“You have to do stuff that average people don’t understand because those are the only good things.” ― Andy Warhol
Guy Peellaert imagined Rock Dreams, Jeff Koons immortalised Michael Jackson, but Andy Warhol is the artist that looms largest in the world of rock n’ roll. His cool jazz period album covers, his pivotal pop-art role with the Velvet Underground, Sticky Fingers, and the Rolling Stones tongue all continue to fire the imagination.
And, we’d love to know what Warhol would make of Kim Salmon. The wild man from the west who enjoys mashing ideas of instinct and intelligence.
“It’s not what you are that counts,” Warhol once said. “It’s what they think you are.”
Kim Salmon loves an art statement. He certainly thinks and creates in concepts. Maybe that’s how he compartmentalises his music. Looking back over a 30-year career, all his bands have had a strong and distinct aesthetic. The Scientists in both power-pop and post-modern guises. The Beasts of Bourbon. The Surrealists. Antenna with Dave Faulkner. The sharp suits and countrypolitan sounds of the Darling Downs with Ron S. Peno.
In 2002, Salmon released his most overtly arty album, E(a)rnest. It was inspired by a show he did in at the Ian Potter Museum of Art that involved a stark white room, an acoustic guitar and a tape recorder. Indeed, every record Salmon has done has been markedly different to the one before. Of course, it’s been to the detriment of what people would call a career.
“With the Scientists I couldn’t have gone on doing that,” he once told me. “I left the Beasts of Bourbon when I should have stayed with them – good sense would’ve said to do so. Good sense would’ve said keep Antenna together you’ve got a chance – don’t let it go. But it wasn’t exactly what I had in my head. I’ve had a different idea or agenda all along.”
The common thread throughout Salmon’s career is minimalism. And minimalism is at the heart of True West. There is nothing more than absolutely necessary in the arrangements of these songs.
The Leanne in the equation is late-period Scientists drummer Leanne Cowie, and her playing on True West is emblematic of this boiled-down approach. But it’s not just simian stuff. She has to contend with some crazy drop-beat time-signatures that drive songs like “Freudian Slippers”.
The Warholian world of Sticky Fingers is accessed with a stripped back cover of the Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’. Gone is any bittersweet romanticism of a fling-turned-laughably-wrong that was evident in Mick Jagger’s voice. Salmon sings with a brittleness that suggests no moisture, no lingering fragrance remains in these petals.
No doubt Warhol would appreciate artist Tony Mahony’s fabulous album cover and inventive video for ‘The Science Test’, a song that sets up all the rules and regulations for the entire record. ‘Ow! Baby, Baby’ is a one-minute, 36 second blast of humour and hard-riffing. The albums dominant attitude is nailed succinctly on ‘So Naïve’ – “So naïve, we think we’re Adam and Eve”.
The highlight is ‘Carry On Baggage’ that sees Salmon reference Carry On Up the Khyber with some great double entendre asides – “Ooh, matron!” It’s clever, and funny, and seemingly simple. Just like the best pop-art.
“Art is anything you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol