Tag Archives: band

Record review: Belle & Sebastian – The Third Eye Centre (2013, LP)

belle and seb

Belle & Sebastian could never be accused of being attention seekers. Ever since their 1996 debut, they’ve flown distinctly under the radar in terms of self-promotion, but have somehow still managed to gain a fiercely devoted following of mostly pale and lonely Smiths fans. Newest effort The Third Eye Centre is less a bona fide album, more a collection of EP tracks and B-sides from the Glasgow band’s Rough Trade career, a sort of companion piece to 2005’s Push Barman To Open New Wounds, which featured a similar collection. Drawing songs from such a wide range of origins means this release has inevitable peaks and troughs, but unfortunately the troughs far outnumber the peaks. ‘I’m A Cuckoo’ is an aimless opener that takes too much from Jethro Tull’s baroque-rock nonsense. Second track ‘Suicide Girl’ is more cheerfully up-tempo, yet with miserable lyrics, while ‘Love On The March’ sounds like a twisted Brian Wilson B-side that didn’t make the cut. Dreary remixes by the likes of The Avalanches and Miaoux Miaoux come infused with the unmistakable whiff of filler, and will probably offend more than one of your senses. Under the pretentious façade of a few of the later tracks lurk the bones of some good songs; ‘Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire’ being a good example. Despite this, there comes a point early on when all their whimsy and effete dreaminess has never seemed so obsolete. (Rough Trade)

Flashback: Thin Lizzy – UK Tour ’75 (LP, 1975)

thin lzyy 75

Everyone knows Thin Lizzy. The music world is awash with their albums and there are enough bootlegs, greatest hits, extended versions, live albums, compilations, radio cuts, cover bands, and once there were even enough versions of the band itself out there to choke the airwaves for the rest of time. Of course, almost every music lover is familiar their ‘big’ rock albums Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation, and their touring masterpiece Live and Dangerous; all albums filled with rock radio staples we know and love. But to me, their finest and most interesting period was just before ‘Jailbreak’ and “The Boys Are Back In Town” sent them stratospheric, around the time of the Nightlife and Fighting albums.

Eric Bell had sensationally quit the band during at gig in Queens University in his hometown of Belfast by throwing his guitar up in the air mid-song and marching off stage in a state of epic drunkenness. Not wanting to get caught mid-concert with no guitarist ever again, band leader Phil Lynott decided to hire two of them as a safety net. Brian Robertson was in town trying out for the spot of drummer in another band, and Scott Gorham had flown over from California to audition for Supertramp (how things could have been so very different,) and both of them landed guitar spots in ‘Lizzy. Their first album together – Nightlife was a fairly patchy and poorly produced affair, but the follow up, 1975’s Fighting is a stone-cold classic, and laid all the foundations for their success with Jailbreak. Live and Dangerous was released in 1978 and has since been considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time. How much of it was overdubbed in the studio has also been a topic of discussion ever since, although this small controversy doesn’t detract from its pure rock brilliance and rightful place as a classic album.

When, in 2008, it was announced there was to be a new Lizzy live album to be released, the reaction was lukewarm at best, due to there being more than a couple of disappointing Lizzy releases out there. However, what is to be found on “UK Tour ’75” is an absolute gem of a collection of Thin Lizzy songs, recorded at a period just before they hit the big time. It’s a snapshot of a band on their way up, not quite yet possessing the hard-boiled confidence they would later display, and way before things started to go awry for Lynott and his various addictions. What you will also find here is some of the best Lynott crowd banter, and a band trying out some new songs and part-songs that will later evolve into chart smashes. It’s bloody fascinating.

Recorded at Derby University in 1975, the show begins with Lynott speaking into the microphone. “One, two, testing,” he says, before telling the audience the gig will be recorded and asks them to “make a lotta noise, hear yourselves on the radio,” and the band launches into ‘Fighting’. What is immediately clear on this album is the quality of the sound. Many Lizzy releases – including the awful ‘Live/Life’ series – sound like they were recorded with two toilet rolls and a long piece of string, but the sound here is crisp, clear, beautiful, and moreover, the band are on great form.

Having been recorded in 1975, the album is years ahead of songs like ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Waiting For An Alibi’, and ‘Don’t Believe A Word’; instead it is filled with great songs that fell away from the Lizzy live roster after around 1976. “Wild One”, “It’s Only Money”, and my own personal favourite of all Lizzy songs, “For Those Who Love To Live” are given a fine run out, with the band sounding HEAVY. Later live staples are in there too, from Bob Seger’s ‘Rosalie’, and earlier Lizzy track ‘The Rocker’. Rosalie sounds particularly fantastic, and just shows that had “Live and Dangerous” not been overdubbed, it still probably would have sounded pretty damn good.

