Samuel Webster

February 5, 2010 Brendan Maclean – White Canvas (EP Review) Posted In: Writing

Debuts serve a wide range of purpose, from early media exposure to the musical definition of identity. This release carries a different weight, however, because you may know the artist’s face before his music; either from Virgin Mobile commercials or Triple J Radio. With all of these things, one might wonder whether Brendan Maclean might send this endeavour forward tentatively. However, from the very opening of White Canvas we can tell that although Maclean is on the cusp of a confused self-discovery, he is unashamedly dedicated to tracking his progress through song.

I’m practically naked from the waist down,
I was hoping you would dress me back up as a doll,
And show me back off to all the patrons,
They are here but they’re barely listening at all.

Practically Wasted (Track 1)

Maclean is delightfully cryptic on what would be an odd-choice of opening track if it weren’t for the catchy pop piano driving through. The Mika-esque melody and innovative lyrics we come to expect from Maclean drive the tune from obscurity into favouritism. His sexuality is rampant and indefinite; we are close enough to hear of debauchery and passion, yet held away from gender-specifics, physical descriptions and any detail which may give past alliances specific personality. Maclean recalls anecdotes as melancholic odes, with an undefined ‘you’ in the shadows, pacing and sweating, then exiting as little more than a silhouette.

But there is love.

Pass me a peg – I’ll still put out your laundry,
Pass you a bandage and tie up my old knee.
It’s not that I’m alone, it’s you’re not here.

Beat Me To It (Track 3)

brendanmc-1Maclean is a must-see performer, if only for the honesty he carries in performance. One gets the feeling that this EP is sitting under past lovers doormats, left after nightfall with genuine regret. White Canvas was not designed as a series of tracks, but a small journal of melodic missives. It was not made for my ears, though my guilty voyeurism relishes the honest moments, like the forceful lament of a planned future gone unfaithfully awry. White Canvas is a calculated tether to emotional crests, first pushing us away with the misfortune of “Beat Me To It” and then dragging us back into the optimistic, “Stop”, as if to reiterate the sneaking suspicion we all have that maybe 3 minutes of therapeutic pop is all the happiness we need. I suspect Maclean prefers his cynicism, given that the title track he leaves with calls out to helpless translucency over a dragging rhythm, “I’m no sliding door. If anything, I’m a wall. I’m white on white canvas.”

White Canvas is a small cry in a sea of youthful weakness, a cantata for our cultivated candour. In times of strength, we make demands. We draw breath from each other, our callous words demanding sweat from lover’s pores, grief from lonely hearts. We draw cowering masses under our arms outspread and then we fall, deeper than we were high, into the pit. In times of weakness, we make demands, desperately. For shelter and solace, or simple pleasures in grocery aisles.

We paint ourselves into being, starting with eyeliner and ending with witticisms.

We are drenched in sweat. White on white, we dance, and we dance, and we dance.

Brendan Maclean on MySpace and Twitter

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