FILM REVIEW: THE IRON LADY

London calling. A British film about a king, dominated the box office over the Christmas holidays last year. This time it seems like that crown will be bestowed upon Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, a woman that truly lived up to her nickname, “The Iron Lady”.

Meryl Streep stars in this biopic about Britain’s longest serving PM. She truly embodies the role and expertly covers every layer of this enigma’s character. The approach and portrayal is spot-on, from the excellent hair and make-up to the nuances in Streep’s voice and her overall presentation, she’s so darned convincing. In fact, you could be fooled into believing that you’re watching history unfold because this is most definitely an Oscar-winning performance.

The viewer gets to see Thatcher as the whisky-swilling and pearl necklace-wearing, headstrong politician holding her own by overcoming setbacks like her class and gender. Then there’s the wide-eyed youth wanting to change the country and the resultant sadness at what she becomes – a dithering, elderly woman suffering from dementia and reduced to squabbling over the price of milk.

Rather than focus solely on her political activities, we get an intimate portrait of Thatcher, where director Phyllida Lloyd, attempts to tell the whole story. The old girl has a series of muddled flashbacks that remind us of the high and low points in her extraordinary life and career. Archival footage is used to compliment the retelling with newsreel footage of the strikes, poll tax riots and Falklands war proving effective.

Jim Broadbent’s role proves to be similar to the other supporting male actors (Anthony Head and Richard E. Grant) in that they all play second fiddle to Streep. Broadbent plays Denis, Thatcher’s husband and proves to be the reliable and affable charmer to the headstrong iron maiden. Despite this taking place in a “man’s world,” this film really is a one-woman show where the star ruminates on her past. And although we get to witness her positive points (perseverance, intelligence and drive) these are counterbalanced by her stubborn and opinionated nature and when coupled with bullying, this sets her up for the mightiest fall.

The Iron Lady is an interesting historical drama about an influential and controversial figure. It is a mostly authentic journey about a hard woman that left one indelible mark on the world. So whatever you political leanings may be, love her or hate her, you should find The Iron Lady a most compelling viewing.

 

Originally published on 29 December 2011 at the following website: http://lipmag.com/arts/film-arts/film-review-the-iron-lady/

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EP REVIEW: WOE & FLUTTER – SELF-TITLED

Woe & Flutter, a gang of four from the Gold Coast. They make melodic sounds that fit not one genre but at alternate moments can be rock, punk, garage and pop. It’s a diverse mixed bag of feel-good tunes where the common thing is that they leave the listener salivating and wanting more.

“I Think I’m Fine” is some cheery, 60s-tinged surf rock with a modern feel, a little like their former labelmates, The Vines. Then there’s single, “Cities Of The Red Night,” which veers off on a two-minute frenzy of heavy fuzz and garage rock. Like a kick in the teeth, it could easily be a stomper tune by Queens Of The Stone Age or fellow youngsters, Step-Panther. Not wanting to spin completely outta control, the guys rein themselves in on “Can’t Move The Sun,” a pop ballad that sounds like a completely different band who seem hooked on Fleetwood Mac-style pleasantries.

Singer, Dusty Anastassiou sounds like The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, particularly on “Why It’s So”. The group’s music also seems to share the upbeat nature of the aforementioned, retro-loving quintet. “Hooker Heel Feel” meanwhile, could be by Mark Everett and his band, Eels, thanks to the distorted guitar and vocals combined with some added la-la pizzazz harmonies in the background.

Woe & Flutter proudly describe themselves as a “Stylistic cacophony” influenced by Yo La Tengo, women and The Drones and their interests as: pissing, vacating, hopping, pogoing and twisting. Like the sweet music they make, that’s an awful lot to take in but the key message is they just want you to smile and dance. Woe & Flutter’s serving suggestion should be “Play loud on repeat to get hot and bothered” because this awesome group of genre-thumbing creatives will on first listen excite you into one helluva woe and flutter.