The finest thing about “UK Tour ’75”, though, is the wonderful opportunity to hear a band refining their sound and songs. Track thirteen on the album is labelled ‘Derby Blues’; a working title for a song that would eventually become Lizzy classic ‘Cowboy Song’. It’s simply fantastic to hear Lynott trying out lyrics and rhyming couplets, as he announces it as a “new number, this one, as yet untitled… we’ll call it Derby Blues”. The dual-guitar riff is there, the opening line of “I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail…”, and the rest basically consists of a bit of a jam and Lynott throwing in lyrics about being lost on the road and turning up in alien places. It’s a must-listen for any Lizzy fan, pure and simple.

And as if this embarrassment of riches wasn’t enough, there’s also a three-minute sound check jam tacked onto the end, which showcases the guitarists warming up their fingers in a groovy blast of improvisation, and a rather fetching booklet with a few dozen photos of the band in and around the time of recording. Again, the sound check jam is a thing of beauty and of such outstanding sound quality, especially for the time. UK Tour ’75 has now overtaken Live and Dangerous as my favourite live ‘Lizzy album, and maybe it will for you too.

Interview: Harrison Koisser of Peace

peace

Self-confessed upstarts, the four young lads that make up Birmingham quarter Peace are headed to Australia for the first time. Frontman Harrison Koisser explains how the group are looking forward to sharing “our ideas”.

It’s odd that no other band has claimed the name Peace before. How did you arrive at the name?

I think it was staring at us in the face the whole time; and then when we forgot about choosing a name it became very obvious.

What has the reaction to your debut album ‘In Love’ been like so far?

Very positive. Some older people like to make a point that we sometimes sound like something they knew when they were younger, but I think that’s happened to every band ever. It just feels like your old dad nagging you to do the washing up, though. We’re very positive people most of the time and the majority of things we hear we abide with.

You recently toured with Miles Kane and Palma Violets. Any good tour stories?

Many. It seems so long ago. We had a good lark with all the boys. They’re all diamonds.

Which band member cares most about how they look on stage and in band photos?

I know you’re supposed to say you don’t, but I think all of us do. You’d have to be a total slob to not give a fuck when there’s a couple of thousand people watching or when there’s photographic evidence going around. Not in like a huge way, but you know what I mean.

September will mark your first trip Down Under. What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

I’ve heard the lifestyle is different but the ideas are the same. It sounds like something we can get along with. I want to feel it.

PEACE PLAY THE ZOO SEPTEMBER 19

Record review: Bloods – Golden Fang (2013, EP)

bloods

If you’re a fan of pop, punk, garage, rock, girl bands, catchy two-minute guitar songs, or any combination of the above, GET EXCITED – Bloods will make you want to jump around and forget about all the things you probably should be doing with your day. Golden Fang is their debut EP, and with a slew of catchy singles already under their belts, the Sydney pop-punk trio have left behind the days of doing Spiderman theme covers and beefed up their sound, as well as recently signing to Shock Records. While their outer veneer might make them seem a like a trio of snotty kids sticking a middle finger up at the idea of getting a real job or any of that ‘square’ sort of stuff, there’s serious power and musical ability strewn between the bubblegum punk-pop choruses and sneering lyrics, not to mention a solid dose of reckless abandon and a sense of forgetting about tomorrow, or “living for the take” as singer-guitarist MC says in ‘Bodies’. They’re not a one-trick pony though, being just as adept at the slower love song-type stuff too; ‘Back To You’ having the type of direct “You’re the one that I want” chorus that has reverberated through all the best love songs in pop history. The sugar-sweet vocal interplay between singer MC and bassist Sweetie Zamora is what make Bloods so special though, and when fused with instantly catchy punk riffs and a cut-the-crap approach to song-writing, makes their music feel like some of the most essential of recent months. (Shock Records)

Live review: Cloud Control + Palms + Gang of Youths – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 23/8/13

Cloud Control
Cloud Control

The Tivoli has started to feel like a second home recently, such has been the frequency and quality of gigs happening in the fine old Fortitude Valley venue. Spending so much time there has resulted in the first whiffs of the beer stench of the old carpet feeling like a comforting pair of arms drawing me to some familiar, homely bosom, willing me to forget the trials of whatever day-to-day crap I may have encountered and lose myself in the religion of music… or something along those vaguely ideological lines. Recent reports of it possibly being sold and bulldozed hopefully won’t become crushing reality, otherwise where would nights like tonight happen? It’s enough to make a live music lover want to chain himself to the balcony railings, plaster his self-righteous physical form in bicycle grease and start ranting about how our culture is going down the tubes. Or maybe just buy a pizza slice and skulk off home with the rest of the apathetic masses – given that I’m all out of bicycle grease.

