‘Calm Ya Farm’: The Murlocs’ serene escape into country-infused garage.

Their latest studio album grows the remit of the band, complete with newly intricate arrangements and unexpected flourishes.

Words: Josh Tubb

Melbourne exports The Murlocs are back with a remarkable new album, ‘Calm Ya Farm’, released via ATO Records. This album marks a significant departure from their previous work, especially 2022 garage-psych masterpiece ‘Rapscallion’. Drawing inspiration from the fogged-up windows of ’70s British pub-rock and quintessential country-rock records such as The Byrds’ ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’, the band have taken a new direction. While still maintaining their trademark garage-punk sound, they introduce elements of this wider range of influences to create a free-flowing collection that captures the frenetic energy of modern life.

Recorded in home studios and mixed by frequent collaborator John Lee, ‘Calm Ya Farm’ features twelve tracks that are more intricate and sophisticated than previous works. The band members have been given the freedom to explore their most eccentric impulses, resulting in unexpected embellishments such as saturated flute tunes, powerful flamenco-guitar riffs, and Farfisa tones.

The album’s lead single, ‘Initiative’, is a raucous anthem that sweetly encourages listeners to take responsibility for their lives without completely abandoning their reckless side. Here, lead vocalist, guitarist, and harmonica virtuoso Ambrose Kenny-Smith is in full force casting his surreal reflections on the turbulent world around us. “Burn the candle at both ends to the core, Melt the midnight oil and work like a dog”, he declaims, bringing colourful imagery to the exhaustion of busy modern life and begging to be slowed down.

Although it is the band’s most collaborative work to date, ‘Calm Ya Farm’ showcases the individual talents of all five members and represents their wider resumes. Naturally, we hear the garage-psych squall of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (with whom Kenny-Smith and bassist Cook Craig also play) and Orb (who share guitarist Callum Shortal), but also, more than ever, the sound is coloured by the spacious jangle that defines Crepes, keys player Tim Karmouche’s other major project.

Halfway through the album, ‘Queen Pinky’ takes us on a sexy turn. Its smooth and silky piano licks blend with an extravagantly performed vocal. This love song culminates in a captivating guitar solo, every buttery note lifting it higher and toying with indulgence.

The standout track on the album is the blazing ballad ‘Smithereens’, which is dramatic and beautiful. It begins with a harmonica intro before Kenny-Smith’s distinctive voice takes centre stage. An artful message of everlasting love in a world consumed by chaos is framed with musical decadence. The keys saunter over their melody, eliciting a smile from the listener. Like a porcelain axe, it revels in its conflicting ideas right to the end, enveloped by reverberating synths, lingering heavy guitar twangs, and the edgy wails of the harmonica.

While the album contains plenty of frenzied tension, it also possesses the ability to transport listeners to a more serene state of mind. Its title, ‘Calm Ya Farm’, was conceived as a reminder to “just chill out and take everything a little easier.” The collection delves into topics ranging from the vitriolic nature of political discourse to the mind-bending effects of conspiracy theories.  It showcases The Murlocs’ growth as artists and represents a departure from their previous sound, a refreshing change that infuses their garage-punk style with the irresistible tropes of country rock.