LIVE REVIEW: FOALS & ALPINE @ ENMORE THEATRE (29.09.2013)

Foals

 

In a short period UK band, Foals have graduating from playing Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory to not one, but two Enmore Theatre shows. If their performance on the second night was anything to go by then it’s easy to see why. The Oxford quintet played a tight, punchy set and filled in every moment with a mix of catchy, party beats and glorious, ambient sounds.

The evening kicked off with Alpine who were positive from the outset that things would go off. The Melbourne band have been kicking a lot of goals lately following the release of their debut, A Is For Alpine both nationally and in the States. Their set sourced tracks from this album, which helped them win the crowd over quite quickly. They were also given the most enthusiastic applause I’ve ever seen for a support act.

Their set was a short one that showed off their light, airy pop. The two female lead singers, Phoebe Baker and Lou James were very strong characters and they danced up a storm, but they were let down a few times by being drowned out by their louder band mates. Their songs had a retro-tinge, at times conjuring up images of the eighties (even though these musicians looked far too young to have experienced this decade first-hand). Other songs were cool and summery like “Seeing Red” and “Villages”, but “Gasoline” was the highlight because it was really rousing and bubblegum pink.

The stage had been set for one fun night and Foals certainly did not disappoint. They entered to bright, almost Hollywood-like spotlights and played the instrumental, “Prelude”. It was layered to within an inch of its life and showed off the fantastic musicality of this band. It was in the subsequent anthems however, where the boys were able to show-off their raw showmanship, making everyone from the tops of the Enmore mezzanine to the front-row of the barrier feel like they were invited to this particular party.

“Total Life Forever” – the title track of their sophomore album – boasted some of the industrial bleeps, blops and noises synonymous with Joy Division’s work. You could see how they’ve earned such musical categorisations as new rave and math rock. This one was also an early favourite with the crowd singing along and a few people surfing. It was a high energy start that would continue for much of the show.

During “Olympic Airways” they smashed their way through a summery beat that was not unlike something by The Strokes. “My Number” meanwhile, saw people dancing along to the beefy synth by Edwin Congreave. The group knew how to work a crowd and they roused people in much the same way as Foster The People had done at the same venue, by playing their soaring pop tunes. It was also a concert where “not dancing” was not even entertained as an option.

Foals have got their rock songs down-pat and at times I couldn’t help but think of Franz Ferdinand in that their music is also stuff you can dance along to. The crowd were pumping to Walter Gervers’ thundering basslines and lapped it up when front man, Yannis Philippakis stage-dived into the crowd. This didn’t stop Jimmy Smith’s guitar riffs coming through thick, loud and gnarly and along with Jack Bevan hitting up a storm on drums; they notched the volume right up to 11.

The great thing about this band is that Philippakis also knows how to pair things back and really sing. The best example of this is the spine-tingling, “Spanish Sahara”, which people may have been introduced to thanks to its inclusion in shows like Misfits, Skins and Entourage. His voice was positively glowing in this one and it’s really hard to describe it properly. Is it a religious experience? Were there other people in the crowd who felt like they needed a cigarette afterwards, such was the pay-off after the intense build-up? All I know is that it was an absolute highlight.

The powerful tunes kept coming with “Red Socks Pugie” and “Late Night”. There were moments when I was reminded of Tumbleweed in that there was occasionally a psychedelic element thrown in with the rock and dance layers. The encore was also energetic, especially the final song.

“Two Steps, Twice” saw Alpine’s Phil Tucker lending a hand with the floor tom and a cheeky audience member having a dance on-stage. Philippakis on the other hand was off on another planet. He wandered up to mezzanine and threatened to jump off it to crowd-surf (he’d already stage-dived a few times earlier). Security intervened and stopped him but it was a real heart in-your-mouth moment and not just a casual threat. Philippakis actually DID jump off there the previous night and there’s YouTube footage to confirm it.

We had to content ourselves with Philippakis sheepishly re-entering the stage. But once he rejoined his band they managed to steer the ship back on-course and execute a blistering end to what had been a red-hot show. It had been one fun and exciting gig and not just because those visceral tunes had reached out and grabbed you just like a heavy punch to the guts.