 

Originally published on 29 December 2011 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/self_titled_woe_flutter

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REWIND FILM REVIEW: DOUBT

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Father Brendan Flynn, a young priest at the St. Nicholas church and school in the Bronx in 1964. He is at loggerheads with the principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) a fiery and iron-fisted dragon not dissimilar in character to the strong-willed Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. However, here she is sans Haute couture outfits and is instead in the more obvious and modest black attire typical for people of the cloth.

The story is a film adaptation of John Patrick Stanley’s award-winning play. From early on in the film, seeds of doubt are sewn regarding Fr. Flynn’s nature. Sr. Beauvier is convinced that the friendly advances that he is making towards the school’s first black student are in fact those of someone grooming and abusing the boy. As if prophesising from the pulpit, Fr. Flynn declares in his opening sermon that: “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty”.

Streep meanwhile, attempts to convince all and sundry that she is the picture of piety and sanctimoniously takes the moral high ground. She disregards the absence of any concrete proof and instead trusts her women’s intuition or what she terms “moral certainty”.

The drama unfolds as new information comes to light and accusations by Streep are counteracted with protestations from Seymour Hoffman. Even Sr. Beauvier has a moment of lucidity when she realises she is not completely innocent and  admits the: “Habit catches us up more often than most”.

The viewer is subsequently led on a journey where their perceptions and values are equally pushed on the one hand to believe the priest is actually a predator, or to disbelieve and see him as a mere scape goat punished for bucking the strict, authoritative system.

In essence, Doubt is a tension-filled drama propelled by two religious characters that are human and thus, similarly flawed that leave you hoping they receive absolution for their sins. Overall, Doubt is the equivalent of watching an artist paint a picture but you are unaware of what their intensions are, so for the duration of the exercise you are left wondering whether the circle on the canvas will become part of a portrait, landscape or abstract  design.

REWIND LIVE REVIEW: OH MERCY, BROUS & STEP PANTHER @ OXFORD ART FACTORY (14.10.2011)

They’re named after a Bob Dylan album and have a keen fan in Paul Kelly. But in fact they have a lot more in common with Crowded House, having recorded a version of ‘I Feel Possessed,’ working with the band’s longtime producer, Mitchell Froom and also producing gorgeous pop songs about love. It was Friday night at Oxford Art Factory where the ARIA-nominated Melbournians, Oh Mercy, played their last headline shows for a year that has proven equally busy and successful.

The first act were Sydney slackers, Step-Panther who did a good job winning over a small crowd with their arsenal of varied tunes. In ‘Fight Like A Knight’ the longhaired trio performed a fun, Violent Femmes-inspired anthem that was complimented with the kind of beefy guitar that The Saints’ Ed Kuepper is synonymous for. They followed this with the short, sharp frenzy of ‘Surf,’ a minute of feedback and intense riffs that conjured up images of the beach and The Shadows on speed.

The Stooges may have sung about ‘No Fun’ first but these guys had their own song with the same name, which boasted a Ramones-like breakneck speed and a hyper drumbeat to challenge even the Energizer bunny. They offered a kind of waltz-like shuffle and then tracks ‘Stare Into The Eyes Of The Wolf’ and ‘Superpowerz’ before closing with the utterly relatable, ‘I Feel Weird’. The latter is hardly a new concept with listeners having heard about freaks and creeps from the likes of Silverchair and Radiohead over the years. But this one certainly packed a wallop and like their set, delivered some short, sharp slacker punk with no more than three chords. The fact this was often more exciting than other groups that muddle with four or more, proves that they’re definitely artists to watch.

The second support came courtesy of Brous AKA Melbourne musician, Sophia Brous who seems to have a set of pipes to rival Kimbra and Felicity Groom. Her vocals encompass everything from sultriness to sweetness and from lightness to the plain haunting with a delivery equally as good at the operatic as it is plain old rock. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about her backing band’s music, that while atmospheric, seemed quite monotone and almost played second fiddle to this main instrument. This showed in the reactions from the audience because while it had grown in size, so too had the chatter of people talking.

