Sunday, July 31, 2011
Make no mistake, I love My Bloody Valentine but when I first heard Loveless my brain couldn't really comprehend what I was hearing. Seriously, it was like watching a dog stand on its hind legs and start reciting the Shakespeare - the synapses did not fire and I was just totally confused. About a year later, I had a pretty solid crush on this goth girl (a crush it would remain) but she was the biggest (and probably the first Ride fan) I'd ever met. She even went to Brisbane to see them and bumped into them walking around the Queen Street Mall. They were bored waiting for soundcheck so they all decided to go to the movies - yes, it's true, goth crush girl went to the movies with Ride. However, through the exposure I received to Ride and other showgaze bands, it eventually led me back to and form a deep love for Loveless. Ride made similar sounds but in a pop context that my brain could understand at first flush. To me it almost seems laughable now that I couldn't understand MBV at that time but that's the truth of it. As such, Ride have played an important point in my musical education and as such, I pay tribute to them here. While my favourite record is the Today Forever ep, Leave Them All Behind is such an epic song - wall of sound guitars, gorgeous vocals and a momentum that makes 8 minutes(!) pass very quickly. And all the cute girls liked Ride, even if MBV were better...
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Big chords, copious harmonies and choruses as catchy as bacteria from a toddler - must be power pop. While I like Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and Fountains of Wayne et al, there is always a place in my heart for the Posies especially the Frosting on the Beating record. Essentially, it's one big long greatest hits set with pretty much song being a contender on the planet Pop. Choosing one of those songs was difficult but I thought I'd stick with the actual single because the chorus power popperiffic and somehow the sentiment of dreaming all day seems to fit the sentiment of the genre. I never really knew why this band wasn't bigger but I saw them at a festival a few years ago when they were up against some hip indie band and there was probably about fifty people watching them. They seemed to not care and put on one of the most entertaining, unhinged and fun shows I've seen in ages - all while maintaining their perfect pop sheen. The hipster kids missed out that day.
Friday, July 29, 2011
I always believed that Stories from the City was PJ Harvey's sexy album and there are a number of songs that allude to this. However, a much wiser person than myself pointed out that while Stories is all shimmer and surface, Is this Desire? is the legitimately sexy album in the Harvey canon. How so? While Stories brims with overt displays of sexiness which no doubt reflects Harvey's experience of writing it in NY, Desire is actually sexual rather than sexy if you get what I mean. Its sonics are layered in grinding bass and whispered electronics that are both sensual and sultry rather the brassy rock of the aforementioned album. The Wind essentially tells the tale of Catherine, a lady formally of the city who has removed herself and is apparently alone in a hill side Chapel (I know it's probably not literal but whatever). Despite the narrators question 'can't we give a husband to our Catherine?', it sounds as if she's doing just fine by herself. The low whisper of Harvey, the songs' sultry demeanor and the moaning of the character (I don't think she's complaining about the weather) equate to one hot song. It's a good example of the entire album - superficially, it sounds like a break up album but dig deeper and there something infinitely more lurid going on.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
This song is a sentimental favourite of mine. While I knew it forever from over the years, I will always associate it from when I moved to Sydney in the late 90's. Reeling from a bad break up, I basically spent my first year in Sydney playing pool every night in the Oxford pub in Newtown. The pub itself was a run down hole filled with punks, anarchists and hippies, sticky carpets from years of beer spills and the best juke box I ever came across - great old punk records, stuff like Nick Cave etc (Henry's Dream is an excellent drinking album by the way). It was the one pub around that had a license until 4am so inevitably everyone I knew in the area would end up there at some stage during an evening (the only time I was ever mugged was stumbling home at 2am from the Oxford on a Monday night - a frickin' Monday). Without doubt A Message to you Rudy was played at least five or six times a night and was always met with a resounding cheer and singalong. No matter how many times I heard it I couldn't help but smile and drink up - even hearing it now makes me want to grab a beer. The Oxford was eventually replaced and upgraded to a shiny monstrosity called the Zanzibar and the soul and charm of that area was lost to me but for a couple of years there, that pub and that song were part of my daily life. Raise your beer in memory and play it one more time...
