LIVE REVIEW: EVAN DANDO & JULIANA HATFIELD @ METRO THEATRE (20.12.2012)

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The Metro hosted two members of alt-rock royalty just before Christmas. This man and woman made beautiful music together and are known to us as Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield. They’re also present friends; one-time enemies; long-time collaborators and are both current members of The Lemonheads. So naturally, the set drew largely from the group’s discography and famous covers; as well as the individuals’ solo material, Hatfield’s former band, Blake Babies and much more.

These two American musicians do have some shared history with Australia. Dando has written Lemonhead songs here, the group had a hit with “Into Your Arms” (originally by The Hummingbirds) and he’s also collaborated with our very own, Ben Lee. It was actually a cover of Lee’s “All My Life” (previously included on Dando’s solo album, Baby I’m Bored) that opened the proceedings.

The night was all about true, no fuss entertainment by two consummate professionals. The pair were nonchalant as they sauntered onto an empty stage save for their guitars and amps. Hatfield stuck to playing the one electric guitar while Dando mostly played acoustic (although he swapped this for an electric towards the end of the set). There was no prima donna behaviour- it was just two firm friends and tight musicians letting their music stand up for itself. It certainly achieved this because although we had mostly heard these tunes way back in the nineties, they still hold weight to this day.

Hatfield was in fine spirits, bringing a soft feminine quality to the show while Dando proved her perfect foil as they swapped vocals and exchanged riffs with aplomb. It was like everything was in its right place because at some times Dando offered volume while Hatfield gave space for quiet. They even sat like polite school kids during some of the later songs, leaving the other to steer things alone (although Hatfield did lie on stage during her down time, it was THAT laid back).

The lovely lady’s solo track, “Butterflies” was full of warm, guitar riffs that were like an eagle soaring during the moments where it wasn’t embracing you in a sentimental hug and sending you off dreaming into the land of Nod. The Lemonheads’ “Down About It” was a more melancholic number. Written in Sydney, it had the kind of lyrics and guitar work that reminded me of one of Dinosaur Jr.’s finest. In fact, just watching the pair with their cool attitude, great voices and conveying the right level of angst with such proficient guitar work, I couldn’t help but think of Mr J. Mascis himself.

The Lemonheads’ “Rudderless” and “Hospital” received a warm reception from the crowd but it was their hit, “It’s A Shame About Ray” that proved a real highlight. The key riff sounded brilliant on an acoustic guitar and it was really heart-warming to see your idols all grown up and in such a good space both musically and mentally.

Hatfield gave us her very own “Candy Wrappers” and Blake Babies’ “Baby Gets High”- the latter was a classic break-up song with an alt-country feel. The two looked so comfortable and made it appear so effortless during Hatfield’s “Tourist”. The darling would admit that it had been a long time between drinks (i.e. visits) but that she’d be back again soon. This pleased the crowd, especially after we were treated to a cover of Graham Parsons’ “$1000 Wedding”. It was great but the best cover of the evening was the climactic version of The Velvet Undergrounds’ “Pale Blue Eyes” in the encore.

Another cover, “I Wish I was Him” proved to be really fun and tongue-in-cheek. This was another Ben Lee cover and a song originally about Lee’s overwhelming desire to be Mr Dando. It received some well-deserved laughs at the lyrics about deciphering Pavement lyrics and cheers when discussing the man’s affection for The Beastie Boys. It clicked well with Hatfield who offered her very own defiant ditty. The number was “My Sister”, written by her own pen about a gal she called “Such a b**ch”, while singing with her best riot grrl impression.

The final songs of the set and encore included the Lemonhead institutions (complete with requisite fan sing-alongs) “Into Your Arms”, “My Drug Buddy” and “The Outdoor Type”. Dando also took some time out to do his best Morrissey impersonation (because The Smiths’ front man was also in town). Dando did a short and very camp, a capella version of “How Soon Is Now?” It wasn’t the only joke of the night but a lot of these had been lost at the back of the Metro. Although their voices had been muffled between tracks, this thankfully didn’t affect the actual songs too much.

Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando’s show had been a pleasant trip down memory lane. They had offered paired-back versions of old favourites sans band and other trinkets. They had used an unfussy approach and came without any overbearing bells and whistles, meaning the spotlight was placed firmly on the songs that had warmed your heart cockles and captured your minds as a youngster. In 2012 it had also left us all feeling a little younger and with great, big smiles on our faces. Good times.

 

Originally published on 23 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/evan-dando-juliana-hatfield-metro-theatre-sydney-20-12-12

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ALBUM REVIEW: THENEWNO2 – THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT

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thenewno2’s debut album sounded more like Beck than the output of Beatle progeny. The comparison to the Fab Four was inevitable as the project is the brainchild of Dhani Harrison (son of George Harrison). And while Dhani looks and sounds like his famous father, the music actually falls on the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Again, Harrison has teamed up with his friend and famed engineer, Paul Hicks (son of The Hollies’ Tony Hicks) and it’s clear the two share their tastes in modern music.

Their sophomore effort, thefearofmissingout is generation Y to a tee. The concept is a contemporary problem used to describe an individual’s restlessness at wanting to do it all (no doubt a product of seeing their friends on Instagram and Facebook at exotic locations and doing all sorts of exciting things). It means you don’t want to miss a thing, whether it’s going to the next party or meeting the next guy or gal and this often manifests itself as an awful lot of indecision.

This scatterbrain feeling has made its way into the album’s hyper musical sounds. The group fuse together lots of different genres including: alt-rock, electro, hip-hop, indie, psychedelia, folk and even reggae. The result is a record that is very similar to Radiohead’s Kid A in that it’s a creative, sprawling and experimental affair. The lyrics are also dark just like those by the famous Oxford quintet. But the biggest pitfall here is that there isn’t a distinct single in the mix. Instead a mysterious, meandering quality dominates, where the soundscape can get as avant-guard as Yoko Ono’s output and the music flits between syncopated drums, dizzying electronic bleeps, buzzing blops and all sorts of strange layers. It’s weird to say the least.

“Station” cements the madness of the album in the first five minutes. There is some skipping rhythms at the start, which would make some people check to see if their CDs weren’t faulty (that is, if they weren’t all listening to MP3s). Then off it goes, segueing into drums that clang with a heavy ferocity and the keys, which are as fuzzy as a woodland animal. The lyrics feature a sampled YouTube video, one that had gone viral where an American lady had asked her pet, “Who’s the best cat in the United States?” But in thenewno2’s hands they made her sound like some crazy alien about to burst into action.

There is some industrial noise on “Wide Awake” but the sharper, dub-like edges have been ironed out by the addition of some xylophones. This is easily one of the album’s strengths- mashing light and dark elements into music and lyrics, so the mood can oscillate between the two extremes and prevent things from becoming too bogged down in a particular style or feeling. Another case in point is the soaring rock of “I Won’t Go On” as the verses here are flavoured by a sound that could be by the Happy Mondays.

Harrison actually sounds rather androgynous on “Hanging On”. In fact, you could probably say he sounds a lot like Brian Molko from Placebo here, but this could also be the result of the music sharing a few things in common with the alt-rock group. It’s a very different voice from “The Number” where he resembles his old man while singing with Fields’ Thorunn Antonia. But then, this one plays like it came via one of George’s guitars anyway, thanks to its melodic pop sound.

Another guest on the record is Harrison’s band mate from Fistful of MercyBen Harper on “Staring out to Sea”. “thewaitaround” meanwhile, includes RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and The Black Knights. The latter song is a hip-hop one and will probably not be favoured by all fans as it seems the most disparate and incongruous to the other tracks.

thefearofmissingout is an earnest set of experimental rock, full of complex arrangements and soundscapes. At best is it creative and arty while at its worst it tries too hard to do too much and borders on being a disorganised mess. thenewno2 have made an anxious, synth-driven record that is serious in offering dizzy collages of noise that are a million miles away from both theirs and your old man’s music. But even though they’ve managed to distil a tonne of influences into a varied record of sights and sounds, their best is probably still yet to come.

