NEWS: FOR SALE: SEX, HARDLY USED

I have written a new post on my Global Blogger Search competition blog called Tales Of Absurdiah. 

If you want to read about my horror speed dating experience or avoid making the same love mistakes I have then read here.

Photo credit: Clare Bloomfield

NEWS: WHAT’S A RAMONE?

I have posted a new post on my Global Blogger Search competition blog called Tales Of Absurdiah. 

If you want to read about some fine musical gaffes or witness someone ask a stupid question like “What is a Ramone?” you can read more here.

EP REVIEW: THE LAZYS – TEMPTATION NEVER LIKED YOU

Just like Death Cab For Cutie, Vampire Weekend and The Basics, The Lazys are a group whose band name is more for decoration than an actual indication of their sound or approach to music. They released their debut LP, Prison Earth in 2010 and are now back with a five-track EP. And if anyone thinks this one is going to be filled with languid riffs or sleepy songs (well, that’s what I first thought when I heard the group’s name anyway) then you can tell them they’re dreaming.

Temptation Never Liked You includes five cuts of high-octane rock music. The band themselves have said their sound tends to fit into one of two major categories, either straight up rock ‘n’ roll or the melodic variety. If we’re to be honest, there’s certainly an emphasis on the former here and this is filtered through living and partying hard. So whether you’re cheering on your favourite team at a sporting match or you’ve put your arms around your mate while sinking tinnies at your local, this seems like as good a soundtrack as any.

The EP was recorded at Notes in Newtown as the guys wanted to capture the raw power of their stage show and put it out on record. They would then turn to Matt Lovell (Silverchair, Cold Chisel) for mixing duties and he would work the pixie dust over it all to ultimately find the right balance between the live environment and what listeners normally expect from studio recordings.

“Really Ready For You?” is blood, sweet and beers packaged into one furious song. At times it sounds like AC/DC and with its yelled, not stirred lyrics that are very catchy, it makes for one hard-hitting siren call. “Society’s Whores” follows with a Queens Of The Stone Age riff while the title track shares a few things in common with Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein”. On the melodic side of the fence we get “Angels Sun”, one that features multiple layers, a slower pace and a denser sound, meaning it could’ve been written by The Vines.

On Temptation Never Liked You the Central Coast-via-Sydney boys wear their influences prominently on their black, ragged sleeves. Although this means they’re not reinventing the wheel, it still proves energetic and anguished enough for people to have fun and roll with some punchy numbers.

 

Originally published on 21 February 2012 at the following website: http://sludgefactory.com.au/lazys-temptation-never-liked-you

Visit Sludge Factory’s homepage at: http://sludgefactory.com.au/

NEWS: HOW ROBERT SMITH OWES ME A PIZZA

A few weeks ago I entered the GLOBAL BLOGGER SEARCH COMPETITION with a blog called Tales Of Absurdiah. 

I designed the blog specifically for the people who feel like their lives are like an episode of The Office or Fawlty Towers because their day-to-day seems littered with one too many weird or stupid events. Of course, these used to be transient and mostly forgotten occurrences, until now…

My most recent post is about how The Cure’s Robert Smith owes me a pizza. You can read it in full here.

Alternatively, you could just admire the picture of Messer Smith below… Either way.

EP REVIEW: WILCO – ITUNES SESSION

The iTunes collections are curious ones. Lacking the romance of a new album and the spontaneity you hear when an artist interacts with a live audience, for some people it’s just an excuse to listen to slightly less polished versions of album material. But then, when it’s a group like Wilco is anyone really complaining?

The better than a country mile, alt-rock group from the US recorded their recent release, an eight-track EP in their loft. This lends the recording a certain quality, not unlike the feel of the various groups who have released albums of material drawing together their BBC sessions from the sixties and seventies. It basically proves a treat for completists while offering the band another avenue in which to reach out to their fans.

The set features multiple cuts from their recent, The Whole Love record. These numbers tend to err on the warm and amiable side, just like a serving of a dozen little rays of sunshine. Take for instance, “Born Alone” which is buoyant pop with distorted guitars while “Black Moon” adds some moodiness to its soft, feathery bow. “I Might” meanwhile, features some notes that could’ve burst straight out of a Hammond organ from the swinging sixties before Jeff Tweedy and co. take us by the hand for a skip through a dense field.

