Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Big Chillax

I was down the local markets, flipping through some old vinyl and came across the Big Chill soundtrack. The Big Chill was massive film from my childhood with a soundtrack that was ubiquitous as it was instrumental to the film. The conceit of the film is a bunch of thirty-somethings spend a weekend together after the suicide of a friend* and basically act like a bunch of arseholes. The music in the film is a selection of 60's tracks which were the soundtrack to their university years and the whole thing plays like a sickening exercise in nostalgia. The pivotal music scene is all the merry middle class people dancing around the kitchen to the Temptations' Ain't too Proud to Beg. It played into that whole 80's thing that music will never be better than anything than what was produced in the 60's.

Anyhow, it got me thinking that now Gen X is asserting control over the movies that are being made, sooner or later someone will make a modern update of the Big Chill (if it hasn't been made already, I bet someone's thinking about it). I was thinking about how weird that music would be in that context - all that 90's angst compiled into a soundtrack to mid-life nausea. Do we want to see a bunch of thirty somethings dancing around the kitchen to Beck's Loser or sitting drinking whiskey while listening to Radiohead or playing air drums to Smells like teen spirit? No we don't and if anyone wanted to compile that soundtrack, it already exists - it's called the Singles Soundtrack. Matter of fact, you might as well get Cameron Crowe to direct a sequel to that film called Couples and we can watch how my generation is every bit as dickish as the baby boomers. I'm sure this will happen and it makes me think I should be working in the film industry. Shit ideas - I cater.

*Fun fact: The dead friend in the Big Chill is Kevin Costner who originally had some flashback scenes but they were edited out. As such, Kevin only appears in the film as a corpse at the funeral - his most convincing role to date (thanks for the joke that's been told a million times, Captain Obvious).


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Missing Queens of the Stone Age like I am?

You should listen to this. I have no idea who the Owls are but they obviously love Queens of the Stone Age and in the absence of anything new by Josh and the boys, I think this will get me by. I mean the song is called Better off deaf for crying out loud...


Friday, June 22, 2012

Song of the Day: Black Hell - Danzig

A couple of months ago I took a day off work and decided to watch some films a friend had lent me. It had been my plan to watch 13 Assassins but that didn't work so I thought I'd watch the Hangover 2 in spite of myself. My lord, is that film an piece of fucking shit - totally racist and a fucking disgrace (that's my movie review right there but I should have expected it). Anyhow the best part of the movie was the opening credits featuring this Danzig song. To be honest, I know very little about Danzig apart from some Misfits songs that were floating around when I was in high school and that song he wrote for Johnny Cash. Other than that, I don't know shit although I believe the rule of thumb is don't listen to anything after Danzig 3 (I don't know how I know this). Whatever, all I'm saying is Danzig is a hole in my musical knowledge but I like this song - I think it has captured an atmosphere of dread that is palpable. It sounds real, too bad I didn't act on it and turn that movie off earlier...


Young people... sigh...

I sure hope THIS is fucking satire...


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kate Nash broke England's mind...

Kate Nash has a new song Under-Estimate The Girl which has blown the minds of the English music press because it's a sloppy little rock number made by someone who normally makes shiny pop tunes. Read this slightly crazy NME article which says the song is simultaneously "one of the most punk records ever, and it's brilliant for it" and also "career suicide." I think everyone should calm down. It sounds ok to me and I can't really see what the fuss is about. But then, I own a couple of Bikini Kill records...


Sunday, June 17, 2012

This could be the greatest video game soundtrack ever...

It would be the greatest videogame soundtrack if not for this

I want to play Mario to this...

A band called Death

I totally missed this but I'm all over it now...


Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense review

Future of the Left have made the news recently due to their Pitchfork fightback* which strangely might be a boon to them. The true believers (such as myself) felt vindicated that the integrity of their favourite band was defended so valiantly by main man Andy Falkous step by step dissection of a lazy review while a whole bunch of Pitchfork doubters discovered a great band. I have no hesitation in saying that Pitchfork got it wrong (hey reviewer, I paid for my copy of the album) because The Plot Against Common Sense is a the joyous punch in the face that you'd expect: at turns difficult, literate and unrelenting, it is never less than captivating.

Future of the Left are a musical force driven by Falkous's singular take on the world that is bitingly funny and cynical yet laced with a sincere undercurrent. For all the absurdist non-sequiturs, social satire and railing against capital, the casual listener may miss the burning passion, intelligence and pathos that underlies the music all of which can happen within the space of a two minute song. Case in point,  album highlight Beneath the Waves an Ocean starts off like a bad joke with the line "Three men walk into a cafe," but the song ends with the conclusion "No way you'll ever find peace, you'll ever find peace with the name they gave you." This doesn't sound like a joke, it sounds like brutally real admonishment. Anchored by a claustrophobic Jesus Lizard-esque bass riff, it is excellent.

