Tag Archives: new

Record review: Paul McCartney – New (2013, LP)

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Oh dear. This isn’t good. Here we have one of the greatest song-writers and musicians of all time releasing his 24th studio album since being in The Beatles, and the result is an instantly forgettable set of songs that sound anything but ‘new’. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this album as a whole, and the 71 year-old member of music royalty can do whatever he wants and people will lap it up in droves, but McCartney has missed the mark on so many of the tracks here. Production duties are shared between Mark Ronson, Giles Martin (son of George) and others, contributing to the disjointed feeling throughout, and most of the songs float by unnoticed. He’s still going on about bloody buses on ‘On My Way To Work’; a song which wouldn’t sound out of place on Magical Mystery Tour, and the title track has too much of the annoyingly bouncy and whimsically childlike song-writing elements that have peppered some of his less celebrated tracks. ‘Appreciate’ is a fairly drab attempt at an ‘urban’ track, and ‘I Can Bet’ desperately lacks bite. It’s not all bad of course; ‘Early Days’ is an acoustic coming-of-age tale with the right amounts of nostalgia and restraint, and ‘Everybody Out There’ packs a bit of a punch, and while it’s probably a bit unfair to compare McCartney’s solo work to that of The Beatles, it’s pretty hard to connect this music to that of one of the coolest and most influential bands to ever pick up guitars. He may be a Sir, but this is pretty low-class stuff. (Virgin)

Record review: The Clash – Hits Back (2013, Boxset)

The Clash

In a recent interview with the UK’s Uncut magazine, The Clash guitarist Mick Jones said “Being in The Clash was a defining moment in our lives, and I’d be lying if I said I’d gotten over it.” At first these would appear to be heavy words from a guy who was unceremoniously given the boot seven years into the career of a band he co-founded in 1976 with Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon, but it reveals a little about how this new collection of The Clash tracks came about. After Strummer’s untimely death just before Christmas 2002 at the premature age of 50, all hopes of the Holy Grail of band reformations vanished, and it’s left to events like the release of this new box-set to quench the thirst for new The Clash material for their legions of fans the world over. The fact that the three surviving members – including recently rehabilitated drummer Topper Headon – got together to curate the release (and are apparently still good friends) also adds a touch of intrigue.

Fully remastered from the original tapes, this 2 CD or 3 LP 32-track box-set will probably be the last release by the band – at least officially – and that alone makes it something of an interesting record. “It seemed important to me that what we did should be preserved,” said Jones, on the subject of carrying the band name forward. One thing of which there can be no doubt is the fact that this music is top, top stuff – among some of the best ever recorded. Cute band reunions are all well and good, but do we really need another greatest hits by The Clash, no matter how nicely packaged and sufficiently endorsed by ex-members? The answer is probably no, although die-hards will buy it all the same; that’s how much the band mean to so many people. The Clash were something that is these days a rapidly vanishing part of musical culture; they were an outstanding albums band, while still being hot shit in the live arena, and they had a finger on the social pulse of personal politics. The conception, progression, and ultimate decimation of their career is played out throughout their six studio albums, and with a couple of excellent post-mortem live records available for public consumption, there is nothing much more you’ll need to hear from the West London originals. In saying that, if there has to be such things as greatest hits albums, this shines high and mighty above any of the dross you’ll find in the 3 for $20 bin down at JB’s.

Clearly someone, or probably a team of people, was in charge of sequencing, but the running order isn’t chronological as perhaps it should be, or even particularly ordered by the many genres the band covered throughout their short but explosive career. But then, The Clash’s albums were often such a versatile mix that maybe it’s appropriate. There’s straight-up punk in ‘White Riot’, rockabilly in ‘Brand New Cadillac’, Caribbean rhythms in ‘Bankrobber’ and ‘Ghetto Defendant’, rock in the likes of ‘Clampdown’ and ‘Complete Control’, and a hundred other elements throughout. Maybe it actually takes a collection like this to truly understand the range of this outstanding band.

I’ve listened to the original album versions, subsequent greatest hits packages, and then the new release, and can’t hear any real difference in the quality of sound, so don’t be expecting some mind-blowing new form of clarity here. The music sounds fantastic, but then so did the original albums. To anyone thinking about getting into The Clash, I would urge them to try the original albums first; start right at the beginning and then head for London Calling and Sandinista!, followed by the live album From Here To Eternity. But to everyone else, I’d say why not go for it? They were only one of the best bands to ever play a note; what could possibly go wrong?

