The Whitlams Love This City

The Daily Telegraph
by Dino Scatena

An extraordinary couple of years in the life of Tim Freedman has seen the Sydney-based musician come out the other side with an extraordinary new album.

His Whitlams’ latest Love This City can stake a serious claim on being the biggest album ever produced by a local act, in sound at least.

Freedman admits he’s now nervously awaiting public reaction to this musical magnum opus.

“Radio seems to like it and all the reviewers around the country are saying it’s surpassed their expectations,” he says while waiting to catch a plane to Melbourne for another show.

“Now, assuming they had good expectations, that’s good.”

With the help of some 50 musicians both here and in Memphis (including such local luminaries as Garry Gary Beers, Chris Abrahams, Marcia Hines and Jackie Orszaczky), Love This City constantly strolls from Freedman’s solo trademark piano tinkerings to monumental string and brass arrangements, often within the confines of the same song.

And, Freedman will proudly tell you, this is most likely the last fully analogue recording to ever be made in this country.

Sitting in the studio with the piano mana month back during final mixing of the album (a mammoth task), you could see the pride in his work all over his face as he presented each new finished track.

The first song is Pretty As You, one of Love This City’s eight big songs, comments Freedman over the top. Also, despite its enormous chorus, one of its simpler songs.

Like all of Freedman’s compositions, the loose imagery here relates – in theme, at least – back to the singer’s own life. Here the reference is about the other guy who’s “better looking than he looks, his music is better than it sounds”.

Elsewhere on the record the link is more direct. In the two tracks that provide the album’s fulcrum – God Drinks At The Sando (1997) and Blow Up The Pokies (1999) – there’s absolutely no doubt that the inspiration has come from close to home. The back room in Freedman’s house to be precise.

“I’ve only ever written in Sydney,” he explains. “When I’m on holidays, I may be finishing off songs, but I tend to get most of my inspiration sitting in the back room at home.”

Which is obvious when it comes to the title track and its slightly sinister sentiment. The mellowness of You Gotta Love This City – a sad tale about a distraught lad seeking solace in the streets of his town – comes crushing to a halt, literally, when the protagonist notices a crowd and fireworks very late on a Thursday night. “It dawns on him,” sings Freedman. “The horror – we’ve got the Olympic Games!”

It’s typical of the wry humour that permeates the whole album. “Some people think it’s a very serious record,” says Freedman. “They’re very wrong, though.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed that light smile of recognition that you get from reading a good poem, either when you recognise a shared experience or a taut phrase.

“So it’s something that I enjoyed as a kid and it’s something that I try to recreate for people in my own way.”