Thursday, March 31, 2011

On the topic of death...

Claire recently pointed out that it is essential to have a funeral play list on your ipod just in case you leave this mortal coil unexpectedly. As she points out ‘you can’t trust you friends’ to pick good music for you and I believe that.

I can totally imagine someone saying “Jon really hated Coldplay so whenever I hear Yellow it reminds me of him. We should definitely play that.” Or even worse, “I remember Jon loved ‘80’s metal. I think he loved that song Rock you like a Hurricane by the Scorpions. We should definitely play that.” There would no doubt be some perversion of my love for music and as an eternal spirit I would have to endure watching my body being committed to earth or fire to the strains of Pearl Jam or some shit. And my friends, trust me, if Pearl Jam gets played at my funeral, I will be back to haunt you.

I have been thinking long and hard on this and it is actually quite hard to pick songs for this kind of playlist. Not because it’s morbid (because I’m a morbid person by nature) but by the nature of the music I love. When you love a lot of punk and rock, it doesn’t always lend itself to such a solemn occasion unless you’re an arch ironist who gets buried to Bootylicious or want to be cremated to Metallica’s Blackened, finding the right song is actually difficult. Somehow, I don’t think playing Run, Pig, Run by Queens is going to fit the bill.

I guess there’s always post-rock for atmosphere but the one song I would absolutely want to be played is New Morning by Nick Cave (although the version from Live Seeds above, not the one off Tender Prey). Three reasons for this: great lyrics, great sound and at the end Nick gets a little bit Elvis and says “Thank you. Thank you and goodnight.” And if that’s not a fitting way to go out, I don’t know what is.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

True conversations of music nerds: Jim Jarmusch moment of weirdness

Washing my hands in the Men's at an International Student College. Student starts washing his hands next to me.

Student (starts singing loudly): Baby, you're a firework! Come on show 'em what you're worth!

(Student catches my incredulous look at him in the mirror and it get's awkward)

JH: Urm... (sarcastically) great song.

Student: YEAH MAN! (Goes for the high five)

JH: Urm OK. (High fives the student and leaves perplexed).


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ipod oversharing

It’s very rare I go anywhere without music but yesterday I had to endure the pain of being non-music listening commuter. I had a meeting in the city which meant I caught the train home from Circular Quay rather than the usual bus from work. As I walked to the train station, I realised that I had left my ipod and headphones at work so this would be a trip made sans music. However, it took me back to the weird world of ipod oversharing.

Ipod oversharing is where someone has their ipod so loud you can hear the song/genre that is being played. As I entered the train, I first came across a young office worker who was listening to Usher’s DJ Got Us Falling in Love. I’m always surprised to see these weird vacant stares and expressionless faces when people are listening to dance music – or maybe vacant stares and expressionless faces are a trademark of Usher fans.

As I moved down the train, I came across crusty junkie playing hardcore techno. I couldn’t make out who the artist was but the thundering ‘doof doof doof’ which is reduced to a squealing distorted pulse indicated that speed was this guy’s drug of choice. I guess the music gave it away... as well as the sallow skin, ratty hoodie and teeth grinding. I walked past a metal dude in a suit whose “slow head bob with eyes closed in ecstasy” look to the roaring guitar riffing showed some sort passion for his music. It looked like he was doing everything in his power not to break out his air guitar and jam. I finally found a seat and was soon joined by a girl who was listening to unidentifiable Asian pop. I imagine the band looked like this:

I know this is a common complaint but I think it may be a function of the shitty ipod earbuds which result in oversharing. I have a good pair of Sennheisers which even when I’m listening to stuff pretty loudly can barely be heard outside my brainscape. That being said, do you really want people to hear what you’re listening to? There is a new wave of phones that play music through a small speaker and it seems that bogans and kids like playing their music for the appreciation of everyone on the bus/train. A few weeks ago, I was behind a couple of forty year old bogan women who were playing Bon Jovi and singing along – love the passion but do you really need to share? I also remember being on an packed early morning bus to work when someone decided they’d play the Cranberries(!?) through their speakers. I couldn’t see who it was but then I couldn’t see who yelled “Can you you turn off that shit?” They did.

I mean, I think I probably have terrible taste in music but I choose to inflict it on the world through this blog rather than in person. And I think for that we can all be thankful. If only everyone was that considerate.


Monday, March 28, 2011

The late career renaissance

I have written recently about how I think Soundgarden releasing a new album is a bad (BAD) idea. However, Cornell spoke about recording the new album to Spin:

"We're putting the music first," Cornell explains. "The process of writing, recording, and being creative together is the most important thing, not meeting a deadline."

I guess that bodes well in terms of not having contractual obligations to rush the thing and I sure as hell hope that there is no chance that this or this happens again. Anyhow, I've been thinking this through and perhaps they might be lucky enough to pull off the late career renaissance.

Generally I think the late career renaissance can be defined by the following three factors:
a) a band is well into its second or third decade;
b) they've released a couple of dud albums or been on extended hiatus; and
c) there is no expectation that they'll release anything amazing at this stage in their career.

Whenever I think of the career renaissance I think of Fugazi's The Argument. After the below par End Hits and the water treading Instrument Soundtrack, Fugazi's swansong is a ferocious call to arms by a band playing to its strengths. With tracks like Cashout and Epic Problem (released before epic became a meme), it is a fantastic album which was a sadly fitting end to this band's discography (come back boys, we still love you). Two years later Wire released Send, a reformation album that was, to be frank, fucking awesome.

Other more recent examples include Built to Spill's There Is No Enemy and Superchunk's Majesty Shredding - both fantastic albums that were surprises considering their previous couple of albums (or in Superchunk's case, 9 years after their last release*).

Can Soundgarden pull this off? I'm not convinced that the instincts that led to Badmotorfinger and Superunknown haven't been dulled by time, separation and Timbaland. But who knows? I'm happy to be proven wrong. We can always live in hope that our favourite bands that have gone off the boil can come screaming back in style someday. It's never too late.

(*Superchunk's Here's to shutting up (2001) is actually a good album but the few before it are pretty lame - sorry Mac.)


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong review

The problem with much of the music which is being currently championed by the Pitchfork set is that if you're over the age of thirty, you've probably heard it somewhere before. Much of Pitchfork's 2010 Top 100 songs sounded like a step back to British 80's indie guitar pop. I guess on the grand scale of things, there could be worse times in music history to be influenced by but I can't say a lot of it does much for me. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart fall very much into this category with a sound that echo's the guitar pop of Thatcher's England. Despite this, I have to admit that I really liked their first record (I bought it on vinyl which generally means it's rated as a keeper) and if anything I like Belong a lot more than their debut.

If the band had one problem on their first album they almost seemed tentative or twee for the music they were trying to produce (if that's even possible). On Belong, you immediately notice that even though the music is drawn from the same palette as the first album it seems more expansive and punchy (perhaps a result of the production of Flood). There is also an assuredness and confidence in the compositions as well as the singing that probably reflects more touring. The influences are still front and centre (think Smiths, Orange Juice, MBV channeled through the Smashing Pumpkins) but it is not distracting like it is on the Yuck album I reviewed a couple of days ago. If anything, it makes you want to wear a loose fitting pirate shirt and dance around with chrysanthemums Morrissey style.

