Matt Bellamy just couldn’t help himself. While Muse worked on their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, he took to Twitter and made an outrageous promise. He said they were working on a “Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia”.

No one batted an eyelid. This is Muse after all, and surely this is all tongue-in-cheek fun? But the big moment came when the group dropped an album teaser video revealing that their music did actually feature dubstep, just as he’d promised. The battle lines were drawn as some fans gasped and switched off while others applauded and enjoyed the latest chapter in the band’s creativity (and indulgence).

The 2nd Law
is another grandiose slab from the band but where it differs from their earlier work is in the details. In 2012 Muse may still be preoccupied with things like the impending apocalypse but musically they are all over the shop, throwing in everything and the kitchen sink with music that name checks: prog, electro, rock, dubstep, pop, metal and rock opera.

The result is rather overwhelming because of the sheer number of ideas and concepts at play. The lyrics touch on the world ending and Bellamy’s own personal relationships with his wife Kate Hudson and new son Bingham plus politics, science, current affairs and alcoholism, to name a few. It makes for a disjointed listen that plays less like an album and more like the band gathering their devotees around to have a boast about the depth and breadth of their musical and general knowledge (or the tracks on their Ipods). The record will no doubt be a hit amongst the younger crowd as opinions will be divided and you can already see people picking and choosing the songs they think are killer (rather than filler).

But let us cast a look back at influences because Muse has plenty of them and wear these on their sleeves.” Supremacy” opens with some heavy guitar work that means it fits somewhere between Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and a Black Sabbath riff. It’s an up-tempo guitar track that is not a major leap away from their previous work and in no way indicative of what is to come. At other moments it seems reminiscent of Wings’ “Live & Let Die” while “Madness” takes a leaf out of another old book with some space rock in the key of Queen.

Things fragment from here with some classical piano straight out of a black and white film in “Prelude” while “Follow Me” is the first look at the band tackling dubstep. It is only a minor part of this track but is reprised and realised more fully in “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable”. Here a news report is mashed up with an orchestra before it morphs into a heavy number about thermodynamics.

“Survival” was a single used at the London Olympics. It is full of pomp and romping sounds as a choir again creates a vibe not unlike Queen. But on “Big Freeze” the group turn their collective sights to U2 as the guitars sound like they’re straight out of The Edge’s songbook sitting somewhere between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Will Follow”. It’s a different feel to the following downbeat tales of alcoholism that were written and performed by the band’s bassist, Chris Wolstenholme in” Save Me” and “Liquid State”.

The 2nd Law is a dramatic, rich and epic spectacular. It’s an ambitious move and a progression forward but there is no doubt that some fans will be alienated by the sheer weight of abstract pretentious on offer and find it all far too confounding and overblown. But others still would argue that that’s just another day in the office for Muse.

Originally published on 23 October 2012 at the following website:—the-2nd-law-23102012.html

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We need food to grow, to live and learn. We will eat tonnes of it in our lifetimes. For most people it will result in pleasure and satiety but for others it will be the source of pain and grief as they fight the battle of the bulge. But how much do we actually know about how our body process food? The Taste 101 Masterclass was an informative and interactive session that debunked some myths and offered lots of interesting insights.

The class was held at the William Angliss Institute, a specialist centre for food and hospitality and was presented by Crave Sydney International Food Festival. Our hosts/lecturers/fellow connoisseurs were food writer and TV producer, Richard Cornish and food and wine writer, Max Allen. The pair proved an excellent foil for one another as they kept the mood light yet full of informative discussion about the relatively new field of neurogastronomy (the science that explores the mechanics and the neural pathways of how we taste food). It was an experience that was fun, tactile and made full use of our senses.

We would learn that the tongue or taste map that we’ve all learned about in school (that claims we taste bitter, sour, salt and sweet on different areas of the tongue) is incorrect. Instead, humans have a large area of their brains devoted to receiving messages from their lips and mouths. We also come pre-programmed at birth to have a preference for sweet things and an aversion to bitterness (traits that we have evolved to have) because these would’ve been useful in determining whether things were poisonous or safe to consume.

