“These are just details that don’t mean a thing,” sings Perry Keyes in Let’s Have a Smoke Outside, the opening cut off his fifth album, an instant classic. But don’t believe him – Keyes has a razor-sharp eye for detail, which brings these urban vignettes to life.
The protagonist wears Adidas Rome sneakers, a Larco hoodie hides his mullet, while The Babys’ Isn’t It Time provides the soundtrack to his drug deal.
Keyes is the Springsteen you’ve never heard of, the songwriter who shows us the inner-city Sydney you don’t see in the tourism brochures. At the heart of this album is a tale as old as time itself: boy meets girl and they fall in love. But this is no Hollywood rom-com, though there’s a wry sense of humour beneath the bleakness. “She was as cool as Evonne Goolagong,” Keyes sings in Hyde Park Hotel. “I was as straight as the Milky Bar Kid.”
In the closing track, Bluebird of Unhappiness, he declares, “Some stories can have happy endings.” But not this one. Sometimes all you can do is try to forget.
“At least yesterday is gone” is the album’s final line. With that, Keyes is gone, too. Like a spirit in the night.
Jim Salmon’s Lament is out now via MGM.