Currently, my favourite track is My Terrible Friend (above) because it feels like a long lost outtake from the Cure's Head on the Door. So much like the Yuck album, if you like the bands that I've mentioned there's a fair chance you'll take to this album as well. While the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are yet to find a truly unique voice, this is some mighty fine indie pop if that's your flavour.


Celebrity to-do list

A lot of people I know have this recurring discussion about a mythical list of celebrities who they would sleep with. Essentially, it goes that if Friend A met George Clooney, s/he would be allowed to sleep with them (regardless of their relationship status) because come on, it's George frickin' Clooney or whoever the celebrity of choice might be. It's kind of like fantasy football except it's more like the fantasy celebrity to-do list.

I often struggle in these conversations because I'm a little bit English and don't particularly put much thought into who'd I'd totally bang if I got the chance. Strangely, my celebrity to-do list is pretty sedate which is a constant source of disappointment for my friends when these conversations arise. You see I'd much prefer to go dog walking with Neko Case and have a good chat about music. Conversely, rather than turning gay for Josh Homme or Bob Mould, I'd prefer to go vinyl shopping with Josh and go out to dinner with Bob. Maybe I should be dreaming a little bigger?

Sure, I think people are cute but when it comes to celebrities (or in my case, musicians who I'm far more interested in), even though I'm moved by them on many different emotional levels, I imagine any real life interaction would be far more intellectual than carnal. Really, I just want a cup of tea and a good chat.

Except for Bret Michaels, I'd totally go there. I mean, Rock of Love, come on!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rather be dead: NSW Election update

Not great news in the election tonight. Even though there is little difference between the Liberal and Labor parties these days, I'd take a shitty Labor party over the fascist scum in the Liberal Party any day. However, it is a fucking landslide and the transferral of votes from Labor to the Greens hasn't been as high as expected. Bad news but I guess it means I'll have to pull out all my old anti-authoritarian punk records and get all bolshy again. There is a silver lining I guess...


Earth Hour

Tonight is Earth Hour, an event where people around the world turn off their lights for an hour in a symbolic acknowledgment of the environment and climate change. So here's some Richard Thompson in that spirit. Although, I generally recommend using the light switch rather than firearms to turn the light off. Just sayin'...


Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys review

Dear Elbow,

I'm really sorry but I think it's me, not you.

Let me tell you a story. A long (long) time ago I went on a blind date with this girl. Everything looked great on paper. She was a lefty lawyer who was passionate about the environment and I just happened to be a lefty advocate who was passionate about the environment. We emailed a few times and it all looked very promising. Unfortunately, when we met for coffee, even though we had so much in common there was not one single spark of attraction. This is how I feel about you, every one of your albums feels like I'm re-living that blind date.

How so? Well, on paper you are my type of band. Emotive indie pop with Peter Gabriel-esque flourishes and heart on sleeve lyrics. If that's not my cup of tea, I don't know what is. But when I listen to you, it's much like there is a weird distance or absence between us, that even though I can hear what I should be liking there is this lack of engagement. There is no spark.

Now, this might seem mean but my favourite song of yours is Grounds for Divorce and even though I like that song, it almost feels incomplete to me. Great hook, great bluesy grind but the song never kicks into high gear to make it transcendent. It get's close but it never quite gets there. Build a Rocket Boys is the same for me as it traverses through a slightly nostalgic trial of growing up and touches on a number musical tropes that I adore. It really does stray into some beautiful musical territory but again I find myself going, meh.

Again, I think this is a function of chemistry. I can hear it, taste it and want to love it but it just doesn't have the emotional connect to make it work between us. I hope one day we can get together and have fun because I know a couple of people who adore you.

As I said, I think this time it's a case of 'it's not you, it's me'. And that's ok because there's enough love to go around and lot's of people love you.

I'm sorry about this. I hope we can be friends and maybe hook up in the future.

Best regards,



Friday, March 25, 2011

Yuck: Yuck Review

Recently, Matt blogged an eloquent post about the circularity of music and how even though you may be out of the cultural loop, it will get back to you eventually. Listening to Yuck, I feel much the same way because it seems to be the perfect distillation of every major indie band of the 90's and seems genetically designed to make me happy.

Now, it's contrived to say that in some secret laboratory, scientists are working on producing the perfect band that will appeal to me but that's how this album feels (by the way, if there are scientists undertaking this kind of research, keep it up). However, I feel anyone of a similar age and musical pedigree will find something to enjoy in this album because it is so comfortable and familiar. Actually, you could make a drinking game out of it.

Yuck drinking game instructions
: Every time you identify a moment in a Yuck song that sounds like another band, yell out the band it reminds you of and take a shot.

Before you know it, you'll be yelling out things like Dinosaur Jnr, Lemonheads, Sugar, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, My Bloody Valentine etc... I think it's safe to say that if you like any of these bands, you will like this album. However, while some derivative music drives me nuts, I can't say I mind it here because the songs are actually pretty good. They haven't quite gone from 'spot the reference' to 'embedded in my brain in their own right' yet but with each listen, I think I like them more and more.

I guess the sticking point is could they have thought of a worse fucking name? I mean Yuck? Seriously? I think this band name might be a decision they come to regret. If you can overcome the name, these guys and girl are worth checking out.

Update: I think this music should be used in every film starring either Ellen Page or Michael Cera.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Radiohead: King of Limbs review

On first listen to The King of Limbs, I was quite entranced by the sound and intent of it. Returning to the glitch and awe of the early 00’s, the album had a common understated beauty running through the tracks. With a lot of subtle orchestration that begged for close listening, I thought this was an album that I would increasingly love. I was wrong.

Unlike many Radiohead fans, I’m not nostalgic for their earlier records or believe that OK Computer was the pinnacle of their existence. In fact my three favourite albums are Kid A, OK Computer and In Rainbows (which was such a quality record for a band well into their second decade). I am not confronted by the absence of guitars on Limbs because I like the ambient, electronic side of their catalogue. However, Limbs is a disappointment and I’m sorry to say that this album can be summed up in a single word for me: boring.

There. I said it and I think someone had to – this album is a snoozefest. Radiohead tend to attract this automatic knee jerk acclaim and reverence that I think is a bit over the top. They are a great band (no denying it really) but they are capable of making a crap record as anyone else. The truth is that I don’t think The King of Limbs is a bad album but I think it’s a bit of a nothing album. The weird thing is, you can hear the aspiration in this record but it just hasn't come together in a cohesive form that is engaging.

Having listened to it quite a few times now, I find that there is no emotional or sonic hook to attach myself too. There is nothing that makes me want to return to this album and I’d almost go so far to say that repeated listens are to the detriment of the listener. The music seems to be taken from the same palette and as such there is no swing, no highs or lows – it feels like an incredibly static and underwhelming listening experience.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. On another planet, the Deftones last album was pretty much one mood (KILL!) but there was enough passion and vitality to make it an extraordinary record. The best way I can describe the mood of Limbs is listless and unfocussed. Even across a mere eight songs, it drags its feet.

I may be wrong (I often am), it could be some of these songs may be great but in the context of the album they seem amorphous and mundane. In isolation, Codex is a beautiful ballad that only Radiohead can pull off but within the context of the album, it appears unexceptional. It makes me think of the other tracks of this ilk from their back catalogue (eg Pyramid Song, Videotape) rather than focussing on the song at hand.