Brous whooped and sang by whipping her voice into all manners of different vocal acrobatics while the band played a dreamy mix of soft, psychedelic-sounding pop. They played ‘Little Ticket’ and ‘Streamers’ from their forthcoming debut EP. Overall, these guys proved they are a slow-burning affair.

At 10:30pm the curtains opened to reveal the gushing, Oh Mercy, an outfit that could be known as Alexander Gow’s solo project but then that would shortchange his mates who helped him perform live. They are one enthusiastic lot who played with such wide smiles, you get the impression they’re almost pinching themselves for the successes they’ve notched up to date. ‘Hold Your Hand’ lead the pack with some melodic, Beatlesque pop while ‘Broken Ears’ shared a similar, old-school charm that you could almost imagine it being best enjoyed on vinyl. The group were actually there to plug the release of their sophomore album, Great Barrier Grief on this very format.

‘Blue Lagoon’ saw the introduction of a new member on keys for an intricate and personal number where Gow wore his heart prominently on his sleeve. ‘Let Me Go’ was one described as more “romantic than the others” and its sentiment and easy-on-the-ears music made it a perfect candidate for Crowded House to cover (should they ever want to return the favour), as did the subsequent, ‘Confessions’.

‘Lady Eucalyptus’ was a moody affair and one of four new tracks to be performed on the night as Gow cheekily told us to look out for the lyrics because there’d be a quiz on them later. ‘Europa’ also made its live debut and this one had some catchy rock guitar like Gomez’s ‘Silence’ and was all-stomping. ‘Lay Everything On Me’ meanwhile, would prove itself to be equally infectious and fun.

Gow would then cover a song by a much “older and more handsome man” with Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Future’. With just an electric guitar, Gow would sing some parts a cappella and there were a few punters that thanked God it wasn’t another cover of ‘Hallelujah’. During this the air shifted and became heavy, but thankfully the lightness would return (with Gow’s band) for the catchy pop of ‘Stay, Please Stay’ and the finale, ‘Keith Street’.

The group didn’t play an encore but then, they hardly needed to. The band had put on a good little show and they all appeared to be so grateful, affable and adorable that you almost wanted to bundle them up and gift them to people. Gow did say that Lady Luck had been good to them and it certainly couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of individuals. There is no doubt that there were many people in the crowd who were pleased by the prospect of the band returning next year with a new album. If so, like their work to date, it promises to have feel good tomes about boys meeting girls and old-fashioned romance. In short, Oh Mercy are a group of beautiful people making equally gorgeous music. Sweet.

Originally published on 17 October 2011 at the following website: http://www.pagesdigital.com/review-mercy-step-panther-brous/

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: JEBEDIAH – KOSCIUSZKO

Jebediah are an underrated band. After all, most people think their total music output equals their debut, Slightly Odway and specifically its big singles: “Leaving Home,” “Teflon,” “Harpoon” and “Jerks Of Attention”. Sure, they’ve had plenty of novelty-style hits (let’s not forget “Animal”) but if you scratch the surface you’ll discover that there is far more to this Perth group.

Their fifth studio album, Kosciuszko has elicited whispers of “comeback” and “return to the Jebediah of old” with some people attributing this to being part of a nineties resurgence. Disregarding what is in vogue for the latest 15 minutes, Kosciuszko is a strong effort with 11 tracks that boast many changes in tempo and feeling, meaning we go from fanciful and carefree to introspective and maudlin and just about everything in between. If anything, the sheer variety on offer means there is bound to be a little something for everyone (both new and old fans alike).

This record was a labour of love with the Jebs saying they made it simply ‘cos they wanted to. It may have taken five years to create over which time the group had periods without a label or management, but this actually ignited a new creative spark for them as they wrote with a greater spontaneity and relaxed attitude, something they had not had since their actual inception.

And let’s get one thing straight, it’s not like the band were languishing in the studio for years or sitting poolside drinking margaritas (hell, they prefer beers anyway!) Instead we had frontman, Kevin Mitchell making music under his Bob Evans moniker and with the supergroup, Basement Birds. Bassist, Vanessa Thornton juggled playing with Felicity Groom and the Black Black Smoke and studying a nutritionist degree while drummer, Brett Mitchell played in local bands like The Fuzz. It’s been said that guitarist, Chris Daymond “used his time wisely” but other sources have said he “sat on his arse”.

