BOOK REVIEW: DANIELLE NEVES – CRAZY BITCH: A PORTRAIT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

NEVES

Danielle Neves’ debut novel is informed by her work as a domestic violence court advocate. Crazy Bitch: A Portrait of Domestic Violence attempts to demystify the pathological dance of denial a victim and aggressor will complete. It’s a fictional story that’s been informed by real-life events, namely the themes and excuses that can be a sad constant in this deplorable issue.

The tale is mainly told in two interleaved parts. The first is through a series of letters from the injured party, Veronica to her abuser, Pete. The other part is from Pete to his brother, Steve. Pete has been incarcerated and his notes serve as a kind of “right-of-reply” to his ex-girlfriend’s dialogue.

It’s obvious from Veronica’s letters that she’s an educated woman (an ex-Catholic school girl turned law student) who had fallen on hard times. Her letters read like a therapeutic journal and are full of sadness and sometimes regret as she looks back at the past. These are emotional and mostly believable but sometimes the language is a little over-the-top (for instance: who uses the word “interminable” in a letter to an ex?)

Pete’s letters are different but seem more authentic. He proves to be aggressive, ill-informed and laden with excuses like she’d pushed his buttons or was a “crazy bitch”, “damaged goods”, “manipulative”, “a junkie”, etc. Pete proves a hypocrite because for all of his admonishments towards Veronica over her drug-filled past, he happily glosses over his own problems with drugs and alcohol.

The book is a horror story that does occasionally suffer from the kind of voyeurism you typically experience when reading misery literature. It’s a very fine dance between educating and going into graphic detail about terrible events. The author doesn’t dwell too heavily on this, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t suffer from a different series of drawbacks.

The story is told by the two main characters meaning we often fail to get a complete sense of their back-story, especially with Pete. Although Veronica’s junkie past is described, the book would be stronger had Pete’s history been discussed in greater detail. This would’ve given a fuller and more vivid picture and insight into his current psyche because at times he feels hollow, like a prototypical bad guy or caricature.

One of the novel’s strengths is that suspense and tension are created so that the reader must continue on to discover why Pete was gaoled. There is also a good twist at the end and the use of fictionalised newspaper articles adds an extra perspective to the domestic violence theme. Crazy Bitch also does a reasonable job in answering the question that crosses many people’s minds i.e. “Why doesn’t the victim just leave?” The answer here – like in many real-life examples – is that the abuse is slow and systematic. The victim’s rights are gradually eroded and the abuser occasionally offering tiny glimpses of empathy and kindness.

Crazy Bitch: A Portrait Of Domestic Violence? is a short but often quite difficult and confronting read. It deals with a sensitive and complex topic with a deft hand. It is one of few books to get both sides of the abuse story (i.e. from the victim and the perpetrator). Plus, the overarching message is a good one and that is that everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes and that abuse of any kind should not be tolerated.

Originally published on 28 January 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/book-review-danielle-neves-crazy-bitch-a-portrait-of-domestic-violence

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

LIVE REVIEW: RICHARD HAWLEY @ PARADISO – SYDNEY TOWN HALL (27.01.2013)

richardhawley

The name Richard Hawley may not mean much to the casual music fan, but you’d be surprised just how familiar you are with his work. The one-time member of Pulp and Longpins has achieved feats like having his song, “Tonight the Streets Are Ours” become the theme to Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop. He’s won Mojo’s Record of the Year, had two Mercury Music Prize nominations and played with everyone from Lisa Marie Presley to Elbow, R.E.M. to All-Saints and more.

Hawley has visited Australia before but his show at the temporary Paradiso venue at Town Hall for Sydney Festival was his solo debut. The light display was magnificent and could have been supporting a stadium rock band. But the thing with Messer Hawley is that often he seems to be from another place and time. His stage-look shares things in common with Elvis Costello and it’s his axe that reigns like a king.

The title track from his Mercury Music Prize nominated, Staring at the Sky’s Edge kicked off proceedings. This played out like a Nick Cave murder ballad. It was the tale of a desperate man while guitars rumbled and the atmosphere in the room was ambient, echo-filled and deliciously dark.

“Don’t Stare at the Sun” was a lighter ballad where his crooning was similar to the delivery he employed in his older material. The key difference with the current record is that the orchestral sounds have been replaced by layers of guitars. It means the sound is lush, but at his most distorted Hawley can sound like Neil Young, at his softest like Eric Clapton and at other moments like an old blues legend that’s seen it all. Let’s just say Richard Hawley wears his influences on his leathered sleeve and sounds like he’s spent years listening to vinyl and borrowing the best bits, just like a magpie.