I think the best/worst thing I could say is that this would be great late night music to put on in the background in some dim light with a glass of wine in hand. Essentially, this is Radiohead muzak, background fodder with little to drag the listener into the album as a sonic experience. I find it weird to be writing this as not a few days ago, I had such an amazing OK Computer listening session where I praised their innovation and ability to track albums in a way that engages and enhances the listening experience. That being said, if Limbs is a dud (and I think time will play a part in this evaluation), it’s probably not as bad as their first album and probably a lot better than the best album of a number of bands.

However, this is small consolation. There is so much I love about this band but sorry Thom, no amount of bad dancing and flailing about will make it sound better.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Right band, wrong time

I saw Jawbreaker once at a festival in 1995. I distinctly remember lead singer Blake Schwarzenbach strumming his guitar and saying "That's so out of tune but this is punk rock right?" In response to the affirmation of the crowd, he started playing the opening chords to Save your generation only to stop himself grimacing at the sound being produced form his Les Paul. Apologetically, he started tuning his guitar and said "Even punk rock needs to be in tune."

I fell in love with Jawbreaker that day and bought their cd Dear You at the merch store. When I got home I liked what I heard, three piece pop punk with a gloomy edge and slashing guitars. What I didn't realise that was that I was getting involved in a broader narrative about punk credibility and commercialism as it turns out there's only about three people in the world who like this album.

A few years later when I moved to Sydney, I ended up crashing at my friend's share house in Newtown. The house was made up of my friend, a gentle, goofily dressed artist and a bunch of anarchists. They spent their time complaining, smoking and making terrible pasta bakes with tahini instead of cream (goooooo vegan!). The room where I slept was the band room where the anarchists played their own version of Crass-style punk. One song I remember they played for about an hour which was a slow grinding number where someone screamed "pain and misery" over and over again. I know exactly what they were talking about because my temporary bedroom stank of rancid anarchist sweat. There really wasn't much common ground between the anarchists and I except for my love of punk music (my leftist politics were no where near hardcore enough for them). I did have a box of cds with lot's of Fugazi, Jawbox, The Jam, Clash etc... which made me ok (apart from the fact they were on cd and not vinyl).

Seeing me wearing a Jawbreaker shirt one day, the lead anarchist pulled out his lps and we had an afternoon listening to Jawbreaker's first few albums Unfun, Bivouac and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. The mere mention of Dear You turned him cold and stony and he said something along the lines of "Fucking sell outs. That album is fucking terrible. I can't believe you fucking like it when these fucking albums are so much fucking better." I might have underestimated the number of time he said 'fucking' in that sentence but I think I'm close.

Anyhow, I didn't really know that much about the history of the band. I knew that Blake Schwarzenbach had had vocal surgery that meant the ragged, strained delivery of the early records had been replaced by a newer smoother croon on Dear You. I also know they'd copped some shit for signing to a major label but not that much more than that. Wikipedia tells us more:

When Dear You was released in September 1995, however, its polished production and clear vocals strongly divided the band's fanbase. Ben Weasel was so displeased with the album, particularly the sound of Schwarzenbach's singing, that he he wrote (drummer) Pfahler a letter detailing his complaints with it. Despite a music video in rotation to support the single "Fireman", sales of Dear You were poor. As the band toured in support of the album, audience reaction towards the new material was either lukewarm or outright negative. "I have never seen anything like that—before or since", said Kates, "There was a point where they were headlining the Roxy and there were kids sitting on the floor, with their backs to the stage, when they were playing songs from Dear You. I'm not making that up. If you were to try [to] explain that to somebody now, it would make no sense." Jawbreaker continued touring in 1996, opening for the Foo Fighters that spring, but audience reception did not improve. Samiam's Sergie Loobkoff cites a show at The Warfield in San Francisco as a turning point: "That is when I knew they were definitely going to break up. It was their hometown; they had put out the big major-label record. But then you're looking around and it was like no one cared."

At the time, I didn't know any of this but lead anarchist was a long term fan so he felt the burning sting of betrayal from a band he once loved. And to be honest, I can understand his resentment because Dear You is radically different from the earlier albums. The problem for me is that even though those early albums are great, Dear You has a special place in my heart because it was the first album of their's I heard. It was the right band for me, I just heard them at the wrong time. If I'd heard 24 Hour Revenge Therapy first, no doubt that would be my all time favourite Jawbreaker record... but it wasn't. Now I'm in this position of being a fan of the record regarded by most Jawbreaker fans as the dog of their catalogue. I mean, even Pitchfork hates it, not once, but twice.

I think a lot of the music we listen to is tied to when we first heard it and where we were in our lives. I mean if I had been born a few years later, my favourite Bowie album might have been Never Let Me Down (1987)... shudder. It's already embarrassing enough that I long loved and championed Pink Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason because that was the first Floyd album that I embraced. I'm sure I can think of numerous other examples of bands where I like the 'unpopular' album.

I'm not sure what you think but this was a very long winded way of saying that sometimes you catch the band at the tail end of their career or in one of those shit album cycles but you love it anyway because this is your introduction and gateway into their musical world. And regardless of what other fans say, it's ok to like bad albums. Someone has to. I'm sure parents love their ugly children too.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I predict a riot

I attend a weekly pub trivia night and there is this really annoying team that turn up every week who are disruptive, pick fights and are generally pain in the arse. I have a very non-PC name for them which was deemed a step too far by my team so we came up with a name for them based on the three things mself and my team mates despise. So they are officially named the Banana Panda Cops – I am the cops quotient of this name.

I have no idea where my distrust and dislike of cops comes from. Oh yeah, I remember. At a protest where I pointed out that two policemen were assaulting a minor and had removed their identification badges for the beating they were serving up. For my troubles, I was chased down the street by a baton wielding cop who was going to club me for pointing out that they were breaking the law. Ahh good times, but fortunately the cop lived up to this cliché and I could easily out run him. That and all the times I’ve seen people injured by their actions at otherwise peaceful protests (being a lefty in the 90’s and 00’s was a rough and tumble business).

Once again Katie brought to my attention that the Death From Above 1979 reunion show at got a little bit out of hand and the cops had to be called in. I love it when they refer to a concert as a riot, a sure sign of a great night. As usual Officer Friendly showed up and as Pitchfork recounted:

Spinner reports that shortly after that, mounted police arrived with mace and tasers, "and, in the case of one blonde female officer, hand-beating a particularly aggressive rioter."

Yeah, because I’m totally sure riding a group of horses into a crowd isn’t provocative at all. To be honest, one of the scariest moments in my life was being in a crowd charged by police horses and being dragged out of the path of them by a stranger as I fell down trying to run away. Firstly, horses are huge and kind of scary looking. Secondly, cops really don’t like that chant “get those animals off those horses.” Thankfully, I’m too fat, old and middle class for such shenanigans these days.

But, is there any measure of overkill than watching all the youtube videos of mounted police lining up against a bunch of fans that just want to hear DFA 1979? This is hardly a 'riot', more like a hipster beat down. Seriously, they need to chill and remember the sage like advice of Bryan Adams – Everywhere I go, the kids wanna rock. Just let them rock coppers, they ain’t harming no one.


Monday, March 21, 2011

OK Computer revisited

This blog entry is going to be Captain Obvious for a lot of people so please forgive me and move on. Over the weekend, I was doing some work and listened to OK Computer in it's entirety on my headphones. I used to be a huge Radiohead fan but somewhere they became less important to me - probably around the time of Hail to the Thief. I've bought everything they've put out but the giddy heights of my fandom (OK Computer and Kid A) are far behind me. I still listen to them pretty regularly but they are so familiar, I can't say I take the time to listen to them that closely. So I was wholly surprised at how amazing and strangely fresh OK Computer sounds. Here are my thoughts on it from the weekend.

