Tag Archives: band

Record review: The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie (2013, LP)

It’s been a rollercoaster couple of years for Brisbane’s Thomas Calder, singer and songwriter for indie-rock quintet The Trouble With Templeton. After releasing the mini album Bleeders in 2011 and expanding his musical project out of his bedroom and into the form of a five-piece band, The Trouble With Templeton have received considerable amounts of radio play and industry attention both at home and abroad, chiefly in the United States. As recently as March this year Calder bagged the APRA Songwriting Award (and $30,000 worth of industry prizes), and has received warm critical appraisal for the maturity of his song-writing.

Rookie is the band’s second release, and is an assured and accomplished effort, by any standards. At times soft and gentle indie-pop, at others shivering, grandiose balladry, Rookie is chock-full of the type of quality stuff the likes of fellow Brisbane act The Art of Sleeping might write.

Opener ‘Whimpering Child’ is as delicate as the name suggests, with Calder’s controlled vocals almost whispered over restrained guitar lines and soaring vocal harmonies fluttering in the background. Single ‘You Are New’ has been played pretty regularly on Triple J and is probably the most recognisable track; “punched in school, I guess that’s what those scars were for,” hinting at the subject matter. Fourth track and second single ‘Like A Kid’ brings a welcome dose of rock to proceedings and ‘Six Months In A Cast’ has an almost Latin feel despite the less than Fiesta-esque subject matter. Calder’s vocal theatrics are most impressive on ‘I Recorded You’ and there are even some brooding synths on the darker ‘Soldiers’.

This is a confident and promising album by a band who surely have a big future ahead of them.

ROOKIE IS RELEASED AUGUST 2ND. THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPLETON TOUR NATIONALLY STARTING AUGUST 16TH IN MELBOURNE.

Live review: Ben Salter + Seja + Machine Age – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – 19/7/13

Are there many better places to be in Brisbane on a Friday night than Black Bear Lodge? Probably not. The snug venue is quite perfect for a cold and rainy evening, and tonight’s bill of all-Queensland talent looks set to keep things toasty.

Seja
Seja

First up is Cairns native Adrian Mauro, otherwise known as Machine Age. The virtually unknown Mauro begins with just a folk-y, Fender-y sound and his rich voice, before breaking out the synths and turning his solo act into a whirlwind of electronic drums, heavy bass, and ramped-up guitar noise. After singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone in the audience (don’t you have to pay royalties to somebody to sing that song?) his final tune is a colossal, Communist-era chuggernaut of a jam; the sound building to such a cacophonous, blaring drone that it felt like a derailed train would crash through the walls at any second. This guy is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Next up is Brisbane’s own Seja, who takes to the stage with an appeal to the audience. “Sorry for my nasal voice, I woke up this morning feeling like a pig shat in my head,” she says, earning top marks for choice of film reference to make her point. With second album All Our Wires having just been released (featuring collaborations with Gotye and members of Cut Copy and Regurgitator, among others), her set is heavy on new material; a highlight being the folk-y ‘Die Wolken’, on which Robert Forster sings on the album.

Ben Salter has been in and around the venue all night, so he is well aware that a large percentage of the audience has been loudly chatting up to this point, foolishly oblivious to the artists on stage in front of them. “Can we have a bit of shush?” he demands, changing the atmosphere immediately for the better, before beginning with ‘Not Today’ from his newly-released European Vacation EP. It’s a great start, and immediately shows what an outstanding vocal talent Salter is. The title track from previous album The Cat follows, and then perhaps the most Brisbane song ever written, ‘West End Girls’. “West End girls run wild and free, take the 199 to the Valley”: fantastic.

Immediately after this tune the charismatic Salter announces “You can take your Dick Diver and all those other bands and get rid of ’em… The Young Liberals albums are all free online,” (and so they are, so go get ’em), before telling a story about him and Seja making plans to play each others songs, before changing their minds at the eleventh hour. Salter continues to be entertaining in more ways than one, throughout an excellent set of songs.

Having secured a deal with ABC Music to release the travel-inspired European Vacation, Salter’s stock is pretty high right now, and tonight’s confident showing by one of Brisbane’s best singer-songwriters is surely confirmation of that.