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Exile in Guyville was a big record in my circles and many a roadtrip or Sunday afternoon lazing around the house with beers was spent with it as the soundtrack. Like many, I love that album intensely and I listen to my favourite tracks often (Mesmerizing and Stratford-On-Guy - that song makes me always pick seat 27D when I pick my plane seats). I had no intention of wanting Liz Phair to remake Exile over and over again but as each subsequent album came out, she lost me in her ambition to escape the shadow of her debut and gain mainstream success. I have friends who swear that the self titled album is a great pop record but the only thing I know about that was I was watching a trashy Jennifer Garner romcom one night and one of the songs from that album was on the soundtrack. Yeah, I downloaded the self released Funstyle album and it's as weird and as bad as you've heard.
Anyhow, my all time favourite song of hers is Shane from her second record Whipsmart (I think it was on the original Girlysound tapes too but I've never heard that version so I'm not sure if it's different). The song exudes a sexy dread that Phair amplified through Exile and also exemplifies her unique guitar style which is often overlooked. The song is a conversation with Shane (I'm guessing) about not getting into deep in a time of war:
You said that you were in touch with the draft resistors
In case the big boys called you up
You're gonna have to let 'em dick you around
But don't let 'em make you do what you can't live with
The final refrain "you've got to have fear in your heart", a poignant and weary mantra for a fucked up world, is repeated continuously as the static of the world drowns it out. Who knows what happened to Shane but it does't sound good.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I don't really know the Audreys very well beyond this song but when I heard this in passing one day I was transfixed. A nice intersection of folks and blues that explodes once the electric guitar kicks in. If you haven't guessed by now I'm a total sucker for 'woman-done-wrong" songs but there is an aggressive undercurrent to this song - don't lie to me, don't sing to me, don't smile at me. She's had enough but the temptation of her lover is still strong and the music reflects this. I always loved Taasha Coates' voice after hearing this duet with Gareth Liddiard on Rockwiz (and seriously if you haven't heard Liddiard's band the Drones, get to it, one of the best Australian bands of the last 20 years) but I don't think I've heard anything better from the Audreys. Terrible low budget video but great, great song...
Monday, July 25, 2011
There's something irrevocably sinister, forceful and truthful about this song. Superficially, this song explores the relationship between men and women but the more I listen it seems to be between a man and his drugs - it hardly matters as it could work for both. Either way, the claustrophobia and intensity of the relationship described is unforgiving and raw. As soon as Dulli says 'now', and you're king hit with its swaggering riff, there is no let up in this song. 'Understand I'm a gentleman' screams Dulli even thou it's apparent that he is anything but forcing, fighting and begging his way through the situation at hand. Also of note is the unhinged wah solo that goes hand in hand with the lyrical content. It's pretty dark stuff but as Dulli sing 'I wanted for the joke but it never did arrive...' No wonder he ended up with Lanegan years later in the Gutter Twins...
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
There has been a lot of Bon Iver hate on my blog of late but I stand by my review of his new album - I find it appalling and the uncritical pandering of most music websites reveals more about music criticism today than I care to think about. With that in mind, I thought I'd mention my favourite Bon Iver song which is Brackett, WI. I must confess that even though I know the lyrics and sing along often, I have absolutely no idea what this song is about. Progress, death, relationships, axes - who knows but what I do know that as a mood piece it is brilliant. There is something mind altering about his vocals matched with the bass here and when the shimmering guitar enters towards the end - sheer bliss. I could listen to this song all day long over and over again - and I often do.