Another important part of Hawley’s show is his stage quips, including a great anecdote about getting drunk and sunburnt at Bondi. There was talk about his beloved Sheffield. His hometown and football team have often been muses for his work. Hawley is an articulate man in both his lyrics and material, but his stage banter at times made me think of his former band mate. Like Jarvis Cocker, here was another raconteur with no shortage of words and who is also deserving of a place on a soapbox near you.

The set list choices were dominated by the current album and lots of these numbers tended to fit into the retro-tinged, fifties rock ‘n’ roll genre and mid-tempo ballads. You could imagine slow-dancing around a jukebox and other pleasant moments from another era. It meant proceedings were as nice and sweet as a strawberry milkshake, particularly when the mood was upbeat and the guitar riffs especially airy.

The twinkle-eyed love songs continued with “Solider On” or the quietest one Hawley has ever written. At the start he wondered if Australians could “Do subtle”. The bar-staff did clink around and there were a couple of wags making noise but the angel-fine hair of the song was just gorgeous. Guitarist, Shez Sheridan played lap steel that was so delicate you were scared it would break. And the mood itself was exceptionally dark, as you imagined Hawley staring at the bottom of a whiskey bottle before the group were roused for a stirring crescendo and then a return to the slow burn.

Some swirling psychedelic guitars peppered “Leave Your Body Behind You” while “Before” was some U2-esque rock combined with nostalgic elements. “Open Your Door” was a grandiose epic and “Remorse Code” had more to offer than just a clever title. This was a big drone of guitars while “Time Will Bring You Winter” cranked up the distortion and reverb.

My own highlight was “Down in the Woods”. Here, Hawley reminded me of Jim Morrison thanks to his vocals. He also segued off in the middle to rap about children’s classics like the “Teddy Bears Picnic” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. The pulsing guitar work was fantastic and Colin Elliot and Dean Beresford locked into an awesome groove on bass and drums.

The encore featured “Lady Solitude”, the musical equivalent of leaving your past behind you as you sail off into the sunset. It was some of these ingredients – namely light and water – that were also an important part of “The Ocean”. Here, we could’ve been joining Hawley in that Bondi Beach sun or indeed, Jack Johnson in Hawaii. But Hawley was silly as he decided to add to the confusion by declaring: “My name’s Susan and I’m a cross-dresser from Adelaide”.

Richard Hawley’s show had been a full one. You could be laughing at his ridiculous quips one minute, falling in love with real-life characters at others but mostly getting lost in wonder at the swirling maze of guitars. The result was a great wall of melodic, smooth and resonant sound. This was eloquent, psychedelic rock at its most feeling.

—————-

Richard Hawley’s Sydney Festival set list:

1. Staring At the Sky’s Edge
2. Don’t Stare At The Sun
3. Hotel Room
4. Tonight The Streets Are Ours
5. Seek It
6. Soldier On
7. Leave Your Body Behind You
8. Before
9. Open Your Door
10. Remorse Code
11. Time Will Bring You Winter
12. Down In The Woods
—————-
13. Lady Solitude
14. The Ocean

 

Originally published on 28 January 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/sydney-festival-live-review-richard-hawley-paradiso-at-town-hall-27-01-13

 

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

LIVE REVIEW: THE WATERBOYS’ AN APPOINTMENT WITH MR YEATS @ STATE THEATRE (23.01.2013)

WATERBOYS2

You could say that The Waterboys were late for their appointment with Australia. They formed in 1983, underwent various transformations and line-up changes, a hiatus in the nineties and a reformation in the naughties. Almost thirty years later and the band’s debut show in Sydney was a special one for Sydney Festival titled, An Appointment with Mr Yeats.

The concept is based on the band’s album of the same name. It sees the group putting a range of Irish poet, WB Yeats’ words to music. It’s not the first time that something like this has been done before, but it definitely feels authentic. It is also obvious that this was a true labour of love.

Front man, Mike Scott had the original idea back in the mid-eighties when he initially recorded “The Stolen Child” for their album, Fisherman’s Blues. And like this number, the current batch of songs have been subtly massaged and edited like a lover’s caress to fit in with the band’s sound. This makes the material feel more like their own rather than a mere rehash of old goods.

The State Theatre was transformed into a rich and dramatic vessel as the audience were initially greeted with the sounds of crashing waves and instrumental versions of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and The Stones’ “She’s A Rainbow”. Those rag-tag Waterboys (plus local lady, Sarah Calderwood (backing vocals/flute)) totalled six tonight. The band was also made up of James Hallawell (keys), Marc “Archie” Arciero (bass), Steve Wickham (electric fiddle) and Ralph Salmins (drums).

The first song, “The Hosting of the Shee” set the scene with some Chieftains-sounding folk rock as green and blue lights illuminated the stage. At different points in the evening, various musicians stayed or left the stage, depending on whether their services were required. This lent proceedings a rather ramshackle feel at times. But then, Messer Scott had said that the shows were supposed to be a “Radical statement”. This was because they were completely changing the context of Yeats’ poems and allowing already mythical kaleidoscopes of text to flourish and take on a life of their own.

