Eddie Cole,
I Know What's Going On
(self-produced, 2003)

Australian singer-songwriter Eddie Cole seems like a pleasant, well-mannered guy. On both the back cover and the final page of the booklet that accompanies his CD I Know What's Going On, he has included the sentence: "This is an independent release, thank you for listening." It's a generous acknowledgement of the importance of the audience to any musician, particularly one who doesn't have the financial backing and advertising push of a major label. And the music contained on this 12-song disc is very much in keeping with this tone. It's pleasant and well-mannered.

Unfortunately, there's very little excitement in evidence amid all the niceness. The album begins reasonably well; the title track is a bouncy little number that proclaims, "I'm going where the fishing's good, Gonna be with all my friends, I'm going where the action is, I won't have a care." But the song never really manages to capture that "action" and it ends up feeling too safe, as if Cole is afraid to let his emotions take hold of the song.

The second track, "Until Your Heart Breaks," works somewhat better. It contains an edgier instrumental break that nicely counterbalances the placid vocal segments. The song's biggest problem is that there are only three lines of melody, repeated over and over again, one line for the verses (four times in each), a second for the choruses (twice in each) and one new line in the bridge. The song is good but it's unambitious. Even some simple melodic variation around the final chorus would have given the song some needed spark.

From this point the album settles into a bit of a pleasant, well-mannered rut. There's nothing great, nothing terrible -- with the exception of the cloyingly cute, "Henry the Cat." I'm sure there are those who will find this ditty adorable. The big-eyed Puss-in-Boots scene from Shrek 2 springs to mind as emblematic of the "awww!" factor Cole is going for. Yuck! Doesn't work for me.

When the electric guitars finally decide to provide this album with some punch on "I Can't Stand in the Rain," Cole's smooth vocals seem determined to rein in the excitement. And the guitars give up the fight without much fuss as the next track, "Borrowed Tears," returns to an acoustic approach. At this point I must comment that the musicianship throughout I Know What's Going On is very good. Cole's guitar playing is augmented on most tracks by the bass guitar of Cameron McKenzie. As well, drummer Tony Floyd and mandolin player Dave Carr each contribute to several tracks.

"Shiloh," which features Carr on mandolin, provides the album's best moment. The song is much more adventurous lyrically than anything that has come before it. "Shiloh" demonstrates that there's more to Eddie Cole than meets the ear elsewhere on the album. Hopefully, Cole can tap into the creative juices that fueled "Shiloh" and to some extent "Until Your Heart Breaks" and treat his audience to music that challenges rather than just lying there prettily but limply. After all, as Cole knows, keeping the audience interested is essential for an independent artist.

- Rambles
written by Gregg Thurlbeck
published 25 September 2004

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