Generalisations aside, there’s a gig to be reviewed, and first support for tonight’s show is Sydneysiders Gang of Youths, who are already making an outstandingly melancholy noise as I enter a semi-filled Tivoli; their lead singer possessing one the most wonderfully rich voices I have heard in recent months. There is very little information about these guys online, but go to Soundcloud and check out their song ‘Knuckles White Dry (Car Ride Home)’ – I defy you to tell me it’s not beautiful.

Palms
Palms

Next up is Palms; the Sydney shredders introducing an immediate element of scuzzy raucousness to proceedings, with frontman Al Grigg putting in a brilliantly manic and sweaty performance from start to finish, as they plough through a set of “aspirational rock ‘n’ roll songs about living your dreams,” including ‘Don’t Be Ashamed’. As his baseball cap flies off his head mid-head-bang during the first song, the audience know this is going to be a good set.

It’s with the stage lights almost totally dimmed to nothing that Cloud Control enter the fray, and like any band with a new record to plug, they begin with the first two songs off the new release, ‘Scream Rave’ and ‘Dojo Rising’. The woozy psychedelia of that album sounds great booming from the Tivoli stage, with hooded frontman Alister Wright exclaiming “This is the first show of the tour – I think we’re off to a good start!” and the audience responding in the affirmative. There’s plenty of time for the best of 2010’s Bliss Release to make appearances with the pop melodies of ‘This Is What I Said’ and ‘Meditation Song #2 (Why Oh Why)’ and it’s vaguely Celtic chorus chant as the faithful down the front bounce in unison, before the band jump back to the new material with ‘Scar’ and ‘Moonrabbit’. The new songs show the diversity that Cloud Control have injected into their sound, and it’s during ‘Promises’ that we get a feeling of how much of a charismatic frontman Wright really is, despite his diminutive stature. A finishing rendition of ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’ sends the audience daft before the band come back on for an encore that includes the title track from their new album, inevitably sending a Friday night Tivoli crowd into spasms.

With the final chords still ringing in our ears, all that’s left is for us to leave our beloved venue and head off homeward-bound, stopping only for a pizza slice and to check the prices of bicycle grease.

Live review: Ash + Blonde on Blonde + Charlie Horse – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 21/8/13

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“Like the baby Jesus, Ash were born in a lonely stable. The sleepy Northern Irish village of Downpatrick is about as far away from the throbbing heart of the rock ‘n’ roll jungle as it gets. But like all such places, it’s packed with countless kids intent on escaping. And with Ash, it started the way it always starts – with two guitars, a drum kit, seemingly boundless energy and invincible optimism. ”

So says Ewan McGregor’s voice-over at the start of the Ash documentary Teenage Wasteland, as a trio of spotty-faced teenage wannabes thrash around in a series of fuzzy video clips from around 1992. It’s been a long twenty-one years since those heady days of busting a three-chord groove at Downpatrick Civic Centre, but while their music may have changed, the memories of those glorious mid-nineties days haven’t. Ladies and gentlemen, please get comfortable while this review gets a touch nostalgic.

Tonight’s show begins with a suitably exuberant set from Sydney band Charlie Horse, followed by proud Fortitude Valley rockers Blonde on Blonde, whose frontman coaxes the growing crowd to the front of the floor by promising that if we all “come forward, I’m not gonna touch you. Okay – I’ll probably touch you.” The quartet are probably too talented and stylish to be covering the likes of Oasis‘s ‘Hindu Times’, and while they do it well, their final track – new number ‘Weekend Behaviour’ – is much, much better.