Friday, July 22, 2011
For some reason this song has been popping into my head of late and while there are two versions of the song (originally released on Kid A but reprised on Amnesiac), I prefer the Amnesiac version. The reason for this is Kid A's Morning Bell fits perfectly within the context of the album where the Amnesiac track sounds more like a single remix - more accessible and more memorable for that big radio hit. Too bad it's such a downer - the sketchy lyrics tell of family discord and fracture, "Cut the kids in half" goes the refrain. Despite this, the song has an elegant beauty mainly derived from Thom Yorke's superlative vocal. Kid A remains my favourite Radiohead album but in the Morning Bell contest, Amnesiac wins hands down.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I’m not sure that there’s anything left to say about Nick Drake – his work has been analysed, championed and defended to death. In the context of that, I thought I’d just briefly mention my favourite Nick Drake song which is Things behind the sun. For me, it’s a perfect illustration of how the simple set up of guitar and voice can be more moving than a song crammed with instruments and effects. The guitar line has an incredible mood to it – it’s almost indefinable but it is affecting instantaneously while Drake’s has a sombre wistfulness that cuts through the song. The music itself seems at turns powerful and fragile, there are moments when he’s changing chords where there is a milli-second of silence. No doubt this would be edited out as a slip-up these days but at its base this is a very human sounding song – you can hear fingers on strings, the mistakes and the song breathing in the best possible way.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
From Claire: I think your song of the day should be Backdoor Man....in light of Rupey's statement that he always enters Number 10 by the backdoor, at the request of the Prime Minister........
Oh Rupert, your empire is crumbling...
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Recently, I've been spending a lot of time in shopping malls preparing for a big trip I'm taking. Without fail, I will hear Taylor Fucking Swift sing this song at some point during the journey. I don't know if it's a pact with Satan or mall developers but this song is everywhere. It is so bland and inoffensive that I guess no one really minds if it's playing in the background while they buy new underwear. Maybe that's why I hate it so much because it's just a black hole of a song - I feel nothing when I hear it except annoyance that I hear it constantly. However, last night I went to my local corner supermarket and knew I was going to be ok because they don't play music there. Except there was a flute busker playing at the entrance to the carpark and yes, the sound of a flute version of You belong with me was being played. It's like he knew I was coming. Oh cruel fate...
May this be the last time I think of this song and I recommend not clicking on the link above...
Monday, July 18, 2011
It's one of my greatest regrets that I never saw Unsane live but I have long adored the unrelenting aggression and brutality of the album Scattered, Smothered and Covered. The music sounds like someone is trying to smash their way through your speakers and I've always thought the slower songs had the most menace and fight. Out is probably the best example of this (closely followed by Get off my back) and despite the distorted screaming vocals, the chorus, well, it's actually quite catchy. It's like pop music for serial killers...
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I came late to Sarah Blasko but of all her songs my favourite is the All Coming Back, the first track on her first album. What I like about it is that you can hear her trying to find her voice - the guitars and opening are pure PJ Harvey but when the key change kicks in with subtle electronics you can hear the distant call of Bjork. Yet somehow, Blasko rises above these obvious touch stones to create a unique statement. That Blasko moved on from those influences to become one of the most striking female voices in the Australian music scene is a testament to her talent. even more amazing, that she actually made me like a Cole Chisel song is miraculous...
Saturday, July 16, 2011
A few years ago, I read an article about how Australian travellers had overtaken South Africans as the most hated tourists in the world (I think the article was called “The New South Africans”). I’ve seen it in action so many times: whether they’re demanding instant coffee in a café in Hanoi (“Have you got any Nescafe?” in that terrible nasally strine) or being drunk and lecherous in Rome or just saying the same thing over and over, just a bit louder because someone in their home country has the audacity to not speak English – Australian tourists can be terrible. With the strong Australian dollar, there are more and more of us out there (myself including) polluting the world with our arrogance and self importance (I'm an Australian so you must instantly love me). So whenever I hear this song, I replace the word Americans with Australians and the song still works - probably even better… Now that’s a song that truly crosses cultural boundaries.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Following on from Kyuss, I might as well mention a Queens song. I really loved Matt's appraisal of the transition from Kyuss to Queens, "Josh is a big, big guy who's trying to be a nobler savage than Kyuss would allow." And in some ways he's right, there is a brutality and ugliness to some of Queens music but it is often elegant and unexpected rather than the bludgeoning Kyuss could dish out. For me, Songs for the Deaf was their high point, not only for that magical musical cocktail of Homme, Oliveri, Grohl and Lanegan but lyrically, the songs are amazing. I have always loved the lyrics to this song (co-written by Homme and Lanegan) because the sense of menace and panic is beautifully rendered:
Beautiful senses are gone
Canary in a gilded cage
Singing… (Undefined screams)
Sweet soft and low
I will poison you all
Come closer racing to your tongue
The dark rolling bass line combined with thundering guitars makes it a musical highpoint in an album of aces. This is a dark, dark song but it is perfect and whenever I stray to the seductions of other bands this always reminds me why Queens is one of my favourite bands. As the astute writer in the youtube comments wrote: This song kicked my soul in the balls...