Pursuing all these things in tandem has meant that Kosciuszko has been flavoured with themes like grappling with your sense of self; how the band fits in with the current musical climate and even how you relate to your own little patch of backyard. This soul-searching has been realised in everything from indie pop ditties to aggressive rock riffs, big ballads and other unexpected tangents like a war cry complete with pseudo cavalry in “Battlesong”.

“Lost My Nerve” sees Mitchell becoming a little like a grumpy old man as he takes pot shot at the rich kids making noise on their guitars before showing the youngsters how it’s done properly with some furious riffage by the track’s end. If anything, it seems like a logical next step from artists that wore the indie scene badge of honour with such pride.

There’s the hit single, “She’s Like A Comet” with its soaring and infectious indie pop and cheeky vocal squeeze. It’s said to have come together in just 15 minutes proving some things are best left belted out pure and simple. “To Your Door” takes a different tact and sees Mitchell in a Bob Evans-style, melancholy “Sadness & Whiskey” tone and something that feels part sultry fever and part ballad as he passes the city’s freaks and ghouls on his journey to the entrance.

Their next single, “Control” already seems pre-destined to be a live favourite with its light, 60s-inspired guitars while “Under Your Bed” has a very heavy pulse and balls like a 28 Days homage or indeed riffing on their own track, “Television Lies”. There’s some danceworthy indie rock like a Franz Ferdinand anthem in “Freakin’ Out” and when coupled with lyrics about not over-thinking your life means it even has a hint of old-school, Smashing Pumpkins wit.

Completing the release is the experimental epic and number reminiscent of the Diorama-era Silverchair, “The Lash”. “Are We Okay?” meanwhile, is a big power ballad and like a twinkling lullaby crossed with a John Lennon pop song. Interestingly enough, the LP’s title was actually inspired by the working title for The Beatles’ White Album. The Fab Four thought of calling the album Everest while this lot decided to take an Aussie flavour with our very own highest peak.

Kosciuszko is a sonically layered gift full of reverb, riffs, beats, trinkets and distortion and proves that Jebediah were always more than a garden-variety indie band. It’s a big achievement and solid offering confirming what those in the know had always felt, that Jebediah are bigger than the total sum of Odway and were and are a creative force to be reckoned with.

 

Originally published on 28 April 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/28296/Jebediah–Kosciuszko

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: BIG SCARY – VACATION

For the privileged few actually doing a job they genuinely enjoy, aspects of the day-to-day can seem more like a holiday than actual work. Just ask travelling minstrels, Tom Iansek and Jo Syme AKA Big Scary. They are the boy strummer and girl drummer from Melbourne that have wowed audiences with their dedicated work ethic (including no less than 6 EPs in 18 months); impressive live shows; and a collection of solid, feel good tunes that defy categorisation.

Their debut LP, Vacation is based on the eternal holiday and feelings of the unknown that typify the life of the traveling band. As Iansek says: “It’s the pure exhilaration of chasing the dream and the melancholy of the increasing distance and detachment from your previous life”.

Across ten tracks they prove that things aren’t always a bed of roses when you lose touch with constants like friends, lovers, homes and stable jobs. But there are also plenty of contrasts – quiet and loud moments to match the feelings of darkness and light with a common thread being the warm vocals and creativity underpinning the music.

This is a band that was born from simplicity, i.e. acoustic guitars and egg shakers before the pair regrouped with a more expansive vision and graduated to electric guitar, mandolin, drums, piano and ukuleles. These musical partners prove to be a rich and fluid lot, practically changing with the wind or indeed the seasons that inspired four of their early EPs.

