I like it, but it lacks the cohesiveness and rough, chunky sound that Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By has. (You can taste the sound by hitting the myspace page and listening to 'Shark Fin Blues' which opens the album.) In many ways, Gala Mill sits closer to their first album Here Come the Lies and the third, a collection of tracks that didn't make Wait... and Lies, The Miller's Daughter. But yet, it is, I think, the most accessible album that they have produced to date.
The track I like most on Gala Mill, is 'Sixteen Straws', one of the two on the album that are inspired by Australian colonial history--this one references a practice in which convicts would draw straws, and the long and the short in the sixteen decided the killer and his victim. Afterward, the killer would repent. Here's a sample of the lyrics, which is said by a prisoner found at the beginning of the song:
Before I was brought
To this terrible place
They dragged me away
From my wife and newborn
And my ailing parents
I've been a prisoner
At Porn Macquarie
Norfolk Island and Emu Plains
At Castle Hill and cursed Toongabbie
At all of these settlements
I've worked in chains
But of all of the places of condemnation
At each penal station of New South Wales
To Moreton Bay I've found no equal
The tyranny there makes all of the rest pale.'
Lately, I've got this thought with Australian history going. It kicked up a few weeks back, when the kids in my year six class couldn't remember the year Australia was invaded by Europeans and turned into a penal colony. One of girls who works with me didn't know either, and her reason, she said, was that Australian history was just boring. It is, of course, if it's presented in a clean, PG 13 way, without the orgies, cannibalism, revolutions, and sheer tragedy of invasion and ripping men and women from their homes to dump in chains, and then ripping the home off another set... then, yeah, it is.
That stalwart of the PG History, Prime Minister Howard, walks around talking up history, and what it means to be Australian. A few day days ago, he said this:
The Prime Minister, John Howard, said yesterday a discussion paper on the new citizenship test, to be released tomorrow with an accompanying advertising campaign, would propose quizzing aspiring citizens' language skills as well as their grasp of Australia's history, culture and values.
"You'll certainly need to know a good deal more about Australia and about Australian customs and the Australian way of life," he told Melbourne radio.
Asked if the history component would include questions on cricket, Mr Howard was prepared to consider it.
"You never know. I think to understand the history of this country I think you might have to do that," he said.
Any immigrant who was "fair dinkum" about becoming a citizen would pass the test easily, he said.
Later on in the article, Kim Beazley, the Opposition leader, is referred to as the man trying to get people to sign a pledge to respect Australia, its institutions, and values before they entered the country, thus proving that when it comes to the future of politics, Australia is fucked on choice A and B. I don't really need to go into the stupid, hypocritical nature of these statements, but lets just say that if a bunch of Aboriginal men and women beat the shit out of Howard with crickets bats some time during the week, there'll be a faint sense of justice. Though that, of course, would probably leave us with worse in the way of party figureheads.
It's frustrating to hear and read this kind of thing, really, and I guess that's what this post is about. The 'clean' history (and by this I mean both white and free from the badness) that is so easily presented in Australia is becoming more and more offensive, not the least because I am beginning to suspect that people are taking it at face value and viewing it as true. And when I see people write and talk against multiculturalism, and the loss of Australian ideals, without ever explaining what those things are, I tend to think that I am right in this assumption.