Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What the Grammys were missing this year...

I've never seen this before: Rollins at the Grammys - it's a long way from Black Flag...


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Song of the day: Santigold - Disparate Youth

The sound of revolution recast as a four minute pop song, it's comes off like a less challenging MIA but is pretty great on a lazy Sunday morning with tea and toast. My favourite track off the first album was Shove It which sounded like a lost ska classic re-imagined in a hip-hop dream. This sounds like a continuation of that sound and with a new album in May, this could be a very good year music-wise.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Song of the day: Gravenhurst - The Velvet Cell

I know nothing about this band and only heard it today but I like it. I'll be looking for more...


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bon Iver again...

Just a quick note to alert you that my, ahem, evisceration review of the last Bon Iver album from May is still generating comments. Essentially, the ever thoughtful and erudite Rino asked me if time had mellowed my opinion on this record (it hasn't) and he has responded with an excellent dissection of the record in the comments and posted it on his Song Logic blog (read his thoughts there then buy his excellent book). I'm still not convinced by this record AT all but the way Rino writes about it makes me want to like it - his writing does that and I recommend heading over to Song Logic for a good read whether you love or hate that record.


Monday, February 20, 2012

New Dirty Three record Toward the Low Sun is streaming now...

Holy shit, I love this band - here it is! Still wrapping my head around it but sounds killer...


Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror review

I've spent the last week listening to the new Sleigh Bells record and it almost feels hard to review it objectively. The reason I say this is because I find their sound so irresistible - big guitars, monstrous drums, girly vocals and while they've dialed it back a notch from their debut album Treats, it sounds fucking undeniable and awesome. I guess the root of my trepidation is that I loved Treats immediately but found it had a pretty short shelf life. While Reign of Terror has that similar sugar rush that makes you love it instantly, it does seem more considered with greater dimensionality, dynamics and diversity across the album which makes it a more enjoyable listen rather than a purely visceral one.

A prime example is Born to Lose which shudders and lurches as it begins but makes more and more sense as it progresses as it embraces its melodic core. The bombast of its opening drops away for the final section of the song revealing a delicate foundation. Even better is the wistful End of the Line which positively floats on minimal instrumentation and Alexis Krauss's beautiful vocals. First single Comeback Kid embraces the best of both the band's strengths - charging riffs with a big chorus that drop away into restrained stops before firing up again. I think it's the first great single of 2012 and is a rock-pop bubblegum fist to the face.

While there is more mellow on the album, it is still dominated by a brutish sensibility. Crush has Krauss reprising her demented cheerleader shouts from the first album and comes off like a demonic Toni Basil. Demons is built on a riff derived from a 80's metalhead's wet dream and sounds like a wrecking ball destroying an orphanage brick by brick - if my 14 year old self had heard this he'd probably have said it sounded pretty rad. Less successful to my ears is the winding Never Say Die which meanders meaninglessly but the final track D. O. A. is a tricked out slow burn which is a fitting closer to the record.

The album is powered by Derek Miller's Jackson + Marshall stack combo attack but as I've mentioned, there is more light and shade here with greater embrace of melody. I'm confident this record will have more staying power than Treats and I think there may be some sonic depths to it I'm yet to hear (I'm waiting for my vinyl pre-order to arrive but have been listening online to it here). I think Mark Lanegan's record is by far the best new album of the year but Sleigh Bells easily comes second.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sleigh Bells and Lambchop albums are out there...

Just a quick post as I'm busy with my top secret project (which, if you're interested, is writing the 2nd draft of a book which makes it very uninteresting), but I want to point out that the new Sleigh Bells album is streaming HERE and the new Lambchop album is streaming THERE. Both are pretty good although Sleigh Bells has my attention right now, a fine tuning of their first record with, you know, actual songs. Lambchop's starts with the line "I don't know what the fuck they talk about..." it's pretty dark but pretty sweet. I'll write reviews soon but you should have a listen for yourself. Speak soon.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fun at the movies: Melancholia

Onto happier topics today, Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia! (as I said at the beginning of the year, I might write about films occasionally so move on if you’re not interested). I know it’s been out a while but I just got to it so indulge me.