For their debut, Big Scary recruited Sean Cook (the former bassist of Yves Klein Blue) and it was the first time they’d gotten external assistance in the studio. The result is music that is no less decorative than before with the versatile pair continuing to produce varied songs that take in all sorts of genres from bratty garage punk to epic and fuzzy guitar-based songs to minimalist pop, brooding ballads and exuberant piano ditties. The staggering fact is that with only two of them they can produce more diversity than some acts can achieve with four or five different individuals. It’s all quite remarkable and shows just how clever and original they can be at negotiating their influences and using their talent and dexterity to make things their own.

Single, “Gladiator” starts off with some of The White Stripes’ style garage rock and features some nice interplay between the male and female vocals. Interestingly, it’s about growing up and not necessarily improving, not that most people would mind or notice as it proves such a thumping and finger-pointing good time for all. “Leaving Home” meanwhile, is the record’s oldest song and is a big piano ballad that – as the name suggests – is about leaving the paternal nest.

On “Mix Tape” we get some of the stomping piano that seems to have been culled from a bar way back in the wild west. Another track sounding like it’s from another time period is “Purple” with its dirty guitar riffs that could’ve been lifted from a haze created by Jimi Hendrix. But these chords are also combined with a catchy La Roux-like flavour and were inspired by a guy that used to paint over advertising billboards, such was his disdain of them.

The latter half of the proceedings take on a subtler, more introspective element as evocative ballads are offered by the bucket-load. “Bad Friends” uses some whispered vocals to talk about the real costs of the transient life and is put to acoustic guitar almost inspired by José González while “Got It, Lost It” is just plain haunting. “Of Desire” would have made a good closer as it is a rather sweet and dreamy affair and offers the kind of escape and vacation from life the album as a whole promises.

Vacation is unlikely to win over every listener with all its tracks, as there’s just too much variation on offer to appease everyone. However, you have to admire the band’s ambition and creativity, the fact they realise they write songs that have different vibes, feelings and emotions and that it is okay to embrace and roll with it all. As such, they have produced an intricate and vital debut that is extremely accessible and melodic and will prove itself in time to be the gift that keeps on giving. Amen to that.

 

Originally published on 25 October 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/30530/Big-Scary–Vacation

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: PAJAMA CLUB – SELF-TITLED

Another day, another album released by the Finn family. There’s been Tim, his nephew Liam (who in turn toured with his brother, Elroy) and now it’s time for the latter pair’s Ma and Pa – Neil and Sharon. Pajama Club are the group born from empty nest syndrome. While some people use the time after the kids leave home to go dancing, these guys stayed in and found themselves doing just that to the sweet music they had created.

For people wanting a safe, easy-on-the-ears Finn creation this is not the record for them. In fact, some diehard fans may get the feeling that this is like the Neil Finn version of Neil Young’s Trans. Though nowhere near as extreme, it is certainly more left-field and outside their comfort-zones, meaning at times it seems a lot like Sonic Youth (with their emphasis on distortion) and Beck with the foray into electronic blips and blops.

The most noteworthy thing about this release is how punk it all feels. This is not so much in the guitar-work because that is definitely more pop-like but rather in the independent release and liberating feelings of freedom, optimism and just wanting to get out and play. You see the Finns’ private racket all started when the two got creative over a bottle of red and picked up instruments (sound familiar?) But they were instruments they’re either not known for (i.e. Neil and the drums) or ones they had virtually no experience with (like Sharon and the bass). In the case of the latter, apart from guest appearing on some Crowded House material and the all-star 7 Worlds Collide project, her musical practice had basically been learning “Stairway To Heaven” on the guitar as a kid.

From the get-go the Finns sound vital as “Tell Me What You Want” combines funky, electronic distortion like Beck’s “Modern Guilt” with a sweet, feminine touch in the sultry vocals courtesy of Sharon. “Can’t Put It Down Until It Ends” meanwhile, sees the guys delivering their own whispers and moans as they flirt with different styles of delivery for the singing. Lyrically, it has been said that Neil did the bulk of the legwork, but there’s an organic feel to most of the words, one not dissimilar to The White Stripes just bashing ‘em out and singing what fits to the music and feel of the track.

