BOOK REVIEW: DAVID GILLESPIE

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The book, Toxic Oil is based on the idea that Government Health agencies and nutritional experts have got it all wrong. That vegetable oil – the one touted as the “good one” – will kill you and your family. It’s a tough area to negotiate and I’d say to take it all with a grain of salt. But that’s bad for you too.

Toxic Oil is written by David Gillespie, a father of six who has in recent times become a health crusader. He previously carried around an extra 40 kilos in weight. But he did reach a tipping point and decided to investigate why he – and the rest of the Western world – was so fat. This lead to the books Sweet Poison and Sweet Poison Quit Plan in which he quite rightly encouraged people to rid their lives of sugar and now he’s turned his sights to vegetable and seed oils.

Gillespie admits at the start that he has no formal training in human biochemistry or science. His only skill is that he’s a former corporate lawyer who has the ability to gather, understand and synthesise evidence. The first part of the book gives a brief history of food manufacturing and includes details about some old food studies and experiments conducted in the UK.

This book is a difficult one to read. It relies heavily on scientific language, which can be difficult to understand and follow at times and may even be of questionable validity. He also does tend to veer off into scare-mongering territory at times. If you believe what he says, polyunsaturated fats will cause cancer, macular degeneration and allergies and may also be associated with other lifestyle diseases.

There are chapters designed to enable the reader to identify polyunsaturated fats and read food labels. Gillespie also details the Australian brands of foods which he believes contains an acceptable level of sugar and polyunsaturated fat. The fact is we probably eat too much processed food as it is and vegetable oil is one pervasive beast. It is found in: cooking oil, margarine, sauces, biscuits, pastries, spreads and fast foods.

The final part of the book is devoted to meal plans and recipe options where polyunsaturated fats are swapped for saturated, animal fats. According to health and nutrition experts this will be swapping “good fat” for “bad fat”. So it’s bound to have some nutritionists slap their foreheads (because for one, Gillespie encourages a breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked in animal fat or lard).

Toxic Oil is an informative book but you should read this along with the online rebuttals and make up your own mind. The only fact is there’s a lot of competing information out there and we have to eat but we don’t all possess the scientific nous to understand it all. Plus, food manufacturers are often only concerned with increasing their bottom line. In sum, it’s an interesting read that may have some kernels of truth in it but perhaps we should all stick to the middle ground and err on the side of moderation being best.

Originally published on 28 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/reading-with-the-au-david-gillespie-toxic-oil

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COMEDY REVIEW: EDDIE IFFT IN TOO SOON @ THE FACTORY THEATRE (26.04.2013)

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Even with a name like Too Soon you should be warned that Eddie Ifft’s comedy show is not for the faint hearted. Or the easily offended. The American comedian had his claws out and although he made some pot-shots at himself; for the most part he slaughtered some sacred cows, regaled us with sexual (mis)adventures and had the barbs out for every kind of minority or disadvantaged group imaginable. Let’s just say the proceedings suited the 9:30PM timeslot.

The evening started with Ifft asking: “How are you f**kers tonight?” He then made a sarcastic swipe at the venue. Because according to Ifft, The Factory was located in a place where “Even the taxi driver didn’t know where this is”. Ifft then joked about our love of dropping in an expletive or ten in normal conversation. It was this acidic, ranting and acerbic style that would punctuate the night’s performance.

I have seen Ifft perform a few times before and have found his previous shows to be much more enjoyable. In the past, I’ve found he has come up with some witty jokes and observations that suited my sense of humour. His 2013 show however, wasn’t my kind of thing. It received a good reception from the audience but was too crass and focused too heavily on offending and disgusting people for my liking. A lot of it saw Ifft being brash and gross, saying disgusting s**t and taking cheap shots just for the hell of it.

Ifft’s material was dark comedy and sometimes it was similar to his mate, Arj Barker’s more puerile gags. I heard one female punter put it best as we were leaving the venue. She said that she felt the humour was more of the “masculine” variety. This made sense, as Ifft had spoken at length about porn and made a few sexist comments, but they weren’t as bad as Tracy Morgan’s headline-grabbing ones from Melbourne.

If I’d taken proper note of the show’s title, I might’ve realised that all bets were off and any topic – no matter how hot button it might have seemed – was on the table for a good lashing. I’ve personally laughed more and harder at other comedians (including Dave Thornton’s set earlier that night). But you’ve got to remember that comedy is extremely subjective- one man’s Seinfeld is another one’s Two & A Half Men and personally, this evening tended more towards option number two.