 

Originally published on 30 December 2012 at the following website: http://lifemusicmedia.com/?p=25551

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ALBUM REVIEW: BJÖRK – BASTARDS (BIOPHILIA REMIXES)

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Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Björk is an artist that never fails to be eccentric and interesting. Last year’s Biophilia album was a sprawling, mixed media affair where the music was released as an album alongside shows, educational projects and a special app for every single song. In 2012, Bastards draws together remixes of virtually all of these tracks.

Björk has acknowledged that these particular remixes took the listener somewhere else. The cuts were all chosen by the fine lady herself, because she says they contain much sturdier legs to dance on thanks to their rather heavy reliance on synths and beats. These particular songs have all been offered on the Internet as downloads at different times and this release collects them together in a handy but rather unnecessary package.

Like any of Björk’s actual releases there is an awful lot going on here. There’s different textures, melodies, rhythms and sonic colours mixed and mashed together to create all kinds of sights, sounds and smells. The effect is something equally sensual, spooky and space-like. It’s versatility of the highest manner with the only common denominator (apart from the source material) being that unique voice of hers- crying, talking, singing, caterwauling and stalking in the distance.

All of Biophilia is represented here save for “Cosmogony” and tracks like “Crystalline”, “Sacrifice”, “Mutual Core” and “Thunderbolt” are represented twice with remixes by completely different artists and DJs. Some of the remixes are perfect compliments to the Biophilia versions and the album’s all-round idea of exploring the bonds between living systems in music, technology and nature. But there are other tracks (particularly those by Omar Souleyman) that only seem to take the slightest sliver of inspiration from the original and take the music completely off the charts.

Souleyman’s “Crystalline” begins proceedings with a catchy and repetitive Middle Eastern dance number. It’s an absolute pleasure to listen to and really encapsulates the growth of the individual and relationships that Björk had hit at in the first place. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his remix of “Thunderbolt” because this fails to have the same depth and impact as that first, killer track.

“Sacrifice” by Death Grips is a hyperactive cacophony of noise. There are moments where the music rattles and at other times it is light and breathy. There are parts sounding like they’re from some past, oriental Odyssey before things fast-forward to the futuristic world of computers and machines via something as domestic and pedestrian as a cat scratching at a post. There’s one thing you cannot accuse this track of being and that is languishing in some easy, failsafe box.

Another creative and confident song is “Mutual Core” remixed by These New Puritans where some morbid music is coupled with the “Funeral Song” by a Melanesian choir. The latter is chanted and sits well with Björk’s repeated caterwauling of the words found in the title. It’s quite a loud number compared to the beginning of Matthew Herbert’s remix of the same song. That one is all about ambient calm and warmth before it transforms into a darker being while “Solstice” again is something completely different with some pure, dub-step music.

Bastards is Björk’s third remix album and yet another rich offering of ambitious tunes. With jagged beats, pulsating rhythms, plenty of reverb and thunderous percussion, it’s weird and certainly not the most accessible record to be appreciated by one and all. But for Björk’s more hardcore devotees this is another enthusiastic and solid collection of strange beats to add to this chameleon’s already complex, large and varied catalogue.

 

Originally published on 27 December 2012 at the following website: http://lifemusicmedia.com/?p=25516

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ARTS REVIEW: WALLACE & GROMIT’S WORLD OF INVENTION @ POWERHOUSE MUSEUM UNTIL 26 MAY 2013

wallace & gromit
The Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum is a celebration of inventors and a cheese loving one from Wigan and his dog, in particular. The armchair inventors we know from the stop-motion, claymation TV series and films are in town and they’re encouraging us all to think creatively. And thinking outside of the box is not a new thing for us; we are the nation that has introduced lawn mowers, baby capsules, Vegemite and Hills hoists to the world.