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Sure, I could have picked any song off Blues for the Red Sun but I figured I'd go with Gardenia because it shows off all of Kyuss strengths and yes, it fucking rocks.
Strength 1: Josh Homme's denial of knowledge of Black Sabbath was silly but the scorched, fuzzed out majesty of that guitar tone sounds great no matter where the influences come from (and really if this was recorded in 1970 or yesterday, it would still sound awesome). You can also hear Homme scratching out his style in Kyuss and those solos are the foundations of the Queen to come.
Strength 2: Like most great bands, the power comes from the rhythem section. Scott Reeder stepping in for Nick was never a problem and you can hear Reeder stamping his mark all over this song. The bass just drives the song and Reeder plays like he's playing a 6 minute bass solo but providing a foundation that is rock solid. Brant Bjork's drumming is tight and just rolls with swing and style.
Strength 3: Basically Garcia is singing about having sex but even in the most base woman/car analogy, he sounds like the coolest guy on the planet...
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
There's all those nerds on Youtube who make fake videos for songs using scenes from movies (or vice versa). Whenever I listen to Royal, I always think I should make a video made of scenes from Inglorious Basterds*. Images from that film flick across my brain when I hear this song and I think the Chino's blood curdling scream (3:01) is when the Bear is moving in with the baseball bat. Yeah, I'm a nerd like that. Of all the bands that emerged from the 90's metal scene, I always think that Deftones have been the most interesting because they are willfully weird and interesting and even their worst music has some value. I've always been impressed by their sonic density and songs like Minerva and Change (In The House Of Flies) are strangely elegant yet brutally heavy at the same time (when the guitars kick in on Change, it's like a shotgun going off). Aside from that Chino is an incredible singer who has somehow embraced the abject chaos of Patton but able to forge his own identity. Diamond Eyes was an obscenely great record and Royal is a perfect example of the best it has to offer. The song is all brood, menace, capture and no release until that final primal scream at the end. This is not a song for the weak of heart.
*The one other song that is Inglorious Basterds ready is Spinning in the Daffodils by Them Crooked Vultures. Not only for its lyrics, "Sharpen your teeth my darlings, sharpen your knives/Take a finger, if the hand feeds you shit, take one scalp at a time" but also because Josh Homme sings like David Bowie. It is weirdly awesome.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Remember when Aussie bands were going to save rock n’ roll in the early 2000’s? Bwahahahahahaha akdlhgmnklrt ba;ip... Sorry I just collapsed onto my keyboard with laughter. The Vines, Jet and Airborne were the new generation of bands venerated for their rock action and were going to save us from electronica or some such thing. I can’t help but shake my head at the Australian music press who bought into that folly. It is laughable today as it was back then as those bands stole in equal measures from greater bands and gave nothing but competent facsimiles of better songs. Jet’s Are you gonna be my girl? stole its thunder from Lust for Life where Airborne were little more than an AC/DC parody band.
The Vines stole broadly but mostly it was a Cobainian yowl combined with classic indie punk pop. I feel a little sorry for them, they were thrust into the spotlight untested and the lead singer’s Aspergers disorder led to break down and bad performances. I saw them once at the Big Day Out and it was a train wreck. However, I will always pay Get Free because whenever it comes on my ipod, it is a little adrenalin rush of a song. Unoriginal and contrived? Certainly but as a stand alone rock tune to pump your fist to or listen to at the gym (shit, I am getting old), it is perfect. No boy from the western suburbs of Sydney has any right to be singing about ‘moving to California’ but I can forgive it because all the lyrics are gibberish really. Somehow, this song is perfectly dumb but enjoyable nonetheless. Join the dumb fun...