1. The production is gorgeous and somehow timeless. When I say timeless, I don't mean like classic rock but if they'd released this album in 1980 or 2010, I think it wouldn't have sound out of place. The production is incredibly dense - things like hidden backing vocals and percussion pervade the album but are so intricately bound into the texture of the music that they're easy to miss.

2. On the timeless thing, I was watching Lost in Translation recently and there was a lot of action that revolved around faxes which is indicative of the time. A lot of popular culture from about 1995-2004 became immediately dated by the rapid progress of technology and the internet. Think brick phones in Heat or any music video using special effects at this time. Thematically, sonically and visually, there is nothing to betray the time OK Computer was made.

3. One thing Radiohead get right more than any other band is the track order. OK Computer is an unbelievably fluid listening experience based on it's running order.

4. Speaking of running order, I always thought Electioneering was OK Computer's version of Ignoreland. If you don't know Ignoreland, it's the one rock track on REM's Automatic for the People which sticks out like dog's balls on a wedding cake making a perfect album near perfect. I always thought Electioneering was the weakest track on the album and more of a strong b-side. Re-listening, I stand corrected and now think it is marvelous triple threat of jangle, calamity and attack. Good stuff.

5. I know this accusation is often leveled at the band but the back end of OK Computer (No Surprises, Luck and The Tourist) has the marijuana tinged smell of Pink Floyd. I don't mean this is in a pejorative sense because if you weren't a glum teenager listening to Comfortably Numb over and over again while writing bad poetry then I don't think you're a real music fan. Anyhow, when I say Pink Floyd I'm thinking density, darkness and guitar sounds that sparkle like stars in a slowly darkening sky.

So, if you have a free day, I'd recommend giving OK Computer another listen through some good headphones because it really is as great as we all thought it was at the time. Kid A has long been my favourite Radiohead album but it was always closely followed by OK. I think the gap may be getting smaller.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Of mice and metal

As regular readers of this blog know (all three of you) I am partial to a bit of metal in my musical diet. I am unapologetic for this as the eternal thirteen year old inner-child will always be seduced by bangin' guitars, double kick drums and anthemic choruses. It's just the way it is and I have accepted this reality as much as I'm comfortable with my ugly face - you just have to accept your flaws and move on. However, Katie pointed out this remarkable scientific experiment recently where they played metal at mice for 24 hours - kind of:

Music, Mice and Madness

A student named David Merrill devised an experiment to discover how music would affect the ability of mice to learn new things. Merrill had one group of mice listen to classical music 24 hours a day and another to heavy metal music. He then timed the mice as they ran through mazes to see if the music affected their speed of learning. Unfortunately, he had to cut the first experiment short because the heavy metal mice all killed one another. In a second experiment, mice that listened to Mozart for 10 hours a day dramatically improved their maze-solving abilities, while the heavy metal mice actually became worse at solving mazes than they had been at the beginning of the experiment. For more details click here.

THEY FUCKING KILLED EACH OTHER!? Wow I've been to a few mosh pits and people get a bit batshit crazy but killing each other is taking it to a whole new level. The thing about this study is that it doesn't outline what kind of metal was played to the mice. For example, if they repeatedly played the same Napalm Death song over and over for 24 hours, I would have no idea why the mice would turn on each other. However, if the researcher classified Nickelback as metal and played half a song at them, they'd probably start killing each other in some collective murder-suicide pact. Now that I can understand.

To be honest, I'm not that surprised. Seeing any congregation of metal heads is like watching an ape revert to a primal knuckle dragging state - it a death-circle-of-stoopid. However, it's understandable though as metal (even at it's worst) is very visceral and affecting. It makes you want to punch the air, throw a devil horn, take a swing at someone, eat the limbs of your next door neighbour - that kind of thing.

My only problem with this study is maybe they should have found some mice who were metal fans before the test rather than some lamearse mouse that loves Justin Beiber (understandable given the pitch of his voice). Surely there are some mouse Maiden fans out there who would have moshed for 24 hours and then smashed their way through the maze. I think the researcher was just playing to the wrong audience.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is it ok?

I tend to just like music instinctively and don't give fuck whether it's fashionable or not. Credibility and worrying whether other people will look down on your music taste is a mug's game - let the hipsters fret over such things. However, there is one band where I feel a little uneasy about liking and that's the Foo Fighters.

I have no logical reason for this. I think in the spectrum of pop-rock, they're not a great albums band but they release some pretty good singles which are catchy and fulfill their purpose. Apart from One by One - I don't think I've really been captivated by an entire FF album but their Greatest Hits album is a blast from go to whoa (except that new song that sounds like bad Tom Petty). Anyhow, Dave Grohl seems like a nice guy - I love his drumming in Queens, Nirvana and the Vultures and FF seem like a pretty solid outfit devoid of the posing and artifice that goes with bands of that genre. So why the unease? Is it ok to like them? Why do I even care?

I'm not one of those guy's who thinks that Grohl is some grunge Phil Collins and while his songs aren't earth shattering, they're good fun. He seems to be living this pretty awesome life where he's got to play with his heroes (JPJ, McCartney, Mould, LEMMY, etc) as well as play with some great artists (Cobain, Homme, Reznor, Cat Power etc...). So the only thing I can think is maybe I'm totally jealous of Grohl - being able to play with all these amazing people and his excellent drumming prowess. Maybe, that's why I can't fully love the FF. I'm just a sad bitter little man (that's a given)... or maybe they're a little bit lame. Whatever, I like it.

Updated: Dave Grohl totally rules.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Thank God it's...

This is the only mention I will make of this phenomenon.


Sometimes you shouldn't open your email...

Haven't these people suffered enough?

Nah, it's great that they're raising money for this although I'll pay double not to hear it.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The vagaries of Last FM Part 2

Hmmm if I asked you what the band Sugar looked like, do you think it would look like three dour American punks?

or four cutesy Korean girls?

Do you think the Herd are a hip hop collective from Sydney?

or do you think it's an early band Peter Frampton played in?

The answer is that those bands share their names which is not a big problem until the fans of both bands need to interact. I've written before about how I use Last FM, a service that keeps a tally of your listening habits. Well, one thing about Last FM is that it is not sensitive to bands which have the same name. As each band has their own page, fans unite in hatred in the comments section to fight for who is the undisputed rightful owner of the name and who should have their picture featured at the top of the page. As a music fan, I understand the passion but on the other hand, these people are fucking nuts.

In my mind, this decision is already decided by the number of plays a band receives in their charts. Whoever is the most popular wins the right to supremacy in name ownership - in this case Sugar (US) and the Herd (Aus). But that doesn't stop the fans of both bands taking pot shots at each other. Here's some examples of the ongoing war:

Bob Mould power punk trio versus Korean vixens - FIGHT!

Ah, it's the little things in life that make me happy. Voting down all the asian band photos that look like Final Fantasy cosplay and voting up Bob Mould. Thank you, interwebs.

oh wow, Bob Mould and crew or a visual kei outfit. how troubling. just vote for the Korean girls. they're cute.