When we eat the brain also receives lots of messages through the sense of smell. These scents include orthonasal smells or ones we breathe in from the environment around us and retronasal ones that come from the food or drink as we consume them. In the latter case, the smell passes up through the nasal passage at the back of the throat and travels to the brain stem. These messages eventually form smell maps or things that are as distinguishable and emotive to us as spotting the face of a loved one in a crowd.

Over the three-hour course we would all consume large quantities of fine olives, oysters, camembert cheese, cured meats, wine, sherry, cider and Spanish beer (all in the name of science). We’d drink dashi, a flavoursome, Japanese cooking stock and some tasty sake that was almost like a good drop of white wine. Floral bouquets of hyacinths and lavender were also passed around to illustrate the importance of smells in conjuring up memories.

The evening was an immense joy. It was a bit decadent to eat and drink such tasty foods and beverages but it also helped to illustrate some important points. Namely, that what we perceive as flavour is actually a combination of what we taste and feel in our mouths through touch, plus the smells we receive from internal and external sources. We also learned about the importance of ambience i.e. how the environment and sorts of noise and music will affect your mood and subsequently how enjoyable the meal is.

Food is a fascinating and fun topic to study. In history, the search for spices drove international explorers abroad. People like Christopher Columbus were driven to search for new flavours plus ways to prepare foods and make new drinks. The Taste 101 Masterclass was a consolidation and celebration of all this and more. It was ultimately a delectable dance for the tastebuds and senses, and a rich evening that fed our stomachs and brains. Yum!

Originally published on 24 October 2012 at the following website:

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What do you get when three Americans, two Australians and an Englishman walk into the Sydney Opera House? Answer: A gala hosted by Drew Carey as part of the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. It’s a comedy institution that began in Montreal some three decades ago and whilst the Australian contingent is a mere two years old, it still manages to live up to its fore father.

For 2012 it is a little strange that this is Drew Carey’s first visit to Australia. The man famous for The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? was a little beside himself to be playing in such auspicious surroundings. These days he hosts America’s The Price Is Right and he was baffled to imagine the huge leap from game show host to eminent MC.

Carey’s banter saw him offering material I’ve heard other Americans make (about our dual-flush toilets, no doubt a marvel on his virgin visit to our shores) and a tirade against Brad Pitt. But he did counter this with some clever chitchat about the PM and the Kim Kardashian phenomenon. He was also at his funniest when he spoke about the game show (FYI- winning a spa does not cover the costs to actually install it) and getting into shape (the secret to good health is to listen to your body according to his personal trainer, but he then asked, “How do you think I got this fat in the first place?”)

Charlie Pickering opened by staying he was glad to be away from the PG timeslot of The Project. He did a well-thought out routine about just how moronic people have become and also talked about how dumbed-down the news is. He then capped things off with an impression of a crazy weatherman going to extreme lengths to entertain, because a mobile app can tell you the weather forecast in seconds these days. Judith Lucy was similarly, her usual droll and sarcastic self, talking about beauty products, singledom and old folks.

Dave Gorman used his very English wit to tell some funny anecdotes from his life, including a trick he pulled on his neighbour and something that is the best fun you can have for under five bucks, which involves little more than a biro, postcard and a stamp. He also re-enacted a part from his first major trip overseas to Las Vegas and the shenanigans he and his mates got up to involving a “voice-activated” lift. He managed to be funny as well as self-deprecating and utterly relatable.

American comedian, Jeff Ross’ set was the complete opposite by comparison. He chose more controversial and sensitive topics like having sex with Danielle Spencer (too soon) and thinking about the Holocaust when he was doing it with his girlfriend. He also picked on three unfortunates in the front row; including one he dubbed the “Australian Snooki”.