Now: Ash. Being forced into this world in the same Downpatrick hospital ward that spewed forth the probably-delightful bundles of humanity that eventually became the indie-punk-pop heroes, in some roundabout way makes me feel like I understand them. For the three inarticulate Northern Irish schoolboys, making music was all about escape. They’ve taken the limited abilities that they were given at the time, started running, and never looked back, while managing to save Irish pop music from the shiver-inducing hideousness of the fucking Cranberries while they were at it. Most of what they’ve achieved was the result of a work-rate that would kill off many a lesser band, and singer-guitarist Tim Wheeler’s ability to write punk-pop songs that spoke to us like a fibre-optic cable hard-wired directly into the deepest recesses of our very souls. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

Tonight, the band take to a Hi-Fi stage awash in blue light, and launch into opener ‘Lose Control’; the three-piece immediately sounding tight, powerful, and incomparable all at once. Tim Wheeler has essentially always been a poser; the Flying-V in his (still surprisingly youthful for a man pushing 40’s) hands is evidence of that, and Mark Hamilton – while having put on a few pounds since 1977 was released in 1996) has lost none of the energy that has always made him so fun to watch on stage. The bassist’s ability – in the band’s early days – to perform while horrendously wasted was always worthy of admiration, in this writer’s opinion, and drummer Rick McMurray is just Rick McMurray – hammering away at the skins without so much as changing facial expressions all night, or probably all his life.

1977 spawned no less than four singles, and the next two tracks, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Girl From Mars’ are two of them. Watching the band perform such classic tracks makes for a strange, wonderful, and somewhat distressing feeling; when you realise that these songs don’t belong to you solely, and that there are hundreds and possibly many thousands of people to whom they are every bit as sacred; when the lyrics are so intertwined with memories of your own adolescence that it’s hard to tell them apart and it feels like someone is dictating your very thoughts on a public platform. After ‘Goldfinger’, Hamilton stands on the monitor, stares down the audience with a look of extreme distaste, grits his teeth and mouths “COME ON” like his life depends on it. Like I said – powerful stuff.

The crushing and often overlooked ‘I’d Give You Anything’ and softer ‘Gone The Dream’ precede the first ape-shit moment as ‘Kung Fu’ has the audience losing their collective marbles. “Kung Fu/Do what you do to me/I haven’t been the same since my teenage lobotomy,” sings Wheeler with as much energy as he did way back when, and the crowd give it back in nostalgia-tinted spades. A blues-y interlude and a bit of a crowd sing-along is a nice touch, before the final single ‘Oh Yeah’ and it’s devastatingly close-to-the-bone story of bitter-sweet teenage love.

Once 1977 is done and dusted the band have free reign, and brilliantly delve even further into their catalogue with ‘Jack Names The Planets’ from 1994 mini-album Trailer. Jumping back to the post-1977 era, they continue with ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, and despite a stoppage to allow a bone-headed security guard to get his meaty paws on a crowd-surfer and Wheeler’s exclamations of “We’re trying to have some fucking fun,” the shows continues with an encore including ‘Shining Light’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ in a strong finish.

You can say they’re just a pop band. You can say there are better bands out there. You can call it nostalgia or nineties-revival. But the simple fact is this: Ash playing 1977 is a bloody beautiful thing. Powerful stuff.

Live review: Labours of Love #2 – The Zoo, Brisbane – 17/8/13

Halfway
Halfway

It’d be reasonable to assume that the prospect of a night of country music and the proximity of the Ekka might be enough to attract a few out of town punters to the banjo-twangin’, boot-stompin’ events of the evening at The Zoo, but this wasn’t to be the case on Saturday night, with only around forty to fifty hardcore fans showing up for the second instalment of Labours of Love at the beloved venue.

The bands didn’t seem to be put off by this, however, and after a short set by local quintet Bandito Folk, and much fiddling with electronics and synth cables, Seja Vogel and her three band members take to the stage. “Hi, I’m Seja and I’m going to play some not very country music,” she explains, before running through a series of synth-heavy tracks from her new album All Our Wires, including the excellent ‘Like Fireflies’ and German number ‘Die Wolken’, followed by a sublime acoustic cover of cult Gold Coast band Arbuckle’s ‘Love Vacation’.

Seja
Seja

Halfway take to a stage now adorned with a projected backdrop of various pictures of country Queensland, and coolly work through a set of songs taken from their upcoming fourth album Any Old Love. Despite all the new songs being totally unfamiliar to the audience, they receive a warm response after each tune; from the slower country numbers to the more up-tempo rockers. There are hints of The Band throughout, and even touches of Warren Zevon in parts, and the sporadic dancing that breaks out by the third or fourth song among the loyal fans in front of the stage keeps up until the final chord is struck. Surely this is a better way to spend an evening than watching fireworks and eating ice cream?