Okey, noticed you use the word "shitty" like 30 times in your text. And there is no "brutal" with the Japanese band. But if "the deal" with your Sugar band is this Bob Mould guy, why didn't he form the band "the Bob Mould band" or a solo career "Bob Mould" instead? I'm not changing my tags... because, this wonderful Japanese band's name happen to be Sugar. I'm not stopping voting pictures either.

Like some random japanese band gives a fuck about some old english fart. I'm sorry that a picture is holding you back from trying to get a bigger e-penis or DESTROYING your pride and joy known as a page.

Nooo! Sugar is a korean girl band!! XD Not some sweaty man rock band. =_=

It goes on...

Australian Hip Hop collective versus Frampton pre-coming alive - FIGHT!

i love it when shitty, unoriginal artists of today use the name of good bands from the 60's and 70's. it's my favorite thing in the world. simpletons who can't come up with their own name deserve much success.

I want Peter Frampton's The Herd! A REAL The Herd. Not these australian hip-hop assholes.Wth?This name has been used by amazing classic rock band of 60s! Change your name and make another page,ignorant idiots!

No Idea what the hop hop group is like, but FFS they should have been more original when choosing a name.

peter frampton cant rap for shit

The neverending battle for supremacy goes on and on and on and on and on....


Happy St Patricks Day...

...ya bastards (I kid, I love you guys). Have a good one.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quite literally...

Music weaves a narrative through much of our lives and informs and influences the way we feel about different situations in life. What’s great is that with my music collection at my fingertips in my ipod, I can now play the most literal song to complement my reality.

If I am digging in the garden, I can put on Peter Gabriel’s Digging in the Dirt. If I am being strangled by an escaped mentally deranged convict, I’ll cue up Eyes of the Insane by Slayer. Just imagine if there was some crazy apocalyptic meltdown where blood rained from the sky – it’d be amazing if I cued up Raining Blood by Slayer followed by Red Rain by Peter Gabriel. What a perfect day that would be… except for, y’know, the blood falling from the sky.

So I’ve been thinking about this and would like to make some song recommendations for your daily life.

1. Wash Me – The Grates: Wash Me is the perfect tempo for washing and scrubbing yourself in the shower. If you have a loofa, all the better.

2. We Walk - The Ting Tings: I’m almost shocked that a song called We Walk could be so effective for walking at a brisk pace

3. Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers: Like We Walk, this song surprisingly effective although more for jogging than running. However, in my case the difference between walking/jogging/running is debatable.

4. Acid Food – Mogwai: Perfect for any dinner party where you’re eating acid.

5. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses: Perfect for standing in the rain in November. However, Axl wasn’t lying when he said it was hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain. Actually, it’s hard to hold a candle in the rain in any month but I guess no one's going to argue with Axl about this technicality.

6. Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith: There’s no better song when you’re having a sweet emotion (that one is for Claire).

7. Killer Queen – Queen: When you’re hanging out with a cross dresser called Bob who keeps talking about killing people with laser beams. Happens more often than you think.

8. Burning Down The House - Talking Heads: Perfect for barn burning but any acts of pyromania go with this song.

9. Pretty much any Dead Kennedy’s song: These guy’s wrote the book on literal songs with Let’s Lynch The Landlord, Take This Job and Shove It, Kill The Poor and Riot.

All good fun but you have to be careful though because literal songs don’t always work. I listened to Holiday in Cambodia when I was on holiday in Cambodia – it was lame, obvious and embarrassing. Be careful out there.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

True conversations of music nerds: Miley

At pub trivia...

Trivia Host: Ok, guess the next song. It's a female singer with a song from 2009.

(20 seconds of Miley Cyrus's Party in the USA plays.)

JH: (Screaming) MAKE IT STOP!

Trivia host: (stops the music) Ok, I know it's terrible but we have to play it a little longer so everyone has a chance of guessing it.

(Music resumes until the chorus and the Trivia Host stops the song.)

Trivia Host: Sorry about that. I'm worried that one day I'll be hit by a car and someone will look at my ipod and think I like all these songs.

Trivia team mate: I think if you were hit by a car you'd have more to worry about than what's on your ipod.

JH: I actually think that's a legitimate concern.


Monday, March 14, 2011

This is the end...

With all this talk of the apocalypse and the end of the world, it's hard not to get pissed off at News LTD for tying such sensationalism to the recent tragedies we've seen. However, if in ten years I'm eating the hind quarters of a German shepherd over burning phone books while trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world, I'll surely send my apologies to the memory of the Murdoch organisation. The last thing I hope I'll be saying in the future is "in retrospect, all those natural disasters were a pretty clear indication that the end was indeed nigh." All I know is that our civilization has never seemed so fragile.

Post-apocalyptic worlds were primarily the domain of films, some great (Mad Max 2), some terrible (pretty much every other one). But more recently, this genre has become the new hunting ground for game producers (Fallout 3 etc...). Recently, I watched the trailer for a new game called Rage which is some sort of post-apocalyptic-blood-sport-game-show with lots of gratuitous violence and mutant killing. The trailer features a new song by Mark Lanegan (above) and it struck me if there is going to be a voice for the end times, Lanegan is surely the perfect candidate. His smokey baritone seasoned with biblical torment and decay is the perfect voice for the 2012 generation.

I've seen Lanegan perform many a time in different incarnations (Screaming Trees, Queens, solo) and there is something terrifying and other worldly about his stage presence. It is this impenetrable dark focus and intensity that makes every note, every phrase sound like it is the last words you will hear before the lights go out - to be precise, your lights. And if one man must guide us into the darkness make it Lanegan, he seems to know the way...

(Like the song? Download it here.)


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fuck the revolution

Sorry for the recent bout of nostalgia but I'm just in one of those moods at the moment. Re-reading Rino's book last night I was reminded of this performance of Sunday Bloody Sunday. I think anyone who saw Rattle and Hum could not have been affected by this performance and aside from all the bullshit and crriticism that U2 cop (from myself included) this is a document of why they're a great band when - passion, raw emotion and good tunes. Bono's third 'no more' when his voice cracks gets a little tear everytime... Good one Bono.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Bloody Golf Handicap

I have to be honest, I kind of hate golf. I find nothing more boring, pretentious or reeking of privilege than golf. Maybe that's overstating it a little but in terms of the pantheon of sports in the world, golf seems like a third nipple - oddly interesting but ultimately useless. That being said, I know a lot of people who play golf and are addicted to it. They go golfing at least three times a week even if the weather is horrific and they are forever talking about reducing their handicap. It's like some weird cult where the uniform is a mixture of bad pants and boring. This is pure speculation but it just occurred to me that Kevin Shields must be a golfer.

The reason I bring this up is because I was watching Lost in Translation and Kevin had a few songs on the soundtrack. Apart from the occasional remix and appearance with Patti Smith and Primal Scream, he really hasn't been doing anything significant music wise for about 20 years. Ok that's not quite true, there are bootlegs of a number of My Bloody Valentine albums that were never released but I kind of get the feeling that Kevin finished Loveless and said "now I've created the perfect guitar album, I'm going to work on my golf handicap." Again, this is speculation but I suspect that Kevin has been abducted by the brotherhood of goofy pants and golf clubs. Seriously - 20 YEARS since Loveless.

If this is the case (and it's probably not), all I can say is if you've been solely focused on your golf handicap for twenty years and are not a professional player by now, it's time to strap your Fender back on and hit the distortion pedal. Seriously, dude, anyone can play golf badly but no one rocks a tremolo like you do.