“News from the Delphic Oracle” felt like words from leather-bound books meeting the kind of upbeat violins you’d associate with the lower decks of the Titanic. The sounds felt like they were full of dark shadows but the overall feeling was positive. This cerebral folk/rock ‘n’ roll was embraced and met with a proper and almost English-like reception as the older crowd sat back and were quiet, save for clapping at all of the appropriate moments.

The narratives were lush and the sounds were layered in order to hold their own against the intense imagery of the poetry. The music was predominantly folk, Celtic, and rock with a dash of psychedelic elements. The proceedings had a real diverse flavour and kept you entertained but I personally would’ve enjoyed some visuals to push this complex art to the next level.

There was a ballad for the diehard romantic, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”. It was light and airy and Scott had a pleasant croon with a hint of smokiness. Scott hadn’t said much between the numbers to begin with but he eventually warmed up and had charisma in spades. He asked us about Australian nursery rhymes and questioned if they even existed before introducing the nostalgic, “A Full Moon In March”. This track could have been a classic number from the sixties thanks to the excellent Hammond organ tones.

From another period to another place and “White Birds” could have been a love note from Bondi Beach. The lyrics described blowing kisses to valentines while Wickham’s electric fiddle cawed like a bird. At first this made people giggle and think about seagulls. But then the mood turned to the blues and the more sombre, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” while “Mad as the Mist & Snow” had as much passion and poetry as a Doors number.

It was a sorry state of history repeating in “September 1913”. This was written by Yeats 100 years ago about corruption and abuse of power and it still manages to resonate to this day. It was obviously close to Scott’s heart even though he joked, “Do you have much politics in Australia?”

Another important track was “Politics”, Yeats’ misty-eyed epitaph. It was a romantic poem about an old man who spies a beauty across the room. He goes on with sentiment and humour to wish with that he could be young again just to woo her. It’s touching stuff.

The Yeats’ material had been a powerful homage to a great man. It had overcome time and latitude and resonated with its Australian audience. It was a respectful transformation, even if some of the numbers were given treatments like delta blues sounds or trippy psychedelic blips that belong in outer space. These sounds may seem incongruous with Yeats’ original vision and yet somehow it all worked. The music wafted over you with just the right amount of feeling and melodrama and it made it easy to see why this group have notched up fans as diverse as: Bono, Eddie Vedder, The Decemberists and Richard Curtis, among others.

The Waterboys had put on a great main act but they really came into their own during the two encores. Their criminally underrated early material lifted the energy in the room faster than you could say “The Whole of the Moon” and listen to its groove and sampled brass. It soared and lived up to its label of “Big music” while “Fisherman’s Blues” made you want to chuck in your day job and live on a river. These were the group’s strongest moments because they were at their most literate, philosophical and spiritual. Ultimately, the evening had been a special debut and delightfully sonic in its thought-provoking moments of Celtic thunder.

 

Originally published on 25 January 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-waterboys-an-appointment-with-mr-yeats-state-theatre-23-01-13

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

ALBUM REVIEW: BEN HARPER – BY MY SIDE

benharper

By My Side is an emotional, earthy and gentle collection that plays out like a warm ode to love. The Californian songwriter and honorary Aussie has notched up 20 years in the business and while his ten studio albums have seen him tackle the folk, blues, soul, rock and reggae genres, this retrospective record focuses exclusively on his romantic ballads.

 

The collection is a consistent one in terms of quality and its serene, mid-tempo mood. Ben Harper’s best known pop ballad, ‘Diamonds on the Inside’ is featured alongside the tender and orchestral love letter, ‘Beloved One’ and ‘Gold to Me’ is some funky Americana. Among the expected hits offered here is the new track, ‘Crazy Amazing’, written for his daughter while ‘Not Fire Not Ice’ features just Harper and his acoustic guitar on previously unreleased alternative, studio cut.

 

Originally published on 25 October 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/34700/Ben-Harper–By-My-Side

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

 

EP REVIEW: PLACEBO – B3 EP

88f1b_1258506

Placebo’s B3 EP fails to instil much confidence for the band’s future. They are at risk of becoming a bitter pill to swallow after their previous, turgid album Battle for the Sun and the three year wait for this follow up EP. Plus Brian Molko’s whole angst-ridden schtick is becoming very tired now that he’s nearing 40. The mood is again dark, angry and haunting and while things appear to be improving, they are still not a patch on those young and hungry days from before.

