Vic Conrad and the First Third – S/T

Vic Conrad and the First Third hail from South Australia, the land of Silverchair and Kylie Minogue. Never fear, this quirky pop-rock outfit have little in common with their mainstream country mates. Their newest self-titled release reminds me, more than anything, of a modern-day update of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. The album is mishmash of different styles, twisted around in a playful manner that’s not so experimental as to detract from the songs.
“See My Way” is a fairly conventional piano-based ballad, reminiscent of something Ben Folds might write. It doesn’t win as many points for originality as some of the other tracks on the disc, but it’s a pleasant, winding listen nonetheless. “Pulse” is a little darker, with quiet low vocals and foreboding cymbals and minor-chord guitar. “Emily & Liam” begins nondescriptly and then kicks in with some crisp, country slide guitar that gradually becomes more and more distorted before evolving into a piano, and then a violin; it’s bizarre, nearly instrumental, and profoundly interesting.
Vic Conrad’s vocals are low-key, smoky, and sometimes hard to decipher. The lyrics are somewhat out-shined by the music, and where they are upfront, such as in the opener “Everyone,” they sometimes sound a little obvious and stilted. Some tracks such as “The Day Before She Died” are somewhat monotonous droners that offer little to differentiate them from other nearby songs. For the most part, things move along at a fairly slow tempo, but there are a few exceptions; “Mr V” is almost punk-like, albeit a little cleaner, with snarly semi-angry lyrics. It’s still clearly Vic Conrad, though, and nobody will mistake these guys for the Sex Pistols.
While not everything works on this disc, there are enough successes to make it worthwhile. Vic Conrad and the First Third are a mixed bag of fun for those looking for something different.