Itinerant, conman and genuine good bloke, Nathan Roche is one of the most prolific artists in the Australian underground right now – and he’s certainly the most flippant. He’s a self-published novelist, frontman of the now defunct Camperdown and Out, plus half a dozen other bands, and head of his own record label, Glenlivet-a-Gogh. Roche, however, harbours no romantic illusions about his creative endeavours. Speaking to Polaroids of Androids back in 2013, he described music as ‘a curse’ and claimed that there’s ‘no such thing as art. Like the food we digest and put into our bodies, occasionally we “pass gas” and a stench goes airborne.’
Well, in early 2015, an odour is hanging in the air again. The day after returning from a tour of Europe and the US, Roche went into the studio – via a trip to the Centrelink office – to record the third installment of his Newtown Trilogy: Cathedrals Made Outta Green Cards. The album’s 23 tracks veer from the brilliant to the ridiculous, replete with bad puns (‘S-Car Go!’) and spoken word interludes, including a woman enumerating the contents of her refrigerator in alluring French.
As always, the best moments on Cathedrals… channel the luminaries of 70s avant-rock – Lou Reed, Roxy Music, John Cale. I’m not sure if the second single, ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressin in Black Again’, is about Pegida, the vices of fashion or both, but it rollicks snidely along like something off Transformer, sounding less like pastiche than a skillful homage.
Roche has said that Cathedrals… is to be his final musical outing. (His Soundcloud profile currently reads ‘R.I.P.’). As a guy who somehow plays the role of piss-taker and straight-shooter simultaneously, I wouldn’t doubt him when he says there’s some sort of change afoot – but nor would I be betting on his disappearance. There’s far too much going on in Nathan Roche’s head for him to put down the guitar for good.