Those famous Finn tonsils (and their melodic tones) are heard even on the more zany vocals on the album and are combined with all manner of twists, turns, bells and whistles. On “Golden Child” there’s actual telephone static and on “TNT For 2” some odd chanting. “The Game We Love To Play” sees a schizophrenic beat coupled with a tune you could imagine the Beastie Boys cranking out before it veers off to get rather ghostly spiritual by the very end.

“Diamonds In Her Eyes” is the bouncy pop number about a girl and the most reminiscent of Neil Finn of old. Elsewhere, with the distortion and explorations into unchartered territory (at least for them) they sound as fuzzy as the hirsute golden boys they spawned (and like the music the elder of the two creates). And let’s not forget that a friend of the family – the one and only Johnny Marr – plays guitars on “Go Kart” which sounds like equal parts Breeders rock and B-52s crazed pop. The Finns were also joined by Sean Donnelly for the recording and he is also part of the PCs touring line-up.

Pajama Club’s self-titled debut is a self-described dark, spiky and tender affair where mystery was cultivated and steps were taken to relish in the optimism of the unknown. At times it may have all seemed a little naive but in the end the album is a winner because it contains the most fresh and vital sounds to come from Finn in recent years, completely trumping the latest Crowdies efforts and creating exciting sounds all from changing tact.

 

Originally published on 15 September 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/30019/Pajama-Club–Pajama-Club

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: CHAD’S TREE – CROSSING OFF THE MILES

If it comes from the same place as The Triffids and sounds like The Triffids then most people would assume that it IS The Triffids. But this release is by Chad’s Tree – a group that were previously lumped into the same category as the aforementioned group and were even praised by them a few times.

The band was formed by brothers, Mark and Robert Snarski who you may know from pop-noir act, Jackson Code and rockers, The Blackeyed Susans, respectively. Chad’s Tree were active on the Australian rock scene between 1983 and 1989, springing up from what was the desolation and isolation of WA with their brittle sound evoking the distance and nature of Australia’s landscape.

Crossing Off The Miles brings together their first two records – Buckle In The Rail and Kerosene. Added to these are every single and b-side plus a bunch of early demos and live recordings. These in turn are supported by a gorgeous 32 page booklet, are conveniently packaged onto two CDs (the first time they have been released in this format) and are also in no less than full remastered glory.

So indie enthusiasts of the world unite as we enjoy a vast collection of busy songs that use self-described obtuse guitars and dense lyrics. Some of the songs are so full of words it’s like there are walls of these to rival one of Phil Spector’s own sound constructions.

At times the tracks seem to come from a similar place to Tom Waits’ own compositions and elsewhere the journey seems to take a more alt-country route via a yellow suburbia. The music is the kind of thing you would assume has influenced Paul Dempsey’s writing in Something For Kate because while Chad’s Tree started it, it seems the latter have held the torch as of late.

The common thread in all the songs is Snarski’s enigmatically, original vocals which seem hardened by dramatic intonations. Some songs are pure layered pop with lush strings while ‘Calendar’ is like a Wild West hoedown with pistols at ten paces. Meanwhile, ‘The Devil Within (Calendar)’ is like a desert devoid of souls, save the tumbleweeds.

‘Take Away Their Blue’ is sunny pop produced on the xylophone and ‘North to South’ is a perfect rock song pulsing with the spirit of the Australian bush.

For fans of The Triffids and The Go-Betweens, Chad’s Tree provide fans of Aussie rock ingenuity with a comprehensive retrospective on Crossing Off The Miles. The group are often-overlooked and may not come with all the bells and whistles or commercial sheen of the other more successful acts of the time, but this collection proves they were nevertheless integral in contributing to the sounds of our country.

In short, they captured the hearts (and minds) of the citizens in the suburbs who have spiders in the yard; kookaburras flying overheard; and family assembled around the old Hills hoist.