Humour and music can be tricky because a joke song can date quickly and genuine humour can be misconstrued. The humour on The Plot Against Common Sense is rooted in a deeper sentiment and even the excellently titled Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop gets to the heart of a creatively bankrupt entertainment industry churning out sequels and reboots with increasingly diminishing returns. All the songs are driven by an underlying punk heart; I am the least of your problems is a number 1 hit in an alternate universe that cares about good music while Polymers are forever is a re-imagining of robot rock for an ADD generation. Other highlights include Goals in slow motion and Notes on achieving orbit while the only weak link is Cosmo's Ladder, a difficult piece based on a keyboard lick that ultimately goes nowhere.

What's it all about? I learnt my lesson from the Pitchfork debacle to try to discern meaning from Falkous's lyrics but there is no doubt the band err to the left, distrust capitalism and most likely hate the royal family (that's just a guess but I hate the royal family so maybe that's wishful thinking). However, whether you understand the greater narrative or not, there are enough lyrical nuggets with fist pumping rock moves of joy to keep anyone happy. Maybe I'm getting older but the latest and greatest bands seem pale and shadowy while Future of the Left deliver music with power, urgency and purpose. It might not be for everyone and that's ok, because not everyone deserves music this good. Fuck 'em if they don't get it.

*My hunch on the Falkous-Pitchfork take down has less to do with a bad review and more to do with the reviewer saying that his heart wasn't in it and he was phoning it in. I'm not sure what record that guy was listening to but you can hear nothing but passion on this abum so Falkous was rightly pissed off.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Song of the day: Monkey - Low

I've just rediscovered this song and have become mildly obsessed with it. Tonight the monkey dies...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oh Bob

So Bob Mould announced he has a new record in September which has me pretty psyched. So psyched I am secretly thinking of flying to the States to see one of the shows on his tour (he's playing new stuff plus Copper Blue in its entirety). Anyhow, through the dark powers of Satan I have obtained a bootleg of the Copper Blue show in London on the 1st of this month. Kudos to the taper as the sound is solid and it sounds like a great show. However, the real highlight is that it contains four new tracks in pretty great clarity: Star Machine, The Descent, Round the City Square and Silver Machine.

So, how do they sound? Well, it's been a few hours with them now and the lyric interpretations are speculative but they sound great. Star Machine sounds closer to the Body of Song stuff to me than anything else and appears to be a critique of celebrity culture and the thirst for fame.  Built on a riff which is like a sped up, rocked out Circles, it certainly pushes all the Bob pleasure buttons. Better still is The Descent, a rocky relationship song which was on youtube a few weeks ago which is a short, hectic sugar rush. Round the City Square was also part on that youtube clip which strangely (probably incorrectly) reminds me of Warehouse era Hüskers - most likely Ice Cold Ice once it kicks in. Finally, Silver Age is just a classic Bob rocker but he sounds capital A angry on it. Not sure about the lyrics, it's either about a bad relationship or young punks calling Bob old. Either way it sounds great.

Should I wait for the album proper instead of listening to shitty bootlegs? Yes. But I justify it in the knowledge that if I lived within a thousand miles of any of the shows at the moment I'd be there (so I'd hear these songs live) and Bob's already got my money safely in his pocket. Shit justifications but I don't care - excitement abounds...


Superchunk - This Summer review

Everyone’s banging on about the Japandroids record being the album of the summer and it kind of is: big choruses, woo-hoo’s and driving tunes (despite it being winter in Australia). However, I’d contend that Superchunk’s This Summer actually sounds like a better song of the season. The Japandroids are in such a hurry to get to the beach it’s like they’re on a speed binge and grinding their teeth to nubs with their big rock moves. This Summer feels, surprise, like summer because it is a leisurely cruise with an awesome mix tape in the stereo, your girl on your arm and nothing but clear skies ahead. It’s all cold beer, sweaty seats and a low key nostalgia that pretty much everyone can relate to. The song is just the right pace with the requisite feedback key change (classic Superchunk move) to indicate exactly when to pump your fist in the air prior to the solo. I hate to say it but these punks are ageing with grace and perspective that is both befitting the vintage of the band and shock, horror, making them more relevant that a lot of the younger indie bands around these days (we all got old). The 7inch is backed with a cover of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer which sounds like exactly how you’d imagine it, it’s ok but perfunctory (Superchunk do good covers but they’ve done better than this). As far as I know, this is the only Superchunk release this year so go get it Chunk-heads (I just checked and it’s on Australian itunes so I guess that mean’s it’s everywhere). To use a well worn phrase I am totally too old and uncomfortable to use, this is the summer jam you’ve been waiting for...


