Raggy Boy is superbly acted and well made, but is a strange beast – part monstrous and convincing realism, part sketchy and unconvincing caricature. Although Franklin is not all good, Brother John is all bad, and their opposition becomes pure Hollywood, as is the film’s ending. It’s a shame – and diminishes what comes before.

Being described as Australia’s Bob Dylan could be a hard tag to live up to, but singer-songwriter Kev Carmody has the vision and the versatility that’s always marked the American’s career. It was 1990’s blistering Pillars of Society that put Carmody – and his impassioned songs around Aboriginal rights – on the map. The success of Pillars, and subsequent albums such as Bloodlines, was also a wake-up call to many who knew nothing of Australia’s ‘stolen generation’ – Carmody himself was taken from his family aged 10.

Now Mirrors, released with an eye on elections in both Australia and the US, picks up the torch. It’s an attractively direct release: Carmody’s opener, ‘Dirty Dollar’, sets up a simple but effective dualism between globalization and the concept of a ‘pristine land’. ‘Are You Connected?’ – its electronic voices almost straying into Laurie Anderson territory – wonders about isolation in the age of mass communication. ‘Refugees’ could be addressed to dispossessed Aboriginal people as well as Australia’s new asylum-seekers.

While these, and other subjects, receive the benefit of Carmody’s eloquence, the real charge lies in their delivery. Mirrors – an album Carmody describes as techno/folk/punk/grunge – matches style and content in surprising ways. It’s adventurous and fun but many may feel that Mirrors works best in its contemplative moments: ‘Campfire Rain’ with its crackling logs and deluge, or the dignified, hymnal pace of ‘Georgina River’. It’s here that Mirrors really gives a sense of transcendence.

New Internationalist issue 367 magazine cover This article is from the May 2004 issue of New Internationalist.
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