 

Originally published on 23 April 2010 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/crossing_off_the_miles_chad_s_tree

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ALBUM REVIEW: PRECIOUS JULES – SELF-TITLED

Once you’ve released something that’s cheap ‘n’ nasty, where do you go from there? If you’re Kim Salmon (The Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon) you get your producer friend in to accompany you on drums, he being Mike Stranges (Morning After Girls/Ripe). Then you add some spit and polish and christen it Precious Jules. Heat well and hey presto a glistening new self-titled and debut album.

Precious Jules sees the pair loath to admit that they sound like The White Stripes or The Black Keys, instead likening themselves to Hall & Oates or Wham! But that’s not true because they really do sound like the former pairings as they toy with rough garage rock, punk and pub rock styles with plenty of sneers and an all-round “bad” attitude. Their aim was to thrash some things and leave the results by the side of the road. Y’know have fun now and say up yours to any thoughts beyond the next three minutes.

The 11 tracks can be quite disposable and trashy, think like the New York Dolls with Salmon and Stranges messing with rock ‘n’ roll’s bad-ass nature, meaning it can be as crazy as a circus but also equally silly, offbeat, dirty and hedonistic. It’s basically the stuff of beer-soaked coasters; tight stained jeans; hazes of smoke; screeching yowls; youthful stupidity; and a rock swagger. Just another night down the pub really…

“The Precious Jules Theme” sets the scene with distorted guitars and lots of fuzzy feedback added to a rough-as-nails attitude, leaving Salmon to sound like one Johnny Rotten. “A Necessary Evil” is like a punk anthem put together with a pub rock flavour, think like The Screaming Jets’ “Better” meets The Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”.

Kim Salmon is one prolific musician, having performed and created music in many genres over his decades-long career and on here we get pockets of that variety. “Shine Some Darkness On Me” is gritty blues like The Rolling Stones mixed with a country twang. And “The Urban Swamp” sees scary apparitions caught up in a contemporary and baron wasteland.

“Cheap ‘N’ Nasty” may have originally been written by Salmon with Dave Faulkner for The Cheap Nasties back in 1977. But here it is given a new lease on life and you could see it influencing everyone from The Ramones and The Saints to The Living End and even the creators of the television show, The Young Ones. Then there’s some buzzsaw guitar on “You’re A Backlash” and “Pearls Before Swine” sees some frantic music – almost like the soundtrack to an emergency – complimented by a droll delivery not unlike Mark E. Smith’s from The Fall.

Precious Jules may be a self-confessed: “Slick pop partnership masquerading as a glam/punk combo masquerading as a garage duo” but all this moonlighting proves there are far more jewels to be found in this particular jewellery box. These valuable blokes sound as enthusiastic, bratty and vital as a bunch of youngsters who think they know everything about the world, even though they haven’t seen shit. The fact that the record offers solid, raucous numbers from two elder statesmen of Oz music makes it seem like one rather spectacular pearl found in the bottom of the ocean and in a most elusive clam. So we must make sure that this doesn’t remain a forgotten treasure or worse, be stolen by pirates.

 

Originally published on 5 December 2011 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/self_titled_precious_jules

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REWIND LIVE REVIEW: JUDY COLLINS & CHRIS BAILEY @ THE BASEMENT (17.01.2011)

Some artists should not be allowed to open their mouths unless they’re singing. But two notable exceptions to this rule are American folk singer, Judy Collins and Chris Bailey (The Saints). As both artists showed at their first of three shows at The Basement, they are witty and entertaining in their own way and should each have their own TV show. Bailey’s was a more dry and sarcastic wit taking shot at everything in a no-holds barred frenzy that saw him even take aim at himself, while Collins had a cheeky irreverence typically synonymous with a carefree youth and all whilst having a wonderful glint in her famous blue eyes.

Messer Bailey was introduced as being, “Straight from a bus in Amsterdam”. He quipped, “I hope I don’t put you off your supper. Bon appétit!” He performed by himself with just an acoustic guitar playing Saints classics like “Let’s Pretend” and “Just Like Fire Would”. The longhaired, old punk was dressed in a modest suit and cranked out country and western-style folk interpretations of his more characteristic heavy tunes. For some people this kind of delivery would have been as jarring as those folk-loving folks who witnessed Bob Dylan go electric for the first time. However, I can happily report the crowd was rather well behaved with their quiet respectfulness and absolutely no one shouted, “Judas!”