The museum’s visitors are treated to a life-size model of Wallace & Gromit’s house at 62 West Wallaby Street. We learn that the idea for the series was initially supposed to be Oscar-winner, Nick Park’s final project for his course at the National Film and Art School in the UK. He would eventually join forces with the Aardman Animation studio to create A Grand Day Out. The short film was released in 1989 and was about an inventor that wanted to fly a rocket to the moon from his own lounge room.

Park had been making home movies and films for years. But his partnership with the studio meant the two claymation characters he created could go on other adventures. They would eventually star in more films (like The Wrong Trouser sand A Close Shave) and the TV series, World Of Invention.

The production team use two main sets and seven duplicates of smaller areas and the film that is shot here is mixed in with other animated pieces. The sets contain working lights and each figure must be bent into shape in order to create movement. Among the pieces in the exhibition are sets which resemble dollhouse miniatures for Wallace & Gromit’s living room, kitchen, bedroom, dining room and garden, complete with tiny props like lamps, chairs, tables, plants, etc.

There are installations like Wallace & Gromit’s half-baked ideas like the glass hammer and chocolate teapot, plus quaint contraptions like the hat barometer telling you which hat to wear if it’s say, “Simply scorching” or “Humungous hailstones”. There’s the read-o-matic (a book on a rolling barrel) and the tellyscope or lounge-controlled TV playing shorts starring the pair. There are also computer games, children’s playgrounds, a karaoke disco shower, designated play areas for you to design your own things and a place for you to create a forest out of modelling clay.

The key message is that great ideas should be encouraged and protected. There are posters from Intellectual Property (IP) Australia detailing things like copyright, patents, trademarks and piracy. There is also information about famous inventions like the biro, toothbrush, zip and paperclip.

The Wallace & Gromit exhibition has previously been shown at the London Science Museum and has now made its way to Australia. It is like a think-tank encouraging visitors to indulge in using their imaginations and encourages them to protect the resulting ideas. For the younger kids and their families, the exhibit will prove a rather magical world of miniatures, interactive displays and play areas dedicated to that humble, art school idea that became a household name. If nothing else, it confirms that from little things, big things really do grow.

Originally published on 16 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/wallace-gromits-world-of-invention-powerhouse-museum-sydney-until-26-may-2013

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LIVE REVIEW: GOTYE, PVT & BERTIE BLACKMAN @ SYDNEY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE (14.12.2012)

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Some artists believe you’re only as good as your last show. Gotye’s concert at the Entertainment Centre was his final one of the world tour in a year that has seen him win more hearts, minds and awards then ever. The music sounded perfect, the visuals were dazzling and he could retire tomorrow knowing that he’d offered something really wonderful and artistic.

The first support was Bertie Blackman who has been enjoying her own fair share of success. Single, “Boy” saw her at the keys and along with a bassist and drummer; they delivered a strong, dance number. On “Stellar” the sound was chiming pop while some big, funky beats filled the Entertainment Centre along with that powerful voice of hers.

Blackman seemed at home in the cavernous venue. Whether she was singing like a diva or an angel, playing guitar like an indie rocker or bouncing away at the keys, she held your attention with her fiery attitude. “Shadow Chasers” seemed to really show off her voice and overall, she had kept things warm and fun.

PVT (previously Pivot) were three lads playing to a hometown crowd (they even remembered growing up and watching concerts and basketball at the venue). Like Blackman, they played music infused with lots of sonic bleeps and blops. They also proved a good choice of support, because they had remixed Gotye’s “Eyes Wide Open”; plus their tunes also featured darker and atmospheric elements like Blackman’s own and were often as sonically detailed as the headliner’s work.

The guys previewed “Evolution” from their forthcoming album. It shared things in common with Midnight Juggernauts and the motorik beat of Can and NEU! The lyrics also shone through and were reminiscent of New Order because they held weight against the robotic beats and pummelled drums.

The new material was grand but it was the closing triptych – and “Window” in particular – that proved the real highlight. The single was defiant as Richard Pike was bending and slapping distortion out of his guitar just like Neil Young had done there a few years ago. The music soared and proved the perfect foil to the Tron-like “Nightfall” and “Homosapien”, which was more humanoid thanks to its walls of gritty sound and metallic elements.