 

Originally published on 27 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/comedy-festival-live-review-eddie-ifft-in-too-soon-factory-theatre-26-04-13

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LIVE REVIEW: THE HILLBILLY KILLERS (FEAT. TIM ROGERS, CATHERINE BRITT & BILL CHAMBERS) @ THE BASEMENT (24.04.2013)

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Tim Rogers is sitting at a primo table, having a drink while he reads a book. Catherine Britt’s ma is out back selling the merch and the “older” crowd are finishing off the last of their dinner. Welcome to the madhouse AKA the Sydney debut for Australia’s very own alt-country supergroup, The Hillbilly Killers.

The band is made up of Rogers and Britt who worked together on the former musician’s most recent solo record and the Hillbilly Daddy himself, Bill Chambers (pedal-steel guitarist and father of Kasey). Australia’s very own Killers made their official debut at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, but it was late last year when the trio initially performed together for Roger’s show at The Factory. This unlikely musical match started over late night conversations about Hank Williams. Yee-haw.

There were no supports at this show and they decided to simply “support themselves”. Each of the members and the two extra “friends” came out alone or in duo formats to perform acoustic covers of either solo or borrowed material. The banter during this initial set – like the main act – was worth the price of admission alone, with all three artists proving to be self-deprecating and funny, lending things a jovial atmosphere and all while offering interesting asides about their own compositions.

Chambers offered us a solo track from his “Award-losing CD” (or ones he’d apparently lost out to his daughter). We learned about his becoming a professional fox hunter in a stint that started out being four weeks and turned into a staggering ten years. Britt joined Chambers for a sweet rendition of Gram Parsons’ “Kiss The Children”, which sounded just like a duet between country royalty otherwise known as Johnny and June Carter Cash. Britt remained while Rogers joined her – looking like an elder statesmen of rock and rather debonair – as the pair owned his track, “Troubled Man”.

Rogers admitted to singing the last number “A little out of tune just to make sure we weren’t that jealous” before dedicating “Walkin’ Past The Bars” to his drug and alcohol counsellor. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, Rogers played some rambling, electric guitar. It was the same instrument he’d use for a cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Hot Burrito #1” where he embraced his inner-rock God in much the same way as Adalita from Magic Dirt does when she’s flying solo. He then called time because the group had to organise their quote, “Perfumed gussets, velvet and huge appendages”. Yep, it was more comedy gold from Uncle Tim!

Messers Chambers and Rogers donned matching cowboy hats for The Hillbilly Killers’ set and it was obvious that the mood was ready to shift across to the country dial. The trio had two additional musicians on hand and the now-quintet used everything from guitars to banjo, double bass, slide guitar and stomp box to create just the right mix of homespun charm, venomous love notes, down-to-earth storytelling and country hoedowns. The first song was ebullient in its rip-snorting, boot-scooting fun and although the name, “Calamitied Anatomy” may suggest otherwise, this number only built on the deranged air of silliness in the room.

“Roadhouse Blues” was not The Doors’ classic but rather a Chambers number and a road trip to a Texas diner where the meal of choice was a ham and cheese sandwich. There was a blurring of the lines between the full band performance and the earlier set; especially when the guys offered The Temperance Union song, “The Man You Want Me To Be”. It was a good fit though, because it is arguably one of the most country-like songs to be penned by Rogers prior to this current project.

The three artists seemed to compliment each other really well and while Rogers’ songs were about poking fun at himself (heck, this is the man who says he looks like he fell out of a tip) Britt’s were about taking pot shots at the bad ex (“I Hate Everything About You”) and at least one strange femme fatal (“Elsie Jones”). Her killer, “Love Sucks & I Hate It” received lots of loud cheers and whistles at the end, as this relatable ode to heartbreak sat well with the audience, as did the following one about a beautiful, female f**k-up.

The proceedings continued with more finger-picked guitars, wise-cracks and enthusiastic singing; especially during the group’s theme, “They Call Us The Hillbilly Killers’. The whole shebang concluded with “Hillbilly Daddy” and a country-flavoured, full-gut bucket version of “It’s All Over Now” (or the song made famous by The Rolling Stones). But it was easily the group’s unofficial theme – a cover of Faron Young’s “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” that truly embodied the spirit of this toe-tapping and raggedly good country band. This number – like the night as a whole – had proven to be one fiery storm and passionate shindig.

 

Originally published on 25 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-hillbilly-killers-feat-tim-rogers-bill-chambers-catherine-britt-the-basement-sydney-24-04-2013

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ALBUM REVIEW: JUNIP – SELF-TITLED

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It was the same producer and recording studio. The line-up remains unchanged but you can tell the members have grown up a little bit. Welcome to Junip, the eponymous sophomore album from the Swedish trio and the follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut from 2010, Fields.