Live review: Bernard Fanning + Big Scary + Vance Joy – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 18/7/13

There’s something about a sold-out show that will partly make you happy that artists can still sell out venues on a cold Thursday night in Brisbane in these uncertain times for live music, and partly apprehensive about the fact you’ll be spending the next three hours crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with a plethora of potential idiots after enduring a two-day wait to get to the bar. I guess some of us are never happy.

Big Scary
Big Scary

Young Melburnian folkie Vance Joy is first to step into the rich blue lightning of The Tivoli’s stage; and his amiable and charming patter entertains a quickly swelling crowd, between songs from his new EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing, including ‘From Afar’ and the excellent ‘Riptide’. A cover of ‘Dancing In The Dark’ fits in nicely mid-set after Joy explains he saw The Boss recently and didn’t expect such a lengthy set.

Next up is Melbourne duo (or in live form, a trio) Big Scary who also have a new album out in Not Art. Beginning with the slow and ominous new song ‘Phil Collins’, the band are instantly engaging and almost hypnotic, as all eyes turn to drummer Joanna Syme for the second track – the outstandingly grand ‘Belgian Blues’ – as she displays her enviable skills all over the kit, before asking the audience to engage in a joint “drool over Vance Joy”. The edgy ‘Twin Rivers’, ‘Luck Now’, and older track ‘Falling Away’ see singer Tom Iansek switch between guitar and keys with ease, and the only way this set could have been any better would be with the inclusion of ‘Mix Tape’. Like I said: some of us are never happy.

*** Allow me to now take a moment to congratulate whoever decides on what music plays between bands at The Tivoli; it’s never anything but top-notch tuneage. The boring lull waiting for gear to be set up is transformed into a collective musical erection with the likes of The Faces’ ‘You’re So Rude’ and Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep – Mountain High’. Keep up the good work, you fine, faceless people. ***

And now: Bernard Fanning. Where I grew up Powderfinger were never big, so tonight’s show isn’t fuelled by nostalgia or a sense of musical loyalty for me, as it seems to be for a lot of the audience in front of The Tivoli’s stage. Fanning and his five band members take to the stage to massive cheers and begin to rip through songs from new album Departures, as he announces his first gig in Brisbane since 2007 by saying “this is already markedly different to Toowoomba,” to the sound of even more resounding cheers.

Bernard Fanning
Bernard Fanning

‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is up first, followed by the big rock number ‘Inside Track’, and ‘Limbo Stick’, which all get great responses considering the record has been out barely six weeks. Introducing songs from his 2005 Tea & Sympathy album, including ‘Believe’, and then giving a shout out to his sister, mother, wife, and mother-in-law in the audience (“four firey ladies – don’t fuck with them”), Fanning seems entirely at ease throughout his hometown show, and appears to be enjoying the fervent adulation reverberating around the venue, which peaks during the best of his new songs, ‘Battleships’.

The title track from Departures is one that Fanning introduces as being about where he grew up, and gives a shout out to “anyone from Toowong”, before a massive sing-along erupts during encore highlight ‘Wish You Well’, and a happy audience pours onto Costin Street and makes for home.

Bernard Fanning has put together another fine album in Departures, and has a kick-ass touring band, and while we just enjoyed a solid set of quality Aussie rock, it’s Big Scary who fill my thoughts as I head for home; reinforcing the argument that gig-goers should NEVER avoid the support act, lest they miss their new favourite band.

Record review: Big Scary – Not Art (2013, LP)

Melbourne duo Tom Iansek and Jo Syme – a.k.a. Big Scary – aren’t a band to be restricted by genre. On their 2011 debut Vacation, they jumped between minimalist musical styles with ridiculous ease; from White Stripes-esque rockers to moody piano ballads, and they’re back with more of the same on Not Art. Describing their music as alternative pop, the pair have talent dripping from every pore, and they have an album with so much quality and versatility to surely make them more of a household name, both at home and overseas. It’s a slow-burning journey from the start, and one that will reward the patient listener for multiple listens, as Iansek switches between piano, guitar, whispered verses, and big choruses, and Syme hits the drums almost like a lead instrument in a way few drummers before have dared to do before, without ever being a detriment to the song. They can even make a Phil Collins homage sound cool on lead single ‘Phil Collins’, and question the validity of their music as an art-form on ‘Luck Now’. The boy-girl vocals and playful piano tinkling on ‘Twin Rivers’ are a joy to behold, as is harmonic piano ballad ‘Invest’. ‘Belgian Blues’ veers into Jeff Buckley territory, before ‘Final Thoughts With Tom and Jo’ closes the album with a final dose of piano-tinkling, accompanied by a sludgy synth. There is no obviously catchy single, and while they claim their album is not art, it should be appreciated as a whole. It’s most certainly Big, and it’s definitely not Scary; Not Art is quite the masterpiece. (Pieater)