The biggest surprises are the three cuts that were the most unexpected but then, these also proved to be the most fun. “Passenger Side” is from their debut LP and is an easy-on-the-ears, classic pop gem that one of the Finns could’ve spawned, something hardly surprising when you consider the clan have declared their love for this band on numerous occasions. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s “War On War” continues this vibe with some of the pleasantness last seen on a Fleetwood Mac song.

A guest spot from Nick Lowe, the group’s recent support act means their super musical powers combine for one excellent cover. The majority of us probably know “Cruel To Be Kind” from 10 Things I Hate About You, although the version in the film was by the band, Letters To Cleo. It was also a big hit for Lowe in the late seventies and thanks to his honey-like vocals and the saccharine pop music; it proves as sweet as Neil Diamond’s ode to Caroline.

Wilco may have recorded this excellent 8-track set whilst hidden away in a dark loft but sound-wise they are offering plenty of fun, Americana tunes that provide the same level of delight as if we were all basking in near-sleep in the warm sun of a clear, picturesque day. While this is hardly contributing anything all that new, it’s remains a feel-good offering and something that fans will find easy to embrace with their whole love.

Review Score: 8.5 out of 10

Originally published on 16 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/albums/wilco-itunes-session-2012

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: DEEP PURPLE – THE BBC SESSIONS 1968-1970

It’s hard to imagine a time before they had more line-up changes then some people have hot dinners and before they’d released a slew of classic, hard rockin’ tunes about women, trucks and smoke, but Deep Purple was once just another band trying to catch a break. The group’s original producer Derek Lawrence remembers walking into the BBC with a bunch of red roses to sweet-talk a woman into giving them a listen. Never mind that they hadn’t even cut a single; she proved extremely helpful because to use a well-worn cliche; the rest is all history.

From the years 1968 to 1970 Deep Purple would record 37 songs at Auntie but of these, a quarter remain lost or so badly degraded they’re unfit for public consumption. In the intervening years a number of songs would turn up on bootlegs and deluxe reissues but it was the discovery of two complete and unreleased sessions in 2010 that has driven them to put out The BBC Sessions 1968 – 1970. In doing so, it now means that they join other English acts like The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Small Faces, etc, in packaging their live radio performances for the Beeb in one handy spot.

The mark I line-up (Rod Evans, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Nick Simper and Ian Paice) offer 15 numbers on the first disc and as to be expected, the sound quality here tends to be poorer. In spite of the muddy sound, there’s no denying the pop groove and signal of bigger things to come in the song, “Hush”. At the time the band had to be judged on their fitness for airplay and they received a unanimous pass with the panel deeming them “A polished commercial group”.

This section features more plodding, blues-tinged rock that at times is rather flowery thanks to the suave vocals of Evans. It also includes some covers with Donovan’s “Lalena” and The Beatles’ “Help!” making appearances. The latter was done as a big ballad full of chiming guitars and embellished motifs and would eventually be re-recorded as the B-side to the “Hush” single.

There are some sinister keys on “Wring That Neck” and an interesting but very brief interview with Rod Evans who said their hit, US single, “River Deep – Mountain High” was achieved by removing no less than the intro, outro and middle eight. The first part is completed by two covers of tracks that were made famous by Cream and Jimi Hendrix, “I’m So Glad” and “Hey Joe,” respectively. The latter shared a few things in common with Hendrix’s version, something that is not completely unsurprising given that Blackmore was known for noodling away like the master in the early days before carving out his own niche and if you’re unconvinced of this then have a listen to “The Painter (vsn one)”.

Just six weeks after completing a session for Chris Grant, the group had entered its mark II phase (Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice). Opener, “Ricochet” was an early version of “Speed King” and was once described as some “Good hard rock with no classical pretensions at all”. This was a reference to Deep Purple’s previous collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the fact they were now back to performing some straight rock.