Junip is perhaps best known as singer-songwriter, José González’s “other” group. He has joked that they sit “Somewhere between a German jazz band and an African pop band”. And whilst the trio do fuse motorik beats with psychedelic textures and some odd tribal, percussive elements, it is González’s beguiling and bittersweet vocals that prove a real driving force. Once again, the music is of the indie folk variety which means it is not a big stretch from their previous trip through the fields.

Single, “Line Of Fire” in particular starts off like it could’ve appeared on their debut thanks to its Beatlesque melody and stirring, acoustic format. The lyrics are again rather direct and question the listener. Consider: “What would you do/if it all came back to you” and “What would you say/if you had to leave today”.

“So Clear” continues in much the same vein but it is the following, “Your Life, Your Call” where the most noticeable differences begin to occur. The latter twinkles and boasts more of an eighties-feel and this is partially due to some programmed drums courtesy of keyboardist, Tobias Winterkorn (who had been listening to a lot of New Order at the time). González has said that Winterkorn’s strength is his love of tinkering with analogue synths while drummer, Elias Araya tends to drive the mood of the song and enjoys playing bizarre beats. Naturally, Messer José is concerned with matters of the heart including emotions and relationships (without letting things become too soft).

The Black Keys may seem like an odd source of influence for this group but it is a rumbling blues and garage feel that is obvious on “Villain”. This is Junip’s biggest step away from the expansive, pastoral folk for which they’re now known. It’s not long though before “Baton” offers some more of the latter along with a whistling accompaniment and “Beginnings” offers some dreamy material.

Junip are once again offering intricate, reflective and wistful sounds with their new record. There is a dark undercurrent to these fluid love songs and while it’s apparent that the musicians have matured as people and as artists, they are still offering something that successfully builds on the haunting work of their debut, without changing things too drastically. These dense sounds are rewarded by multiple spins and do possess a slow-burning charm, but this means they’re just as likely to impress the old fans as it will garner some new ones in the process.

Originally published on 22 April 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/junip-junip

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LIVE REVIEW: STONE MUSIC FESTIVAL, DAY 2 @ ANZ STADIUM SYDNEY (21.04.2013)

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If Stone Music Festival’s first day was a salute to rock then day two proved a little more difficult to pigeonhole. The bill included an American piano man, two elder statesmen of Oz music, a new band and two former Australian Idol contestants. I suppose we’ll just have to say that this unlikely grouping meant that this was a celebration of music, pure and simple.

L.A. band, Illumination Road is a duo that was making their worldwide, live debut. The pair had three additional musicians on hand and they played rock music which took its reference points from some of the greats from the golden period in the sixties and seventies. “What We Say” closed the set and had a decent tune and with time these guys look poised to be ones to watch.

It’s a sad day when an artist as talented as Mark Seymour is moved forward on the bill so that he’s playing second fiddle to the likes of Shannon Noll. But that’s precisely what happened to the former frontman of Hunters & Collectors, even if he didn’t make reference to this. He wielded an acoustic guitar and along with his backing group, The Undertow, he played Hunters classics like “When The River Runs Dry” and “Holy Grail”.

Some of Seymour’s newer material fitted into the Australiana category and made him sound not unlike Paul Kelly. “Castlemaine” had a rustic charm and was about a town in South-Western Victoria while “Westgate” was all about Eddy Halsall, the lucky survivor of the Westgate Bridge collapse in 1970. In all, Seymour’s set was a short, sharp one full of folk and rock tunes that sounded like they came from another time and place.

I really don’t understand the appeal of Shannon Noll. He had a few devotees in the audience enjoying his remake of “What About Me” and “hits” like “Lift” and “Shine” but for the most part I was bored. He moved around the stage and off to the sides and I did find myself dreaming of him falling off it because to me, his voice isn’t that strong, he didn’t play any instruments and he’s not that charismatic a frontman.

On the flipside, if there was a bloke you’d just love to share a beer with then Johnny Diesel is your man. The guy knows his way around a guitar and a love song. “Don’t Need Your Love” included some excellent slide guitar-work but it was at the end of his set where he really hit the mark. Classics like “Tip Of My Tongue” and “Cry In Shame” had great, bluesy riffs and showed that he and his band were a soulful lot.

