BUILT TO LAST: Things of Stone and Wood are performing their classic 1993 debut album The Yearning in full on their latest tour. WHEN looking back throughthe annuals of rock history to the heady days of 1993 many classic albums spring to mind.
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Grunge was ruling the roost, with Nirvana’s tortured revolt against success,In Utero, battling Pearl Jam’s angsty sophomore release,Vs, and The Smashing Pumpkins produced arguably their greatest statement inSiamese Dream.

Greg ArnoldPablo Honey) andBlur (Modern Life Is Rubbish) released quality records.

Back home in Australia an often overlooked masterpiece was also released in The Yearning, by Melbourne folk-rock outfit Things of Stone and Wood. Led by the commercial singles Share The Wine and Happy Birthday Helen, The Yearning becamea precursor to Australia’s roots and folk scene movement popularised by John Butler Trio and The Waifs.

The record also earned Things of Stone and Wood frontman Greg Arnold APRA’s songwriterofthe year in 1993 award and Share The Wine won best new talent at the ARIAs.

Things of Stone and Wood are hitting the road in Marchto perform The Yearning in its entirety for the first time. The band’s debut remains their greatest statement and is littered with fond memories for Arnold.

“When I look back on the album, it was an incredibly emotional record for us as a band,” Arnold says from his home in Geneva, Switzerland, where his wife Helen works for the Red Cross.

Things of Stone and Wood – Happy Birthday Helen“It was big time for the band, we were touring a lot, we were very proud of the record. When I look back it’s all bit of a whirlwind in my memory, but you get a real clear vision of what the band’s all about and what we were doing.

“It’s indistinguishablefrom those good memories touring around with the band and having a record and being very proud of it.”

For a debut record, The Yearning is an incredibly mature and well-conceived body of work. From lyrical content littered with Melbourne references to their layered acoustic instrumentation and flourishes ofviolin, it’s a rewarding listen.

Arnold credits the the band’s manager and producer James Black for the album’s clear purpose.

“I think a lot of that maturity came from him because he helped take the band from being a corner of a pub folk-rock band and got us into the idea of making records,” he says.“When I look back it was the most exciting thing because you could tell we were making a real record and he left no stone unturned in his pursuit of that. It was a really fantastic artistic relationship.

“It was our first album and we tried to make a real statement with that.”

Black willjointhe band on the upcoming The Yearning tour, where songs like the title track and Wrapped will be performed live for the first time in two decades.

Stylistically,The Yearning was worlds away from the grunge movement of the early ’90s and even Australia’s alternative rock scene which produced You Am I and Powderfinger.

Things of Stone and Wood – Share The Wine“When I think about that time there were a lot of different movements,” Arnold says.“Grunge became the real dominant one, but they shared a lot of similar things with the new-age hippie thing we were on and the retro thing.

“They were all looking back to rock music that wasa little more direct. Early in the ’90s there was a look out past the ’80s to the ’70s and ’60s. Even though they don’t sound the same, a lot of those movements share the same ideas and philosophies.”

In 2014 Things of Stone and Wood reformed for a 25-year reunion tour, but the four-piece haven’t performed in Newcastle since 2001.This latest tour plays strongly on nostalgia, but it’s not something Arnold is ashamed to enjoy.

“Because we’ve all done a lot of different stuff since then and we’re all happy looking back,” he says.“For me coming back to Australia and hanging out with my mates for a couple of weeks is fantastic.

“We’re all good friends and it’s a fantastic catch up.

“Having said that, I’m interested in doing some new stuff with Things of Stone and Wood because I feel, even though there’s been big gaps in our band, we’ve never really said that’s it.”

Things of Stone and Wood perform The Yearning at Lizotte’s on March 25.

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