With a wealth of experience in music, including headline tours across Australia, North America and Europe, Michael Brinkworth might be considered a veteran artist – although, how many years do you have to be around to fall into the “veteran artist” category anyway? Embracing the sounds of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, the Berlin-based Aussie finds a balance between contemporary Americana and old-school folk-rock.
Now, I could go on and on about how Michael received critical acclaim from Roadtracks and Lie in the Sound for his debut album Somewhere To Run From. I could speak about his positive reviews in Americana UK, The Other Side Reviews, Musik Reviews, Testicanzoni, ABC Radio Australia and Folk Radio. I could speak about how his soothing, soulful and entrancing songs captivate audiences across the globe. I could talk about all of that, with quotes by the way, but I’m here to speak about Michael’s album Wasted Wonder.
Having listened to Kenny Rogers for most of last night, I was fully prepared for some country music. I’ll admit, I was not prepared for Michael Brinkworth’s Wasted Wonder. Ranging from the upbeat, toe-tapping ‘Thick Skin’ and ‘One More Time (Just For Fun)’ to languid ‘Falling In Love With A Broken Heart’, Michael showcases his versatility as an artist. Yet, it is ‘Force of Nature’, ‘King of Indecision’ and ‘The Path’ that demonstrate his true genre-bending innovativeness.
I was told that song placement on an album is crucial to its effect, and it’s clear that Michael has the talent of placing songs in the correct position for optimal enjoyment. With a certain ebb and flow, the music hits crescendos before dipping down into heartbreaking ballads. Moreover, there are edgier songs interspersed in the line-up keeping people guessing throughout Wasted Wonder. What I mean is the album has a strong country-rock vibe, but certain tunes add an edginess with their style, sound and attitude.
It is difficult to find a favourite track on any album but particularly on Wasted Wonder. The buoyancy of ‘One More Time (Just For Fun)’ has a Lynyrd Skynryd ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ feel, but the simplicity of ‘Liguria’ is far more soothing. If I was forced to choose a favourite, I would opt for either ‘King of Indecision’ or closing track ‘The Path’. Each contains a sense of melancholic sentimentality, but they have particularly intriguing elements illustrating Michael’s eclecticism and ability to create sonic representations of confusing emotions.
I enjoy the use of a harmonica and piano in the guitar-driven album making the melodies more versatile. Yet, it is the stripped-back piano-driven tracks that are most endearing, at least to me. ‘King of Indecision’ seems weary with tired vocals and simple piano, but it is the end of the single that makes it provocative. A movement from a soothing ballad to screeching “white noise” captures the distressing state Michael must have experienced.
Recorded during the pandemic, Wasted World is a juxtaposition between wistful innocence and mature introspection. As we travel along the tracks, we travel with Michael through his life and the sonic representation of it. From joy and optimism to inner turmoil and angst, but finally ending with the spine-chilling ‘The Path’. In my opinion, Wasted World is not merely 52 minutes of some music but a flowing insight into reality as it was and is. I have to mention that the closing of the album, ‘The Path’, has that barebones effect leaving you trembling and intrigued.