Make mine a double: 5 great Australian double albums

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Is the double album a luxuriant listening experience, or too much of a good thing?

It can be the sound of a genius artist hitting their stride (Prince's Sign O' The Times, Wilco's Being There, Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness), as much as an excuse for a group to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks (The Beatles' The Beatles (The White Album)) or try to appease competing egos of its members fighting for equal space (Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below).

Are most double albums too indulgent? For every band that seems tailor made to craft an epic – think Swans with To Be Kind – there's one that struggles to stretch their ideas on that large a canvas, like Arcade Fire's patchy Reflektor.

 

With the news that Melbourne shredders Beaches have joined the double album club with their about-to-be-released new record Second Of Spring (it's 17 songs over 75 minutes), here's five more homemade epics that push the time and space barrier.

Bluebottle Kiss – Doubt Seeds (2006)

Sydney's Bluebottle Kiss were never short of a song. Their history is dotted with between-albums EPs of seven tracks or more (Double Yellow Tarred, Last Playboy In Town).

Frontman Jamie Hutchings reached his opus with the squally rockers' final record, a 20-track collection with obvious nods to the longest albums by Neil Young and Sonic Youth. Heck, he even namechecked them in the liner notes.

Sarah Blasko duets on ‘Speak Up Memory’, and there's that many players there's even a harpist and second drummer listed.

Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls – Gossip (1986)

Paul Kelly's commercial breakthrough came with new backing band The Coloured Girls, who made their debut on 1986's epic Gossip. Re-recording four cuts off his previous solo album Post helped to pad its 24-song tracklist, but it was the new songs that shone brightest.

RELATED: The J Files: Paul Kelly

Its singles ‘Before Too Long’ and ‘Darling It Hurts’ were both Top 25 hits, with the latter even cracking the Top 20 of the US Billboard mainstream rock chart 12 months later.

Those two tunes, plus ‘Leaps & Bounds’ and ‘Look So Fine, Feel So Low’ have remained PK classics to this day.

The Necks – Silent Night (1996)

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Brevity has never been a part of local jazz improv trio The Necks’ modus operandi. Their music is designed to be an unspooling, immense journey.

Their first double album was simply divided into two halves, called Black and White and clocking in at 63 and 51 minutes respectively. Samples drift in and out, and drummer Tony Buck lets the mood ebb and flow for an eternity.

Following this, they were tapped to score 1998 Aussie drama The Boys, their moody cues adding a level of menace to an already-intense film. 

Grant McLennan – Horsebreaker Star (1994)

Unshackled by only contributing a few songs each to The Go-Betweens albums, post-1989 breakup its founders Grant McLennan and Robert Forster went on a solo record-releasing rampage.

The 19-track Horsebreaker Star was Grant's third album in four years (and his first after a brief spell of calling himself G.W. McLennan).

RELATED: Some of Grant McLennan's favourite songs

Recorded in Athens, Georgia with an American backing band and released over there by major label Atlantic, it sold poorly, despite its sweet cover of The Byrds' ‘Ballad Of Easy Rider’, and Grant later admitted it had been "a lot of work".

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus (2004)

For such a prolific songwriter, it was surprising it took Nick Cave this long to get round to releasing a double album.

It was definitely a record of two halves (hence its separate titles), with Abattoir Blues the ‘rock’ release via cacophonic carnal odes like ‘Get Ready For Love’ and The Lyre Of Orpheus its sweeter flipside with an animated film clip (dancing bunnies!) and flute solo on ‘Breathless’.

It showed Cave branching out – his gnarly side project Grinderman followed just a couple of years after this – and having a whale of a time in doing so.

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