THE PICTURES – I Can’t Hold It Back / Ground Control (4 Track Demo)

The name Davey Lane might not mean much to a huge amount of people in the UK, but the Aussie musician has been more than prolific over the years. In the 90s, he was a key member of rock band The Pictures before joining You Am I in 1999. In more recent times, he’s carved out a solo career, played on albums by Jimmy Barnes, The Saints’ Chris Bailey, and also appeared on recordings by Robyn Hitchcock. He’s worked with the legendary Todd Rundgren, and even toured with Crowded House. He’s the archetypal go-to guy; a face you don’t necessarily know, but one that has always been there.

At the beginning of 2021, Lane began to hint at new material in the pipeline from The Pictures. Nothing happened immediately, of course, and it wouldn’t be until the last quarter of 2022 that fans would get their first taste of any fresh sounds when ‘I Can’t Hold It Back’ made its appearance on the internet.

In bringing a very 90s sound – as per bits of Semisonic, The Violets, and a touch of something a little grungier into the twenty first century – ‘I Can’t Hold It Back’ does a superb job. Its verses pair a ringing guitar sound with a clean vocal to deliver a semi-aching melody that slowly builds a sense of longing, before exploding into a noisy, distorted chorus. The point where the drums crash against a wall of noise that tips the hat to many of the post-grunge bands that have faded in the memories of many is strangely nostalgic. At the same time, The Pictures manage to make such forceful sounds feel entirely relevant in the present day, and Lane’s alternating between clean and dirty guitar sounds gives a great insight into his range without offering anything too flashy. If anything sticks here, though, it’s the vocal; in applying a clean, soaring sound above the wall of guitars, there’s a great melody at play; one which sticks in the head long after listening, although the long term memorability might also be down to the main hook’s simplicity. Although fans deserve more than a one line refrain, in terms of the directness this track needs, it works brilliantly.

The present is joined by the past on this two track download, and Lane has returned to his archive to present a demo recording of ‘Ground Control’ from 2003. In doing so, The Pictures’ return plays like a very short twenty year time lapse, and although the demo is quite rough – almost Robert Pollard-esque in its own way – it’s easy to hear a great track coming together. The neo-psych tone to the guitars are already in place, and the grumbling bass is far dirtier than that which eventually anchored the studio track. The main difference comes from the drum sound. It still has a presence when the chorus hits, but often sounds like a distorted, semi-audible mess. Still, in terms of capturing a work in progress, this recording is interesting, and for fans, will provide an intimate look into a great band at work.

If you’ve ever in any way considered yourself a Pictures fan, then this overdue return – marking the first new music from the band in fifteen years – will surely be met with open ears. It doesn’t necessarily aim to change the world, but in bringing everyone a slab of feel good rock with a very 90s slant, Davey and company certainly hit the mark square on, setting everything in place for some great sounds to come.

September 2022