Live review: Queensland Music Awards – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 13/8/13

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There are two headlines you will already have read concerning the 2013 Queensland Music Awards: the first is that the night ‘belonged’ to Best Female award winner Emma Louise, and the second that Ball Park Music are still pretty damn good. Both these things are at least partly true, but a large percentage of the following also happened.

My own evening starts with an exasperatingly winding taxi tour of the Valley, as a ludicrously dated so-called community festival is taking place at the RNA Showgrounds and there are road closures all over the joint. Upon arrival at the Tivoli, it seems that most of the rest of the guests must also be having confused taxi-driver syndrome, as only around a third of the seats are taken. Ah well – on with the show.

First up is Zimbabwean-Australian Blaq Carrie; the young rapper performing her debut single ‘Let There Be Hope’. It’s a pretty good start, but not as good as Thelma Plum; who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth with her sweetly shuffling introduction and cute ankle socks, and while a few rounds of “fuck-yous” in her song ‘Dollar’ may be amusing or mildly shocking to some, it’s really no big fucking deal.

It’s around this point that it becomes apparent that there’s a fairly large amount of people who have arrived at the Tivoli this evening with the aim of standing at the back in their probably-expensive-yet-tacky-looking frocks/suits and chattering amongst themselves like a bunch of schoolchildren who need delivered instantly back to an era where corporal punishment was de rigeuer – these clowns simply need several wheel braces to the spinal column. What the fuck is the point in coming to an awards ceremony and ignoring the vast majority of the evening’s proceedings, while rudely and loudly babbling shit to each other during all the important parts? If you’ve paid big money and a band is putting in a dismal performance and turning you off, I get it – vent your dissatisfaction with all the bland self-important fury your tranquillised-to-the-eyeballs hedge fund manager parents bequeathed you, but for fuck’s sake shut your useless traps when Mick Hadley’s widow is presenting a video tribute to him and accepting his Lifetime Achievement award on his behalf. Makes sense when you think about it, wouldn’t you say? Dickheads.

Meanwhile, Pigeon put in a typically fantastic performance that has host Sarah Howells marvelling at their ability to get stupidly sweaty in the space of a couple of songs (they are surely one of Brisbane’s best live acts right now), and Seja Vogel follows with another sweet burst of tuneage from her seriously synth-heavy new album All Our Wires.

Now, there’s another sticking point right here. Let me start by saying The Trouble With Templeton are a fine band and their debut record Rookie is an excellent and worthy piece of work; I highly recommend adding it to your collection and songwriter Thomas Calder and his band deserve awards and recognition in spades. However, when Q Music give them the Rock award, then allow Violent Soho to put in the best rock live performance of the evening by far (and I include The Trouble With Templeton in that), we have a rather disconcerting, head-scratching moment. But, what the hell; most of the audience aren’t paying attention anyway. Did I mention those fuckheads up the back?

Violent Soho
Violent Soho

Country Award winner Harmony James then puts in an entertaining short performance, showcasing that fine country vocal twang she’s got going on, and then another highlight flits in and out of tonight’s proceedings: a trio of new songs from The Jungle Giants, with Cesira Aitken putting in the axe-wielding performance of the evening with a series of quick-fingered, Fender-based riffs – beautiful.

The Jungle Giants
The Jungle Giants

After an epic giant-slaying of David and Goliath proportions that sees Jeremy Neale gloriously beat Bernard Fanning to the coveted crown of Best Male, it’s time for The Trouble With Templeton to show why they are considered to be such a strong new force on the Brisbane music scene. Their song ‘You Are New’ is particularly great addition to the evening’s entertainment, and after another win for Emma Louise and a by-now fairly hammered Ball Park Music, it’s time for Brisbane’s only (?) Afro-Cuban salsa group Chukale to play to a by-now practically empty Tivoli.

All in all, it was a great evening and very important part of the Queensland musical calendar; one in which the bands and artists we witnessed showed what a high standard of music is being made in the Sunshine State. All the winners were worthy and live performances were across-the-board outstanding. Now, I’m off to find a wheel brace…

The Trouble With Templeton
The Trouble With Templeton

Record review: Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN (2013, LP)

The music of Crosby, Stills & Nash will be forever intertwined with the era in which it was created. The coming-together of members from some of the most prominent American groups of the ’60s – The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Hollies to be precise – saw the creation of some of the best politically-charged folk-pop seen in music up to that point, in a time when post-JFK, America was tearing itself apart. It’s impossible to listen to their music without getting images of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the Summer of Love, the Black Panthers, and the Chicago Democratic Convention police riot in your head. Their heyday also came at a time when some of the best damn music in existence was being made.