Record review: Maps – Vicissitude (2013, LP)

Back in 2007, the powers that be saw fit to nominate Northampton native James Chapman’s (a.k.a. Maps) debut album We Can Create for the Mercury Music Prize, among such esteemed company as Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, and eventual winners Klaxons. Six years and two albums later, and it’s hard to see what could have possibly possessed that year’s panel of experts; one has to assume it was a pretty lean year for British music, outside of a few big albums. That album at least had a relatively fresh sound for the time; the electronic shoe-gaze approach to making music being fairly uncharted territory in a year that saw a resurgence in beardy indie bands. The truth is, listening to Vicissitude is a tiring and insipid affair. Opener ‘A.M.A.’ sets the scene for what’s to come by evoking nothing but a face-cracking yawn, as waves of sickly, over-pleasant muzak waft over gentle vocals, and second track ‘Built To Last’ follows in a similar and almost indistinguishable vein. ‘Nicholas’ is probably the worst effort; getting through its six minutes of dull, repetitive dirge is a challenge to test the strongest of constitutions. The only positive thing that can be said about Vicissitude is that it could make pretty good background music in a situation when you don’t need to notice it, but that’s hardly much of a compliment, is it? It has to be assumed that making this album cost someone quite a lot of money, when really they shouldn’t have bothered. (EMI)

Record review: Grant Hart – The Argument (2013, LP)

Formerly sticksman for legendary ’80s hardcore band Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart moved from the drumstool to the singer-guitarist position long before Dave Grohl successfully did the same, but his subsequent career has enjoyed much less attention than the former Nirvana man. The Argument is Hart’s fourth solo album, following 2009’s excellent Hot Wax, and is a concept album about the epic poem Paradise Lost by 17th century poet John Milton, and Hart’s friendship with notorious beat poet William Burroughs. Sounds heavy, right? In some ways it is, and twenty songs and seventy-two minutes is a lot to get through, but like all Hart’s solo work, it’s laced with a variety of sounds, psychedelic fantasy, literary references, and grand themes; which is enough to keep you interested, and his song-writing is, as ever, first rate throughout. Opener ‘Out Of Chaos’ sees Hart indulging in some spoken-word theatrics, ‘Morningstar’ is a catchy lo-fi pop number, and ‘Letting Me Out’ is a jaunty rockabilly tune, while ‘If We Have The Will’ can only be described as a science-fiction polka. The melancholy ‘Is The Sky The Limit?’ is unquestionably Milton-inspired, as is the wonderfully off-kilter ‘(It Was A) Most Disturbing Dream’, as biblical themes involving the Fall of Man are explored. Translating these songs into forms that can be played live will surely be a major headache for Hart, but The Argument is a unique and brilliant album that showcases an artist who clearly has complete control over every aspect of his work, and the freedom to do exactly what he wants. (Domino)

Live review: Blondie – Waterfront Hall, Belfast – 26th June 2013

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It’s a deliciously warm summer evening in my hometown; the kind that makes it seem that the sun won’t ever go down. In Belfast for the first time in about five years; I’m arguing with a taxi driver as we do about seventy miles per hour along the carriageway. He foolishly but stubbornly reckons Blondie were the first band to release a rap record, while I’m certain ‘Rapper’s Delight’ at least came before, even if it wasn’t the first. And weren’t Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five knocking around before either of them? I’m not sure on that one, so decide to keep it in my back pocket in the event of this debate heating up.

A dismissive “nah,” is all he’s got when I repeatedly make my argument that 1979 demonstrably came before 1981, and that elements of rap have been seen throughout reggae, jazz, and other forms of music well before front-woman Debbie Harry was even thought of, and also who-fucking-cares-anyway-can’t-we-all-just-enjoy-the-fucking-tunes. So, it’s with this sense of infuriation that I arrive at the Waterfront Hall to catch the classic new-wave band, now in their thirty-ninth year. Cheers, cabbie.