Monday, July 11, 2011
Its been a while since I had any girly pop on here and I think Bat for Lashes is a perfect example of a modern songstress doing interesting things. When she first appeared, she seemed like an indie pop classicist with songs such as What’s a girl to do? However, on her second album she revealed herself as being an aspiring heir to the Kate Bush throne which is an incredibly difficult thing to do without wholesale suckage (for reference: see everyone who has ever tried). I think Siren Song is where it all comes together as it is a beautiful torch song with a rousing chorus that builds into a clattering climax. The narrative of devotion and loss with the tag line “because I’m evil” is my kind of relationship dilemma – complex, loving and fucked up.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
It's always hard to pick a Nick Cave song because there are so many that I love - both old and new. However, Stagger Lee has always struck me as a perfect example of Nick Cave writing as it builds upon a blues standard through Cave's twisted world view. In his heart, I think Nick Cave is a blues man and regardless of the excursions into German Sturm und Drang or vaudeville, his true dark heart lies in the blues - tales of love, betrayal, violence and a vengeful God. Cave's preoccupations may have changed over the years but the essence is the same - the dark, the depraved and the unspoken. Here Cave turns Stagger into a brutal, fast quipping psychopath with lines such as:
She saw the barkeep, said, "O God, he can't be dead!"
Stag said, "Well just count the holes in the motherfucker's head"
"I'm a bad motherfucker, don't you know
But I'll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get one fat boy's asshole"
As is common with the Bad Seeds of that period, they are pretty restrained with a solid groove until the final coda when Blixa Bargeld unleashes a fearsome scream while the band indulges their full sonic fury (oh how I miss Blixa!). The more I listen to Nick Cave, the more I am astonished at how consistently strong his work his - he is truly one of the greatest artist of our times.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Even though you're reading this today, I'm writing this in the past (hello from the music criticism past) and on this day legendary Australian boxer Lionel Rose has died. I immediately thought of Rumble by You Am I which has the line:
R.A.D.I.O Hit me just like Lionel Rose
Rose was a living treasure in Australia both as a boxer and a leader of indigenous rights and it's sad to see him go. But when we talk of national treasures, I'd count You Am I as one of those bands that can easily make the pantheon of the country's best. Starting as a desperately talented three piece before expanding into a more considered but nonetheless incredible quintet, You Am I have been releasing great albums for years whether people buy them or not. Frontman Tim Rogers is the an unholy mix of the best of Mick n' Keef with a splash of Pete Townshend at his most furious. The band is anchored by Rusty, a drummer of titantic swing (who also hangs out at my local supermarket Banana Joes!) while Andy Kent pile drive s the groove on bass. They were joined by David Lane in the late 90's to extend the twin guitar attack.
Rumble may not be their best song but this is a band that know a lot about music and their songs have ranged from rabid indie attacks to blissed out sixties pop that the Kinks could only dream of writing. However, Rumble is a fun singalong that gets better with each listen. The cheeky replacement of "R.A.D.I.O" to "Ronnie James D.I.O" in the final chorus shows a band who are not only awesome but are having fun doing it. If you don't know them, you should go and buy some - now.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Yeah, yeah, Mogwai smartarses, hardcore will never die but you will. This is one of those bands that have come up time and again in my existence and while I was never an uber-fan, I always loved this song. A hardcore band singing against corporations? Sure, it might be played out but you can’t deny the passion nor the message. There was a directness in early hardcore that I think might be over thought these days. AND they’re called Millions of Dead Cops, what’s not to love?