Strangely enough, the trio only got together after the Summer of Love in 1967, but ultimately were to go down in history by being part of Woodstock in 1969, along with the likes of Canned Heat, The Who, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. The fact their music is so closely associated with a particular era makes another ‘Greatest Hits’ (which this essentially is, with added extras) hard to view objectively, but one thing is crystal clear: this is classic stuff.

Known for their often complex vocal harmonies and political activism, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash have had a monumental influence on music, in America and elsewhere, and it’s all here to see in all its glory. There’s a demo of ‘Guinnevere’; the original being from their classic 1969 debut, and an alternate version of ‘Woodstock’; originally penned by Joni Mitchell. There are also spotless live versions of ‘Black Queen’, ‘Dark Star’, and ‘Love The One You’re With’, and an embarrassment of riches plucked from the entire career of the band. Basically, this is essential stuff – every home should have one.

Live review: Major Leagues + Babaganouj + RINSE – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – 9/8/13

Lately, I’ve been going to gigs and finding myself more impressed and entertained by the support acts than the headliners themselves; Big Scary, Pigeon, and Jagwar Ma have all put in live performances more memorable than the groups above them in the bill. Is there an argument that support bands have more to prove, so tend to put in more effort? Possibly, although doesn’t every band with enough balls to get up on a stage have something to prove, night in, night out? I’m putting it down to coincidence.

I mention this, as tonight’s support acts at Brisbane’s Black Bear Lodge are both outstanding, as well as being closely related, musically and personnel-wise. First up is local lads RINSE, featuring members of Babaganouj and Jeremy Neale’s band, amongst others. Playing a tight set of heavy shoegaze and dream-pop, the band leave quite an impression, and climax with ‘Coin’; a Buzzcocks-esque number with added keys.

Babaganouj
Babaganouj

Next is Babaganouj, lead by Charles Sale and featuring members of Go Violets (the Brisbane music family tree is a complex and extensive one), each band member comes on-stage one song at a time, until the quartet is complete. Their sound is heavy with mid-’70s radio rock influences, with a touch of The Replacements circa 1984 in there for good measure, and their entertaining set culminates with perhaps their most pop-y track, ‘My Favourite Colour Is You’. Sale is an engaging frontman with a strong voice, and is equally adept at getting the audience out of their seats and dealing with a mid-song tuning issue.

Major Leagues
Major Leagues

The house music cuts out and Major Leagues kick into their first song so inconspicuously that some people in the small venue take a short while to notice that the head-liners have begun their set. The four-piece’s vocals are a little lost amongst the sound of their own instruments at first, inciting the desire to walk over to the sound desk and turn up the relevant dials, but the band’s strong point is their knack with a surf-rock/pop melody, and this makes them pretty special. Major Leagues have the melody gene dripping out of every pore, while drummer Jacob Knauth keeps things from ever getting too light. The single they are here to launch, ‘Endless Drain’, is a typically cheerfully melodic, summer-y pop number with a sneering lyric and plenty of vocal harmonies. While ‘Teen Mums’ is still their best track, this band have a bright future if they keep producing tunes of this calibre.

Record review: The Preatures – Is This How You Feel? (2013, EP)

The Preatures’ unique blend of pop, rock, and soul has been making waves nationally for the past couple of years, and the Sydney quintet have been the support band of choice for the likes of San Cisco, Deep Sea Arcade, and Haim, but their third EP should be the one to earn them attention of a more global kind. Unashamedly retro-sounding, the five track Is This How You Feel? plunders the best of ’70s radio rock and ’80s pop rhythms, and when added to the vocals of Isabella Manfredi and Gideon Bensen, makes for one of the most anticipated and stylish releases of recent months. Opener and lead single ‘Is This How You Feel?’ takes the band’s previously diverse musical output and filters it directly through the ’70s rock sound, with an extra dollop of the ‘sex factor’ for good measure. When added to the guitar heroics of Jack Moffitt, Manfredi’s Stevie Nicks-esque vocals on ‘Manic Baby’ seem like they could have been lifted from any of the classic Fleetwood Mac albums, while ‘Revelation (So Young)’ sees her in more of a soulful Chrissie Hynde mood, as on previous EP Shaking Hands. Benson takes the lead vocal on the final two tracks, the melancholy and brooding ‘All My Love’ and the excellent closer ‘Dark Times’; a Bob Seger style rocker and possibly the best track on the EP. The band have apparently signed a five album deal with Mercury, so the only question this EP throws up is when will fans get a full-length release from The Preatures? (Mercury)

Live review: 4 Walls Festival – QUT, Brisbane – 3/8/13

Billed as being for young people by young people, Youth Music Industries’ fourth annual all-ages 4 Walls Festival at QUT boasted quite a line-up this year.