However the new sounds do have some moments of redemption. The title track and single roars like a synth and fuzz-filled, Muse number and threatens to see the trio peak early. Lyrically, ‘The Extra’ is as good as it gets for Placebo with Molko conveying genuine feelings of discomfort and disorientation while playing the support role in his life story. It’s frustrating that the music is simply the odd flourish here and there, because it lacks snarl and the quiet means it feels half-finished. The Minxus cover, ‘I Know You Want to Stop’ is completely unnecessary and plays it too safe while closer, ‘Time Is Money’ is a slow epic that overstays its welcome, long before the seven minute mark.

Originally published on 9 July 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/34699/Placebo–B3-EP

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

ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS – NUGGETS: ORIGINAL ARTYFACTS FROM THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC ERA 1965-1968

nuggets

Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 is an absolute classic. It’s a classic in the sense that it has an almost mythological quality to it, having convinced more people to pick up instruments to form a band or to “Tune in and drop out” than any other compilation in history. A testament to its quality is its sheer staying power. The fact is 40 years after it was originally released, people still talk about it with misty eyes and Rolling Stone magazine even listed it in their top 500 albums of all time.

Originally released in 1972, music historian, critic and record collector, Lenny Kaye (who would go on to become a guitarist for the Patti Smith Group) was given the job of project curator. The brief was to gather up all those snappy rock ‘n’ roll singles that were the favourite of AM radio. They were by American bands that were rallying against the British Invasion, trying to emulate The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and closer to home taking influences from The Ventures and Beach Boys. The music was youthful and exuberant and hardly ever surpassed the three minute mark, leaving people wanting more.

Over time the instructions to Kaye would change slightly. The sounds would incorporate more garage rock, ballads, rhythm and blues, pop and psychedelia. The songs were lo-fi, guitar-driven and often soaked in reverb. This was the place where wild and woolly organs and distorted guitars reigned supreme and the feel could be rowdy or tripping. All of these were meticulously chosen, at times the artists were famous or had achieved some degree of fame in and around their hometowns (like The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and The Vagrants) while other cuts were one-hit wonders or tracks confined to relative obscurity on a beat-up old jukebox in a typical, local diner.

The songs range from pop ditties like The Electric Prunes’ ‘I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)’ to manufactured, Archies-like groups The Strangeloves with ‘Night Time’. There are cuts that are Dylanesque (Mouse’s ‘A Public Execution’) and plenty more that are Beatlesque (a stand-out is The Knickerbockers’ ‘Lies’). Others still are pure flower power where choruses of kids sing together with beads around their necks and flowers braided into their hair (The Seeds’ ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ and Sagittarius’ ‘My World Fell Down’).

The casual music fan would be hard-pressed to recognise more than a quarter of the tracks here but their influence can be heard in virtually any punk song from the seventies and even music all the way through to Nirvana and The White Stripes. But there are some covers that people should know. Although ‘Hey Joe’ was made famous by Jimi Hendrix, a hyper version is offered here by The Leaves. The Cryan Shames cover The Searchers hit ‘Sugar & Spice’ while The Amboy Dukes (featuring a young Ted Nugent) cover the blues standard made famous by Van Morrison’s Them with an especially feisty ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’. Other groups like Nazz include a young Todd Rundgren while Jim Pons from garage rockers, The Leaves was also a member of The Mothers Of Invention and The Turtles.

Nuggets is a classic compilation that is full of fun and nostalgia and will make people feel like giddy schoolchildren. An odds and sods set of obscure tracks, cover versions and one hit wonders, it takes in a range of different musical styles that all possess an undeniable energy and artists that know their way around a groovy melody and guitars with plenty of feedback. The set still manages to achieve what it did in its heyday- i.e. create toe-tapping good times where lyrics can be shouted and youngsters can dance the night away so happy together.

Originally published on 21 January 2012 at the following website: http://sludgefactory.com.au/nuggets-original-artyfacts-first-psychedelic-era-1965-1968-cd-review

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

LIVE REVIEW: BIG DAY OUT FESTIVAL @ SYDNEY SHOWGROUND (18.01.2013)

bdo

If someone offered you the opportunity to stand around in 45-degree heat for 12 hours, chances are you’d think they were describing hell, not entertainment. Yet, on Friday some 45,000+ people braved these conditions at Sydney’s Big Day Out (BDO). Despite the minor challenges posed by the hottest day on record, the festival was actually one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve ever attended.

The festival is a well-run operation and this year saw the debut of a delicious new food menu in Chow Town. I never thought I’d see Brazilian BBQ, Yum Cha and hazelnut gelato alongside hot chips and Dagwood dogs, but there you go. There were also plenty of shopping stalls selling typical festival fare and even pamper packages like facials and massages. Bliss!

