ALBUM REVIEW: PAUL MCCARTNEY – KISSES ON THE BOTTOM

At this stage in the game Sir Paul McCartney can say, say, say anything on record and it’s guaranteed to shift a unit or ten. He certainly knows this because he has indulged himself on the cheekily named, Kisses On The Bottom. It’s a collection of old standards initially made as a gift for his new wife, Nancy Shevell and while the name is a double entendre, it is not a reference to their boudoir antics but merely a song lyric lifted from the opener.

Kisses On The Bottom contains 14 songs with two originals by this knight in shining armour. The new material includes “My Valentine,” an ode to his optimistic sweetheart and “Only Our Hearts”. The latter boasts Stevie Wonder on harmonica while the former includes Eric Clapton on acoustic guitar making his first of two appearances. The guitar maestro reappears on “Get Yourself Another Fool” putting his indelible stamp on a song where his mate goes from being a fool on the hill to telling someone (one would imagine Heather Mills) to go find herself another dope.

McCartney’s original cuts slot in well with the remainder of the album as the overall feeling is classic, vintage and conservative, so not unlike the black and white photo of his suited self holding out a bouquet of flowers on the record’s cover. The music is often like the Sleepless In Seattle soundtrack and while it does run the risk of being drowned in romantic schmaltz, you can’t deny that the material is as smooth as honey, just ask the Rod Stewarts, David Campbells and Michael Buble’s (to name a few) that have kicked goals with this type of quote, “granny music”.

Sir Paul has said that this was the kind of record he had always wanted to make with The Beatles. And while it was a plan that has been germinating for sometime, here he sounds like he is having an absolute ball. He admits to holidaying in America, acting the tourist in LA and using Nat King Cole’s mic while playing with some great jazz players with nary a care in the world. It’s nice work if you can afford it; particularly when you consider that save for some acoustic guitar-work on the final two cuts, all Macca had to do was turn up and sing.

The musicians are the ones that really carry this piece. They include Diana Krall and the majority of her backing band. They sound tight as they deliver these sensitive and soft shuffles through starry-eyed period from the past. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for McCartney’s voice, which while pleasant enough is a tad thin at parts and at times shows signs of the aging process. Some people may go so far as to write McCartney off as a pop singer (and therefore never a jazz one) but it’s not that bad, it is just that his vocals are simply not full enough to carry the entire spectrum of emotion and poignancy that these songs are designed to carry.

For its faults, Kisses On The Bottom does succeed in realising McCartney’s original vision to collect the old songs from his parents’ generation and pay a sweet homage to them. With a little help from Tony LiPuma – another veteran of the business like Sir George Martin – these guys have found unusual numbers to rerecord and ultimately offer a bunch of gentle, easy-listening tomes, sentimental standards and other tender journeys. From the lounge-like croon of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down & Write Myself A Letter” to the orchestral, “Home (When Shadows Fall)”. Then there’s the touching song from the Guys & Dolls stage show, “More I Cannot Wish You” while “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” is a much-loved, old chestnut. This one conjures up the image of Gene Kelly with his arms out, a huge smile on his face as he tap dances around a choir of angels that coo simultaneously with each other.

In 2012 Paul McCartney has turned the tables back to yesterday with nary a care or guitar in sight, as he offers a love letter to his wife via the past. It’s a misty-eyed, slow dance and an at-times sleeper effort that proves a decent enough slice of nostalgia that is so understated, subtle and cosy it’s like the musical equivalent of a warm cocoa and a nanna nap.

Originally published on 26 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/32051/Paul-McCartney–Kisses-On-The-Bottom

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

ALBUM REVIEW: SOKO – I THOUGHT I WAS AN ALIEN

First she wanted to kill your girlfriend. Then she wanted to kill herself (well, she said she died on MySpace). In the intervening years she wrote and scrapped a double album, performed as an actress and now some four years on from her hit, “I’ll Kill Her,” SoKo has completed her debut album, I Thought I Was An Alien. It is her baby, a labour of love with 15 tracks that have inherited aspects of her reflective, eccentric and plain weird nature.

SoKo’s musical journey started with little more than an acoustic guitar, her voice and a laptop fitted with Garageband. On record, it seems that little has changed as she is still writing folk songs with a lo-fi feel, meaning that musically they could slot in easily alongside Jose Gonzalez’s work, both solo or with Junip. Lyrically however, things are a tad more cheeky, enigmatic and strange, so they really could have come from the books of Regina Spektor or Darren Hanlon, among others.