The second disc’s sound is more superior and this proves a real stroke of luck when you consider the inclusion of three of their biggest singles, “Black Night,” “Speed King” and “Child In Time”. When this session was recorded, the former was the top British single and it was ultimately an anthem that could hold its own alongside a Steppenwolf classic and featured the powerful, sexy and damn primal vocals of Ian Gillan. These would reach fever pitch when he wailed away through some of the group’s heavier numbers (see “Speed King”). “Child In Time” meanwhile, was an epic anthem to rival Led Zeppelin because it had as many moments for hard kicks in the teeth as gentle and soft-as-a-whimper diversions.

There is “Grabsplatter” which became “I’m Alone” and some improvised lyrics on “Jam Stew (aka John Stew)” and “Ricochet”. Here, the guitars crunched and grunted while the drums were pummeled with fury. The keys were like cosmic darts and layers knocking anyone’s preconceptions about the group far out into the universe.

The BBC Sessions is a compilation album for completist fans who want to dip into the live radio performances by Deep Purple’s first and second line-ups. With some cuts previously considered missing and now lovingly assembled and remastered, it is one fine listen that also proves an excellent journey in allowing the listener to see the band evolve from children in time to the influential musicians they would eventually become. At times it feels like the set has fallen off the back of The Boat That Rocked or the pirate radio station that was the film’s setting, but this only adds to the mystique and rogue appeal of it all. In short, it proves that these guys were fireballs of energy who were smoking hot, long before they went down to Montereax.

 

Originally published on 9 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31510/Deep-Purple–The-BBC-Sessions-1968–1970

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: SHELLEY SHORT – THEN CAME THE AFTER

Short and sweet. Dashes of sugar and spice and looking pretty in pink. These things describe singer-songwriter Shelley Short’s fifth album, Then Came The After to a tee. It is full of soft and sparse folk tunes that are often as quiet as a lullaby or as smooth as a teaspoon of honey.

The Portland-born Short is best known for the duet she did with Darren Hanlon, All These Things and for releasing a split 7-inch single with Steph Hughes. Short clearly has no shortage of friends as this LP features guest appearances from no less than: Rachel Blumberg (Bright Eyes, The Decemberists), Nate Query (The Decemberists) and Mike Coykendall (M. Ward). Plus, the record was written between major tours opening for the latter and Loudon Wainwright III.

The eleven tracks clock in at just over a half hour and one thing that immediately grabs your attention is her voice. It’s full of wide-eyed wonder and a girlish charm meaning it is worthy of comparisons to Julia Stone, but is certainly more pleasing on the ear then the latter often is. That said, it can verge on sounding too childish making it a touch disconcerting and jarring when you have a song like “June” that has the following lyrics: “Whoever says they’ve got everything/Haven’t got a hold on what they’re losing”. There’s no denying that these are sage words. But they certainly lose their impact when you feel like a munchkin is attempting to be profound.

Then Came The After is about change, as found in shapes, timing and effects. While Short has always enjoyed writing songs about sadness with a hopeful tinge, here it seems like she’s been through an early-life crisis and come out the other end wanting to experiment. This has manifested itself with her playing around with the vocal delivery and song structures, meaning the tunes have additional riches and layers to them. After all, Short plays many instruments including: guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, glockenspiel, ukulele, thumb piano and various percussion noisemakers.

“To Carry” seems like Short is beguiling the spirits in an otherwise empty room. Single, “Right Away” is different still with a jazzy groove coupled with a piano-based number that Regina Spektor could execute with ease. On “The Dark Side” this same instrument offers something between an upbeat romp and a Janis Joplin-inspired love ballad.

“Plane” boasts a rather reverential air. With its glistening keys, Short sounds like an angel offering a hymn to heaven on high. On “These Walls” this free spirit reverts back to her youth where we get a swirling, percussive number that shares a feeling that is similar to Ben Lee’s “Into The Dark”. “In The Net” meanwhile, is a crisp, Beatlesque tune that sounds like daylight is breaking as rays of sunshine dance across ripples of water.

Then Came The After is a saccharine collection of songs where Short uses her idols like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie as primary inspiration but then turns it into something altogether softer and more feminine. Occasionally laidback and with lilting guitars, it makes for one emotive and nuanced affair. Basically, if it were to be reduced to a glory box full of different materials, Then Came The After would be about the finest floral patterns, tough pearls, delicate lace and aromatic petals.