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
There comes a point in every musician's life where a significant romantic relationship ends for them and they produce the break up record - in Beck's case it is Sea Change. What's interesting is that when a musician goes through an emotional trauma, a lot of their music ends up sounding like Pink Floyd and it feels like Beck has taken his emotional cues from Comfortably Numb on Lonesome Tears. Sure, there's no searing guitar solo but the downbeat sound that echoes both The Wall and Wish You Were Here sonically seems to indicate that Beck regressed to the childhood comforts of 70's prog. That being said, the lyrics are a masterpiece of emotional devastation and isolation:
How could this love
Never turn its eye on me
When I first heard Beck I imagined some future version of the Big Chill where ageing Gen X-er's dance around the kitchen while singing the words to Loser. I guess that song will always signify Beck to many but for me Lonesome Tears is his greatest achievement.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
While I'm thinking on classic Oz rock, I thought I'd just mention this song very quickly. The Hoodoo Gurus tend to get forgotten in the 80's rock memory machine but they had a knack for producing little pop rock gems and were often underrated/under appreciated for their music. They are best known for What's My Scene but I always loved this song more. The Right Time which just has one of those riffs which was seemingly designed for FM radio when you're travelling down the highway at 120km. This is a great driving song and just one of those singalong beauties that instantly makes any day better. Ok enough of the Oz rock. Something different tomorrow.
Monday, July 4, 2011
The 70's and 80's were a brutal time for pub bands in Australia. You had to be very, very good or face the disdain of beer crazed locals with a taste for violence. The Angels, essentially a three chord bar band, arose from that scene with frantic live shows that were energetic and confrontational. The Angels received a huge following in Australia but what happened to Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? speaks volumes of that era. This pretty straight forward boogie number was changed forever when some larrikins in the Northern Territory (reportedly) changed it with a little crowd participation. As every proud Australian knows, the song now goes:
The Angels: Am I ever gonna see your face again?
Audience: No way! Get fucked! Fuck off!
For me, this was part of my early experiences of music - a time when bands weren't allowed to be lame. They had to rock or get the fuck off the stage. This is what the song sounds like today...
Even as old codgers they still rock.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
There was a brand of oz rock in the 80's and early 90's which was a slithering, beer drenched, sweat stained, evil as fuck cool. Descendants of the Birthday Party, this brand of rock n' roll was fierce and unrelenting and the best exponents of it was the Beasts of Bourbon. It helped that they liked to explore the darks side of life and featured one of Australia's greatest front men of all time, Tex Perkins. As Henry Rollins said famously "Mick Jagger wishes he were Tex Perkins." Perkins found mainstream fame in the Cruel Sea but when he was with the Beasts, it was like he was off the leash. I remember the first time I saw them and Perkins spent his time spitting on the front row in contempt for their lethargic reaction to the Beasts spectacle.
The Beasts have many great songs but Chase the Dragon is their masterpiece, a concise tour de force exploring the unsavoury world of smack and drug trafficking. Fueled by a lightening riff and featuring one of the greatest rhymes of all time (souvenir with Kampuchea), this is a mean, underhanded fight of a song. This song makes me want to drink beer and fuck with people. This song makes me want to pump my fist in the air and praise Satan. But most of all, this song wants me to turn the volume way up and revel in the pure brute force of ugly rock n' roll.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
When it comes to Archers it's always a toss up between Web in Front, Wrong and Scenic Pastures. I probably should have put Scenic Pastures because I love that song so much and Web in Front is so obvious because it's their most famous song but there you go. Web always tends to win as two of my favourite lines ever written are in this song. They are:
You're not the one who let me down, but thanks for offering.
And there's a chance that things will get weird, yeah that's a possibility.
Huh? What I love about these lines is that they are so mundane in some respects but perfectly convey the sense of confusion, disappointment and bitterness that you feel in certain situations. Archers were always seen as the working man's band, the quality indie band that never really broke widely (as is evidenced by their current reunion tour which is only happening on weekends because they all have day jobs). I actually think they're a bit to weird and challenging for mainstream indie fans but that's their loss - the Archers of Loaf are the greatest band most people have never heard.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Hidden towards the end of Happy Songs, could this be Mogwai's simplest and most moving song? Revolving around a plaintive and simple piano motif, this songs aches and speaks in a way that only the best music can. That it is an instrumental track speaks volumes of the genius of Mogwai who can use either distorted brute force or a single piano to the same effect - an emotive force that sweeps the listener into their own introspective space. Whenever I hear those opening notes my heartbeat slows, a chill goes up my spine and my gaze turns inward. I can't explain it but this song just moves me in ways that haunts my dreams. Remember to play this one at my funeral.