I have no problem saying that, in general, Lars Von Trier films are not for me. That’s ok but I’ve seen my share and have either been scarred and/or offended by them for varying reasons. When I’m in a contrarian mood you could almost say I hate his films so when I give a recommendation for Melancholia (a glowing one, in fact), this endorsement does not come lightly. I only watched the film because my girlfriend was really keen to see it and going in I think subconsciously I was determined to despise it but I was wrong – this film is elegant, funny, disturbing and ultimately captivating. In no terms does it bear any notion of reality and some characters are mere contrivance rather than being fully fleshed out but my lord, this film is beautiful and moving in a visceral way – the kind of cinema that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it (it’s been two weeks since I’ve seen it and I’ve thought about it everyday).

The story is kind of simple in some respects and is played in two acts. The first is a wedding reception which slowly unwinds (both dramatically and comically) as the bride succumbs to depression. The second half is based around the idea that a planet, Melancholia, is going to collide with the Earth and how the characters established in the wedding deal with it. Prepare yourself, this film is big on art film wank pretension – the first ten minutes are a collage of beautifully rendered slow motion scenes based in both fantasy and coming events while later in the film everytime the actors look at the alien planet in the sky, it might as well have the word METAPHOR written in huge letters written across it. All I can say is, forget all that because while it may have those pretentions, the drive of the narrative and the immersive world it creates moves the film beyond any contrivance and forms a bold meditation on depression. In that respect that is what most touching because the film somehow captures the trauma, hopelessness and absurd nature of depression (when I say absurd I’m not being dismissive – even in the grimmest of hellholes you can create for yourself, you can often objectively see that life is pretty good but you just can’t grasp it or connect and that can be darkly funny). Kirsten Dunst is pretty stellar here as the troubled Justine, her performance is nuanced and in the right side of overdramatic and given my previous favourite film of hers was the cheerleading comedy Bring it on, that was a surprise. The rest of the cast are excellent as well, Charlotte Gainsbourg is particularly good as Justine’s long suffering sister. The only real casualty here is Charlotte Rampling whose character is so extreme that it borders on caricature.

The other thing is that after all that Dogma ‘95 rubbish that Von Trier went on about years ago where he expounded austerity in production and lighting, he has gone totally the other way this time – this film is gorgeous and there are some scenes which are breath taking. Even subtle things such as the double shadows cast by the moon and Melancholia create this strange alternate reality that is fascinating.

I guess I don’t want to talk about the film too much because I think it’s best to go in to a film without too much plot. I have a feeling this isn’t for everyone but I was blown away, I seriously loved this film and get shivers thinking about it now. It’s obvious from the earlier paragraph (and I make no secret of it) that I have suffered from depression in my life and maybe that is why I had such a strong reaction to the film. But I think the film is more than that and can’t be easily dismissed. I can’t even pretend to understand it all (I wish I had a far more eloquent analysis of it) but I hope to unravel it over many viewings in the future. A great, great film.


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammy's and all that rubbish

(Language warning, Mum stop reading)

I didn’t watch the Grammy’s because they were not broadcast on free TV in Australia – I assume they were on Pay TV but that’s a whole level of evil I don’t engage in. As such, I just got the highlights from the news shows. I’m genuinely glad Adele won a lot of trophies, she's a singer who has obviously touched a chord with many but remains undeniably human and remarkably unaffected by her fame. I can’t say I’m a fan of all of it but there’s no denying those pipes and there are a few good songs on that record. Bon Iver won for his lame record but at least he had the good grace to be uncomfortable accepting it.

I don’t have much to say on Whitney Houston’s death as her music was not part of my life or musical vocabulary apart from its mainstream ubiquity. Reading some blogs, I’m astounded by how many people are suddenly proclaiming to be Whitney Houston fans (Stereogum I’m looking at you but should I be surprised that a bunch of Bon Iver fans would claim to love Whitney) but what I’m more disturbed by is how many people seem to relish this death. Those cuntish vultures who work for sites like TMZ and trade in other people’s misery are having a field day which is despicable. Even in death these people can’t be left in peace. As much as I love music and film, I hate celebrity culture and the slow motion death seemingly egged on from the sidelines like we’re on the edge of a school yard fight but instead of shouting “fight, fight, fight” we’re yelling “die, die, die.” Patton Oswalt made the comment that whoever is surrounding Lindsey Lohan should be trying harder to help her and it’s true we can see these celebrity train wrecks dying before our eyes. I wonder if she dies whether TMZ etc could be held culpable as an enabler – doubt it but god I hate those fuckers.