Don't make me come down to the golf club and find you, it's time to make music again.


Song of the hour

Give Blood - Pete Townshend: For the last week I've been getting up each morning and playing Pete Townshend's White City on vinyl to stir me out of my lethargy and get me in the mood for pretending to work. Most people know this album for the song Face the Face but that is far from the best song on the record. I have been a long term fan of White City even if it is a concept album - the lowest form of album there is.

What I find really interesting about this song is that it has these relatively static guitar parts and the driving force of the song is actually the bass. I'm sure it's a bit of a common phenomenon but considering Townshend and Dave Gilmour play guitar on the song, it seems a slightly perplexing creative choice (two shit hot guitarists give the bass the spotlight). What's really unique is that there is a repeated four note guitar 'solo' and then the main guitar figure is supplanted by the bass beneath it which is actually performing the closest thing to a traditional solo on the song. God knows what he's singing about but it sounds pretty awesome and angry. Kudos also for the crazy old man spoken word bit too - adds a bit of drama. BTW, I have no idea what that video is about, just listen.


Friday, March 11, 2011


Horrifying scenes tonight - so upsetting and my thoughts are with those affected. It made me think of this song (which I find incredibly moving, not for the obviousness of the title). What a fucking terrible week.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

The National went too far

A while back I wrote a long love letter to the National's High Violet. Katie commented something along the lines that she couldn't wrap her mind around the song Conversation 16 because of it's chorus which is:

I was afraid I'd eat your brains (x2)
because I'm evil

I said I thought it was funny but Katie argued that no indie band based in Brooklyn should have a sense of humour. I thought that was a bit rough but Katie was right. The National have released a funny new video for Conversation 16 featuring Kristen Schaal (Mel from Conchords!) and John Slattery (Roger Sterling from Mad Men). Except it's not funny. The technical term for this video is clusterfuck of awful. Go back to being brooding, no one wants to see this...

The National


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tom Waits for no man...

How did Tom Waits find me? That dude is fucking onto it as I don't remember signing up for this. I feel like he's out there... watching... waiting... growling...


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jump that shark

I love the term Jump the Shark. For anyone who has been living under a rock in the middle of a highway for the last 40 years, it is essentially when something in popular culture that becomes a parody of it's former self at a specific point in time. Or as Wikipedia describes it "first employed to describe a moment in the evolution of a television show, characterized by absurdity, when a particular show abandons its core premises and begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery." I love that Fonzie jumped a shark in Happy Days because it's probably the most interesting thing that happened in a show featuring a character named Potsie. So today, I thought I'd list when I believe a bunch of well known artists/bands jumped the shark.

Casual listeners might think that AC/DC jumped the shark when Bon Scott died and he was replaced by Brian Johnson. However, AC/DC jumped the shark on the For Those About To Rock album. The reason for this is that this album features one good song (the title track) and then nine cringe inducing, innuendo laden boogie by rote numbers. This is the pattern for all their future releases – 1 or 2 good songs and a lot of crap. Obviously, For Those About To Rock was an ironic title.

The Beatles:
As the late, great Bill Hicks once said, "the Beatles were so high they even let Ringo sing a couple of tunes.” One minute I’m listening to the greatest band on earth and the next minute I’m wondering if the Fat Controller is going to tell Thomas off for being late again.

Inuit throat singing.

Coldplay: By existing.

The Cult: The Cult jumped the shark when two blokes from Northern England decided to pretend they were Native Americans…

The Cure: Every self respecting Cure fan hates Friday I’m in Love (I have no self respect so I like it) because it’s the point where Robert Smith went from miserable bastard to playful dandy. This song resulted in a lot of runny eyeliner and bad Goth poetry.

David Bowie: Sure he wrote China Girl with Iggy Pop for The Idiot album but isn’t it a bullshit move to re-record it and make a better version than Iggy’s? Dude, that’s not cool. Let’s Dance was Bowie’s last great album and I had to spend the next twenty years saying “I hear that new Bowie album is a total return to form.” I was wrong – every time.

Godspeed! You Black Emperor: They jumped the shark when they didn’t release another album. Also, does Obama make their name redundant? Just saying.

Guns N’ Roses:
For releasing any album that isn’t Appetite for Destruction.

Metallica: Some people think Hetfield cutting his mullet around the time of the Load album was the shark jump for these guys but I’m not convinced. That album did feature a song about Hetfield’s Mum but it felt like a natural progression from the Black album. I think it was the Reload album which was the real venture into shark territory. One good song and a whole bunch of filler which inevitably led to a double album of covers, an album with a symphony orchestra (really?) and their career low St Anger. Good thing they got a taste for shark meat and caved into fan demands to make an old man version of Master of Puppets on Death Magnetic.

Nine Inch Nails: You get a real sense of Trent’s potential to win an Oscar by his song for the Tomb Raider soundtrack. What is this shit?

Oasis: The very obvious shark jump was the release of the 7:42 second D’You Know What I Mean? as their first single off Be Here Now. Even Noel concedes that was ridiculous and he was totally high at the time. The strangest thing about this song is that the lyrics are absolutely nonsensical making the question posed in the chorus even more perplexing.

Radiohead: Thanks for the new EP. That Thom Yorke is a dancin’ fool yo.

The Rolling Stones: There are many things I could point to but Mick’s substance enhanced aerobics performance in the Start Me Up video marks a big swan dive across the shark pool.

Steve Albini: He jumped the shark as soon as he started using a four track. What a sell out.

Sonic Youth: Jump it? They are the shark.

U2: Many people argue that U2 jumped the shark with either with Rattle and Hum or Pop. They are wrong. From the high of Achtung Baby, they released a shiny turd called Zooroopa not long after. Apart from only having two good songs (Stay and the one about Bukowski), Bono decided to embrace his more theatrical side. It kind of worked on Achtung Baby because the whole Fly concept was essentially stolen off Clint Mansell from Pop Will Eat Itself. But on Zooroopa, he embraced McPhisto: part-devil, part showman and 100% total high school drama class fuckery. I saw them on that tour and it looked like Larry was doing everything within his power not to dive across his kit and punch Bono in the face… or maybe he always looks like that.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Touched by the hand of...

Random fact: I have only met three rock stars (if you don't include David Yow crowd surfing over the top of me) and it happened in three consecutive years.

2000: At the Big Day Out, I was hanging out with a friend when Joe Strummer wandered by. I astutely observed out loud, "Hey, you're Joe Strummer!" Joe turned and smiled, "Hello mate" and grabbed my hand. Even though he was about my height, I remember he had huge, warm hands.

2001: I went to see You Am I who were supported by the Strokes(!?) in Newtown. I thought the Strokes kind of sucked and wasn't backward in my opinion at the pub afterwards. A buddy of mine invited me to a party which turned out to be the after show party held at the You Am I bass player's house in Glebe. An hour after trashing them, I was shaking hands with Nikolai Fraiture telling him what a great show it was. He seemed kind of shy and awkward.

2002: All my fanboy dreams came true when I shook Bob Mould's hand after a show and had a brief chat with him. I saw him two nights in a row but it was only on the second night I plucked up the courage to say hello after the show. He was incredibly gracious and kind in the light of such a tongue tied display by a star struck fan.

Of the three, the most random and awesome was Joe Strummer. He just seemed like an incredibly nice guy...


