Listen - The History of Lawrence Arabia in Five Songs

Absolute Truth cover art


Lawrence Arabia is the creative outlet for multi-instrumentalist musician, James Milne, one of New Zealand's most well-known indie musicians. His trajectory is somewhat similar to that of Don McGlashan - another musician who is known for the strength of his songwriting and willingness to try new things. In Lawrence Arabia's case, his drive to break new ground has meant playing in unusual venues such as art galleries and libraries or writing/performing music that was played live alongside a silent film (as he did at last year's film festival) or for live plays.

This month Lawrence Arabia has released a new album - Absolute Truth (out now through Flying Nun and available via bandcamp) and his first album fronting the band, The Reduction Agents, is being re-released on vinyl along with a tribute album with each track covered by other artists. Therefore it seems like a good time to take a look back through his career and have a listen to some of his finest tunes.

Before he became Lawrence Arabia, James Milne was the guitarist/keyboardist/bassist in indie pop group, The Brunettes. During this time, he wrote one track for the band, 'You Beautiful Militant', which was sung by their singer Heather Mansfield on The Brunettes' second album, Mars Loves Venus (2004). However, the original demo of this tune has recently appeared on Lawrence Arabia's soundcloud page and gives an early indication of his skill at writing a hooky chorus melody...



Next up, Milne decided to form his own band, The Reduction Agents, drawing in the Brunettes' drummer, Ryan McPhun (who has his own group, The Ruby Suns) along with Jol Mulholland (Gasoline Cowboy, Mulholland) and Ben Eldridge (from Heavy Jones). The band produced only one album, The Dance Reduction Agents (2006). However they also featured on the soundtrack of the Taika Waititi movie, Eagle Versus Shark - the film used both "80s Celebration" and the catchy rock number, "The Pool." The latter also happens to have a great video of Milne swimming at Pt Erin Pools at night...




Simultaneous with the release of the Reduction Agents album, Milne also released the first self-titled Lawrence Arabia (2006) album. This album lacked the raw energy and drive of the Reduction Agents, but made up for it with some quirky production and super sharp lyrics. His new approach is most apparent on the track, "Talk About Good Times", which features this witty run of lines: “You’d always condescend to take us back to your boxy-shaped apartment/ you showed us that we’re poorer than you are/ and you’re an undiscovered star/ but now you’re at the bottom of the ocean you’re forgiven and we talk about the good times..."




Lawrence Arabia achieved somewhat of a breakthrough on his next album, Chant Darling (2009), with 'Apple Pie Bed' becoming an underground hit (winning a Silver Scroll Award and racking up nearly 200,000 Youtube views in the process). However, since I'm sharing music videos with you, I'd instead point you towards "The Beautiful Young Crew" which re-casts Milne as a seventies political candidate...




The Sparrow (2012) showed Lawrence Arabia refining his sound and creating an album that is best listened to from start-to-finish. Any track you could pick would be instantly recognisable as Lawrence Arabia, but this one about meaningless late night conversations always stood out for me...




If you want to read more about the history of Lawrence Arabia, then do check out the indepth piece on the Audioculture website. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a track off Lawrence Arabia's latest album (Absolute Truth - out now through Flying Nun and available via bandcamp). 'A Lake' keeps up his habit of putting out great witty songs, with off-beat, entertaining music videos...

This entry was posted on Monday, July 25 and is filed under ,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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