The man of the hour, Gotye AKA Wally De Backer then showed us how he keeps on going from strength to strength. He has blossomed into a confident performer who can pick up any instrument (even a harmonica shaped like a yellow chook) and make it sing. He did however, look happiest when he was at the ol’ drum kit, just banging the s**t outta them and leaving the other layers to be performed by a nine-piece band that included a brass section, percussionists and players of a bevy of traditional and exotic instruments (which he told us about in a way that was fun and educational).

“The Only Way” showed that he was in great voice and opened things with some psychedelic visuals. This added element – particularly in the more animated sequences to follow – gave extra weight and meaning to the songs. It was all so visceral and felt like magical pixie dust was added to something that was already so stellar.

There was the warm fuzz of “Easy Way Out” as the band bopped along to the kind of guitars that would do Keith Richards proud. “Smoke & Mirrors” meanwhile, was all about shedding new skin. The Making Mirrors track really crystallises the highs and lows that accompanied the record’s conception, although tonight was all about celebrating what has been the pay-off after the birth.

Things got really silly for “State Of The Art” where De Backer brought out two organs and Adelaide’s greatest salesman,Barry Morgan. The guest was in crushed, red velvet and the pair hammed it up with talk of the “Touch and release” and “One finger” methods. It was good but Morgan seemed to be there more for laughs and placard-holding then actual playing.

The set also featured the iTunes bonus track, “Dig Your Own Hole” and the apocalyptic, “Eyes Wide Open”. This one was a stirring, modern anthem about fighting against the extinction of animals. It was also used to publicise The Thin Green Line Foundation whose representatives were on-hand, collecting for the charity.

There were two quiet songs including the ditty, “Giving Me a Chance” and the ballad, “Bronte”. It felt out of leftfield forGotye to then drop “Somebody That I Used to Know”. The colourful visuals played and the pop song began perfectly, to the point that it was inducing goose-bumps, even after so many listens. Then Bertie Blackman crept on-stage in a grey mouse costume and sang on her knees for “Kimbra’s” part. She had put red cups shaped like ears on Gotye’s head and turned proceedings into a unique and funny version of the hit, before she sashayed off-stage swinging her tail.

The set was completed by “Save Me” and a sublime, “Hearts a Mess” (complete with people spontaneously chiming in for the chorus). Gotye finished it off by clanging a tiny cymbal before the guys left the stage only to return for a photo of themselves in front of the crowd. They launched into an upbeat encore with “I Feel Better” getting people dancing along to the Motown-infused music. The happiness continued in “Learnalilgivinanlovin” where guest, Morgan and the supports joined forces with the band to bring the house down.

Gotye’s show had been exceptional and covered all the bases. There were soft and fragile ballads, rousing pop anthems, songs you could open up your heart to and even older ones that you could dance along with. It had been all there and with visuals to boot.

It’s been a big year for Gotye and having put on such a quality-filled show it’s easy to see why things have played out like this. Because after all… Mr De Backer– you sir, put on quite a show!

Originally published on 16 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/gotye-pvt-bertie-blackman-entertainment-centre-sydney-14-12-12

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ALBUM REVIEW: PETER GABRIEL – SO (REMASTERED)

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In 1986 Genesis’ founding member, Peter Gabriel released his fifth solo album, So. It proved a popular record, earning him both mainstream and critical appeal, plus numerous awards (including 9 from MTV, a record that he still holds). Now in 2012 the record’s 25th anniversary is being celebrated by being remastered and re-released in deluxe, 3CD and single disc formats.

The set sounds very much of its time because lots of 80s synth and saxophone punctuates the sounds. The music is very expansive and artistic as Gabriel takes on politics as well as the personal. The full spectrum of emotions are covered as well as some ambitious instrumentation, which at times is quirky and experimental while at other moments is more pop and keeping with convention.