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Girls against boys

Yesterday in the comments about Bob Mould, Rino mused "I wonder why it's only guys at his concerts. I've taken it as a personal mantra that music which doesn't appeal to chicks also is missing something." I've been thinking on this and it is a conundrum. As such, I went to my secret underground laboratory in the desert to undertake extensive testing on why men and women like certain types of music. If you haven't seen my laboratory, it's where Eminem and Dr Dre did tests on 50 Cent in the In da club video. They were pretty happy because I got them some decent hire rates as the manager really liked that song with Dido in it.

Anyhow, not to undermine Rino's thesis, after extensive testing I think it's less a case of 'what's missing' and is more 'what it's got' which is the 'problem' for females. And 'what it's got' can be technically described as chug. For those unfamiliar with the term chug, it is the repetitive use of a single chord on guitar played in a downstroke over and over. Observe Jawbreaker perform some chug:

So on one end of the spectrum you would have Delta Goodrem (no chug) and on the other you would have Cannibal Corpse (non-stop 24/7 chug). In between there are multiple permutations of chug and absence of chug.

So in the name of science, I have analyzed a bunch of well known artists based on the relative levels of chug and gauged their interests by males and females:

So the results show the following:

A: Interest of females decreases when a band has increased levels of chug.

B: Interest of males is less affected by chug across the spectrum although they prefer chug.

C: Female interest versus chug for Sufjan Stevens was slightly skewed because he is cute.

D: Boys were less inclined towards the chug of Helmet because they don’t like being barked at.

E: All males secretly love Slayer.

F: All females not-so-secretly hate Slayer.

G: Radiohead have the perfect combination of chug and non-chug for both men and women.

H: Nick Cave is slightly creepy so it affects his interest level amongst females.

I: Antony – what’s up with that?

J: Metallica rulez.

From these sweeping generalisations and totally made up research, we can determine to what level a male and female will like a particular type of music. Boys like their chug but can listen to music where it is absent while females are a lot less keen on the chug (but it’s not a total deterrent). That being said, there are a number of variants such as bass frequency, groove theory, male/female artist, genre, recording technique, environment, access, cuteness of band member, timbre of singer's voice, Bono, message, backing vocals, room acoustics, headphone quality, age of recording, and the possibility of a Snoop cameo. So, pretty much everything I've written above is not true except the bit where I said Metallica rulez.

I guess I'm not taking this very seriously but just as action films are predominantly made for teenage boys while Twilight movies are made for teenage girls (Sex and the City movies are made for people with no taste), I don't think there's anything wrong in a genre that skews to a particular gender. I'm sure there's a crossover for most genres (surely there must be at least one female Slayer fan in the world) but as the discussion on Bob was about yesterday - music taste is arbitrary and personal so gender shouldn't really matter. A perfect example is the Eagles - regardless of your gender, if you like their songs then your music taste is just fucked.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bob Mould 2/8/91

I'm sure we all have a moment in our music listening lives where we can name the place, time and feeling when we first heard a certain song or band. Most often, it's that band we most feel attached to and have followed for a long time. For me it was Bob Mould and I first heard him in 1991.

When I was in school, I worked after class in a fruit shop in Caloundra. There was a girl who worked there called Jodie who was this crazy bogan punk chick. She had the nickname of OD after she overdosed at a party by taking a potent cocktail of drugs and needed to get her stomach pumped. Anyhow, back then, if you wanted to find out about underground music, you were pretty much reliant on the people you knew as Triple J had only just gone national. Jodie was a great source of information for me. She used to tell me about going to see Rollins Band and about all these great sounding bands like Big Black and Hüsker Dü. To be honest, I could only imagine what they sounded like from her descriptions but it all sounded pretty exciting.

Anyhow, she went to see Bob Mould in Brisbane and was telling me about it. Just this old punk screaming while he played a twelve string guitar. It sounded great and a little while later a short set was played on Live at the Wireless recorded at the Peince of Wales in Melbourne. I dutifully waited until 8pm on the night, blank tape at the ready in my crappy stereo to record it. At that point I wasn't even really sure what it would sound like but Jodie had made it sound like the most wondrous music I'd ever hear. To my surprise, she was right.

The Live at the Wireless set (which was played on 2/8/91) was a life changing event for me. I was an avid music fan but I'd never really heard anything like this. It was folk but it was punk. The thing that really struck me was the how raw, visceral and passionate Bob's voice was. It stirred something in my adolescent mind which changed the way I listened to music. Until this point, I was pretty much a fan of anything with big guitar sounds but being at the tail of the eighties/early nineties - everything tended to be over produced to within an inch of its life. This was something else. This was something real.

The seven songs that came through my speakers that night were played with such conviction and Bob sing/screams until his voice raw. It starts Bob muttering "Alright, here we go," and then within seconds Wishing Well is in full flight. I'm listening to that very recording as I type this and I still get goosebumps, still get that spiraling feeling of elation down my spine. I probably listened to that tape at least five hundred times - I can still sing along to every wail and tic, quote the between song banter and I even know the exact moment someone in the crowd whoops or yells something. This recording is etched deep into my subconscious.

After this, I bought everything Bob had made from Hüskers to his solo stuff and was overjoyed when Sugar released their first album. I have slavishly devoted much of my adult music listening life to Bob. I have probably gotten more joy from his music than is reasonably possible and at the lowest moments in my life (all of them), Bob Mould's music has been my companion through the darkness. This is the blind devotional fandom that you see in small kids. I will buy every record he makes until he stops making them. It is a personal thing, I have tried and failed to convert many a person to his music. I get that it is something that I can hear in his music but which you may find in some other artist's work. That's cool but I think everyone has their own version of this type of relationship with a particular artist.

Anyway, I was just listening to the Live at the Wireless recording* and was just thinking about that time and how happy discovering this music made me. It also reminded me of how random things can be. If Jodie had never mentioned it, I probably never would have recorded that show and my music taste would be very different today. Thank god for drug taking punk chicks who work at fruit shops is all I can say.

*Much later, I made friends with other music devotees who had also recorded the show that night. My good friend Zac eventually gave me a copy of the album which he had transfered from tape to cd.


Friday, March 4, 2011


It is long acknowledged that Radiohead's Amnesiac was the first major album that was widely downloaded illegally from the internet. Even though most people had dial up at the time and it probably took three weeks to download, this event was the first indication of the way music consumption was headed.

I was recently reminded of this when I popped my copy of Hail to the Thief into my computer and it wouldn't play. Ahh that's right, the visionaries at EMI (Radiohead's company) installed the Copy Control system on their cd's so that you couldn't rip them to your computer and thus stop illegal copying and file sharing. The discs were digitally encoded to stop your computer being able to download them so you could only listen to them, not access the files. EXCEPT these cd's would often not play on computers at all and the only way to remedy the situation was by using other means of copying (which are, in essence illegal).

Unfortunately for EMI, people with even the most rudimentary understanding of computers (and by rudimentary I mean knowing how to turn one on) could get around Copy Control. Back in the day I had an external burning drive for my archaic G4 tower which easily got around the problem as the disc burner didn't recognise the data encoding. Essentially, you had cds that would have difficulty playing in computers (way to piss off the consumer) but could be easily got circumvented producing frustration for ordinary music buyers and no obstacle for shifty pirate types - sheer brilliance.