Another musician with lots of soul was Guy Sebastian who had a big band on hand and the musical chops to match. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan but he did deliver on his promise to make some people dance with his radio-friendly tunes, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, “Get Along” and “Who’s That Girl”. Sebastian also had his fellow reality TV backing singers on hand, Carmen Smith and Angel Tupai (the latter singing with him on the soaring duet, “Armageddon”). And while Sebastian’s other guest, Lupe Fiasco was missing from “Battle Scars” due to a technical mishap; the band still played a pleasant enough rendition and like the rest of the set, it had moments allowing you to groove.

Now if there’s a band that makes me proud to be an Aussie then it’s Icehouse. They had a fantastic animated display and this was particularly evident in “Great Southern Land” where everyone got a little misty-eyed about our wonderful, island home. The group also played a big band version of “We Can Get Together” plus the self-deprecating, “Crazy” and a smouldering take on “Electric Blue”. They also played a stirring cover of T-Rex’s “Get It On”.

The hairs stood up on my arm during “Hey Little Girl” (not sure if it was the driving synth or haunting lyrics) although some people said the same thing about “Man Of Colours” when it was lead by new member, Michael Paynter hitting exceptionally high notes. Frontman, Iva Davies would later swap the electric guitar and join him on the oboe. Davies had previously joked that going back to 1987 and even earlier (they did play their early hit, “Can’t Help Myself”) had felt like an “eternity ago” but it was clear that now that Icehouse has been refreshed with lots of young blood, it had helped Davies re-invigorate the old songs with a feeling of fresh cool. Brilliant.

Another legendary songwriter in fine form this evening was the headliner, Billy Joel. The piano man was greeted by a sea of camera-phones for “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)”. He played a magical set and a full concert that boasted so many hits. During his first big single, “Piano Man” the stadium erupted into a huge sing-along and then there were songs written about exes one and two including “She’s Only A Woman To Me”.

Joel’s band did an excellent job of seamlessly translating the records into the live environment. This meant you could close your eyes and convince yourself you were listening to a pristine copy of the vinyl album. Joel was unimpressed with the start of “Streetlife Serenader” so he made them all start it again, proving that they weren’t taped and could be spontaneous if the moment called for it.

Two rather unexpected moments did materialise when the band started playing “Born To Be Wild” where Joel started dancing at his piano. But it was “Highway To Hell” that was sweet like wine for this Sydney crowd. And it wasn’t just because Jon Stevens came out to sing a little bit but also to watch the enthusiasm that was so obvious you could taste it from guitar tech, Ricky ‘Chainsaw’ LaPointe.

It’s hard to pick a highlight from Joel’s set. But he did prove a consummate professional just like his old mate Elton John and happily obliged us with singles like “You May Be Right”, “It’s Only Rock & Roll To Me”, “Only The Good Die Young”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “My Life” and “River Of Dreams”. Joel sounded as good as a choirboy, made cracks about looking like his father and in “We Didn’t Start The Fire” didn’t falter with the 50 million lyrics and ultimately produced something that was positively euphoric and spine-chilling. My one complaint was that “Uptown Girl” didn’t make the cut, but that’s just being petty. It had ultimately been an outstanding night and a perfect way to top off a most entertaining weekend.

 

Originally published on 22 April 2013 at the following website: http://lifemusicmedia.com/live-review-stone-music-festival-day-2-anz-stadium-sydney-april-21-2013/

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LIVE REVIEW: STONE MUSIC FESTIVAL, DAY 1 @ ANZ STADIUM SYDNEY (20.04.2013)

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Sydney was wet and it wasn’t David Lee Roth’s fault. Saturday morning had seen the heavens open again and again but rock ain’t about being comfortable and a little water never killed anyone. On day one of the inaugural Stone Music Festival, guitar heroes were king and no one was going to let a few showers rain on their musical parade.

A small but dedicated crowd watched LA Band, Buckcherry make their Sydney debut. They ploughed through hard rock songs like “Rescue Me” while “Gluttony” saw the rock ‘n’ roll forced up to 11. Lead singer, Josh Todd closed the set by asking how many crazy b**ches were in the house and it warmed my heart to see people getting into the spirit of the fest (i.e. “celebrating music, life and freedom”) by hollering about the deranged.

Jon Stevens looked positively squeaky-clean by comparison as he greeted us with a formal “Good afternoon” before declaring that “For us rock ‘n’ rollers this is way too f**king early!” Noiseworks put on one solid and varied set. The classics naturally fitted into the pub-rock oeuvre (like “Take Me Back”) but a song like “Touch” positively soared. They also played hits like “Simple Man” and “Hot Chilli Woman” before dedicating the defiant rock anthem, “No Lies” to “Our illustrious Prime Minister”. It was good but their faithful cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” saw Stevens in exceptionally fine voice and was a real highlight.