But what about the actual music? Well, the day kicked off with local lads Fishing (who are also two-thirds of We Say Bamboulee). The pair looks like they’ve spent their fair share of time in front of a computer. They mixed and mashed electronic bleeps and blops while mist was pumped in from the side of the stage and threatened to electrocute them. The beats were as elaborate and appeared as difficult to produce as a chef wanting a soufflé to rise under extreme conditions. The younger crowd enjoyed songs like ‘Cliffs’, ‘OOOO’ and ‘Girlish Meadow’ while ‘White Sheet Beach’ had the same skittish nature as music by Django Django.

The Medics had their own secluded and cool oasis at Van’s Essential stage, complete with a concrete floor and large marquee. They played the rocky ‘Slow Burn’ that was as energetic as their album version. Kahl Wallace’s androgynous vocals ruled, as the group made a crisp sound that soared like Coldplay during ‘Beggars’. The guys were enjoying their moment at their very first BDO.  It was like a dream come true for those mates and family members who had just been mucking about in Cairns when they’d first started.

Sydneysiders, Deep Sea Arcade are our own local answer to OASIS as their psychedelic pop references both the sixties and the present day. They were even dressed in quite authentic clothing with guitarists Simon Relf and James Manson and frontman, Nic McKenzie looking like they could’ve stepped off the stage at Woodstock (think paisley shirts, American flag jeans and rose-tinted, Lennon spectacles).

They played tracks mostly from their debut LP, Outlands including ‘Girls’, ‘Keep On Walking’, ‘Granite City’ and ‘If The Devil Won’t Take You’. The warm, neo psychedelia won the crowd over and not that the punters needed extra cajoling, but McKenzie also lobbed us full bottles of water. The sweetheart posed like Michael Hutchence and along with his ‘Mad Dog’ mates they played like hell in the midday sun. The fans clapped along to the fabulous, ‘Lonely In Your Arms’ and slinked along to the sexy new song, ‘Black Cat’ in what proved to be some early highlights.

A friend had watched The Griswolds performing ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Heart Of A Lion’ and we reconvened for Hunting Grounds. The Triple J Unearthed High Winners formerly known as Howl played a strong set that showed off the best elements of both incarnations of the band. Hunting Grounds ‘Anyone But Us’ was some ferocious punk that featured the guttural war-cry of “Kill, kill, kill!” while newer songs like ‘Flaws’ and ‘Star Shards’ had a more expansive feel thanks to layered guitar riffs and some emotive subject matter. They dropped a trashy, snot-filled version of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’ and a circle pit formed during ‘Kill My Friends’. Punters paraded and jostled around as the energy peaked while ‘In Colour’ and that amazing guitar riff was – like much of their set – just ace!

On the Blue stage a 6-foot-2 rock chick as screaming. The band was Against Me! and Laura Jane Grace was making her debut. Many people would still remember her as frontman, Thomas Gabel. In songs like ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’, Grace proved she can still rock with the boys and she seemed more comfortable in her own skin and new black stilettos than ever. She is one defiant and gutsy lady!

It started raining during Grinspoon so I started to think of the BDO as a spa of sorts. As much as I’d love to give the guys credit for bringing the rains and pulling a large and enthusiastic crowd, I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve outgrown their music. They started strong with ‘Hard Act To Follow’ but newer songs like ‘Passerby’ and ‘Run’ fizzled. At least ‘Ready 1’ picked things up as the guys threw all their energy into ‘No Reason’, ‘Bleed You Dry’ and ‘1000 Miles’, but it was nothing I haven’t already seen before.

Their song choice had been difficult to fault but at this point I would’ve traded it all for a cold shower and a bucket of ice-cream. That same feeling could also be applied to my reaction to the melodic, retro-styled Americana of Band Of Horses. While ‘Is There A Ghost’ and ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ seemed pleasant enough, I felt like I’d happily leave it and stick with my seventies vinyl.

A good festival act is Vampire Weekend, who entertained us with their bouncy, indie rock. ‘Cousins’ was a joy while ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ was like ‘Kumbaya’ notched up to 11. Ezra Koenig may have broken a string in ‘M-79’ but he steered the good ship home during set highlights ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Holiday’. ‘Giving Up The Gun’ got the punters doing some spontaneous, syncopated dance moves and new song ‘Unbelievers’ fit in well with the older material from ‘Contra’ and their eponymous debut. ‘Oxford Comma’ was a love song that was all fifties sweethearts, milkshakes and rocking around the clock.

Many acts had put on a good show but some punters had decided to take the entertainment into their own hands. Some skated on tiles they’d pulled off the ground. Other shirtless wags were doing some WWE wrestling (or at least body slamming) while further back in the stadium another group had decided to build a huge tower out of tiles. As you do.