“Red Rain” opens things with some clean-sounding, melodic pop. It is easily the key track, because it best captures the vulnerable feelings Gabriel tackles in the ensuing numbers. It was inspired by a recurring dream of his where he was swimming in a sea of red liquid which proved at different moments to be: water, acid rain, wine, a general punishment or blood, and certainly hints at the drama that is to come.

But So’s most definitive moment, however, is the hit single, “Sledgehammer”. This song is famous for its amazing, stop-motion video clip that is overflowing with different ideas and no doubt inspired ever person that has ever seen it. The actual music is also interesting and hooky, as horns and samples are coupled with uncompromising boldness because Gabriel details practically every phallic symbol and piece of innuendo in the book. It’s brilliant and it got past the censors!

It is a little unsettling to go from such a cheeky song to the following, “Don’t Give Up”. That’s because this is a touching duet with Kate Bush. Here, Gabriel is a defeated and isolated man who has fallen on hard times. But beautiful Kate is like a beacon of light, countering his despair with new hope and encouragement. It’s like chicken soup for the soul, so soothing and soft.

Another person who grappled with her fair share of demons was Anne Sexton, a poet who was also the inspiration for “Mercy Street”. This number is really atmospheric as some synth sounds that fit the world music mould shimmer along while vivid lyrics are delivered in a suspended, dream-like state. It’s all rather surreal and more modern-sounding than the other cuts. In fact, you could probably imagine Gotye or Damon Albarn tackling this one with ease.

Rounding out the set is some funky, Prince-like pop in “Big Time”an ambient hush in “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)”; and the climactic, “In Your Eyes” where Youssou N’Dour proudly sings in his Senegalese tongue. The record actually features an impressive list of cameos with The Police’s Stewart Copeland offering some drums while Chic’s Nile Rodgers plays guitar and Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr offers some backing vocals. Another important guest is Laurie Anderson who sings and helped co-write “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)”.

In creating So Peter Gabriel wanted to have some fun by stepping back and returning to more traditional songwriting and was consciously trying to be less sombre and mysterious. His big ideas would pay dividends because So is full of cascading textures and tones and idiosyncratic melodies. The whole affair is like an excellent excursion through jangly pop, ambient noise, African rhythms, dance-inspired blips and cool soul.

Twenty-five years on and it’s easy to see why these exotic tunes that come packaged as accessible and conventional pop were such big hits that still remain close to people’s hearts. In fact, there’s no need for grandiose statements or justifications, it just is so.

Originally published on 9 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/peter-gabriel—so-25th-anniversary-09122012.html

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COMEDY REVIEW: CHARLIE PICKERING @ SYDNEY COMEDY STORE (02.12.2012)

charlie-pickering

Charlie Pickering’s show at the Sydney Comedy Store was the final gig as part of the Spring Sessions. This series has proven a real hit due to the excellent bill (the fine Aussie talent has included the likes of: Hannah Gadsby, Denise Scott, Dave Thornton and Merrick Watts, among others). It was unfortunate that Pickering’s show – while good – was missing some of the punch you’d expect from the all-important, last one.

I had seen Charlie, the host of The Project (previously The 7PM Project) about six weeks ago at the Opera House as part of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. At the aforementioned gala and tonight’s show, he performed a routine which served as an “Introduction to the News 101”. It involved him acting out the part of different types of clichéd TV journalists and delivering the stories that seem to crop up day-after-day. It’s a strong piece but I found it was better paced when he performed at the Opera House, because that time he brought more energy and a quicker pacing to the delivery.

Pickering’s strength is that his shows are cohesive, well-thought out and tend to follow a logical arc. The theme of this evening’s proceedings was about how humans achieved an amazing feat on 20 July 1969 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. But when you compare this event to the signs of the current times, the theory is we’re all getting dumber. Charlie explained: these days we can’t even microwave food properly. We either eat food that is half-cold or like molten lava and the manufacturers know this and that’s why we now have buttons on these machines for fish, meat, etc.

