22 Oct 2018

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Lawrence Arabia - Album Review: Absolute Truth

28 Jun 2016 // A review by Peter-James Dries

The name Lawrence Arabia is a New Zealand institution, at least for me. It’s one of the ten names that come to mind when someone says New Zealand music, though his music itself, unlike his name, has always sat at the fringes of my periphery.

I first heard of Lawrence Arabia when the New Zealand music stigma was strong in my mind and the mind of my peers. Being of a certain societal group that despised all things popular, the beginning was the wrong time for Lawrence Arabia to be introduced to me.

Alas, I have changed, and so have the times, so much so that there is a strong desire to escape the times through the espousal of the retro, for that sense of nostalgia and those memories of simpler times that such things bring.

Lawrence Arabia’s Absolute Truth is about as retro as it comes in this modern era. As if composed as love songs for a long lost generation. A forgotten time when music had substance, and it was more than a vehicle for the media’s next top model with a face made for lip-syncing. A time when words were sung, not shouted, composed with reverence, and there was meaning, not a list of catchphrases.

The album is weird and wonderful, a compilation of frivolously upbeat sways and quirky orchestrations. It’s almost like the Bee Gees, except falsetto is used here as an adornment, not the prevalent mode. But the Bee Gees reference is a cope out, an artefact of my mind convincing itself that Absolute Truth is a product of my parents’ era. There is no point comparing it to something you’ve heard, because there really isn’t anything quite like Lawrence Arabia. 

Maybe it’s not music that this generation will understand. You can drink and dance to it (a requirement for today’s pop) but the dance is a jaunty waltz or a saucy tango, and the drink an aged whiskey.

You can find a digital copy of Absolute Truth on the Lawrence Arabia Bandcamp Page, but considering the retro tone of this album, I’d suggest picking up a copy on vinyl (also available on the Bandcamp).


About Lawrence Arabia

Lawrence Arabia is the pseudonym of James Milne. From 2002 to 2005, he was a multi-instrumentalist in Auckland pop band The Brunettes. He continued to write songs during this period and in 2006, Lil Chief Records helped him to release his first two solo efforts - one by his group The Reduction Agents (The Dance Reduction Agents) and the eponymous Lawrence Arabia debut. Songs and work from these albums were nominated for a number of BNet awards and the APRA Silver Scroll.

From this point onwards, the ever-resourceful Milne decided to go his own way, organising his own release of Lawrence Arabia's second release, Chant Darling. Since then, varying line-ups of the Lawrence Arabia band have toured the UK and Europe with The Concretes, Feist, The Ruby Suns, Liam Finn and Okkervil River.

Milne also plays in the local super-group, BARB, with Liam Finn, Connan Mockasin, Eliza-Jane Barnes and Seamus Ebbs. He also continues to do occasional performances in Lil Chief's resident Paul McCartney tribute band, The Disciples of Macca. Lawrence Arabia has gone on to be a hugely popular musical vehicle.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Lawrence Arabia


Absolute Truth
Year: 2016
Type: Album
The Sparrow
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Unlimited Buffet
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Chant Darling
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Lawrence Arabia
Year: 2008
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape

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