Art of Fighting songs are always about secrets in one form or another: things left unsaid, places lost to any map, lovers never understood. That sense of mystery is there amongst the fragility of set opener ‘Skeletons’ and buried under the pure longing of ‘Distance is Virtue’ (“the one place I can’t be is near to you”). It’s certainly there in Ollie Browne’s magnificently emotional voice and the shimmering, gauzy guitar sound that surrounds it. These are songs that creep up and you and sneak into your consciousness, not least ‘Along The Run’ which could be mistaken for a lost gem from Ryan Adams’ fitfully brilliant back catalogue.
For a band whose muse seems permanently located in a place Ollie describes as “pretty fucking mellow”, they’re positively chipper onstage. Perhaps the most polite front-man in Australian rock, he dedicates one song to everyone present, notes with surprise the obscurity of some of the requests the crowd make (though sadly no-one demands their B-side cover of Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’) and promises a band T-shirt will be out soon. If they do need a quote to emblazon across its front, they need look no further than the opening to ‘Heart Translation’: “Want to hold you like a secret, want to hold you like a hand”. That enigmatic passion would be a perfect hint towards the great secret of Art of Fighting’s appeal, their ability to turn the most abstract of longing into the most heartfelt of music.
Originally appeared in: Mess and Noise