There was a technical hiccup during The Living End’s set but that didn’t stop the boys from playing a good 40 minutes of their punk rock-via-rockabilly sounds. If you’ve seen the band live before you wouldn’t have noticed anything new. Scott Owen stood on his bass near the end of “Second Solution” as he’s always done while guitarist, Chris Cheney did the same while playing those great power chords in “West End Riot”. The boys are a tight band and are renowned for their excellent live shows, meaning they make the perfect choice of act for a festival like this. Plus, there was no denying the fist-pumping goodness of “Prisoner Of Society” (especially for the old man on the barrier who was wearing an Aerosmith t-shirt and singing along to all the lyrics). Fact.

The biggest surprise of the day came wrapped up in the band with the best looking woman backstage AKA the supergroup, Kings Of Chaos. This collective boasts no less than three members of Guns N’ Roses (Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan and Gilby Clarke), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) and Billy Idol’s guitarist, Steve Stevens. These guys brought enthusiasm and energy in spades to their set and they actually confessed to all liking one another and this was apparent in their song choices.

The Gunners’ “Welcome To The Jungle” set the bar set high rather early on. But the rock royalty saw the stakes raised when Hughes lead “Highway Star” and dedicated this to his late bandmate, Jon Lord. Hughes won us over with every bit of screaming vitriol before Elliott took over the mic for a huge, “Rebel Yell”. This proved a great sing-along and when the group finished with a fun “Paradise City” you could see more than a few new fans taking note of the fact they’d be back next year.

The following set by Jimmy Barnes seemed like an ill-fit for many different reasons. While Australia’s finest shrieker was joined by a large backing band that included a few family members (who were giving it their all) the reception they received was quite flat. The crowd had swollen in size but you got the sense that quite a few people just wanted a good vantage point for the acts to follow. Things really only seemed to heat up at the very end when we all embraced our inner bogan with the Cold Chisel classics “Flame Trees” and “Khe Sahn” and Australia’s very own unofficial national anthem, “Working Class Man”.

Aerosmith were pencilled in to play second fiddle to headliners, Van Halen but they wound up doing their own full set and encore and without a doubt stole the show. Steve Tyler was an immense joy to watch as he gyrated and sung. There were times he looked windswept while singing into a fan; he clasped his “lick me” mic stand like a giant phallus; and that’s when he wasn’t running around playing a mean harmonica or an even sweeter piano. The guy did not still for one minute and commanded you to pay attention in much the same way as Mick Jagger.

Brad Whitford and Joe Perry’s guitars crunched during “Love In An Elevator” while newer song “Oh Yeah” fit in well amongst the classics and had an awesome, animated video. “Livin’ On The Edge” boasted some fine pulsating drums from Joey Kramer, while the guitar riffs would challenge even the most enthusiastic air guitar student. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” sparkled while hits like “Walk This Way” and “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” were like a great old punch in the gut. They also did two covers which were respectful while retaining their own trademark, rock goodness. Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin’ Around” was dedicated by Perry to the police in Boston while “Come Together” had as much meaty goodness as an Angus beef pie.

The headliners were unfortunately a late, noisy letdown. They too followed the Aerosmith road by including a couple of covers with Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. But for the most part the hard rock band seemed to be a shadow of their former selves.

The day had seen many frontmen competing with a full-throttle rock band (some including legendary and virtuoso guitarists) but put simply, David Lee Roth was drowned out by a wall of distortion and riffs. They failed to make the same impact as Aerosmith and even Kings Of Chaos. And while their big drawcard and finale, “Jump” was good and included some cool glitter canons, it failed to redeem what was for the most part a tepid set.

Stone Music Festival had delivered an interesting line-up of bands on day one. There were veterans and youngsters, locals and internationals and this had meant that the crowd was a varied mix of people. But we had all come together in the spirit of a very special day (record store day, no less) to worship at the altar of rock and bask in the glory of the guitar, drums and bass. It was a heady mix that proved there might be a sore head or two before the next instalment.

Originally published on 21 April 2013 at the following website: http://lifemusicmedia.com/live-review-stone-music-festival-day-1-anz-stadium-sydney-april-24-2013/

Visit Life Music Media’s homepage at: http://lifemusicmedia.com

ALBUM REVIEW: THE BEE GEES – MORNING OF MY LIFE THE BEST OF 1965-66

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The music world is full of “Overnight successes” that were actually a good decade-in-the-making. The Bee Gees are just one case where their overseas, debut LP was titled The Bee Gees 1st even though it was actually their third one (after they’d released two albums in Australia). But one possible redress of this oversight is their latest compilation, Morning of My Life.