If there’s one thing about festival madness it’s that even with entertainment like live music, rides and this year’s extra-special, masked Mexican wrestling it’s that your fellow punters can also be a source of enjoyment and spectator sport. Some publications have devoted space to the “S**t people wear at festivals” and in the interests of good and bad fashion my own highlights included: seeing a guy swelter in a fleece giraffe costume; a couple in leopard print that looked like a caveman and woman; and one man who was wearing nothing but striped black-and-white underpants and a yellow cap. One guy forgot his hat and improvised with a large cardboard box and I lost count of the number of handmade Chilli Peppers shirts, Aussie flags, sombreros, foam hands, feather headdresses and sunburn.

One group had also brought a large prop i.e. a fake knob and unleashed it into the crowd. It was almost the size of an actual person and brought immense joy to the people who posed and played with it. But it did give rise to an interesting packing scenario beforehand. One would imagine the conversation being: “Sunscreen?” “Check” “Money?” “Check” “Phone?” “Check” “Massive cock?” “Oh yeah, check!”

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs certainly didn’t need the fashion or fun police. Karen O looked like a gold canary in her yellow outfit and bleached blonde hair as she led us through old favourites, ‘Phenomena’, ‘Pin’ and ‘Gold Lion’. The disco pop of ‘Heads Will Roll’ got people dancing while the grungier ‘Soft Shock’ was a necessary bridge between albums and styles. ‘Skeleton’ was the gorgeous, softer tune that ‘Maps’ should’ve been but wasn’t and the set came to a rousing end with the fuzzy ‘Zero’, complete with O following her own instructions by getting some leather on.

As Crystal Castles whipped the Boiler Room into a frenzy with ‘Baptism’ and ‘Alice Practice’, The Killers were on the main stage achieving the same thing with special animations and classics like ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘Spaceman’. The visuals captivated and boosted the synth-pop to the next level as we all soldiered on through the rain. ‘Somebody Told Me’ had the punters air-drumming before they were confused by Brandon Flowers and Co. launching into an impromptu sing-along with the start of CROWDED HOUSE’S ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’. Some fireworks during ‘When You Were Young’ also brought things home with a bang, quite literally.

Animal Collective would officially close the night on the green stage with a set that included large, inflatable teeth.  It meant that the day finished off in much the same way as it had started. I was once again watching a group of guys crafting beats like wizards- ones that whirred and hurled like comets through space with numbers like ‘Rosie Oh’, ‘Today’s Supernatural’ and ‘Wide Eyed’.

But the night – and day – really only belonged to one group and that was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. This stadium arcadium was bursting as videos from the Sea Shepherd conservation group played and the anticipation mounted. Anthony Kiedis strutted on stage wearing a long, black jacket and OFF! cap while Flea held a pose with purple hair and bass slung low like he was off doing yoga before the games began. He eventually came to life at the start of the new song, ‘Monarchy Of Roses’.

Kiedis and Flea plus drummer Chad Smith may have reached 50 and beyond but they have enough energy to mop up the floor with youngsters half their age. At times it felt like they hadn’t changed one bit from those skate punks that used to jump off buildings in California when they were growing up. The biggest difference is that the group are experienced and tight. The rhythm section slots together like two Lego pieces and while guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer is not John Frusciante, the kid proved that he really can play. He wielded his axe with just the right amount of spirit and respect to his predecessors who had crafted those amazing riffs.

The video screens reproduced the band’s performance but these had artistic filters put over them. Sometimes there were all blue and purple hues while at other times they looked like they could’ve been designed by The White Stripes for all the red, white and black and at other moments they were like x-rayed rainbows. It made it difficult to know where to watch. The screens were cool but the energy on stage was so high and then there was that crazy bass solo in ‘Around the World’ where Flea’s playing was almost demonic.

Flea was absolutely hilarious, by the way. He paid tribute to everyone from security guards to people collecting rubbish and delivered a soliloquy as banter and that’s when he wasn’t pulling out all the stops like walking on his hands, prancing around and pulling out every rubber man-move from the book. ‘Scar Tissue’ was an early favourite that had us all cruising together like we were in that beat-up car from the video clip and ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ was easy for the less devoted fans to sing along to. The clapping and crowd surfers also came thick and fast for ‘Factory of Faith’.

They played hits like ‘Can’t Stop’ and ‘Californication’ (a lot of this captured by a small army of camera phones) plus covers of David Bowie’s ‘What in The World’ and a jam of Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Ocean’. ‘By The Way’ was an absolute freak-out where Kiedis’ vocals were distorted like robotic, white noise and the angry guitar riffs sang before we all partied in ‘Higher Ground’.

Their set came to a rousing climax in the encore with ‘Give It Away’. Some black and white photos of punters were splashed alongside video of the band pulling faces. It was an awesome ending but my highlight of the day and overarching memory of their performance was ‘Under the Bridge’. With a crescent moon and a few stars in the sky a stadium full of people all sang along to this powerful number. And in that moment we all learnt what music was about and why you’d go to hell and back just for a piece of higher ground.

