Last week I saw Tali White—the lead singer of the now defunct band The Lucksmiths—at my local Coles. I was pretty excited. In fact, I may have sort of followed him. My girlfriend asked if I was going to say “G’day” but I played it out in my head and realised I didn’t have much more to say than “your band was magnificent”. Anyway, it reminded me of this open letter I wrote to them in 2009 when I heard the news of their imminent break-up.
You know, I’ve started this bloody letter five times now: too sappy, too obvious, too trite, too confessional. To hell with it, here goes: congratulations and thank-you. You’ve touched a lot of folks over the years.
What to say about your music? I’ve read precious little about it that’s touched me, which is true of most music criticism. You know the rubbish—the stuff that gives sloppy birth to a shopping list of adjectives. And I don’t want to theorise pleasure here, either. Joseph Conrad said that the thing about music is its “magical suggestiveness” and it seems to me that you’d need to suffer from a warped enthusiasm or gross immodesty to set yourself the task of pinning that magic down with words.
Which leaves me with the option of personalising your music—situating your music in my life and moods and memories that of course leads to mawkish dross and the whiff of solipsism, but so it is.
Your music touched a lot of people and news of your breakup will inspire sentimental bouts of blogging and nostalgic listening sessions and other indulgences across the country. The news should have inspired a massively profitable world tour, with an acoustic Bono supporting, but them the breaks, I guess, and you’ll have to make do with goodwill. It abounds.
My friend Richard introduced me to your music one summer in the early noughties. He was obsessed with “T-Shirt Weather” and it was. Richard, though he may disagree, was one of those particular Lucksmiths fans—sickly, pale, urbane and spastic with devotion. I borrowed the disc—Where Were We? —and fell in love.
I took you to South Korea the following year, where I worked loosely as a teacher. On the bus to work most mornings I would listen to “Even Stevens” to elevate my mood. Out in the big city on a weekend in winter I’d play the perversely inappropriate “T-Shirt Weather” and get homesick. At home, in my tiny Korean apartment, I’d listen repeatedly to the beautiful “Guess How Much I Love You?” I wasn’t in love then but today, sick with heartbreak, I respect its power too much to listen to it. A hiccup in my happiness? It doesn’t feel like it, but then, it never does, does it?
I’ve met critics of your music. I’m even friends with some of them. “Too Aussie”, “I don’t like the accent”, “Too cute, too clever, too twee” and I’ve met too many boneheads who would confuse a personal preference with ignorance or dilettantism. Sometimes, when it comes to your music, I am that bonehead.
In certain moods the outro of Oasis’ “Supersonic” can still touch something ineffable and as much as the ghastly beauty of Elliot Smith’s preemptive suicide ballads, say, or the genius of Jeff Tweedy. Point being… Jesus, what is the point, guys? The point is that you’ve meant a great deal to me and you’ve soundtracked all sorts of things and if you haven’t been ushered into the great hall of the tediously worthy, you’ve been ushered into the lives of people with more sense than to care about such things.
A final thought: at a time when good chunks of this country stand-up out of their chairs to hiss at the less-than-sly villain Kyle Sandilands, missing the point that the vampiric cretin is more a symptom than a cause of misery, you stand as a humble totem to warmth and charm and intelligence. And that’s something to be proud of, eh?