Originally published on 30 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/foals-alpine-enmore-theatre-sydney-29-09-13

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THEATRE REVIEW: HOW TO RATE YOUR MUSIC COLLECTION IN 36,000 EASY STEPS

how to

 

How To Rate Your Music Collection in 36,000 Easy Steps saw the Sydney Fringe Festival debut for three comedians who had previously shared a stage at the Mug & Kettle open mic night. This hour-long comedy show was a chance for the three men to practice and deliver their own individual routines. And what ensued was a pleasant enough night of amateur comedy.

The first two comedians for the evening were Alex Persadi and Matt Davies. Persadi had a droll, sarcastic delivery that was not unlike Arj Barker but he also combined this with some surreal visual gags (i.e. comics he’d drawn) making things at times seem quite similar to Sam Simmons’ work. Davies on the other hand did five minutes of more traditional gags. These included a rant about reasons not to drink and he was self-deprecating when he said he was going to be crappy and disappointing like Kevin Rudd (who – according to him – had made Tony Abbott look like a good option as PM).

The show proper however was Ben Beilharz’s baby and his comedy was quite similar to John Safran’s. He had become the go-to guy among his social circles with regards to how to rate music tracks. So he ran through his five-star system and had an effective PowerPoint presentation to back it up and this was effectively like Ben’s very own musical jamboree.

His ratings spanned from the one-star curiosities you can’t delete because it’s part of an album through to the transcendent and elusive five stars. He would also get the audience to participate and create their own two star track. But Beilharz didn’t just embrace his inner music nerd. He also made some interesting observations about St. Peters, yoga, lobsters and ridiculous things to sell people. He was also quite self-deprecating as he embraced his inner-nerd and admitted to being apart of the persecuted minority of people who wear transition lenses.

Ben Beilharz’s Sydney Fringe debut was a rather solid show, all things considered. Though there was room for some improvements to a few jokes and he could work on keeping the audience tamed (things got rather ramshackle with one bloke upping to go to the bathroom mid-way), it looked like a promising start for this particular funny man.

 

Originally published on 23 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/comedy-review-how-to-rate-your-music-collection-in-36000-easy-steps-uts-loft-bar-19-09-133

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE SNOWDROPPERS – MOVING OUT OF EDEN

snowdroppers

 

Desecration. Intoxication. Obliteration. Fornication. The Snowdroppers are a band that knows all about these things. They made their band debut at a burlesque show and are named after a 1920s slang term for coke addicts. One thing’s for certain, they’re turning the blues on its head for a new generation.

The group has released their sophomore album, Moving Out Of Eden and it sees the boys bruised and messy but in the best possible way. Across ten songs they blend the blues with rock, rockabilly, punk and roots, to craft a tough, swampy sound that spits venom at your face and rattles your spine with its caustic nature. It’s wicked fun and will have you tapping your toes in no time.

‘Excavating’ sees singer, Johnny Wishbone spitting out harsh yet witty lyrics. It’s the first of many to make their way onto the album. There’s no beating around the bush, it’s straight-up dark and dirty music that rumbles and drives, even if it is one-note at times.

On the next track the boys take a rather different road and seek inspiration from the Australian, pub rock canon. They wear their best school uniform outfits with their tongues placed firmly in cheeks. They are just like AC/DC as they explore relationships while chucking some curveballs in the lyrics. It’s primal and rather smoke and mirrors that teases before the catchy, ‘White Dress’ is a simple view of romance from an uncomplicated bloke.

The title track may be on this record but it could also be on the True Blood soundtrack. This is hungry, southern-infused blues rock and an ode to the anti-Gospel. This is the one where Adam and Eve are on the skids. ‘Sour Grapes’ meanwhile, is like a Wild West showdown that misfires and really requires Jack White to come in and redeem the proceedings.

Wishbone does his best Michael Hutchence impression throughout the course of his vocal duties. The band fair much better though and are a tight and sleazy bunch. There are articles pointing to how blistering their live show is and while this album has punch, it does lack some of the ferocity you would imagine this band to be capable of. But that said, Moving Out Of Eden is honest and best played loud.