Before a hoard of baby-faced and expensively attired onlookers, local alt-rock quartet Twin Haus provide an early highlight on the rooftop stage with a tidy racket of a set, before English-Australian four-piece Tourism unleash a new batch of Arctic Monkeys-esque tunes with some heavy moments on the main stage in the darkness of QUT’s lecture theatre. During a previous Brisbane gig guitarist Adrian Brown puked on his guitar mid-song, but everyone is clearly under instruction to be on their best behaviour today, which is helped by the lack of bar at the venue.

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The biggest draw of the day so far is Brisbane’s Go Violets, who almost send a swelling crowd into spasms with their cheeky brand of all-girl indie, with more than a hint of the ‘1-2-3-4’ aesthetic of J-Pop and near-perfect depiction of adolescent angst. With lines like “I really like you, I like your hair”, they could be any teenager here today, and after eliciting proposals of marriage from male members of the crowd, they finish with the Powerpuff Girls theme song. Once they master stagecraft, this band could be huge.

Meanwhile, SURFER CATS are making a boneheaded yet strangely charming mess of noise on the rooftop stage with a set of songs about – yes, you guessed it – surfing and cats, including tunes with names like ‘Vampire Cat’, ‘Catch A Wave With Me’, and ‘Schizophrenic Cat’.

Baseball cap-sporting Jeremy Neale takes to the main stage to thunderous applause, and proceeds to provide the throat-shredding vocal performance of the day, with ‘Winter Was The Time’, ‘Merry Go Round’, and ‘Darlin’ featuring, before being joined by Go Violets and members of Major Leagues to finish with a raucous ensemble version of ‘In Stranger Times’.

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Having just driven from Newcastle to make the gig, Pigeon proceed to up the quality tenfold and steal the show with a high-energy blast of electronica, including a ten-minute Daft Punk medley which fuses ‘One More Time’, ‘Around The World’, ‘Robot Rock’, and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ into a single pulsating jam.

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Late additions to the bill Cub Scouts headline the main stage with their usual collection of well-crafted indie-pop tunes and send the kids of Brisbane home tired but happy, while the rest of us retire to the nearest bar for a well overdue drink.

Record review: Cloud Control – Dream Cave (2013, LP)

There’s always been something about Cloud Control’s music that has – for me, anyway – fallen tantalisingly short of being quite good. Their 2010 debut Bliss Release was a half decent stab at an indie-rock album, with a few good tunes tucked away amongst a heap of forgettable dross. Clearly attempting to branch out and evolve their sound into something more diverse, they have incorporated elements of electronic music and psychedelia into Dream Cave, and almost every song sounds completely different. The result is a bit of a mish-mash of a record that once again falls short of being anywhere near good. The first two tracks, ‘Scream Cave’ and single ‘Dojo Rising’ are the best on offer and will get your hopes up that this is going to be a cracker of an album, before the rest of the tunes break your spirit and leave you wallowing in disappointment. A swirling haze of hand-claps and reversed vocals start ‘Scream Cave’, and ‘Dojo Rising’ is an effortlessly cool pop song drenched with reverb-soaked ’60s mannerisms. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there, as the cringe-worthy lead vocal on ‘Promises’ leads into ‘Moonrabbit’, which steals too much from ’60s pop melodies to be taken seriously, and ‘Island Living’, which leaves you wondering if this is really all there is. ‘Happy Birthday’ could be a Mamas and Papas track that didn’t make the cut, and the title track is the token attempt at a ballad. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky for Cloud Control. (Ivy League)

Live review: Paul Kelly + Urthboy – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane – 1/8/13

One of the great things about seeing a concert at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre is that you know the acts will take to the stage exactly on schedule, and if you take too long finishing your drinks or get caught on the toilet and miss the warning buzzer, it’s tough luck, Jack. This almost happens to me, as I find myself with two untouched beers as the ‘please take your seats’ announcement permeates my relaxed mood and sends me into a mild panic consisting of desperate chugging and worried glances towards the general direction of door 8. Of course I could have left the brews behind, but music and drinks go so well together, don’t you agree? Consider those beers slammed.