Overheard at Big Day Out –

•Punter 1: “Man, my drink smells like B.O.!”

•Punter 2: “Have Vampire Weekend played that song that goes (hums tune to “A-Punk”) yet?” (The band had started playing the song mid-sentence)

Michael Belsar, Hunting Grounds: “I’ve been trying to get our drummer to get into his underwear. He’s in his short-shorts (as drummer flashes his Bonds). Who wants to see some f**king balls?

Nic McKenzie, Deep Sea Arcade: “I’m starting to kill everybody with water bottles!”

•And last but not least – Flea, Red Hot Chilli Peppers: “Sunshine makes me hot. I’m like a f**king lizard!”

Originally published on 20 January 2012 at the following websites: http://www.sludgefactory.com.au/big-day-out-sydney-festival-review

http://www.beatsfactory.com.au/big-day-out-sydney-festival-review

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

Visit Beats Factory’s homepage at: http://www.beatsfactory.com.au/

EP REVIEW: TIGERTOWN – BEFORE THE MORNING

1354081334before-the-morning

Bigger IS better, as Tigertown’s sophomore EP, Before The Morning, proves. The Sydney quintet produce rich and energetic music that falls into the folk, pop and indie genres. It’s a sprawling sound, or one you’d associate with cuts from a film soundtrack, because at some moments it is full of hope, while at other times it is about coming together to face adversity head-on.

The group are made up of one married couple (Chris and Charlie Collins) and they each enlisted the help of some siblings. They have cited their influences as including Ryan Adams, Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac; the latter group is particularly important to them because often when they are faced with a creative dilemma they ask themselves: “What would Fleetwood Mac do?”

Opening track, ‘Morning Has Finally Come’ is a positive and shimmering jewel; there are soaring, vocal harmonies that sweep as far as the ones Boy & Bear usually reach. The drums, meanwhile, drive a melodious song that is full of the kind of jangly guitars you’d associate with a Jinja Safari number, and is all about bottled up anticipation (and light, it seems).

‘Lions & Witches’ is another strong track, this time set in a fantasy world where C.S. Lewis is the main source of inspiration. The harmonies are rather delicate as the piano paints a dramatic picture. It’s also full of robust horns and what you’d get if you placed the Skins theme song in another world, most likely outer space.

The feelings of escapism continue into ‘All We Stand On’; this time it’s about two people stranded in an Arabian desert. These trials are a metaphor for the general feeling of being lost. At times the vocal delivery makes the music sound almost hymn-like, and is reminiscent of the quote by John Lennon about The Beatles’ song, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. At the time he wanted his voice to sound like “The Dalai Lama chanting from a mountain, miles away” and the strong sensations and roaring from beyond are the key here. It’s something that is also reprised in ‘Monsters’, AKA a celebration of childhood kick-started by the book, Where The Wild Things Are.

Before the Morning is a polished collection of tunes where folk and pop is fused into something that is personal, relatable and fun. These five gems are like diamonds, shining in a large, open landscape. While the sheer depth of the plains would overwhelm some, nothing is a trouble when you’re in as good company as this, because their weapons are like mature, opulent and well-crafted pipes of peace.

Originally published on 22 November 2012 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/before-the-morning

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

ALBUM REVIEW: EDWARD GUGLIELMINO & THE SHOW – SUNSHINE STATE

1350471196Ed-G-Sunshine-State

Edward Guglielmino can lay claim to having been thrown off stage and for engaging in a public stoush with a large corporation over his choice of band logo. Through this, Guglielmino proves that he is no ordinary musician. He’s really an artist. He likes to say what he thinks, is unafraid of the repercussions and these elements come through in his steadfastly honest songwriting.

He released a series of independent albums and EPs in the early naughties, and in 2009 released his first solo album proper, Late At Night. Some three years on and he has decided to follow this up with a backing band called The Show who reads like a who’s who of underground and indie Queensland musicians. The result is Sunshine State, a darkly gothic slice of rather bittersweet folk-rock. It’s also as rich as a millionaire and as honest and as sad as a prisoner on death row.

Guglielmino is known for his unique style of cerebral writing. Although he grew up in Australia, it actually sounds like it has come from the pen of a European artist. Perhaps because of this, it is easy to draw parallels between Sunshine State and Ned Collette + Wirewalker’s recent album, 2, because the latter was inspired by his recent stint in Berlin.

‘Mothers’ is the perfect altar for Guglielmino’s low, baritone voice. It’s a soft croon bolstered by occasional bursts of brass. It is calm but also has a sporadic and sinister feel that sees us through into ‘Walking My Way’, which has the cool sway of a 45 from the fifties.