From an early point in I Thought I Was An Alien, SoKo establishes that the listener will learn lots about her through this set of music. Consider: “You will discover me through my songs/Learn heartbreaks and fears and depressions/Hear all the cracks and lack of talent/And I hope you won’t hate me by then.”

On opener, “Just Want To Make It New With You” we get to hear a group of aliens lurking and murmuring in the background with just an unfamiliar drumbeat for company. It all sounds rather catchy and at first it’s rather sweet to hear her partially purr and whisper the lyrics. On the following title track and single, SoKo sounds as if she has swapped friends and is instead playing with some woodland creatures. It’s a softness that is replicated in the delicate strings on “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow”.

The first half of this album contains a number of more melancholy tracks that live up to the chanteuse’s description of her work as being like: “Crying on my guitar”. Thankfully, things pick up on “First Love Never Die” which could be re-imagined as a postcard from a secluded, sunny island getaway while “How Are You” is so light and feathery it verges on the near-angelic with a reverence and repetitiveness that is gorgeous and introspective.

“Don’t You Touch Me” begins with something that could have been by Angus and Julia Stone before veering off-course to a place that is typically inhabited by the likes of Regina Spektor and Sia. It’s fun and it’s a vibe that is replicated on “You Have A Power On Me”. The latter is so offbeat, carefree and essentially a silly slice of French chic.

I Thought I Was An Alien is a rather bittersweet listening experience. On the one hand there are some fragile and subtle dynamics at play where existential crises are dealt with via dreamy pop and hushed revelations of personal truths and other secrets. But the problem is that it can also tend to be drowned in its feelings of grief and all-round sadness. At best it is fragile, cool and cheeky and at worst it is twee, tedious and long. Unfortunately, when the latter elements are added to an at-times repetitive nature, it may leave you wishing that SoKo would ditch the sepia-tinged ballads and upgrade to full Technicolor, anything to get away from the whitewash of blue feelings.

 

Originally published on 26 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/32050/SoKo–I-Thought-I-Was-An-Alien

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

NEWS: IN MY SHOES (& WALKING INTO THINGS)

With the Global Blogger Search competition closing tomorrow I thought it would be a nice idea to reprise the theme from one post (in my shoes) and recount the multiple tales about how I’ve inflicted injuries on myself. Learn how I tripped over an electric blanket chord and on a bus carrying a tray of cold meats, among others. Read more about it here:  https://www.womeninfocus.com.au/blogs/Tales_Of_Absurdiah/2012/03/28/in-my-shoes-walking-into-things

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici

ALBUM REVIEW: DEEP SEA ARCADE – OUTLANDS

Deep Sea Arcade may have started at the grassroots- gigging around Sydney before graduating to interstate, overseas, infinity and beyond. They demoed their songs as a way of perfecting their debut album, Outlands, a pastiche of retro-goodness and free love that was some ten years in the making. Add to that the fact that they sound like they could have fallen out of some sixties dream, covered by the Union Jack and drenched in patchouli oil and incense and you’ve got the majority of Outlands covered as one tasty, consumable treat.

If ever there was an album that could’ve been called ambivalence or conflicting emotions, then it is this one. The listener is offered up 12 killer tracks that musically jingle-jangle with a joyous vibrancy, even though the lyrics are heavily conflicted and often deal with heavier themes like loneliness and isolation. It personally reminds me of The Cure’s “Lovesong” in that it can be rather heartfelt and emotional in feeling while the sounds often chug along and on any given day can appear dark or happy, depending on what mood you’re in or which way you look at it. So while Tame Impala were personally offering us a half full glass of wine as an answer to the sounds that preceded them, these guys offer sunshine and darkness in equal measure and I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the glass is half full or empty.

The title track opens with some outright broodiness and is a self-proclaimed Led Zeppelin-meets-Portishead-style song. Thankfully, the mood swells high on the following, “Seen No Right” with its hand-clapping goodness. “Girls” lives up to the album’s perplexing theme, as it started off not knowing whether it was Arthur or Martha. It all began with a backwards “Wild Thing”-type riff and transformed from being about male camaraderie to a celebration of the fairer sex.