Although it’s billed as The Best of 1965-66 the actual content differs from your typical “Greatest hits compilation”. This album is not a collection of singles. Instead, it draws together the songs from their much maligned and overlooked period from their early career.

It means their origins are finally getting a proper look-in as the vaults have been opened on 24 recordings done in Sydney and Hurstville over two years. They’re predominantly written by Barry Gibb and are the finest tracks from what is now considered their rare, Australian output. The songs sound especially crisp after having been re-mastered from analog tapes so that every melody, hook and tone shines through with the same youthful abandon of the time.

The biggest hit on this set is the catchy, opening track, “Spicks & Specks”. It is also backed by its then b-side, “I Am the World”, a romantic pop ballad lead by Robin Gibb on lead vocals. The music is predominantly from the sixties pop genre but “Exit Stage Right” would actually be more at home on the Nuggets compilation thanks to its trashy garage rock and psychedelic feel. Coincidently, the following track, “Like Nobody Else” was included on the Australian equivalent of the aforementioned compilation.

“All Of My Life” is easily the song that most closely resembles the early Beatles material, from the pleasant, jangly guitars through to the harmonies. It’s a similar vibe at least musically in “Jingle Jangle” where the guys sing about the kind of guitar tones they’re producing, before they take us on a spirit walk to the desert in “Glass House” and they mix things up yet again on “The Storm” where a cavalcade marches in.

Morning of My Life- The Best of 1965-66 may be a bit of a misnomer but it does combine some great cuts from the brief period when the brothers were living and working in Australia. It was an important time where they learned the ropes. The set ultimately shows the brothers Gibb in good form and as some worthy contenders as Australia’s answer to The Beatles and others. Plus, if you listen real closely you might even notice a glimpse of the even bigger things to come in the afternoon, AKA the seventies…

Originally published on 13 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/the-bee-gees—morning-of-my-life-the-best-of-1965-66-13042013.html

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ALBUM REVIEW: FLETCHER – UPON AYR

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Upon Ayr is the debut solo album from Fletcher, AKA multi-instrumentalist Ben Fletcher who was formerly a member of Bluebottle Kiss and The Devoted Few. It is a vivid collection of guitar pop and indie folk music. Here, Fletcher puts an emphasis on pure storytelling; something he feels has been remiss in contemporary music.

Fletcher has long been inspired by the work of Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac but their influence is especially apparent across these ten tracks. The record was written and produced over a period of two years while he was on the road touring Europe as a member of Sarah Blasko’s band. As such, a lot of the lyrical themes deal with things like travel, undergoing journeys and the uncertainty a nomad typically faces where they are unsure where their home is (meaning that comparisons to Kerouac’s On The Road and Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again are certainly apt).

The recording process was a simple one where stolen moments were put to good use and culminated in sessions in Sydney, a London bathroom and studios in Stockholm and Berlin. There was a relaxed feeling because Fletcher thought he was only recording demos and this has often found its way into many of the songs. The relaxed atmosphere was also created by the presence of Fletcher’s good friends with Sarah Blasko providing backing vocals on four tracks and the drummer and keyboardist from her live band, Fredrik Rundqvist and David Hunt, respectively, also contributing.

“It’s Coming for us” crystallises the album into a single offering, as it’s a twinkly pop number and sign of things to come. There is a perfect duality here as the sombre side of travelling is coupled with some beautiful and ethereal sounds. “Open Up” extends this theme and is about the elements in life that can pass us by. It also complements the music video Fletcher made, where he made sure to document a moment from every single day of his life for a period of three months.

Another big theme on this record is the demise of a relationship with single, “Don’t Breathe a Word” a guitar-picked folk tome about the cold, dark place you can find yourself in where the love you once felt for your partner is lost. “Strangers Sleeping in the Same Bed” again picks up on this theme and this is where the album truly peaks and shines.

The music is as evocative and atmospheric as Ben’s Bluebottle Kiss days but there is also some of the romantic and vivid imagery typically found in a Neil Finn number combined with the sheer romantic confusion that underpins Fleetwood Mac’s music. It’s all domestic tears, struggles and sadness where the cadences reverberate from the front door to the kitchen and bedroom in what is an epic tussle. “Strangers…” is really amazing stuff!

For those people thinking Fletcher only does “misery pop” then you should note that the mood does lighten on “Swim through the Mouth of the Whale”. This one is the kind of pop soundscape that is gentle and playful as it teases and tickles. But final track, “The Golden Moon & the Silver Sun” is a real head-scratcher. It has the dreamy guitar quality of George Harrison’s work but is a predominantly instrumental, mystical ode to mermaids and is perhaps best left to another place and time.