Finally, good to see Chris Brown make a come back after beating a woman within an inch of her life three years ago. Fuck that! And fuck that guy! For a well reasoned analysis on why we should all be uncomfortable with this, please read this well thought out piece on it. And if you don’t agree, read this and tell me I’m wrong – the most disturbing thing you’ll read all day I promise you. Makes me so, so sad but because someone produces shitty R'N'B music does not give them a free pass for hitting women - he should be shunned and exiled.

Seems I’m in a mood today. I'll try and lighten up for the next post...


Sound City

Sound City - A film by Dave Grohl from Sound City on Vimeo.

Apparently Dave Grohl is making a documentary about the studio where Nevermind, Rumors and countless other classic records were made. Could be good.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Unsane are coming back tra-la-la

My favourite angry New Yorkers have a new album out in a month and their new song is streaming on Pitchfork right now. What are they so angry about? Who cares, this is good stuff.


The MIA/MDNA situation

I wasn't going to comment on this but it seems to be on every fucking website I read and I'm a bit perplexed about it all. I find it interesting that there is so much outrage that MIA gave the finger during her guest performance with Madonna at the Superbowl... Well, interesting probably isn't the right word, maybe fascinating. Why? Well, three reasons really.

1. MIA giving the finger is about as controversial as me saying I hate Nickelback. What did they expect MIA would do when she sang the line 'I don't give a shit?', produce a bouquet of flowers?

2. Madonna has come out to condemn MIA because it conflicted with her message of world peace (which if you watch the entire video is probably the funniest thing about it - 12 minutes of Madonna gyrating and lip syncing her greatest hits and then in the last second flashing up the message world peace on a big screen - comedy gold!). Sorry, I thought the message was of the Superbowl spot was the promotion of Madonna and some upstart out stunted the original stunt queen. It only gets worse when you imagine Madonna saying how disappointed she is in that weird British accent she's sporting now.

3. This is probably the most perplexing thing to me. Conservative groups have condemned MIA, demanded apologies and had there 'what about the children!' outrage moment but to me, they seem to have missed the bigger picture. When you look at Madonna's performance as a whole, it comes across like the best Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras parade float ever. Given that there are all these weird arse religious groups talking about how Ellen promoting JCPenney is the work of Satan and part of some homosexual agenda to take over the world (Ellen? Really?), I find it strange (and awesome) that these groups noticed a one second bird gesture but didn't notice that you just had the greatest gay nightclub routine in history as the half time performance at the largest sports event in the US. Did you not notice the buff guys in roman soldier outfits? Oh yeah, that reminds me, Mardis Gras kicks off this weekend - happy Mardi Gras everyone.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vintage blah

For some reason, I get sent updates about this blog called Vintage Everyday. I have no idea why, I don't subscribe to it and find its rampant nostalgia depressing. However, I should alert you to two recent posts that are vaguely interesting. The first is photos of 70's pop/rock stars with their families and I find the photo of Ginger Baker and his mum quite sweet and lovely (it is here). Strangely today they has a post called 80s Punk Bands You've Never Heard Of which should be named 80s Punk Bands You've Heard Of... Fucking amateurs.

Apart from this, I unreasonably find this site incredibly infuriating but somehow I can't stop it appearing in my blog feed. I guess there's bigger problems to worry about - world peace, racism, my hair. Anyhow, there will be very little blog action here as I'm working on another project at the moment. I will update when new music falls into my lap or I get bored with the other thing.

One thing though, I was listening to Soundgarden this morning and it strikes me that song would never be released as a single in this day and age. Tricky riffs and a spoon solo - I think not...


Saturday, February 4, 2012

M.I.A - Bad Girls

MIA's last album, Maya, somehow tried to fuse her signature sound with Primal Scream's XTRMNTR and then filter that through Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. To my ears it was an unlistenable mess and made me long for the confrontational sub continental infused pop of her first two albums. Bad Girls is back to that formula and while it's pretty sexy and fun, let's face it, this song is all about those dudes surfing in their sandals while hanging onto speeding cars at the end of the video. Seriously, I have nothing to say about the song apart from saying the video is awesome, check out the video 2:54 - wow!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Saturday Quiz

Question 1: You are approached by a mysterious organisation who tells you they want to send you back in time to prevent the death of a famous musician who died at a young age. You cannot turn up on the day of their death and prevent it, you must live for five years in that artist's community before their death and use your knowledge of the future to influence the event. However, if you inform the musician of their death outright, they will die immediately. Outside of this task, you can do anything you like in that time period. You will be given lodging and the basic necessities to survive. You are given six choices of who you can save:

a) Franz Schubert: You will be sent to Vienna in 1823, five years before Schubert dies of syphilis. Perks include being in one of the greatest cultural centres of the time while the downside is hygiene may be questionable.