Jeff Buckley springs to mind at the start of ‘Swam In The Water’ until the drums kick in. This song almost plays out like at least five different pieces of music, as some shredded guitar-work keeps us on our toes, before we’re lead off on a different tangent and you get the sense of a pool of water glistening in the distance.

‘Old Fire’ is another strange beast, where an eerie flutter rings out as though someone has left a record on in a dark, empty room. There are ghostly apparitions meeting for a decadent ritual, while the strange, ambient noise could be from a weird, avant-garde soundtrack heard in a modern art museum.

Then we go off on tangent number 99 on single, ‘You’ll Be The Death Of Me’. This one is a bouncy pop number that is almost at odds with the ominous feel of the rest of the material. The call and response, almost sing-song-like quality of it is great fun. It’s also about an excellent sense of juxtaposition, as something that sounds so big and bright is also about someone who seems obsessed (at least in a lyrical sense) with a morbid topic. It’s moments like these that Guglielmino shows off his truly wicked sense of humour and this gets confirmed as he leads us further off the beaten track with the pulsing fuzz of ‘Alice’ and the acoustic, Chris Isaak-like ballad, ‘Mary’.

Edward Guglielmino loves to experiment because he has previously acknowledged in the press that he likes to record all sorts of chords and ideas onto his computer, irrespective of their apparent level of quality. For Sunshine State, he assembled a grand mélange of sonic soundscapes, musical tangents and all-round experiments to ultimately craft something that is deep, poetic and strong. The depraved affair is held together by his baritone voice and proves to be a visceral one for the listener; full of feelings and perceptions, and as complex and raw as a human being stripped to their very core.

Originally published on 17 October 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/album_review/sunshine-state

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

ALBUM REVIEW: REGULAR JOHN – STRANGE FLOWERS

REGULAR

Music is an amazing thing – it can make you think, cry, laugh, f**k, love, dance, forgive and forget at different moments. If it’s good, it will do at least one of these things, and if it’s great, possibly more. And Manilla-via-Sydney band Regular John seem to have ticked at least a couple of these boxes on their sophomore album, Strange Flowers.

The band has not suffered from difficult second album syndrome – far from it. But it’s not like they weren’t faced with their fair share of challenges along the way, as frontman Ryan Adamson had a serious spinal injury, which resulted in a lengthy recovery period. But he used his time wisely, learning how to navigate his way around, and ultimately master the analogue synth.

Adamson’s new skills have lead to a change in direction in the group’s sound. The guitar-fuelled, rock debut, The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb seems light years away from 2012’s more expansive and psychedelic vibe. The second album often plays like a noisy, esoteric dream, where ruminations on modern romance and early adult angst are coupled with a standard band set-up, plus added goodness from samples, vocoder, synths and all manner of technological wizardry.

‘Sky Burial’ opens with some sprawling prog and the declaration: “Hey king, now you belong to the skies”. This one builds from humble beginnings to eventually become rather rocky, with lots of distorted guitars (think Dinosaur Jr.) at the two-and-a-half minute mark. It’s a loose journey and one full of tangents, something that frequently occurs across each of the ten tracks here. It’s a recipe that certainly works and proves that it can be as much about what’s left out as what’s been thrown into the proverbial melting pot.

The title track is an energetic number, where some poppier sounds are accompanied by the kind of walls of guitars favoured by Sonic Youth and the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a swirling sound that warms the heart before the emotional single, ‘Slume’. By contrast, this is a break-up anthem and one previously described by Adamson as: “Like a country song covered in fuzz and feedback” – and he ain’t wrong on that latter point.

There is the feeling of sliding off in the midst a dream in ‘Letters In Braille’, as keys sprinkle colour and light around the place while the line “It’s insane” is met with riffs that seem to agree. It’s a solid foundation and one that builds with intensity with the heavier and more immediate, ‘Time Machine’.

The band had aimed to make an album that was heavy like Black Sabbath, and psychedelic like Pink Floyd’s early material, and they seem to have achieved this on all counts. At times, the closest band they seem to align with is The Church on account of the abundance of atmospherics and epic soundscapes, particularly on closer, ‘Devil’s Face’. It’s a curious comparison, especially as the producer was none other than Tim Powles from said band (and the same producer as the one they worked with on their debut).

Strange Flowers is a self-deprecating, introspective record full of reverb and fuzz; subtle at the right moments and heavy and soaring at other times. It is rewarded by repeat listens as extra textures and elements reveal themselves and come to full focus, teasing and tickling the eardrums and piquing your interest with every note, every vibration. Strange Flowers is ultimately a dark and romantic album, signalling an honest and powerful band embracing change and creating intoxicating and relatable tunes with a heady musical combination that holds its own among the best by the Smashing Pumpkins and Tame Impala.

Originally published on 21 November 2012 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/strange-flowers

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

Previous Older Entries