Island Records Australia / Universal Music Australia
Release Date: June 12th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Part Time Phase
- I Got This
- Free Fall
- Looking for Perfect
- Open Heart
- Lighthouse Home
- Little Lies
- Good Advice
- Wish You Hell
Country music has always been an acquired taste of mine. I’m much more of a CCM/pop music lover at heart, but ever since last year when I ventured on a blog post series that was as daunting as it was eye-opening, that I found myself enjoying country music, from artists like Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and Rascal Flatts, to Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and Shania Twain; to name a few. As I compiled my personal top 100 inspirational and influential artists in modern music history, one of such artists on this list of mine that I ventured into the realms of, was The McClymonts; an Aussie country trio that resembles, according to many fans online and people just drawing comparisons, that of the Dixie Chicks of America. While I haven’t heard Dixie Chicks or their music…yet; I have heard The McClymonts; and I have thoroughly enjoyed their music so far. They’re relatively underground only impacting the Australian market as of now, but as I’ve heard more and more of this unique sister trio, and their uplifting and often times challenging songs, I can attest that whatever the genre, God can indeed use whomever the band, and whomever the artist, to affect, impact and encourage. The McClymonts are one such band, and quite possibly one of the most underrated in terms of all of Australian music history, inclusive of both mainstream and Christian alike. Releasing 5 albums thus far in their illustrious 13 year career, it can be expounded upon about The McClymonts’ influence here in my blog post. As of 2020, the band has released a new album, three years after 2017’s Endless– Mayhem to Madness.
‘I Got This’ was unveiled to us in March 2020; and is the first single from this 10-track album. The song itself is a similar theme, but different, to the Love & The Outcome song ‘You Got This’ that premiered digitally last year sometime. In the song released last year by the Canadian duo, we get a sense that that particular track is reminding us to cast all our cares upon the Lord and trust that He indeed has ‘got this’, knowing full well that whatever happens will indeed be used by the Lord to shape us into our good and for His glory. In contrast, The McClymonts invite us to peel back the layers into the struggle of motherhood, fame, stardom and just juggling a lot of different hats at once. Brooke, Sam and Mollie McClymont showcase such relevant and poignant honesty as this track, albeit a short one standing at a bit over 3 minutes; makes up for it with lyrics that strike hard to the bone. Brooke declares from the outset that ‘…I trust my head more, that I’m older, but at times my heart gets in the way, I’m pretty good at staying sober, but that ain’t set in stone most days, I’m in control until I blow my cover away, I try to keep it all together, I swear I do, I do…’, lyrics that underpin I’m sure what people are indeed feeling- that we need to have it all-together, all the time.
There’s a notion amongst society that appearances and image are far more outweighing than what we really feel and think, to the point where we need to fake being fine while suffering in silence. Juggling between careers, being parents, taking care of the household, just all the things we think we need to be, to try to be all of those for everyone can be a drag, a bore, and an effort at times. This song allows us to hear a voice been given that reflects our inner turmoil at times. The McClymonts remind us by singing repeatedly the words ‘I got this’, that we don’t need to convince ourselves that we need to have things all-together, all the time. Yes, there are indeed times where we know we’ve ‘got this’, but then there are others where we know we don’t, but yet say ‘I Got This’ anyway. But in reality, we don’t always have so say this phrase we can often be caught with overusing. We can fall apart. We can cry. We can allow love and grace to take hold and for us to rest in the fact that performance and results doesn’t have to be everything. Because we’re not Superman or Batman or the Green Arrow or the Flash. We don’t have to be. And such a song as this is giving us permission to be able to be on a journey through life, complete with our screw-ups and imperfections, knowing that God uses even the unlikeliest and unassuming of people to give words of affirmation, encouragement and help to others who may be in the same boat. Well done Brooke, Sam and Mollie for such a hard-hitting song, with ‘I Got This’ becoming not only one of my favourites on the album, but one of my favourite songs of their whole career thus far!