Urthboy
Urthboy

It’s great to see the majority of tonight’s audience have also found their way to their seats early enough for support act Urthboy. The Blue Mountains singer is joined on-stage by fellow The Herd member Jane Tyrrell, and they run through an outstanding high-energy set of hip-hop songs with a thread of socially-conscious messages running through the middle. An early highlight is ‘Letters From Jamshed’; a touching and inspiring song based upon the letters received from an Afghani refugee friend, who eventually found his happy ending as he was accepted as an Australian citizen, even though afterwards he “went on to study accounting”. Urthboy’s music is motivational and reflective in equal amounts, as he tells the audience “You have won just as many Tour de Frances as Lance Armstrong – remember that,” before introducing his song ‘The Big Sleep’ as being about Natalie Wood; the pensioner whose body lay undiscovered in her Surry Hills home for eight years.

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly

After a short interval (lesson learned, bar avoided) Paul Kelly steps onto the stage with his young band, looking dapper in a light grey suit and reflecting the spotlights off his shiny head, as the audience show their enthusiastic appreciation. Firstly, he announces he will be playing his new album Spring and Fall straight through, which will “only take about forty minutes, don’t worry”. It’s a cracker of an album, in the form of a ‘song cycle,’ as Kelly informs us, with each song depicting an event that happens in relation to all the other songs and events. A definite highlight is fourth track ‘Gonna Be Good’, which sees drummer Bree van Reyk (who is bloody exceptional all night) at one point playing tambourine, drums, and singing at the same time. Dan Kelly is similarly impressive on guitar and vocals throughout the show.

After Spring and Fall, Kelly is free to play the hits, starting with ‘Bradman’, ‘When I First Met Your Ma’, and ‘Forty Miles to Saturday Night’, with plenty of banter and story-telling in between. There’s a definite feeling of being in the presence of an Australian legend at this point, and a pretty special atmosphere is apparent in the concert hall, as hundreds of eyes and ears and totally transfixed by what’s happening in front of them. ‘Our Sunshine’ – Kelly’s Ned Kelly tribute – follows, and van Reyk breaks out the spoons on a couple of tracks after ‘The Foggy Fields of France’. The final song is the beautiful ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ and a mass sing-along breaks out for the chorus. It’s almost enough to bring a lump to the throat of this hardened gig-goer.

Anyone who thought it would end there is gravely mistaken, as Kelly’s skills are demanded for three – yes three – well-deserved encores, which includes an a-cappella vocal track with his four band members, and an appearance from Urthboy and Jane Tyrrell once more. Several bows, waves, thank-yous later and it’s all over, two and half hours after it began.

He’s been called one of the best song-writers around, a master storyteller, and a national treasure, and Paul Kelly deserves all of these titles. What a performance we just witnessed.

Record review: The Love Junkies – Maybelene (2013, LP)

Love Junkies

The Love Junkies have been plying their trade in and around Perth since 2009, and with an EP and a couple of singles already under their belts, it’s finally time for a full-length record. With eleven tracks clocking in at around the thirty-five minute mark, this is a direct, in your face rock album, and takes no prisoners from the start. With influences ranging from grunge, blues, and classic rock, the trio waste no time in stating their intentions with opener ‘Heads Down’; a straightforward rock song that could have been lifted from any number of ’90s grunge bands. Similarly to recent records by fellow Perth acts Emperors and Young Revelry, the ’90s alt-rock vibe flavours almost everything on Maybelene, which in this reviewer’s opinion is almost always a good thing. Single ‘Oxymoron’ is a catchy blast of Nirvana-esque grunge that leaves you thinking that these guys would be awesome to see live; all frenetic rock energy and big riffs. ‘Hurt You’ is the token mid-album slow number and veers a bit too close to Britpop territory for comfort, but ultimately only serves to make you more grateful for ‘Black Sheep Blues’; a riff-and-handclap-laden Led Zep-like blues-y number with just the right amount of sleaze. The Love Junkies seem to be flying a bit under the radar with this album, but rock fans will want to check it out, as the loud, raucous, and loose tunes sound like they’d be a lot of fun to get sweaty to. (Independent)