These folk renditions actually didn’t sound too far removed from old Bob and at times even hinted at some of Crowded House’s softer ballads. But while the music was pleasant enough, it seemed to draw at least a few blank expressions from the crowd, prompting Bailey to call his own songs “Bloody depressing” and “Mock-Irish balladry”. As such, he asked us if we wanted to hear something more uplifting and then obliged one man’s request for Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” complete with new lyrics about being blind and just saying no and all topped off by a Presley-like drawl. Hilarious.

It was then time to return to The Saints tracks “Photograph,” “Ghost Ships” and “All Fools Day” delivered with a gentle acoustic guitar and a punk rock sneer. But the frivolity would soon reemerge with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” which even had a few brave souls singing along to despite Bailey misfiring (geddit?) twice with the wrong key. The final number was The Saints’ “Massacre” and afterwards Bailey thanked us for indulging him and warned us to prepare for “The concert of your life”.

Needless to say, Bailey was right. At 71 years of age (not that a true lady reveals such things), Judy Collins was positively awe-inspiring. With 50-odd years in “the business,” the singer-songwriter, musician, grandmother and social activist, not to mention inspiration for the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is unparalleled in terms of talent and character. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find another artist of her calibre doing this musical thing with such style decades from now.

At 9:40 the diminutive Collins in head-to-toe black entered the stage with her musical director (and pianist) Russell Walden. She stood in front of a grand Steinway piano with her 12-string acoustic guitar while two-dozen or so long-stemmed red roses were to be found at her side. She launched into her own composition, “Song For Judith (Open The Door”). Collins was all-smiles as her spirit and vocals – ones not dissimilar to Joni Mitchell’s – reached upwards for the night sky and only soared higher still from there, particularly as she did Mitchell’s fabulous, “Both Sides, Now”.

She then played “One you’d all know,” a cover of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” before commencing a long but thoroughly entertaining spiel (including snatches of a cappella songs) about how she came to be seduced by folk music. She told us a sidesplitting joke about a lady in a long fur coat who said it was from a man with ten thousand dollars. On a separate occasion Mae West would be sporting a similarly fine mink and she was asked if she had met a financially, well-endowed man. But West replied, “No darling, I had 10000 men with a dollar!”

A cover of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” had the audience singing along with the jingle-jangle classic; while “Anathea” was delivered with such poise despite being so moody and tense that it could’ve been a Nick Cave murder ballad. “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” – originally written by Sandy Denny – was the kind of delicate folk song that the likes of Julia Stone and Laura Marling have to be thankful for today, such was its tender, heartfelt feeling.

Collins remained elegant and graceful, regaling us with humorous stories and telling us about how she had once acted as Cinderella. But tonight she was certainly as enchanting as the fairy princess, especially as she continued to entertain us with her heart, voice and hair of gold. She followed “Someday Soon” with “Over The Rainbow” where she performed only with a mic and Walden at the piano. It was a searing rendition of the Judy Garland classic – you could almost see those birds flying and troubles melting like lemon drops.

The covers continued with the anti-war track “Weight Of The World” by Amy Speace and Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”. During the latter, Collins performed at the piano alone creating something that Regina Spektor would probably have wished she’d written. Collins showed us just how accomplished she is at the instrument, having started off originally by learning Mozart before she changed musical direction. We even giggled when she took her high heels off mid-song.

Her own original composition, “Born To Breed” was another piano ballad before the set-closing “Send In The Clowns” and encore, “Danny Boy”. One punter summed things up best when he said it was such a privilege to hear Collins sing. Her sweet and pure voice had captured the hearts and minds of the whole audience (and a few waiters) thanks to the handpicked, killer tunes that she’d made her own by fashioning with added poignancy. Sublime.

 

Originally published on 18 January 2011 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/judy-collins-chris-bailey-the-basement-17-01-11

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