There’s a call to arms on “Steam,” which seems to combine elements of both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, while “Together” comes via the ocean. It’s basically like waves of water glistening in the sun and serves as an excellent prelude to the record’s subsequent pinnacle because “Lonely In Your Arms” is a bona fide crowd favourite. It’s catchy as hell (think like Franz Ferdinand and The Drums at a love-in) as it chugs along with chiming, surf guitars with just the right amount of angst. It is so pretty and polished; you could probably listen to it from a beat-up, transistor radio and still find yourself dancing and humming along.

Elsewhere, there is some cinematic charm (“Ride”); a Zombies-like ditty (“If The Devil Won’t Take You”); and “Don’t Be Sorry” which boasts the kind of fairground fun last heard on The Beatles’ “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”. It’s fair to say that Deep Sea Arcade know a thing or two about their influences. If they’d been The Church they’d have worn them on their paisley sleeves. But for the most part these guys do sixties psychedelia mixed with a twist of Brit-pop and other English goodness and do so with great ease. How else would you account for the ethereal guitar riffs – the main drivers to these songs – which can seem equally charming, fuzzy, mysterious and shiny. Then when you mix these with frontman, Nic Mckenzie’s laidback vocals and the catchy rhythms courtesy of the band’s solid rhythm section and you’ve got a recipe that is hard to fault.

Outlands is all peace, love and melodies, a dense love letter to classic English sounds with some reverb-laded guitar pop that while optimistic and shiny also contains subtle traces of melancholy. So you can tune in and tune out to Outlands, because either way you’re guaranteed an awesome romp and trip upstream or a ride downstream, with all the right emotional signposts checked along the way. It’s a journey that is found a blowin’ whichever way the wind goes. Groovy.

 

Originally published on 28 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/outlands_deep_sea_arcade

Visit The Dwarf’s homepage at: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/

NEWS: THIS IS NOT ART

It’s unlucky post number 13 in the Global Blogger Search where we learn about things that aren’t art. Is a shark in formaldehyde art? Do people look at the statue of David’s toenails? Find out more at the following post: This Is Not Art

ALBUM REVIEW: ALEKS & THE RAMPS – FACTS

Aleks & The Ramps have just released their third studio album. Fact. It once again is an eccentric offering of energetic art-pop. Fact. It was recorded in a warehouse in Fairfield and this was at times sweaty and at other moments chilly. Fact. And the group reckons they’re bigger than Jesus (okay, I made that last one up).

Facts was written and recorded simultaneously. The ten songs morphed from riffs and beats, to properly fleshed out intergalactic jams. The surreal, psychedelia-tinged pop is getting a release on vinyl and digital formats and is essentially to music what YouTube is to videos. Confused? It means that the group constantly twist and turn, flit and fumble with innumerable genres and obtuse styles, as if jumping around with the kind of joyous and reckless abandon typically reserved for an aforementioned user.

“Crocodile” opens things with a tale about a broken relationship and seems to musically sit somewhere between Dappled Cities and the Last Dinosaurs’ brand of shiny pop before they embark on the journey into space that is “In The Snow”. A summer jaunt follows in “Icy Facts,” a track that also boasts some of the strangest lyrics ever committed to record. Consider: “It’s hard to breathe in the back of a horse costume”.

But if the truly bizarre is what you’re looking for then you need search no further than “Friends With The Night”. It’s a number that at times features everything from Queen’s stomp to an old organ, a childish fairground invitation, some ghost-like whispering apparitions and the glittery keys heard on the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs LP.

On “Pray Tell” frontman, Alex Bryant fuses his smooth baritone croon with the gorgeous vocals of Sez Wilks. The effect is something you could imagine Big Scary executing with ease except that musically it is a lot closer to something by Architecture In Helsinki and the Skins theme. It’s groovy pop and this vibe continues into the following, “Bummer,” before we all regroup to sip drinks and watch the sun set over the horizon in “Here Comes The Ghost”.

Like a good comedic author, Aleks & The Ramps may be written off as a novelty because the lyrics are funny (and most people think comedy is an absolute breeze) and the music is hooky and fun. But in reality the group have put together one solid record of clever pop tunes that are often warm; occasionally saccharine; very zany; and at other times just plain smile-inducing. Idiosyncratic and energetic- that’s a fact, but this record proves the sky is the limit when the band’s collective imagination is concerned and that has to be a good influence on their teleporting, pop-space jams.