Throughout the rest of the album, Brooke, Mollie and Sam have delivered songs of hope, encouragement and poignancy, melodies that give comfort, challenge, or maybe both at the same time. ‘Part Time Phase’, the first track on the album, is a statement that we all need to apply to our lives- that we must look more at the bigger picture of things rather than focus too much on the nitty-gritty and trivial- the chorus in particular reminds us all that fighting for the sake of it, and for the fact to say that we were right in the matter rather than to just listen to the other with opens hearts and hands, is something that we as a human race do too often. ‘Part Time Phase’ gives us a hope, that these moments of bursting anger don’t necessarily last forever (hence the title of the song, ‘part-time phase’), but as we look deeper, it is in this song title where we see that we as people need to actively choose and determine whether the phase of anger, hurt, disappointment and bitterness, is indeed part-time or not. Of course with the grace of God, we can rest assured that the anger we’re feeling, for whatever reason, is indeed going to be temporary, but we need to make the first step and actively purpose positive change rather than wallowing in feelings that may make us feel more resentment. Nevertheless, this track, albeit disguised very well as a boppy relationship track, is so much more.
‘Open Heart’, a promotional single on Mayhem to Madness that was unveiled prior to the release of the album, is a very radio-friendly country track about travelling- both in a physical sense and just using that metaphor of travelling and the touring life as musicians, to make us all eager to get out there to travel into the great unknowns in our lives. ‘Open Heart’ is all about doing things that may often scare us- and be it travelling to another part of the world, or to start up a conversation with someone who is different than you, this song is all about us having a heart that is willing and open to whatever comes our way, and whatever we know the Lord has in front of us to undertake in a humble fashion. ‘Free Fall’, the second official radio single from the album (as divulged in my phone interview with Mollie McClymont), was a song on the album that was the easiest for them to write- ‘… I don’t know why, but on this day, we just said ‘we wanna write a love song for our partners that is just simple, but musically, makes you feel amazing. And it literally took 1 hour to 2 hours. It just came out so, so quick…’ The song itself is about love and relationships and being in a relationship where you’re just in freefall- falling head over heels in someone and being in that honeymoon stage- rightly or wrongly, where you’re seeing all the good things, and are indeed being ‘blinded’ by love, the idea of it, and the infatuation you may have with another person. While the concept of being in ‘free-fall’, for whatever reason, has a negative connotation attached to it; ‘Free Fall’ on the album is anything but- it is a reminder that these 3 sisters, can still be in ‘free-fall’ after years upon years of successful marriage and kids later, something that we as single people (or just-married people) can strive towards, someday.
‘Looking for Perfect’, quite possibly one of the band’s most vulnerable love songs they’ve written and recorded (alongside 2014’s ‘Forever Begins Tonight’), speaks of the issue of perfection, and how in a relationship of two people, there isn’t a moment in it where perfection is attained- that when you try to look for a ‘perfect’ spouse, you often end up alone because you’ve set the bar so high that no one can reach it. The song is asking for us all to not only understand that perfection is unattainable (and that only God Himself is perfect) but rather, in looking at our own selves too, we must not try to feel as if we should be ‘perfect’ for the other too, but rather, in admitting your faults and unveiling that you don’t have it all together, couples and spouses can live a life of freedom and hope, in knowing that it is often the imperfect people that are indeed perfect for us, because it is God who knows who will bring out the best in us as we journey with our partners, in marriage and in life, together. As Mollie also divulged from the interview about the song, ‘…the next day we wrote ‘Looking for Perfect’, and because the lyrics and what it was saying, went so much deeper; it took us all day for us to write that. We were constantly coming back to it going, ‘we need to fix that line, cause it’s not saying we want it to say’. Yeah, they all take different times. And some songs just take a bit more effort than others…’ ‘Little Lies’, a Fleetwood Mac cover, is a song that I know I’ve heard years and years ago- maybe I’ve heard Fleetwood Mac’s original version years ago, but the song itself was vaguely familiar when I heard The McClymonts’ version. The song is very synonimous with music culture of yesteryear, and the Aussie country trio’s rendition is one where we’re reminded that a song from years ago can still impact and challenge us all today, and still be a part of the culture fabric of now, even after all these years. With the song itself being one where the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac is singing about a failed relationship of hers and writing from the POV of being told lies by this particular person sugarcoated in truth; The McClymonts’ rendition of said song is reason enough for anyone who haven’t heard of this underrated trio, to start listening to them, and pronto!