The Snowdroppers’ second album is another promising one by a group of lads that count blues greats as inspiration along with a desire to party and indulge in other hedonistic treats. They sound like they want to celebrate in a raw, unbridled fashion and this set is cohesive, fiery and filled with dark humour. In short, a heady brew that is aggressive, nostalgic and above all, powerful.

Originally published on 25 September 2013 at the following website: http://sfmedia.com.au/the-snowdroppers-moving-out-of-eden-cd-review/

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ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS – MELODIE FRANCAISE

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The Melodie Francaise compilation teams Australian artists – some high-profile and others that are up-and-comers – with the French language hoping that some Gallic sophistication, chic, elegance, romance and cool will rub off. The artists appear to have perfected their accents (with help from the Alliance Francaise tutors) but this doesn’t save the collection from containing unusual tracks, some clunkers and some ornate and whispered folk numbers.

Kate Miller-Heidke and Thelma Plum both tackle Edith Piaf tunes and keep things paired back and simple on ‘Il N’y A Pass D’Amour Heureux’ and ‘La Vie En Rose’ respectively. Their renditions are beautiful and their voices shine, as do Lisa Mitchell and Katie Noonan on their tracks and attempts at being French chanteuses. Dappled Cities sound just like their old selves (for better or worse) as they cover Air’s ‘Sexy Boy’ with a little less distortion than the original and an emphasis on the intergalactic keys. Jinja Safari also stick with what they know by adding a theatrical, tribal drumming style to ‘Le Temps de L’Amour’ with neo soul singer Okenyo and produce something that could’ve been on their recent debut album.

Melodie Francaise is one enthusiastic celebration of French and Australian artists. Overall, it makes for some quirky fun but like a plate of snails it won’t be to everybody’s tastes.

Originally published on 18 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/36992/Various–Melodie-Francaise

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ALBUM REVIEW: BUFFALO TALES – ROADTRIP CONFESSIONALS

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With varying degrees of success, Wes Carr attempts to shake off the Australian Idol tag with his debut album as Buffalo Tales, Roadtrip Confessionals. It’s a conscious step away from the pop-rock sounds that he’s known for that too often sounds hollow and measured .

The album is supposed to feature his most personal material to date with lyrics about heartache, yearning and soul-searching spun with dark shadows and sadness. At its best the music is cohesive, intimate and mature but the lyrics are overly simplistic and the sounds are far too similar. The music is mostly from the Jack Johnson book of folk rock although there are occasional bouts of energetic, alt-country fun, but this doesn’t stop the proceedings from being a rambling and rather restless affair.

A host of supportive guests including The Falls, Baskery and Sam Buckingham help save things from being too homely and flat but for the most part this music is too subtle and gentle to really cut through. The already overly long record also features two unnecessary covers in the form of ‘Take This Waltz’ by Leonard Cohen and Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’.

Originally published on 20 August 2013 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/36708/Buffalo-Tales–Roadtrip-Confessionals

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THEATRE REVIEW: KEIRA DALEY VS. THE 90S @ SEYMOUR CENTRE

KEIRA

Keira Daley is no stranger to the Sydney Fringe Festival stage. In 2011 she won the award for excellence for her show, LadyNerd. This year she is back with Keira Daley vs. The 90s where this self-confessed nerd embraces her own memories of being an awkward teenager and growing up during this time.

Daley starts the show off strongly by telling us our mobiles have gotten kilos heavier, that we should be wearing hypercolor t-shirts and that when we access the internet it’s done via noisy modems or that we are forced to look things up in Encarta 95. It was also the time when VHS eclipsed beta, where tamagotchis were considered pets and the cats of the world “enjoyed anonymity” as there was no YouTube.

Musical director, Mark Chamberlain accompanies Daley as a part of a three-piece band where he plays keyboards and she sings (and plays drums on a cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”). They play an assortment of nineties tunes and originals inspired by the decade. The artists that get a look-in include: Massive Attack, The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Des’ree, Macy Gray, Spice Girls, Pearl Jam, Jamiroquai and Coolio.

The show is steeped heavily in nostalgia and the use of music makes it a fan’s dream (for those individuals that liked that decade’s output). It’s fun to play name-that-song and some audiences even joined in for some impromptu karaoke. Daley has an excellent singing voice and it was a real highlight to hear them play a mega-mix of TV themes like: Full House, Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Nanny, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Captain Planet.