 

Originally published on 22 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/aleks–the-ramps-ndash-facts-22032012.html

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

ALBUM REVIEW: STEVE SMYTH – RELEASE

Some people are born with itchy feet and troubadour, Steve Smyth is certainly one of them. The one constant in their lives is the need for continual change – making novel discoveries and having new experiences due to an overwhelming curiosity with people and places or just a plain fear of missing out. The other constant on Smyth’s debut LP, Release has got to be coffee and cigarettes because he sounds like he’s used a lot of these in his time.

Smyth had a rustic upbringing on the NSW Coast. He fell out of the womb a wandering soul and his parents knew this because as a child he often had to be tethered to a tree so that he wouldn’t run off. These days it sounds like he is couch surfing in Europe with little more than an acoustic guitar and his powerful voice. The latter instrument contains the smoky gravel typically synonymous with Tom Waits and the weight of experience, while at lighter moments he can also sound like a choir boy (possibly a by-product of his being raised by church ministers) and this can at times verge on sounding like the untouchable, Jeff Buckley.

Smyth has played music for years, having dabbled in punk, folk, rock and gospel, yet for his debut the majority of the ten tracks are about the blues. With the harsh yet beautiful Australian landscape serving as both a muse and backdrop, we hear this rambler sing with a fire in his belly to match the hole in his heart and an at times primal and husky growl. Across 35 minutes the listener is treated to tales about letting go – whether it be for someone who has passed away; the great love that was lost or got away; or simply just the passage of time where you grow up, mature and loose the angst that punctuated your teens.

“Barbiturate Cowboy” goes from being a soft, whispered strum to a grunting hell raiser where two hedonistic cowboys draw and quarter in the Wild West desert. The following, “Barmade Blues” slows things down a notch with a jaunt below a blue sky that would be perfect, save for some big, white clouds. On “Stay Young,” Smyth recruited Juanita Stein (Howling Bells, Waikiki) for a duet. It is a breezy and laidback ballad where Stein’s feminine vocals prove a delightful contrast to Smyth’s more hardened and masculine tones.

There is the single, “Endless Nowdays,” which sounds like it was inspired by Skeeter Davis’ version of “End Of The World”. It also sees a silken coo crossed with distortion and some of The Shadows’ style of guitar-work. The crooning continues into “Midnight In The Middle,” one you could imagine Roy Orbison performing. It was inspired by a drive from Coober Pedy watching the changes in the terrain as Smyth found himself closer to no man’s land. Here he also sings perhaps the best summary of the album: “Midnight in the middle of nowhere and I ain’t got to no place to be”.

Release is a cohesive debut from a songwriter that is already showing a lot of promise. It is honest, yearning, raw and free-spirited – the perfect recipe to relax and float above a glowing campfire in a dusty forest by a tranquil river. It also proves that while this itinerant troubadour has got many more journeys of a thousand miles up his sleeve, in the meantime we can enjoy the tales of his life thanks to a voice that is equally gnarled and honeyed and experiences that sound like they’re from someone with leathered skin. In short it is a sublime embodiment of the quote: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present”.

 

Originally published on 21 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/31954/Steve-Smyth–Release

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

NEWS: WANTED: MISSING PLANTS

Will this be my last blog in the global blogger search? Perhaps…

 

But if you want to read up about missing plants, enthusiastic telephone book readers and hold music musicians you can read about it at: https://www.womeninfocus.com.au/blogs/Tales_Of_Absurdiah/2012/03/21/wanted-missing-plants

 

ALBUM REVIEW: GUTHRIE – SELF-TITLED

When you have a name like Guthrie you’ve certainly got a lot to live up to when you consider Woody and Arlo, not to mention at least one other band with the same name. The Tassie duo is virtually Google-proof, but that has not phased frontman, Liam Guthrie (guitar/vocals) and drummer, Luke Young. They are a duo that produces lots of loud, full-blooded music like fellow double-acts The Black Keys, Big Scary and previously, The White Stripes.

The whole thing apparently started in a swamp so Creedence Clearwater Revival immediately springs to my mind and while this could quite possibly be heard in the sound in short and up the back, in reality this pair tend to err more on the side of the electric blues and rock genres. Take opener, “South” which is all highways and open road. Add a menacing pirate singing a gutsy “Yo hee ho” and mix well with lots of machine-like guitars and smoke from Guthrie’s gravely, Tom Waits-like voice.