Some of his set did get laughs, but at other times it was more like a collective cringe or titters of disapproval. I couldn’t help but think that the funniest line he was responsible for was one that Drew Carey had repeated in the introduction. Ross had once described the host as Drew Carey is to comedy what Mariah Carey is to comedy”.

In a different way, Bill Burr was like a grumpy old man with his observations in his act. He said people should have to audition to stay on the planet, but conceded he probably wouldn’t pass the test. One reason was because seeing cruise-ships actually blows his mind. He asked, “How can something so big and metal stay afloat?” and “How is a pool allowed on top of water?”

The Just For Laughs comedy gala was just under two hours of quality jokes from a now worldwide institution. While some may have hit the mark more so than others, the event had certainly offered a lot of variety and plenty of joke bang for the proverbial buck. So let’s hope it continues to get bigger and even better as it grows up from its cheeky twos.


Originally published on 21 October 2012 at the following website:

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After having some of their stage gear stolen, and with other places in Australia receiving special mini-festival performances, you’d be forgiven for thinking Mumford & Sons’ Sydney show wouldn’t rate amongst the best of ’em. But you’d be wrong. The English quartet put on an excellent concert of inclusive and thoughtful indie folk tunes that could be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were the supports and they did arrive a little late. Alex Ebert was hilarious as he apologised for having a Spinal Tap moment (getting lost in the bathroom) but that he did (with added emphasis) wash his hands after all that. The evening saw the ragtag group play as a twelve-piece, with instruments like keys, double bass, violin and guitars. They started off strongly with “Man On Fire” as Ebert asked us all to dance with him. He got up close and personal in the photographers’ pit in a move that was very reminiscent of Nick Cave performing during Grinderman’s set at Homebake last year.

From the danceable pop of the opener, the group proceeded with the very catchy, “I Don’t Wanna Pray”. This tune boasts the repetitive, earworm-like lyrics “I love my God, God made love”. Ebert sang gorgeous harmonies with Jade Castrinos to this alt-country track and just generally meandered about the stage.

The group jingled and jangled their way through some catchy tunes and slower ballads. For “Child” a ‘friend’ aka Marcus Mumford joined in on mandolin. This track was softer and much sadder than the numbers played earlier, but they soon brought the set home with a fun “Let’s Get High” and a climactic “Home”, where the audience joined in and seemed to genuinely lap things up.

Mumford & Sons started their set with a slow-building jam before they launched into “Lover’s Eyes”. Their harmonies soared with the new song, which sounds like the perfect thing to accompany a journey past the spaces by the side of a dusty road.

The guys played in front of a backdrop, which featured their album’s art while the lights suspended on top of the stage sat in circles that looked like candles and cast great shadows at different moments. It was a cool effect (particularly when some fairy lights came on rather dramatically during “Little Lion Man”) as the band exclaimed “There are shitloads of you out there!”

“Roll Away Your Stone” and old single, “Winter Winds” were early favourites from their debut album and naturally produced big, visceral sing-alongs in the crowd. It’s the kind of reaction I’ve also seen a group like Boy & Bear inspire in their audiences, due to the winning combination of heartfelt, indie folk that also has the right amount of shake and shimmy.

Marcus Mumford in particular was an absolute joy to watch. He was constantly swapping instruments with ease and singing note-perfect lead vocals. His delivery also came across as utterly honest and authentic. It was so moving at times, that during the more whimsical moments detailing heartbreak, you had to stop yourself from jumping up on stage and giving the man a giant, comforting hug.

They played newer songs like “Holland Road” and “Below My Feet” and while these were good, one criticism is that a lot of the new material had a tendency to sound like Sign No More. It has been a common thread in the reviews of Babel, but the crowd did seem to find it pleasant enough, even if I could’ve used a little more variety.

The boys did drop a haunting version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. It’s the one people will know for the spine-tingling chorus ‘lie a lie’. It was a searing addition and one that was given the full Mumford & Sons treatment, meaning it sat well with the best of their own material like “Little Lion Man”, “Thistle & Weeds”, “I Will Wait” and “The Cave”. These songs all had the common strength of being able to make people dance to catchy banjo and acoustic guitar riffs and for containing very personal, yet relatable subject matter.