Thankfully, Blondie are way too much of a class act to let a smartass taxi driver spoil the vibe. The 2500-seater venue is full to capacity, and although the age-range of the audience is generally in the ballpark of those old enough to have enjoyed the band in their heyday, the energy level and atmosphere are high and buzzing, in that order. With an act that is obviously honed to perfection, the sextet take to the stage exactly on time, with Harry stealing the limelight with her trademark platinum blonde hair and an interesting red catsuit type number. It’s only about halfway through opener ‘One Way Or Another’ that surely every member of this – by now bouncing – crowd is reminded of what an original, and classic band this is.

Harry, from the off, is immeasurably infectious, and at 68 has lost none of the sex appeal that was such a trademark of the band in the late ’70s and early ’80s. She is a front-woman who is never boring, always visually engaging, and still has the pipes to fill out a venue of this size. Maybe it was her years spent working as a Playboy bunny, or simply a naturally engaging personality that taught her the need to not simply stand, but to always have a stance. Look up the ‘Heart of Glass’ video for example, and she’s not just standing behind the mic, but she’s there, hand on hip, one knee pushed forward, gently swaying her hips in an almost hypnotic motion. She also knows when to take a back seat and let guitarist Chris Stein or drummer Clem Burke’s sounds come to the fore. Did I mention that word class, already? Or the fact she influenced just about every white female vocalist who came after her?

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Newer songs mix with old dependables, with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, ‘A Rose By Any Name’, and ‘The Tide Is High’ following in quick succession, with the Waterfront audience now looking like unwilling participants in a mass epileptic fit in a retirement village, before Harry announces “there’s something here that’s big, wet, and wild: Mr. Chris Stein on the guitar!” Oh Debbie, you’re a tease and you know it.

A couple of unannounced new tracks are fired off to a relatively muted response, as token youngster Tommy Kessler engages in some impressive axe shredding, with the predictable result of several hundred middle-aged women now hanging on his every move, and the scene being set nicely for the biggest cheer of the night, which comes during the first few notes of ‘Atomic’.

Closer ‘Heart of Glass’ is perhaps Blondie’s best-known song, and at the time of writing was considered to be nothing more than another album track by the band, hence its position tucked three-quarters of the way down the track-list of Parallel Lines. Clem Burke proves himself to still be a hard-hitting drum machine during the final tracks, as the Belfast crowd loses its collective marbles, and Harry and co. strut off-stage for a towel down and a cold drink.

An energetic encore featuring new song ‘Take Me In The Night’, ‘Call Me’, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and finale ‘Dreaming’ brings a fine night of entertainment to a close, and the band leave the stage for the last time to the sounds of near-deafening appreciation.

For those seeing the band for the first time, it’s a glorious moment, and for those seeing them for a second or maybe third time, it’s probably even more so. While the hits get the biggest response, this is a band with plenty of mileage remaining, and with new songs being written constantly, they aren’t happy to rely on their past. While songs like ‘Atomic’ probably won’t ever be bettered, it’s exciting to think that Blondie are going to give it a damn good try.

Live review: The Mercy Beat + The Strums + The Grand Scheme + Snakes and Daggers – The Tempo, Brisbane – 14th June 2013

Our Band Could Be Your Life #3: The Rock Edition is part of a regular showcase put on by Brisbane music warlords Footstomp Music, in order to get local bands on a stage. Tonight, we will be treated to four of the finest and most hard-working rock bands from Brisbane: Snakes and Daggers, The Grand Scheme, The Strums, and headliners The Mercy Beat, who are here to launch their new single ‘Fishbowl’ in the spacious, beer-y environment of Fortitude Valley’s The Tempo Hotel.

A small but dedicated has gathered in front of the stage as openers Snakes and Daggers get the show on the road with some quality hard rock. Named Guns ‘N’ Roses-style after singer Dick Dagger and guitarist James Snake, the band run through a short but sweet set of high-octane rock riffage, with Snake putting out the most energy as he gets amongst the audience for his solo.

Next up is The Grand Scheme, who should have played in this venue a few months ago, but were kicked off bonehead Bam Margera’s bill in contentious circumstances. Opening with ‘Kings of Youth’, the quartet play a tight set of hard rock with plenty of scream-y vocals and dual guitars. ‘Kink Kink’ is introduced as “the first song we ever wrote” and another is described as “going out to all the sexy beasts.”