The jokes were mostly funny and the message at the end was positively awe-inspiring and heart-warming. But I couldn’t help shake the notion that the whole “We put a man on the moon but we can’t do XYZ” routine had already been tackled on Seinfeld in a much funnier way, many years ago. Similarly, when Pickering talked about a peanut bag labelled with a warning about it containing traces of nuts being natural selection in action, I remembered Wil Anderson doing a better bit about this at one of his previous shows.

Another down-side of the set was that Pickering spent too much time padding with audience interaction and only some of this was funny. The lowest point in the show however, was when he spent a few minutes giggling about the name of the planet, Uranus. Initially this wasn’t too bad but after a while you did feel like you were back in primary school messing around with one of the naughty kids.

Charlie Pickering was pleased to be out of the G-rated timeslot and back doing the stand-up that would launch his career into TV and radio. It all was rather hit and miss and for me personally, a bit too much of it tended to fall into the latter basket. It actually pains me to be this negative about Pickering because I still remember fondly his brilliant Auto show at the now defunct Newtown RSL from years back. In all, it was a shame because if nothing else it felt like a missed opportunity from someone who is capable of so much more.

Originally published on 7 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/charlie-pickering-sydney-comedy-store-02-12-12

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ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS – TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART II SOUNDTRACK

TWILIGHT

The curtain has fallen on the Twilight series with the film, Breaking Dawn Part II. But as the official soundtrack proves, the party isn’t over just yet. This compilation looks set to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and top charts thanks to its new and exclusive material and choice cuts from talented, independent artists.

Whether you call yourself a fan of this particular vampire saga or not, there’s no denying that the soundtracks have offered some interesting material over the years. In the past, these albums have boasted the likes of Thom Yorke, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie and plenty more.

The final instalment sees a greater focus on lesser-known acts (with the exception of Green Dayand yet, the set still manages to retain a key strength- conveying the complex array of emotions detailed in the movies. This time around the events include but are not limited to: vampire transformations, romance, drama, fun times, fight-to-the-death battles and final swansongs. It is rather intense listening, to say the least.

The record’s lead single is Green Day’s “The Forgotten”. Unfortunately, this one seems to do just as the title prescribes because it is a middle-of-road piano ballad. This one sees some whiny vocals coupled with a sound that plays out too much like a rip-off of Oasis (and we all know who they were trying to emulate). It certainly lacks the punch of their heavier material and for this reviewer who remembers “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” used in all those final Seinfeld promos, this one fails to hold a candle anywhere near that.

Thankfully, the indie artists tend to fair a whole lot better and if we’re honest, they completely upstage the trio. A special mention should go out to St. Vincent with “The Antidote”. This is a brilliant number worth the price of the record alone. It has dirty riffs like a Muse track and also some breathy and sultry female vocals. There is a drumbeat clipping the almighty guitar-work and you can even hear an element of Ladytron in the mix. Wow.

Ellie Goulding and Feist are two other ladies in fine voice here. The former singer’s “Bittersweet” is a ballad with a percussive stretch and an electronic beat. She challenges the listener and her love not to forget her in the aftermath of the next morning, and sounds as powerful as Florence Welch. The latter offers “Fire In The Water” and manages to fill her song with soul, an echo and an almost indescribable, cinematic quality.

This record does put a greater emphasis on electro-pop and dance-infused numbers than the previous instalments (heck, even Passion Pit open the proceedings). But there’s no denying that the songs also convey a sense of it being the end of an era as there is a lot of wistful nostalgia in the form of soft, folk balladry from James Vincent McMorrow and his ilk in the dreamlike, “Ghosts”. There is also another big, romantic ballad courtesy of two of Twilight’s actors, Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed in “All I’ve Ever Needed”.

For the readers that enjoyed Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years Part One” from the previous soundtrack, you’ll be pleased to know that this has been polished up and re-written as the violin-heavy “A Thousand Years Part Two”. Closing the set is also a cut from the film’s score, “Plus Que Ma Propre Vie” by composer, Carter Burwell.