Upon Ayr is a rich, sensitive and pretty album. It is a really vivid affair that is full of pictures and cerebral sentimentality meaning you could easily bathe yourself in its light and get lost in the melodies and feeling. In short, it’s a whimsical and organic record that is full of maturity and is as inspiring as a good book.

Originally published on 13 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/fletcher—upon-ayr-13042013.html

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

LIVE REVIEW: BRITISH INDIA & THE LOVE JUNKIES @ METRO THEATRE (13.04.2013)

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Poor British India. In recent years it seems like everything that could go wrong for the band has wound up happening. From troubles with their distributor to their old rehearsal space being flooded and then a show at The Metro only being half-full. But these guys are resilient buggers and they don’t let things like that stop them from putting on a great show. They came out with their guns a-blazing and were able to showcase their fine blend of defiant rock.

But firstly there was the Sydney debut for The Love Junkies, a young trio from Perth. They proved an excellent choice of opening act as their young and hungry rock music was in some ways quite similar to the headliners. The boys had their own heady blend of bratty punk, blues and grunge references chucked into the mix, meaning they could go from sounding like Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana and then to Clash and The Black Keys within minutes.

Guitarist, Mitch McDonald was in rather good form and proved to the audience that he is a very talented musician. In one song you could’ve sworn he was playing “Foxy Lady” at quadruple speed while another riff hinted at Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”. McDonald screeched like a banshee and along with his mates helped create fast music that could hold its own along contemporaries like Papa vs. Pretty and Step-Panther.

They put on one helluva guitar-fuelled racket. Recent single “Maybelene” piqued your interest and was almost like you were being picked up by the scruff of your collar. In much the same way, “Oxymoron” built on this earlier energy and momentum. The band proved to be a little rough and raw, but they’re definitely ones to watch and be sure to check out their recordings online because you won’t be disappointed.

British India may have been plugging their fourth studio album, Controller but their set began with a quick trip back to 2009 with “You Will Die & I Will Take Over”. This was the perfect opportunity to use their old tunes to lull people into the new material. The Controller songs certainly gel well with the oldies as they often fit the same mould of defiant rock (with the exception of a few rare cuts where the music has been slowed down – at least by their standards – to create something more epic and grandiose).

The name of British India‘s game is to create one ultimate party out of feedback, fury and distortion. At times the guitar rock is throwaway and the songs blend into one fun, long and hedonistic mix that is probably better placed at a festival because it’s like a huge all-nighter or scene from The Hangover. In many ways the guys are like AC/DC in that they’ve produced a number of albums that haven’t messed with the “formula” too much. Instead, they stick with what they know best, i.e. fist-pumping guitar rock with hooks, dirty riffs and passionate drum beats.

“Blinded” was one of the first new songs to get people moving along to the eighties-infused, pub rock guitar. It was a raw and coarse number that was reminiscent of those bad old days where you had a beer with your mate at the local which was served up with a cloud of thick, heavy cigarette smoke. There were no poker machines either, just a band playing furiously and drenched in power and volume.

New single, “Summer Forgive Me” was played fast and this sharp fury had people dancing and playing some air-guitar (or at least wanting to) while “We Don’t Need Anyone” was as caustic and energetic as The Living End’s finest. Old favourites like: “Tie Up My Hands”, “God Is Dead (Meet The Kids)” and “Vanilla” were played with a spirited vengeance and although Declan Melia’s vocals were delivered in their usual way, they weren’t too whiny.

The boys put on one red-hot set and proved themselves to be a rather tight band. There were plenty of riffs worthy of the status of “Million dollar” ones plus drunken dancing, rumbling bass and tub-thumping drums. The set had some real gold towards the end with “I Said I’m Sorry” and “I Can Make You Love Me”. The latter track – one voted into this year’s Triple J Hottest 100 – was not the gentle affair like the recorded version, but was more like a sharp left hook to your cheek and hit to your heart. It was brilliant!

The band returned for an encore which included a mash-up of “This Ain’t No F**king Disco” and “Black & White Radio”. A circle pit formed in “Houseparty” but this had been eclipsed by the band’s two best songs at the end of the main set. Not that the audience minded, they were just like mirror images of the enthusiastic rock band that were giving it all on stage.

The Metro was a pumping heartbeat of rock this Saturday night. These angry young men had entertained a small but devoted crowd with their party-flavoured rock tunes that made you want to pump your fists, shake it up and dance. It also proved that Controller may be this year’s best kept secret. But remember that you heard it here first.