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mark Kozelek - Factory Theatre, 8/6/12

Mark Kozelek looks like an unassuming guy, he could easily pass as one of the men who work at the car repair place near my house. However, that unassuming nature is washed away when he says "hello" and launches into Ålesund. For Kozelek's fans, it is about the voice and when it is live before you it is a wonderful and miraculous thing. With nothing more than a nylon string guitar and slight reverb on his voice and instrument, that voice that defines Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon is pure, upfront and powerful. That voice can sell the cheesiest lyrics and bring gravity to highest stratospheres - it is captivating and grounds the evening even when it gets awkward. 

The tracks from the new record sounded a lot brighter on stage. Album highlight That Bird Has A Broken Wing rolled with a melancholic anger while a powerful rendition of Elaine was the closest to rock Kozelek strayed. Track Number 8, took on a wistful heaviness live while the fluffed UK Blues towards the end of the set was hilarious. The Spanish inflections of the Admiral Fell Promises material was probably the definition of acoustic shredding. Fittingly, he played Australian Winter in the freezing venue in our winter (while last night's 9 degrees may seem like nothing in some parts of the world, it's positively arctic to us).

Leaning heavily on the new record and Admiral Fell Promises, the night was punctuated with hilarious asides and awkwardly funny stage banter that belied Kozelek's miserablist image. The good natured insults of Australia ("How can you download my new album? You guy's only have dial up.") was well received and there were plenty of laughs to be had. The majority of the crowd were genuinely in awe and even the inevitable requests for songs were endearing and respectful. One brave fan yelled "Carry me Ohio, if you want, it's up to you" (it wasn't played). Mark himself tried to start a conversation with two girls in the front row which degenerated into awkwardness as the drunk girls spoke unintelligibly to bemused and slightly needy musician. I guess all those references to one night stands on the new record are from experience. However, that interchange led to a medley of Danzig's Thirteen, Summer Dress and the aforementioned UK Blues which was amazing.

The evening had a simple theme: purity. One man and a guitar singing songs that are moving and immediate. There are no tricks, gimmicks or props to hide behind and as unassuming as Kozelek appears on stage, there is something fearless about his work. A great, great performance.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Future of the Left vs Pitchfork

A while back I wrote how Pitchfork had become the new corporate music media, dictating tastes, sales and no doubt, their content is influenced by their commercial concerns. How could they not? (that terrible Bon Iver record got raves and two days later they announced he was curating the Pitchfork Festival - be still, my cynical heart). Anyhow, here's what I wrote back in October. My main concern was that a bad review could literally cost a band sales and this week we've seen the shit hit the illiterate fan when Andy Falkous, lead singer of Future of the Left wrote a rebuttal to a middling review on Pitchfork of their new record The Plot Against Common Sense. It is hilarious and well worth the read.

If you don't know it by now, Andy Falkous is smarter and funnier than 99.99% of people on the planet Earth and as such, I think it'd be wise not to fuck with him. His response positively bristles with anger and I think it is legitimate. I think it speaks to the larger issue that I grapple with writing about music - most musicians put their blood, sweat and meagre finances into releasing a record and some fuckwit on a blog like mine can tear it down with little thought to the consequences (well, there's no consequences on mine because about three people read it). I'm not saying that everyone should stop saying Coldplay are rubbish or Nickelback aren't hideous V-like lizard creatures masquerading as humans trying to destroy the Earth with their shitty grunge, but with the internet all the shouting seems to be in one direction (ha!). Very rarely do you hear musicians speak back and less so against supposed taste makers like Pitchfork.

Being a fervent FOTL fanboy makes me side with them in this and while I think it would be a fruitless exercise to bite back at every shitty review you receive, I was struck by the similarity of the reviewer's  Sigur Ros review a few days apart from the FOTL one (laud past achievements, appear knowledgeable of the entire catalogue and then give back handed compliments of the current work - for an object lesson in this, read my Sun Kil Moon review!). When talking about music, it's very easy to get caught in the middle, repeat yourself and just never commit to anything but the criticism itself.

As I write this, I'm listening to The Plot Against Common Sense and it is excellent - probably not as immediate or propulsive as Travels with myself and another but the more I listen it, the songs gnaw at me until I can't get them out of my head (I'll write a review eventually). It isn't always easy music but when an album features a song called Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop, you probably know whether you're going to like it or not (for the record, that song has a great pay off outro from it's stop/start assault at the beginning).

Sure it is hypocritical to be writing this (I'm part of the problem no doubt) but I know I'm a hypocrite so I don't really care. It's just entertaining to see someone considerably more literate than myself eviscerate their foes. Is there an easy answer to any of this? Art is subjective for sure but you don't have to be a prick about it when you don't like an album.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Song of the day: Regina Spektor - All The Rowboats

I have never been a fan of Regina Specktor but when this song came on I suddenly paid attention. Peddling an earthy urgency that Tori Amos has long lost, this is a endlessly gorgeous. Strangely, it sounds better when you're not watching the video. --