Originally published on 2 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31511/Shelley-Short–Then-Came-The-After

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: RYAN ADAMS – ASHES & FIRE

Rocker, metal fan, acoustic troubadour and pseudonym-touting punk. If you’re confused what hat Ryan Adams has decided to wear today then spare a thought for the prolific man himself. On his thirteenth studio album, Ashes & Fire he is occasionally plagued by but more often simply takes time out to consider questions like: “What am I?” and “What am I doing here?” (and that’s just track, “Save Me”).

Adams himself has admitted the record is obsessed with the passage of time. He says: “I believe that there is a kinder view of the self. I’m passing through my own life as a ghost and looking at those pieces and places in my life. I’m looking at California and the idea of being lost and found at the same time”.

It sounds like the perfect recipe for outright confusion but perhaps makes more sense when you consider the events that have dotted his life over the past three years (the longest break between releasing studio albums under his own moniker). On the one hand there is a maturity that has come with being clean and sober and a contentment with getting married to Mandy Moore and taking a little “domestic” time-out. While on the other hand there has been plenty of sources for melancholy like personal health issues, the disillusion of his backing group, The Cardinals and the tragic death of the band’s bassist, Chris Feinstein.

Ashes & Fire is a slow-burning effort that sees 11 mostly-acoustic songs filled with ruminations and nostalgia that are executed with a strong, rustic charm. The opening, “Dirty Rain” starts off wistful with talk of prior storms but picks up when Adams admits that it “Isn’t raining anymore”. The title track is more upbeat, the keys rise just like a phoenix or soar like the temperature on a particularly balmy summer’s day.

“Come Home” sees Adams accompanied by Moore and Norah Jones on vocals for something that begins as a quiet, gentle hum of a whisper before ultimately building into a country song that could’ve appeared on Neil Young’s Comes A Time. Another fabulous songwriter is referenced on the following, “Rocks” and that is Nick Drake. Here, Adams is accompanied by some very lush strings that verge on the cinematic, before some distorted guitar riffs that could’ve been performed by Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis make an appearance on “Do I Wait”.

The second half of the album – like much of the first – deals with messy human emotions plus more reminiscing by this tortured and tragic artist. Unfortunately, it also includes some cuts that blend a little too much into one another. It’s a shame because “Lucky Now” is a tender and earnest piece about the late Feinstein while closer, “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say” is a delicate ballad that could easily sum up his love and affection for Moore.

On Ashes and Fire, producer Glyn Johns (The Beatles, Bob Dylan) – and the father of Ethan who produced Adams’ Heartbreaker, Gold and 29 efforts – has given a smooth sheen to these well-crafted, confessional slices of introspection. Gone are the narratives and the cast of characters Adams usually uses as inspiration and a medium because this time around he is favouring things that are more rooted on the ground and in facts. With Ashes and Fire we get a closer glimpse at the real Adams, an honest chameleon, erratic personality and sensitive poet who isn’t afraid to expose the rougher edges of his troubled mind as he saunters through sentimentality to grapple with the ghosts of the past and present.

 

Originally published on 3 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31503/Ryan-Adams–Ashes-and-Fire

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: UNDERGROUND LOVERS – WONDERFUL THINGS : RETROSPECTIVE

A retrospective by Underground Lovers sees this underrated Aussie band’s best material including singles, remixes, b-sides and band favourites combined in one handy place. It’s one strong set that draws together the seminal singles and cuts from their six studio albums and numerous EPs.

The group had many and varied influences from Manchester stalwarts Joy Division, The Stone Roses and New Order to acts closer to home like Essendon Airport, The Reels and Go-Betweens and that’s not even considering their occasional nods to The Cure, Talking Heads, The Clash and Brian Eno. The upshot of this is that their songs are hard to define as fitting one specific genre or sound, something you don’t need a rocket science to figure out when you consider the aforementioned.

The albums the group produced were equally varied. Their eponymous debut, (represented here by only Round and Round on the second disc) focused on the interplay between acoustic and electric aesthetics with references to The Kinks and David Bowie. Of course, playing up the shifts from loud to quiet and in-between reeks of both The Pixies and The Smashing Pumpkins while additional experimentation into more lush and intricate sonic soundscapes would follow on Dream It Down. The cuts from this include the title track plus “Las Vegas,” “Losin’ It” and “Beautiful World”. The group changed again by stripping things back to the absolute bare bones on the following, Rushall Station, before collaborating with Sonic Animation for danceworthy beats and rhythms later in their career.