b) Buddy Holly: You will be sent to Lubbock, Texas 1954 to work on saving Buddy Holly from his disastrous plane flight in 1959. Perks include Holly moved to Nashville and then to New York in 1958 so you'd probably have to live there too and saving him gets you a 3 for 1 deal: you'd also save the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.

c) Jimi Hendrix: You will be sent to London 1965 where Hendrix got his first break and was friends with the Stones, Beatles Clapton etc... Perks include living in swinging London in the 60's while the downside is living in London ever.

d) Janis Joplin: Dying a few weeks after Hendrix, you will be sent to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1965 at the height of the hippie movement. Perks include drugs and a vibrant political movement and music scene. Downside: hippies.

e) Sid Vicious: While his status as a musician is often questioned, Sid was a sentimental touchstone for the Pistols, particularly John Lydon. As such, you'll be sent to London in 1974 and have to follow Vicious in his move to New York where he overdosed after being accused of the murder of Nancy Spungen. Perks: being in London and New York when punk breaks. Downside: Vicious seemed like a bit of a fuckwit.

f) Kurt Cobain: You will be sent to Seattle in 1989 in the year Nirvana signed to Sub Pop and released Bleach. Upside: You will be there at the time grunge breaks and get to see a lot of great bands. Downside: Isn't Seattle kind of rainy and cold and grunge a bit of a downer?

These are your six choices. Which musician do you attempt to save and was your decision based on the musician or the place where you'd attempt to save them (or both)? In whatever time frame you choose, what would you do outside the task of saving the musician?

Question 2: Imagine you are a lawyer in a court of law and you had to make the argument to the judge as to which of the following musical genres is the most offensive:

a) 70's Prog: 20 minute songs, interminable solos, stupid lyrics. By attempting to elevate rock music to a higher art form, these musicians somehow made it worse. Bands include: Mike Oldfield, Genesis, Rush, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer etc

b) 80's New Romantic: A descendent of punk and post-punk - no one could have foreseen the pastel suits, puffy pirate shirts, flimsy synths and threadbare musicianship. Bands include: Duran Duran, Japan, Ultravox, Visage, Spandau Ballet and ABC.

c) 80's hair metal: Somehow a bunch of men dressed like women became a dominant force in the lates 80's making the Sunset Strip the centre of the musical universe. Terrible lyrics, worse solos combined in a big package of dumb. While I will always argue that Appetite for Destruction is a great album but let's not forget Warrant, Ratt, White Lion, Faster Pussycat etc...

d) 90's Nu-Metal: Misogynist lyrics and knucklehead riffs, this attempt to blend the worst of metal and hip hop was amazingly affective (in being shit). Such musical greats arose as Limp Bizkit, Korn, Godsmack, Papa Roach...

Given those four options, which would you argue to a court was the worst.

Question 3:
What was the year music first changed your life?

Just some stuff to think about on your Saturday...


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Big Star - Nothing can hurt me

Premiering at SXSW this year, this could plausibly be awesome... More details here.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral Review

Mark Lanegan occupies a singular position in modern music in that you know that anything he lends his voice to will be worth listening to. By virtue of the collaborators he picks and the sheer immensity and gravity of his baritone, Lanegan doesn’t do throw away. While this is his first solo album since 2004’s Bubblegum, he has been particularly prolific collaborating with Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, Queens, Soulsavers and slowly building a body of work that is diverse but always satisfying. Lanegan’s participation in any project is an almost guarantee of quality and I think that might be because maybe he’s a little bit too scary for his collaborator’s to bring him dud material. Lanegan himself remains an enigma, a dark hearted soul who seems to live in a haze of cigarette smoke and shadows – getting a sense of him as a person is incredibly difficult from his chilly public persona. I guess that’s the point because if nothing else, Lanegan’s work is always shrouded in the half light, a dark presence on the edge of consciousness.

