stupider, Perry Keyes writes songs that are frequently long, raw and emotional, smart and compelling. In a throw away culture, Perry’s songs are keepers.
“NYE”, the story of a kid eager to grow up and sure to be disappointed when he gets there, is immediately affecting, and its characters all too recognisable. “Some Aches”, which takes a little longer to grip, but then won’t ever let go, nods (ahem) to the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” before painting an altogether less positive picture of the drug’s wreckage. Really, do songs get better than this?
“Service City”, “Sandra’s On The Way” and “Fairfield Girl” are among the many, many other gems. No other Australian songwriter is writing about Matraville, the Barbeque King, the abandonment of working class suburbs or the way a kid loves a footy player – few other Australian songwriters are writing about anything with such honesty, heart or insight.
All songs written by Perry Keyes
Recorded by Grant Shanahan at Leisure Suit Studios, Sydney
All tracks mixed by Michael Carpenter at Love Hz Sydney
Mastered by Rick O’Neil at Turtlerock
Perry Keyes – lead vocals, guitars
Bek-Jean Stewart – drums, vocals, percussion
Edmond Kairouz – guitars, accordion, vocals
Phil Blatch – bass, vocals
Grant Shanahan & Michael Carpenter
Warren Bright – keyboards
Earl Pinkerton – bass
Michael Cupic – keyboards