They went on to perform for an hour and a half making people want to cry, hug, sing and dance in equal measure. When they returned for an encore they closed with an excellent version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” where supports Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Willy Mason joined in.

It had all been one huge love-fest where punters felt included and a part of a community devoted to the indie folk cause. So what better way to leave the venue then with some pre-recorded music in the shape of The Beatles’ “Come Together”. How apt.


Mumford & Sons’ set list:

Lovers’ Eyes

Roll Away Your Stone

Winter Winds

Holland Road

I Will Wait

White Blank Page

Below My Feet


Little Lion Man

Lover Of The Light

Thistle & Weeds

Ghosts That We Knew

The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel cover)

Awake My Soul

Whispers In The Dark

Dust Bowl Dance


Where Are You Now

The Cave

The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)


 Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ set list:

Man On Fire

I Don’t Wanna Pray

40 Day Dream


That’s What’s Up


Let’s Get High



Originally published on 21 October 2012 at the following website:

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The Paper Kites’ second EP, Young North seems to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s. It leaves no stone unturned, as it’s a confident collection showing a young, five-piece indie folk group from Melbourne at work continuing to carve out their own sound. It’s one that straddles the lines between sounding full yet intricate and big but also gentle.

For the follow-up to their debut, Woodland, the group enlisted the help of producer, Wayne Connolly, a man who has also been responsible for assisting with immaculate music from the likes of Josh Pyke, Sarah Blasko and Paul Dempsey. But it seems that for principal songwriter, Sam Bentley, his musical ears were tuned to the works of legends like: Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.

The five songs offered here are smooth and crisp and sound like the perfect addition to a soundtrack (no surprise as the group have previously been heard on Grey’s Anatomy). The music is diverse and can go from lush to subtle in a heartbeat and all while conveying some honest and earnest storytelling.

Single, “A Maker Of My Time” sees Bentley sounding like Angus Stone in his delivery while he has the perfect foil in Christina Lacy’s sweet vocals. The track details the importance of people taking charge of their own destiny and the decisions that also play an important role, while “Paint” is a quiet and understated number full of the kind of driving guitars synonymous with Mumford & Sons’ work.

But the jewel in this crown is “Leopold Street” or one that is especially close to Bentley’s heart. It has an intense energy but it is also really tender because a wise, old man describes falling in love with his sweetheart and the decades they shared together before she was taken away from him through death. The lyrics are full of the kind of wisdom that bellies Bentley’s years and this was also one that was inspired by his newly widowed grandfather.

From the detailed black and white cover to the five sincere, indie folk tunes that sound timeless, Young North is an excellent collection that is like a wrapped-up gift. The music soars with happier emotions while also retaining a quiet dignity for moments of melancholy and whimsy. This means the set plays out like the lyrics to The Byrds’” Turn! Turn! Turn!” insofar as it knows precisely when it is a time for peace, moments of joy and then quiet. And to think they’re only on their second release…

Originally published on 22 October 2012 at the following website:

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Imagine sitting down to that first coffee in the morning. It’s a different feeling to when you smell a steak sizzle away on the barbeque or when you are seated amongst family for a traditional, Sunday roast. There’s no denying that certain foods and beverages can evoke different emotions, feelings and memories in people.

When we eat the sensations of both taste and touch are at work in our mouths. But did you know that they also interacting with smells? These scents are detected from both inside your mouth and also the ones that are external to your body. These signals about smell are then sent to your brain where they are conceptualised into spatial patterns, which ultimately influence what we know and perceive as flavour (a construct that experts now agree is about both taste and smell).

The Taste 101 Masterclass is one of many that are happening as part of Crave Sydney. During this interactive session the spotlight will be cast on flavour and the field of neurogastronomy, i.e. the science behind understanding how individuals experience flavour. It’s a relatively new area that can help explain individual food cravings and preferences (including the fact that most people eat and enjoy the food they grew up with) and even look at the control and regulation of our emotions.