On Blues Funeral, Lanegan becomes the hunter, the hunted and the haunted but always with the sense of being the other and on the outside. Blues Funeral is both a logical successor to Bubblegum (a highpoint in his career for me) and a step away - while being conceptually similar, it's viewpoint seems slightly different. Bubblegum is a trawl through a Bukowski underworld sticky with heroin residue, desperation and sex as if the Lanegan’s baritone was expressing a lifetime of sorrow in a four minute song. Blues Funeral continues this but is more low key than its predecessor, almost an elegant refinement of the themes Lanegan has been peddling for years. Lanegan starts the album with the ferocious first single, The Gravedigger's Song:

With piranha teeth, I've been dreaming of you
And the taste of your love so sweet, honest it's true...

But that sense of attack is soon as he sings that his pursuits of his love has been torture. The line I imagine will be the most quoted off the album is from the beautiful St Louis Elegy:

I hear the winter will cut you quick If tears were liquor I’d have drunk myself sick

This song is closest to Bubblegum's 100 Days in mood and while it doesn't quite reach that song's heights, it's not far off. The albums' quality is very high and there is not a dud on here. That's not to say there are changes and I feel I must warn fans that their is a slight sonic shift in the sound here. On at least four songs, there is a definite eighties indie vibe that moves away from the dusky blues template of Bubblegum.

It's probably best to start with what I imagine will be the most divisive song for fans, Ode to sad disco. Driven by a Kraftwerkian motorik, it is startling to hear Lanegan crooning over electric flourishes and symphonic sweeps more akin to a Pet Shop Boys song (yes, I said Pet Shop Boys). There are guitars and it's unlikely this will be burning up Oxford Street anytime soon but as Lanegan reaches the refrain of "here I have seen the light" like an intoxicated man caught the ecstasy and despair that can grab you unexpectedly on the dance floor, it actually starts to make sense. In fact, it's probably the most literally named song you'll hear in some time because this is exactly how you'd imagine sad disco to sound if it were a genre.

Similarly, Gray Goes Black, Harborview Hospital and Tiny Grain Of Truth is a run through eighties indie pop keyboards and guitar jangle but with Lanegan acting as the anchor. Not to say it’s all different: Phantasmagoria Blues is a classic Lanegan blues lament while Gravedigger’s Song recalls the electric throb of Methamphetamine Blues. The one thing that's missing is an out and out rocker as there’s no Iggy Pop-esque Sideways in Reverse and the upbeat tracks (such as Riot In My House and the Dandy Warhols-esque churn of Quiver Syndrome) sound less unhinged than the opaque rock of Bubblegum.

I must apologise for all the Bubblegum comparisons but Lanegan has moved far from the pastoral folk of his early solo records and he eclipsed his work in the Screaming Trees a long time ago so I guess that's the most reference point. Whatever the case, Blues Funeral has been worth the wait of eight years since his last solo record, Lanegan, like PJ Harvey or Tom Waits, transcends fashion or trends and merely exists in his own musical world. I already sense this will be one of my favourite records of the year and this comes highly recommended.

Blues Funeral
is out in Australia on Friday (YAY!) and is streaming at Mojo here.


The Cult - Lucifer

When I was a teen metalhead I had a profound love for three Cult albums: the goth rock of Love, the AC/DC rip off Electric and the arena theatrics of Sonic Temple. However, while I still bought their records after these, they seemed to get worse and worse. The low point for me was when I finally saw them live, something I had dreamed of since I was first seduced by their sound. It was about 1995 and all I remember from that night was that Ian Astbury wore a white leather suit and they were uniformly terrible. I don't think I listened to them for about ten years after seeing them live. Still, in recent years I've gone back to those three records and enjoyed them immensely.

I'm not sure where the Cult stand in rock history in this age of revisionism where you have to hate a band you used to love until some hipster says it's ok to admit you like them. To be honest, I don't see much of their influence in the stuff I hear today but I still think they had something special. As such, I was a bit ambivalent for the first couple minutes of Lucifer but once Billy Duffy starts ripping about half way through, my mouth started to salivate with the distant taste of the kool aid I was drinking as a kid. Call it a guilty pleasure or call it just good old fashioned rock or call it good fun but give this about three listens and you might just agree that it kicks arse. They've stopped being proto-grunge and got back to what they're good at: Ian Astbury's rock star psudo-shamanic schtick and Duffy indulging his guitar God riffing excellence. That's the way boys, play to your strengths although Billy Duffy now looks like an aged Dave Beckham (above left) - what the? Anyhow, their new record comes out in April and I'll be curious to hear how it sounds. If you ever liked them, there might be something for you here.