For all its variety, Wonderful Things is still a cohesive set with plenty of echoes, reverb and harmonies underpinning the songs and keeping them together as if with an invisible thread. The group originally wanted to create interesting music to fill the dull emptiness in people’s worlds and in 2012 the songs do just that by taking you on a similarly epic journey. The listener is treated to music that remains fresh and vital-sounding despite the intervening years but then, classic and intelligent music will often do this to you.

The band always put a lot of thought and consideration into the song. As frontman Vincent Giarrusso (vocals, guitar, keyboards) has said, they continually wanted to improve the track whether it be with a different riff or loop; changing the structure; or adding things like keyboards or drum machine. They certainly recognised the song smarts they each possessed, as they developed their fortes and strove for perfection.

“Dream It Down” is some light and wistful balladry you could imagine Oh Mercy covering with ease while “Promenade” is a number that feels like it sits somewhere between The Go-Betweens and Ride. “Holiday” could have inspired Ladytron while “All Strung Out” seems to have picked up a lesson or two from a Velvet Underground songbook. Moreover, the inclusion of singles like “Losin’ It,” “Your Eyes” and “I Was Right” make this set worthy of the admission price alone.

As the group prepare to record some new material, Wonderful Things offers a delightful romp through the cinematic and dreamy pop music they made during the multiple peaks and tangents in their career. It’s like the wonder and beauty of their youth has been intertwined with the classic and intelligent pop songs they made which brim additionally with honesty and fragility.

Originally published on 1 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31504/Underground-Lovers–Wonderful-Things-Retrospective

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: THE CHECKS – DEADLY SUMMER SWAY

Imagine a couple packing their suitcases.

Some Nick Cave darling? Check.

R.E.M. sweetheart? Check.

Jack Johnson perhaps? Check.

Okay so these 3 artists seem to be at odds with one another in terms of musical style but if you’re New Zealand band, The Checks then they all make for essential listening because the artists lend themselves and their influence to the title of their third album, Deadly Summer Sway.

The quintet started in the business at the age of 15 and did what most teenagers do; they lived through each others music collections and watched as their peers notched up all manner of firsts. The music they made was simple, a self-described “guitar riff and gap where Ed Knowles sang whatever he could think of”. By their sophomore album, Alice By The Moon however, they’d added some experimental twists to their bows. Now celebrating their tenth anniversary together, we get even more diversions into different territory and a skip through the elements.

Deadly Summer Sway is their most confident effort to date. It features ten solid songs that groove with a crisp warmth but that are also mature and weary enough to be mindful of potential darkness. If anything, the elements can be broken down into the deathly grey like the UK where they temporarily lived; the sunshine for the visits to our fair land; and the sway/swagger for the influence of American music no doubt through their producer, Bassy Bob Brockman (Bob Dylan, Notorious BIG, Herbie Hancock).

“Dogs Of Perfection” is a tale of man vs. dog and uses some atmospheric guitars. “Ready To Die” meanwhile, is rather gruff but at the same time groovy as it conjures up the image of a suave male vocal group clicking their fingers in time to the beat despite delivering a death knell.

Some Black Sabbath and Steppenwolf-inspired riffs are found on “Black Frog” and “Jet Plane,” respectively. But “One Sock” has a style that brings about plenty of swagger and finger pointing, something that is notably absent from the slower and more laidback, “Winter Sun”. The latter is romantic with chiming melodies.

But it is single, “Candyman Shimmer” that offers the biggest departure from their blues-driven, high-energy rock sounds.

Deadly Summer Sway is ultimately an effort full of textures and contrasts. Grappling with innocence and darkness and resolving the line between the modern and classic via some airy-light and more sinister moods, it’s a journey that seems to signpost anywhere and everywhere for one altogether rocking and epic trip.

 

Originally published on 10 February 2012 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/the-checks-ndash-deadly-summer-sway-10022012.html

Visit The 59th Sound’s homepage at: http://www.the59thsound.com/

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