Originally published on 14 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/british-india-the-love-junkies-the-metro-13-04-13

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LIVE REVIEW: BEN LEE & APPLEONIA (JESSICA CHAPNIK-KAHN) @ PADDINGTON UNITING CHURCH (11.04.2013)

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Ben Lee‘s back and he’s become a Holy Roller. He’s no longer content to be just a songwriter, musician or pop star. Instead, he’s gone and grown a beard and is like the late dark horse, George Harrison in that his spiritual beliefs are intersecting with his music with often mixed results.

The support act was Appleonia or Jessica Chapnik-Kahn. Some keen observers will remember Chapnik-Kahn from her work with Lee on The Square film soundtrack. She is also responsible for co-writing some of the songs on Lee’s latest record, Ayahuasca: Welcome To The Work, while the latter is helping her produce her debut album.

Chapnik-Kahn’s voice was beautiful and had as much intensity, sweetness and emotion as Sarah Blasko. She was accompanied by an electric guitarist as she sung along to her own original compositions. Some of the songs had blues-rock riffs that could’ve been written by The Black Keys or Jack White. The lyrics were a taste of things to come in the main set and were heavily rooted in religion and philosophy. “She Is The Sun” – one originally sung with The Vines’ Craig Nicholls for the film, Despite The Gods – was a pretty distillation of all this and closed the first religious movement with something dark and atmospheric.

Ben Lee opened his set by welcoming us to “The Experiment”. He acknowledged that for the past decade he has been on a spiritual journey to awaken his own sub-conscious. He also said the show would be more like a prayer than a concert and that there would be some awkward bits and failures because some ideas are far too abstract for this format. But he did also offer us some “dessert” by promising to stick around for a few catchy songs at the end.

Lee was joined by a seven-piece band that included Chapnik-Kahn, Nadav Kahn (Gelbison) and Avasa & Matty Love,among others. The rag-tag group remained seated at the front and looked like a bunch of gurus sitting atop an altar. They played the album, Ayahuasca in full to a generous and largely receptive sold-out audience. The record’s name is actually from a psychoactive, healing medicine from South America that is consumed like tea and is supposed to make your spirit rise.

They started with “Invocation” and “Welcome to the House of Mystical Death” which were like two calls-to-arm with gorgeous harmonies. The latter was an expansive and layered pop tune that made you think of an African sunset. The following, “Welcome To Being Born” was about release or letting go of who you thought you were. Some audience members took this opportunity to lay back and meditate or they could’ve just fallen asleep- it was a confusing sight.

After some more peace, love and brown rice and dabbling in mythology, religion, spirituality and philosophy the band took things up a musical notch. The rousing Christian rock-meets-Hillsong, “Thank You” was about tearing down different boundaries in faith. The more enthusiastic devotees of Lee and his new-age mantras took it upon themselves to come together and do a liturgical dance of sorts.

Ayahuasca is going to be a record that polarises people. It’s not designed for the fans that fell off of Lee’s bandwagon with the turgid, The Rebirth Of Venus (because it didn’t have the old-fashioned pop synonymous with Awake Is The New Sleep or the indie goodness that was “Cigarettes Will Kill You”). Lee actually joked that a friend of his had said that this record was destined to be the most beautiful thing Lee’s ever produced and career suicide and in some ways he’s right.

For myself personally, there were times where I could appreciate where the artists were coming from. But for the most part I found the muddled spiritual messages and overly-sanctimonious preaching to be over-bearing and self-indulgent. I felt like Fran from Black Books who proves a hard convert and easy relapser when her friend is glowing like a shiny, happy person on a new diet and yoga regime. Call me cynical and closed-minded but there are days when my own agnosticism is pushed to the limit and I err on the side of full-blown atheism. But then, that’s just me.

My favourite part of the show was at the very end when Lee chose to wield his acoustic guitar and play a romantic pop ballad. His quietly, sublime version of “Gamble Everything for Love” almost had me in tears. “Into The Dark” got a few fans up and dancing while the excellent pop of “Catch My Disease” got us acting like a pack of gleeful school kids. It would’ve been the perfect song to end with (and it had eclipsed the Ayahuasca material) but Lee decided to steer things back along the spiritual path.

“Song for the Divine Mother of the Universe” was nice and thoughtful enough. But it’s obvious that the masses can’t go past his Awake Is The New Sleep record. In all, Lee’s church show was delivered in an appropriate context. It was a divinely honest, bold and considered effort. It had its moments but overall, it seemed to prove that when it comes to pop, you’ll have to leave your preaching to the converted.

Originally published on 13 April 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/ben-lee-appleonia-jessica-chapnik-kahn-paddington-uniting-church-11-04-13

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

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