“Blues Ate My Homework” plays like the love child of Link Wray and Eagles of Death Metal. It’s all dirty attitude and bad boy blues, a song that the following, “Dog” picks up on. The latter however, has a much fiercer bark or an animalistic growl where it’s all about drinking, women and wanting a bigger slice of the pie by screaming the loudest and the most primitively.

A diversion of sorts is offered in “Little Ditty” and is something that The Living End could play but with its blues feel you could also imagine Keith Richards loving. Not so charming however, is “Last Laugh” because while catchy and taking another speeding trip down a country road, the lyrics boast how he’s been known to: “Play up, throw up and fall down”. How charming. And things fail to improve from there in “Bitches Kitchen” where it is the musical equivalent of Guthrie saying “Shut up and cook me dinner!” like one of those lads wearing a FBI (Female Body Inspector) shirt.

Thankfully, “Just As You Are” picks things up with an opening that could’ve been played by The Black Keys or White Stripes with ease, before it becomes extra ragged and ecstatic like AC/DC. Sadly with repeated lyrics like: “Skin, blood, sweat, come,” these fail to add much except a sense of grossness to the proceedings. It also perhaps serves as a reminder that Guthrie is enjoyed for the music mainly as the lyrics are something that only occasionally sound good while screamed in the background.

Guthrie is not offering anything particularly new with this music as the vast majority of it has been heard in some shape or form sometime before. But they wouldn’t care anyway because these guys know who they are, what they want and they sure as hell aren’t about to change for nothing or no one.

So enjoy the fact that Guthrie’s music boasts so much slide guitar while traversing the long open road at breakneck speeds that you are expecting it all careen of the rails at any given moment. Because we all know that if they were to die they’ve got the perfect sounds to go dance with the devil and if they chose not to do so, they could take a leaf out of another bluesman’s book, Daniel Johnston and make a pact with the horned guy. I guess they’d probably ask for more times that included: hard working, hard drinking, cool women and rattling blues music with stomping bravado and posturing aplenty.

 

Originally published on 19 March 2012 at the following website: http://sludgefactory.com.au/guthrie-self-titled-cd-review

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

FILM REVIEW: VINCENT WANTS TO SEA (VINCENT WILL MEER)

Vincent Wants To Sea tells the story of a 27-year old Tourette’s sufferer (Florian David FitzMen In The City who also doubles as the film’s screenwriter). At the insistence of his busy and uncaring, politician father (Heino Ferch) and following his mother’s passing, Vincent is institutionalised and is forced to share a room with the obsessive-compulsive Alexander (Johannes Allmayer). He also meets anorexia patient, Marie (Karoline Herfurth) and the unlikely trio embark on a road trip after stealing the beat-up Saab belonging to their therapist, Dr. Rose (Katharina Müller-Elmau).

Vincent’s mission is a simple one. Armed with a rare photograph of his late mother looking happy by the seaside, he decides to fulfill her dying wish and scatter her ashes in the Italian sea. The epic journey begins in Germany and along the way the trio learn more about each other and eventually bond over their foibles. They also come to appreciate their newfound escape, albeit as fugitives of sorts. What started off as a straightforward plan, becomes complicated by their having to steal transport and supplies, not to mention personal issues like annoying each other with their individual problems. Vincent in particular, gets the trio into a number of strange and sticky situations because his tics and easily dropped profanities are as uncontrollable as a sneeze.

The film ultimately tackles dark themes with gentle doses of humour. The result is an emotional drama that is hardly groundbreaking, but is certainly an endearing little tale that will leave you rooting for these determined underdogs. It will also leave you hoping that what this little group can achieve is as boundless as the mountains (the Alps) that serve as the movie’s backdrop. The scenery is gorgeous and the cinematography is perfect, with panoramic mountains and idyllic coastlines worth the admission price alone.

For all the tragic circumstances and the messiness in their lives, Vincent Wants To Sea does not wallow in melancholy. Instead it triumphs above the darkness with the audience treated to a light romp through the European continent. In short, it provides one altogether entertaining ride that is as touching and good for you as some chicken soup for the soul.

 

Originally published on 19 March 2012 at the following website: http://lipmag.com/arts/film-arts/film-review-vincent-wants-to-sea-vincent-will-meer/

Visit Lip Magazine’s homepage at: http://lipmag.com

Previous Older Entries