The Grand Scheme
The Grand Scheme

Following The Grand Scheme is The Strums, who have been slogging away on pub and support circuits around Brisbane for some time now, and they provide the best set of the night so far. With a shout of “How ya doin’, alright?” and the words “love is rad” painted on his guitar, frontman Jai Sparks leads the widely-grinning quartet through a set of upbeat rock and punk tunes, including the catchy ‘Passive Smoke’ and call and response of ‘Fuck Yeah’.

The Strums
The Strums

And so, to our headliners for this evening: The Mercy Beat. The Brisbane rock trio are here to launch their single ‘Fishbowl’, and it appears in second slot in the set after opener ‘The Mercy Blues’, and gives The Tempo audience probably the best riffs of the night. Without pausing to introduce their songs or address the audience, the band rock through an hour-long set of top-notch rock ‘n’ roll and punk tracks, including ‘No Crown’, ‘Eagle Throws Goat Off Cliff’, and ‘Born Yesterday’ from their How To Shampoo A Yak album in a thunderous climax to the evening.

The Mercy Beat
The Mercy Beat

All in all, Footstomp have put together a damn good show tonight, and getting four kick-ass rock bands for $10 entry is a pretty good deal. While each of these bands deserved a bigger crowd this evening, it’s great to see people out supporting local acts and for them to be promoted in this way. Here’s hoping for many more nights like this.

Record review: Eden Mulholland – Feed The Beast (2013, LP)

Eden Mulholland

Feed The Beast is the debut solo album from Motocade singer Eden Mulholland, and follows his 2012 Jesus Don’t You Get My Jokes EP. Listing influences like Bill Bryson, contemporary dance, smokes, and sex (probably not at the same time), New Zealander Mulholland effortlessly skips between genres with aplomb on this assured effort. Recorded and mixed by Neil Baldock (Crowded House, Sarah Blasko) in Auckland, Feed The Beast features elements of pop, rock, folk, tribal rhythms, and electronica packed into twelve three-minute tracks. The fact that the opening trio of songs are a catchy stomp (‘Cry Cry Cry’), a gently-ambling number (‘Mekong Delta’) and soaring pop song that starts as a maudlin piano ballad (‘Where Is My Jealousy’) probably says a lot about the variety of sounds on show, and Mulholland’s defiance of classification in general. Single ‘I Will Echo’ is a mid-album high point; a deceptively simple synth-pop song with a sing-along chorus and neat keyboard breaks. The 86-second acoustic title track certainly isn’t the centrepiece, and almost goes unnoticed between the shimmering electronica of ‘Body Double’ and the sound of science fiction nightmares on ‘Beside Itself’. ‘Such A Shame You Must Die’ is by far the most haunting track here, with soaring, ghost-like vocal harmonies and ominous lyrics like “I’m going to find you, I’m going to kill you; you will suffer tonight.” (Mental note: don’t get on Mulholland’s bad side.) Describing Feed The Beast is tricky, as there’s so much going on in such a small space, but the quality and variety of tunes makes this an album worthy of repeated listens. (Mushroom Music)

Record review: Jagwar Ma – Howlin (2013, LP)

Jagwar Ma

Manchester in 1990 must have been a pretty cool place to be. Bands like The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, and The Inspiral Carpets were kick-starting a new musical revolution good enough to see off the manufactured crap-pop that dominated the charts in the ’80s. But for such an iconic group of bands to have so few direct descendants taking on the legacy of ‘Madchester’ music is a little strange. Enter Sydney indie-dance duo Jagwar Ma. Howlin – the band’s debut album – comes complete with the sort of ecstasy-fuelled beats you might expect to see on the dance-floor of The Haçienda nightclub in its heyday; all that’s needed is a few hundred wide-eyed party kids and Bez flailing his arms around on a stage somewhere. Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield manage to cross genres and eras with apparent ease throughout the album; going from dance, acid-house, indie-rock, and back again from song to song. Every DJ and dance producer knows not to blow their wad too early, so opener ‘What Love’ is a chilled-out start, easing us into the more up-tempo tunes to come, and ‘Uncertainty’ is surely the brother-of-another-mother of The Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’, with a dangerously catchy chorus and plenty of synths. The excellent ‘The Throw’ and ‘Come Save Me’ will be well-known to radio listeners and possess perhaps the best hooks, and later track ‘Exercise’ could have been lifted from a Stone Roses album, and ‘Let Her Go’ has shades of cult indie band The Las. Keep an eye on these guys – they’re doing something more than a little special. (Future Classic)