The Breaking Dawn Pt II O.S.T. is another epic addition to the musical saga known as the Twilight phenomena. There are lots of ambient memories and hushed tones that come across as haunting, bittersweet and filled with just the right amount of gothic angst. If you pause, you will feel the heavy heart and dark mood punctuating the sounds of this closing chapter. And we should all embrace the fact that the franchise’s musical director, Alexandra Patsavas has again given us a consistent offering full of quality acts and a sense of fifty shades of emotion.

 

Originally published on 3 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/twilight—breaking-dawn-part-2-soundtrack-03122012.html

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ALBUM REVIEW: BENTO – DIAMOND DAYS

BENTOBento is the new musical incarnation of Silverchair’s drummer, Ben Gillies. It’s an energetic album of 12 tunes that while miles away from those angst-filled days of ‘Tomorrow’, contains some common threads with the trio’s later, more layered work. The music varies from the soaring U2-like title track to some safe, ‘70s pop (‘Words of Love’) and garden-variety synth pop (‘West Side Story’).

Ben Gillies took up the driver’s seat on this one and enlisted the help of some famous friends including Tom Rawle from Papa vs. Pretty, but even this fails to polish up what is in the end only for the most passionate Chair fans. A lot of ground is covered including funk, pop, electro-pop, rock and even psychedelia-tinged ballads but it’s fair to say that this would not be half as interesting had it not come from a member of Silverchair. Ultimately, the tracks fail to sustain your attention for their full duration and this is not helped by some repetitive lyrics that also seem rather tired and clichéd.

Originally published on 4 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/34367/Bento–Diamond-Days

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COMEDY REVIEW: DAVE THORNTON @ SYDNEY COMEDY STORE (01.12.2012)

dave

“I’m not sure if you’re here because you like comedy or air-conditioning”. This was the line that comedian, Dave Thornton, chose to open his stand-up show with (and yes, it was a blisteringly hot, Sydney night). The gig went for an hour and had lots of clever (and thankfully no puerile) jokes that were consistently witty and self-deprecating. And if that wasn’t enough, he also riffed off the audience and provided fantastic, observational material and more.

For those readers who don’t know Thornton, he can occasionally be found contributing pieces to The Project (or The 7PM Project). He also hosts an online radio show on Mama Mia and has appeared on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival galas. His choice of jokes and excellent, droll delivery meant at different points he had things in common with the likes of Dylan Moran and Wil Anderson plus the cheekiness of Danny Bhoy and the Aussie ingenuity of Carl Barron. He is a natural at combining the best aspects of the aforementioned stars, while also retaining his own sense of originality.

He would exchange some funny banter with the crowd. There was Steve- a man wearing “3D” glasses and Dean, one half of a young couple who may or may not have been on their first date together. But Thornton’s clear favourite was the man he dubbed his “Hero” in the coveted front-row, centre spot. The discussions with the three guys wasn’t malicious, instead it felt like Thornton was joking with them down the pub. Plus, it seems that the biggest butt of the jokes for the evening was Dave himself. He described himself as an “Omega guy at best” and admitted he has difficulty with more traditional manly pursuits plus spelling and beefing up at the gym.

One of his best jokes was actually about being at the gym (though the way he described it the words “boot camp” would’ve been more appropriate). He had a “beef-cake” yelling advise at him who could’ve doubled as a drill sergeant. (I won’t ruin the punch line but let’s just say it was out of leftfield). He also made some funny observations about spelling and the English language.

Another great anecdote was about how he has never gotten into a fight. An opportunity did once present itself (with a big bloke, which he described as the son of a half-pigeon on account of the wanker’s showiness). But Dave took it all in his stride (it helped that Thornton had a friend on hand that was a kickboxer in his native, Manila). But Dave describes the situation best, as follows: “How 21st century am I? (Pause) I want to avoid confrontation and then I outsource my work to the Philippines?”

Dave Thornton’s show at the Sydney Comedy Store was a short, sharp and punchy set. He was jovial, smart without being an arse and very funny. In short, it was a great set that left us all wanting more of his witty repartee.

Originally published on 2 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/arts-review-dave-thornton-sydney-comedy-store-01-12-2012

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