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)

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)

Record review: Mac Demarco – 2 (2013, LP)

mac demarco

Regular listeners of Triple J (OK – I’m referring solely to myself here) can sometimes grow a bit weary with the constant stream of poor indie-rock and questionable cheese-pop transmitted into the world by the various – admittedly well-meaning – hosts on that particular radio station, but there are always diamonds in the rough, and twenty-three year old Canadian Mac Demarco is most definitely one of those. Despite being relatively unknown in Australia, the young multi-instrumentalist has already self-released several records under the moniker Makeout Videotape, using almost solely the cheapest of equipment, including a guitar he bought for $30 when he was sixteen. The music on 2 is a mix of lo-fi rock, off-kilter pop melodies, and wonderfully random lyrics, and while most of the songs sound almost exactly the same, the quality is good enough to be acceptable. ‘Freaking Out The Neighbourhood’ is the most recognisable tune here; it’s jangly surf-pop riff as catchy as it is simple. Under the scratchy, lo-fi veneer there’s some seriously good song-writing and cool, laid-back vibes, with Demarco’s delivery mostly coming across as lazily brilliant or brilliantly lazy, I’m not sure which (‘Ode to Viceroy’ being the best example of this). In a recent interview, he spoke of not being able to find steady work as a musician until a couple of years ago, but with a reputation for wild and goofy antics in his live shows, and now a stand-out album to boot, that shouldn’t be a problem for Mac Demarco any longer. (Captured Tracks)

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.

Interview: Dan Rothman of London Grammar

london grammar

With favourable comparisons to The XX and Florence and The Machine, English art-rock trio London Grammar have barely been making music together for a couple of years, but are already being tipped by some as a band with a big future. I had a chance to chat with guitarist Dan Rothman ahead of the release of their debut album, If You Wait.

Your new album is coming out on September 6th. What does it sound like?

It’s kind of consistent to what people have heard so far I guess. I think that was the idea. We released a few tracks that were representative of the record, as I think we always wanted to make quite a consistent album with a consistent sound, mood, atmosphere, and that kind of thing. That was our intention anyway. There are also a few surprises in there that people might be excited about. It’s quite dark and emotional; I think that’s the warning I would give as well.

Your band has a definite sound that makes you pretty much unmistakeable. Is that something you consciously developed or did it just naturally happen that way?

We definitely developed it consciously in that regard because it’s something we wanted to do, but the fact that we have that specific sound is also a natural development as it’s just what happens when the three of us are in a room together, and we all have different influences which help to make that the case. Generally whether we want to play guitar, sing, or play a song as a whole, it’s really important to have a sound that’s someway recognisable as being our own. And that’s what hopefully separates us from other bands.

Do you sometimes clash over influences?

We’ve clashed a fair few times. Me and Dot tend to have these huge arguments over certain bands which tends to fuck Hannah off for various reasons, mainly having to listen to us arguing. Mainly we argue over The Smiths, as I’m quite a big fan, but Dot despises them.

So, how do your songs come together?

It tends to vary a lot; Hannah has written certain songs on the piano and brought those in and we’ve worked on them from that point onwards, or I’ve brought in guitar parts, or Dot’s brought piano parts, but probably the majority of them – like ‘Hey Now’ for example – were written in a room together in a rehearsal, or in my garage in a jam-like fashion. It does vary; there’s no set format for us.

How was the recording process? Did you enjoy it?

Personally, I really enjoyed it. I think the process for us was long, and it wasn’t quite how I envisaged it; it was quite a choppy process, almost messy and complicated, and I kind of find it difficult to recall what happened, as we spent so much time developing it in different studios, demo-ing it up and getting it to a certain point, and once we had all the songs written, we went into the studio to record the album. From that point I think of really fondly; I really enjoy being in the studio. There’s loads of old gear to look at and lots to learn, but it’s also a bit stressful as we were so concerned about making the right album, so we had arguments over certain choices. It’s a wicked thing to do, and was definitely one of the greatest experiences we’ve had – I think we all really enjoyed it. We spent so much time on the album, and every different part was so arduous that we were so glad to have it finished by the end, and as a result we find it kind of hard to listen back to it now, which is a shame, but it’s just the way we are I guess. I’ve spoken to other bands who’ve had the same feeling after finishing an album, but I think we’re all really proud of it and happy with the final result. When you’re going through the whole process of writing it, producing it, re-producing and re-editing it, and then being involved in the mixing process as well, you’ve heard the songs a thousand times and it’s hard to view it objectively any more.

How do you feel when your band is labelled as an overnight sensation?

It doesn’t feel like that to us, because it’s been such a long process, and it’s even been seven months since we put ‘Hey Now’ out, but a lot of people think that it’s happened really quickly for us, which I guess it has in some ways. I wouldn’t want to disagree with the fact that things have happened quickly for us, and we’re really grateful for it. If people want to label us as that it’s completely fine by me. There was a singer in the ’80s, Paul Young, who said he spent ten years becoming an overnight sensation, so that’s a bit worse than us. His act was just so ’80s, so once the ’80s were finished he was pretty much fucked!

How big a role has the Internet had in your breakthrough?

Pretty much a huge part to be quite honest, although it’s not like one of our songs went viral and had millions of hits or something like that Gotye record did, or ‘Video Games’ by Lana Del Rey. Everything combined – from blogging, Twitter, Facebook – did it for us I think, and a body of stuff on there has propelled it forward.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?

Touring, lots of promo, and we should be coming out to Australia some time too, although I’d better not say anything, because l got in trouble last time for telling someone we were playing at Laneway and we weren’t!

LONDON GRAMMAR’S DEBUT ALBUM IF YOU WAIT IS RELEASED SEPTEMBER 6TH.

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)

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)