The AU Review sat down with food writer and TV producer, Richard Cornish ahead of the class to learn more about this exciting, new field.

1. How did you first get involved in writing about food?

I was a TV producer dabbling in food writing. Then I realised that food – how it is grown, how it is made, how it is prepared and how it is eaten is a thing that effects us on a daily basis, it becomes the very material we are made of so therefore is perhaps the most important subject to write about. Do it well and do it seriously.

2. What was your first introduction to neurogastronomy? What made you decide to explore this field in more depth?

Neurogastronomy is a new field of exploring the mechanics and the neural pathways of how we taste food. It is a subject that we as humans have tried to explain as soon as we became sentient beings but until EMR (electromagnetic radiation) and gene technology came along we couldn’t understand how aroma molecules excite receptors in the human nose.

3. What can people expect from your Taste 101 Masterclass in flavour?

Perhaps for the first time people will understand how their tongue, their mouth and nose combine to create the sensation we know as ‘flavour’. They can also expect to see a lot of olives, jamon (ham), cheese and dashi (Japanese cooking stock) and drink some pretty amazing wines that Max Allen (wine writer and Cornish’s co-lecturer for this class) has sourced.

4. How can neurogastronomy inform cooking processes?

Neurogastronomy (NG) is science behind the understanding of the way we experience flavour. (So it is not a type of food or cooking) The science does, however, inform the creation of foods in modern industrial food processes. Understanding NG helps chefs and cooks create better flavours. In fact some really great traditional recipes innately and tacitly understand NG – the Japanese are masters. Dashi is perhaps the best example. It is a multilayered umami experience!

5. Many foods evoke certain memories in people (e.g. Sunday roasts, treats on holidays or foods eaten at certain events and special occasions). Why is this so?

We store our understanding of flavours in our brains in an area very closely connected to memory and emotion. It is no wonder then that the smell of a Sunday Roast evokes not only the memory of say, Nana who first cooked it for you, but the feeling you have for her and also a lot of associated memories.

6. If you could sum up neurogastronomy in one sentence what would it be?

Neurogastronomy is a new field of exploring the mechanics and the neural pathways of how we taste food.

The Taste 101 – A Masterclass in Flavour will take place on October 23 and 24 as part of Crave Sydney. For more information or tickets please call 1300 264 547 or visit the Crave website at

Originally published on 19 October 2012 at the following website:

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The Words is based on an excellent premise. If you were a fledgling writer (although artist, musician or another job could also be added here) what would you do if you were unsuccessful at your craft? If you had spent years lovingly working away at things and were faced with a constant stream of rejection, what would you do next? Would you take the easy way out and allow personal ambition to cloud your judgment and enable yourself to justify stealing somebody else’s work and passing it off as your own?

This film is a layered drama that follows this very story. Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) spends years writing what he thinks is his magnum opus. Except it isn’t. He is rejected by countless publishers and is upset when he can’t get a break doing the job he loves. But after reaching rock bottom he just happens to discover an old manuscript hidden in his newly acquired briefcase. This one contains an amazing story and he soon finds himself copying it out in full.

The idea for the plot is an excellent one. We follow what happens next to Jansen, as his book is a resounding success and he does eventually go on publish his own manuscript. But deep down he knows that people are only reading his work because of the success of the first book. Eventually he has to confront the original author (Jeremy Irons). The latter is a frustrated old man who feels like he has been robbed of his life, as the lost manuscript was actually an autobiographical one.

The Words is full of different threads as stories are told and recounted and the flashbacks are interwoven to eventually come together rather well. But there is also an over-reliance on voiceover and these eventually hinder the actual storytelling that should be taking place on the screen. As a result it often feels like this meaty and clever tale is being dumbed down and spoon-fed to the audience. It’s a real shame as the proceedings do force you to question and think in much the same way as the morality tale, Doubt did. It also means you could imagine this would make a great book, although the film is wanting.