Brooke, Mollie and Sam continue to impart to us powerful songs of action and possibility, of introspection and contemplation. Songs like ‘Lighthouse Home’ and ‘Good Advice’ are two initial standouts for me upon hearing the album once through- the former a track that reminds us all of the special someone we call our ‘lighthouse home’- the one we always want to come home to and be in the presence of, while the latter is a guidance/counsel-style where the trio impart to us a few wisdom tidbits of how to live life fully and embrace all that is before us with awe, wonder and expectation. As Mollie herself in the interview, ‘…Lighthouse Home, Sam actually wrote about being away from her partner, they were doing a lot of travelling between America and Australia, so Sam wrote that about her and Ben. And then ‘Good Advice’ is just all about, people give you good advice all day long, it’s whether you choose to take it on board or not…’ ‘Wish You Hell’ is a heartfelt piano-driven track about a persona reflecting on a broken relationship and marriage after quite some time, and the song itself was inspired by one of Brooke’s friends, whose marriage fell apart after the husband in the relationship started cheating. What resulted was Brooke McClymont writing a song from the POV of her friend, and ‘Wish You Hell’, a song that showcases all the frustrations that has to come with the awareness of cheating in a relationship, was born. ‘Backfired’, the album closer, is a reminder of how at times people can encourage us all to loosen up and have fun in situations that require us to ‘let-our-hair-down’, but we often don’t want to ‘let go’ for worry of what may happen and what we’d do or say if we let ourselves enjoy the moment. While the song itself is specifically for people within the situations of drinking and having fun in going-out situations, the song itself can have wider applications, as we’re reminded that often what drives us to be in situations that require us to ‘loosen up’ is FOMO- fear of missing out. The McClymonts give us this song as a way of allowing us to understand that it is ok to enjoy ourselves, and often the things that we assume aren’t good for us, because of how it could backfire on us personally and professionally, can often be the very things that God can use to show us more of ourselves, Himself and life in general.
Mayhem to Madness, a country-pop album, is a fitting one to be unveiled and released for such a time as this- in the middle of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.A.; there can never be a better time to unveil this project from The McClymonts, one that is very indicative of where we are in this global state. With these songs being mixtures of both upbeat melodies and reflective, heartfelt anthems, Brooke, Mollie and Sam invite us all to delve into the depths of country-pop and realise that this often misunderstood genre of music, isn’t as cliché as people think. With songs like ‘I Got This’, ‘Looking for Perfect’ and ‘Good Advice’ being some of my very own personal highlights, The McClymonts have allowed myself to enjoy country music for what it is, and made myself become a fan of one of the most loved, but also the most critiqued, musical genre there is at the moment. Brooke, Sam and Mollie have unveiled to us one of the rare new album releases throughout the months of COVID-19 (the only other high-profile release, I reckon, comes from Lady GaGa), and an album certain to be enjoyed if you love all things country- artists like Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, or the Dixie Chicks. An album that I’m definitely going to play on repeat in the future; well done Brooke, Mollie and Sam for such an eye-opening collection of songs about what it can really feel for people in the spotlight and how they go about their everyday lives with an added unseen pressure.
3 songs to listen to: I Got This, Looking For Perfect, Good Advice
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Natalie Grant, Dixie Chicks, Red Roots