I'm sure some genius at EMI probably thought this was going to save the company a lot of money but it was trying to keep yourself dry with an umbrella as a tsunami bears down upon you. I'm sure no one (apart from Steve Jobs) really had the vision to see how music consumption would evolve in such a short time but seriously, coming up with a protection system that makes your cds unplayable? Visionary!

(For the record Copy Control was introduced in 2001 and phased out in 2006 - I guess someone got the message)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Memo from the BFID

Memo from the BAD FUCKING IDEAS DEPARTMENT: Soundgarden

Sigh. Soundgarden have just announced they're making their first new album in 15 years. This is a bad fucking idea. Remember when those guy's were awesome - ripping off Zeppelin on Superunknown, Cornell in docs and cut-off army pants wooing the ladies while Kim shredded on a wah peddle in the background. Good times. Then they released Down on the Upside which kind of sucked because they hated each other and the contempt they had for each other started to show up in their shows. Remember when Ben played with his back to the audience in Brisbane for the entire gig? Good times.

Then they split up and we had that unholy alliance of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden known as Audioslave which was just megawatt suckage. Seriously, I'm sure revolution would have come quicker in the Middle East if Audioslave's second album had been used as a call to arms. Unable to bare to torment, the oppressed peoples would have risen up to stop the god awful racket - Gadaffi would be overthrown in minutes if that shit got played. THEN Cornell released a dance album with Timberlake (?!) which is the aural equivalent of watching your 80 year old aunty turning up to a funeral in hotpants. Then he released the second worst Bond theme in history (after Duran Duran).*

So, after this appalling slight to their legacy, Soundgarden reforms and that's good news. The Pixies did it and everyone was happy. Just play the songs we love. You can't compete with your back catalogue - just cash in now honey... wait... what? You're recording a new album. Oh for fuck's sake, just play Jesus Christ Pose already and we'll pay you lot's of money. Don't take a shit on your legacy - seriously, don't do it. It is not 1994 anymore.

Just don't alright!

Yours sincerely,


*And yes, I think the Madonna Bond theme is better than Duran Duran and Cornell's. It is easily the third worst Bond theme.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Send in the clowns

One of the most affecting things I’ve read about music in the last year is this Guardian piece about the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), an underground rap group who dress like clowns. Essentially, after spitting out incredibly misogynist and violent lyrics for some twenty years, ICP announced (through song no less) that they were, in fact, evangelical Christians. Up until this point, their audience (nicknamed juggalos) was mainly disaffected, poor white kids in America who rallied around ICP’s gritty images scenes of sodomy and death as a cathartic outlet for their misdirected rage. The article goes some way to voice ICP’s surprise that not everyone was on board with their devotional revelation. Ummmm, really?

At first read, it’s hard not to collapse into fits of laughter about some of idiocy peddled here. But on second or third reading, I started to feel differently about this article. I think that’s because the two members of ICP (Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J) seem genuinely surprised that after decades of singing about ‘fucking ho’s and then killing them,’ people would react negatively to them when they start singing about rainbows. Ahh Miracles (above). This song has become infamous because of it’s dumb as shit wonderment at nature’s majesty. The most pertinent line which became an instant internet meme in itself is the magnificently thought out “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” Fiercely anti-science and anti-intellectual, this song became a flash point of anti-ICP sentiment.

This is the bit that affects me. I think everyone (on some level) wants to be understood especially if you’re coming from a place of genuine emotion or intent. Their bewilderment, often inarticulate and angry, shows two people trying to comprehend what should be obvious but has escaped them. I know it’s not the first time we’ve seen rock stars out of touch with reality but there is something so discernibly naïve about their response (especially given the nature of ICP’s music) that I can’t help but feel for them. It’s like being privy to someone just realising that they’re the butt of the joke everyone’s been laughing about for the past hour. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age as I have no time for clowns or dogmatic religion but their perplexed outrage is oddly moving and sad.

Changes in style (JUDAS!) and message (JESUS!) have been met with rancour before. The last thing you need to hear is David Bowie announcing he’s going to make a ska record about Jesus. But I think ICP’s revelation is too much, too soon for the world. It’s not like they suddenly made a trip hop album or something - they just revealed that the music they had been peddling to their fans was, in fact, rather than real life tales of clown gangsterism a way to sucker the juggalos into following the Lord. That their fans would rally against them (as well as anyone who is, well, rational like scientists) shouldn’t be a surprise. But the surprise is that it is a surprise - to ICP at least. And that is telling, not only of the band but the world they have created around them. The ICP world is as far from reality as anything Miracles or organised religion has to proffer.

As such, I guess my final thoughts are with the dedicated juggalo who just saw the ghost of Johnny Rotten say, “Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good night!” as he throws his microphone down and leaves the stage. I imagine just because your heroes are stupid misogynists dressed as clowns doesn’t make it any less disappointing. Being a fan sucks sometimes.


Songs for Beginners

My blog buddy Katie has decided to start up her own music blog (Songs for Beginners) which is very exciting. Katie already has an excellent blog full of astute and heartfelt writing about film, music and life. As such, I'm real happy she's going to dedicate her talents to writing about music. Check it out here.

BTW Katie, I need to return your Magnetic Fields record.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Name that band

Everyday I ride the bus past the Enmore Theatre which is one of Sydney’s most frequently used music venues (for a while I lived in the laneway behind it and would often see many a rock star stumbling by my front fence). Anyhow, every time I’m coming home and there’s a gig on, I like to play a game called ‘name that band.’

‘Name that band’ is a simple prposition. You often see the audience for a concert milling around Enmore Road before you actually see the sign on the venue so the challenge is to guess the band before you see their name based on their fans. For example, a bunch of older ladies and gentleman in carefully worn rock gear a few weeks ago was obviously for the Pretenders/Blondie double bill. The hardest crowd I ever tried to pick was for wanker guitarist Steve Vai – who were these pudgy middle aged men in Fender t-shirts? The kiddie punk bands are harder to pick because kiddie punk fans only seem to come in one variety – lame.

The last few days have been interesting as on Monday there was a double bill of Primus and the Melvins. That crowd was mainly pony tailed, bearded freaks who I can only imagine love Les Claypool because I tend to find Primus albums are just one big long bass solo. The rest of the crowd was made up of shaggy haired rockers in flannel who I presume were there for the Melvins. Last night was a Social Distortion/the Bronx double bill which I picked straight away with all the rockabilly/punk clichés walking around. There were the older folks with their slicked back hair and wallet chains swapping cigarettes with the younger Bronx punkers.

The sad thing about all this is that tonight Queens of the Stone Age are playing and for the first time since 2001, I going to miss out on getting to see them. Tickets went fast and I wasn’t able to get one. I’m not really up for loitering around the front of the theatre asking for spares so I’m just letting it slide. I have seen them thirteen times but they are my favourite band so I’m feeling a bit flat today. So tonight I will sadly look at the crowd as the bus goes by and ‘name that band’ will be easy. The fans on the street will be my brothers and sisters – they are my people tonight.

Secret herbs and spices...

After yesterday’s song of the day, it got me thinking about the sure things in a pop song that get my heart pumping. These are song attributes that excite me (in no particular order):

Gorgeous backing vocals/harmonies: makes a good song melty (hey, I created a word!). Malibu gets pretty awesome from chorus 2.

Hand claps: Shit yeah!

Cowbell: More please.

Imagine if all of these things were combined in one song. I’d lose my mind.