Another pitfall in The Words is that things often feel contrived or at least clichéd. The Hollywood brush has been applied and this often means that more questions are posed than answers. At worst it means that some of the narratives should have been told in greater detail, while others could have been omitted completely. But the solid acting performances and the winning idea mean the audience will become emotionally invested in the characters, but the result would have been stronger had they all come across as richer and more vivid people.

The dialogue also could have been tightened. There is a lot of discussion and intellectualising about the importance of writing and how the written word is paramount. Yet this idea seems to have been lost on the screenwriters. Too often it feels like the entire story is coming from the pen of just one author, despite there being multiple people involved.

The Words is a fascinating idea and a slow-burning drama that is full of nuances, thoughts and layers. But this exciting premise is plagued by multiple problems in the execution. There is no doubt that you’ll be left wanting less voiceover pieces, more visual storytelling, more art and a greater fleshing out of the characters. They are after all, the lifeblood of the film and such wonderfully complex and human ones.

Originally published on 8 October 2012 at the following website:

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The film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal book, On The Road has been a long time coming. Some 55 years since the semi-autobiographical novel was first published, audiences are now getting the chance to see the silver screen version. It comes courtesy of director, Walter Salles who is best known for bringing another coming-of-age, road story to light with The Motorcycle Diaries (2004).

The original story contained very detailed writing by Kerouac who is brilliant at stringing sentences together. It’s the sort of thing you want to either save for a later moment or etch into the side of a building to preserve for time immemorial. But this does not necessarily make it the best material for a film.

On The Road contains a lot of voiceovers where vivid and poetic quotes are delivered by the lead character, Sal Paradise – also known as Kerouac’s alter ego – and played by Sam Riley. Many keen eyed observers will see similarities between this character and Riley’s previous job of playing Ian Curtis in Control. Both subjects had a way with words and unlimited amounts of thoughtfulness and creativity.

Paradise is a fledging writer in New York who sees his luck change after meeting the larger-than-life character, Dean Moriarty (aka Neal Cassady played by Garrett Hedlund). Moriarty is on an insatiable quest for new experiences and experiments, meaning these are applied to form an intoxicating cocktail of sex, drugs, jazz and alcohol. His natural charisma makes him both a pretty boy leader and a pseudo-intellectual, with hangers on flocking like a moth to a flame.

Moriarty and Paradise embark on a series of road trips across America and at one point even sojourn off to Mexico, during a number of expeditions that took place at different points during the 1940s. Moriarty’s squeeze-of-the-day is Marlyou (Kristen Stewart) who is along for the wild ride while Moriarty’s first wife Camille (Kirsten Dunst) is stuck at home with a baby.

The trio’s journey on the road is a long one at over two hours but it remains faithful to the book. It is this meticulous attention to detail that makes the final product and pacing seem languid, and something that could only please the most ardent of Kerouac fans. It feels like a lost opportunity because the performances are top-notch.

Hedlund is extremely likeable and embodies the free-spirited Moriarty to a tee. Riley meanwhile is the observant writer drinking in almost every moment. The support cast also includes excellent – if short – cameos from Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen and Steve Buscemi.

The film boasts many great visuals of unspoilt parts of the American landscape and stays faithful to the time period thanks to an excellent soundtrack and choice of costumes. It ultimately looks and feels very cool and bohemian; even though the plot falters by being more focused on separate episodes and vignettes rather than presenting something that’s a cohesive whole. On The Road also manages to retain its intelligence but also keep things light, as there are many humorous moments and Kerouac’s silken writing often makes up for the distinct lack of overall action.

On The Road was practically a sacred text for the Beat Generation and would inspire artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and more. The original had such a big impact it would inspire people to trade on impulses by ditching their jobs, partners and possessions and take a similar trip through the wide-open road. In 2012 this is unlikely to happen off the back of this slow-burning film, but this ride still provides a good piece of escapism through its faithful recreations and signposts to the beat era.

Originally published on 2 October 2012 at the following website:

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