The biggest pitfall of the show was that it had a few too many moments where things got too self-indulgent. Daley kept the energy high and would cut between songs to tell stories from high school (she’d delved into journals she’d kept from 1993-1998 for inspiration). There were stories about crushes and bullies but some of these weren’t that interesting and at times it felt like someone telling you about their dreams, it’s fascinating for them but not necessarily for the person listening.

Keira Daley vs. The 90s is a fun look back at a particular decade and where Daley threads stories from her own life with quotes and bits from her favourite nineties music, films and TV programs. What ensues is something warm, quirky and occasionally rowdy. It has enthusiasm in spades and the musical covers were great, but this reviewer would’ve liked it more if things had been opened up so that we all could’ve laughed and danced as hard as Daley in order to look back.

Originally published on 19 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/keira-daley-vs-the-90s-18-09-13

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

THEATRE REVIEW: JANE AUSTEN IS DEAD @ NEW THEATRE

fringe

 

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. This is the first line from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and arguably where the one-woman, Sydney Fringe Festival show, Jane Austen Is Dead begins. The story is by an Austen devotee and like its contemporaries, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Amanda Hooton’s Finding Mr Darcy; it takes the pearls of wisdom from Austen herself and uses it to negotiate the often brutal, modern dating world.

The story is written and performed by Mel Dodge and is inspired by true stories of people looking for love. The main character Dodge portrays is Sophie, a strong female lead who is 33 and works in a bar. She has observed the human mating ritual for some time and has much to say about this. She is also a romantic, an optimist and a literature fan. What ensues is a recounting of the men from her own life, which started at the tender age of five when she traded lunch with a classmate to recently catching the bouquet at a friend’s wedding and everything in between.

Along the way there are many Austen quotes and cameos from her lead characters. Dodge also plays a vast array of different roles and proves to be one excellent and versatile actress. The characters are also linked to Sophie and include: Mary, her young fellow barmaid who obsesses over texting back a recent date; a happily married and pregnant friend; her regular customer Theresa, a sultry vixen if there ever was one; and a bride-to-be who is actually marrying Sophie’s ex the following day.

Dodge keeps the energy high and the characters are well-portrayed, which makes them relatable. It is a little confusing to work out some of these things in the beginning but we do see a noticeable shift between some of them. So while it’s hard to distinguish between them as Dodge is developing their personalities for the viewers, this is thankfully righted by the end.

One of the questions posed is what do you do when your ideal man is Mr Darcy but the ones you meet are disasters like Mr Wickham and Mr Collins? It also asks how one traverses the minefields that are RSVP, Facebook, speed and video dating to find a white knight in shining armour? Dodge segues off at one point to showcase the heroes and villains in Austen’s classics and expertly links it to those all-too-familiar modern dating stereotypes like the men obsessed with war re-enactments, machinery, living on farms, etc.

The story is a light comedy that successfully juxtaposes old-fashioned manners plus Austen’s great expectations and social commentary with the modern world. It’s one relatable and familiar story that works well for the most part but could’ve been improved by the inclusion of a few more jokes. That said it does have the ability to connect with people and offer a few giggles while returning us to a more sobering portrait of life and love.

Jane Austen Is Dead plays out its story on a minimalist stage with just one woman actress but it also manages to ask some very big questions. It also offers an enjoyable and entertaining enough experience that means it ’s likely to appeal to a wider audience than just pure Austen fans. Ultimately, it’s an endearing satire and light-hearted dig at the current state and is filled with information and observations by one trully honest guide and reader.

Originally published on 18 September 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/theatre-review-jane-austen-is-dead-new-theatre-sydney-16-09-13

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ALBUM REVIEW: DEEP PURPLE – NOW WHAT?!

DEEP-PURPLE---NOW-WHAT

 

The PR material and some of the press about Deep Purple’s nineteenth studio album is full of superlatives. Frontman, Ian Gillan has described it as “One of the most important recordings I have ever taken part of in my whole life”. Others have also said it’s the closest they’ve come to recapturing the spirit of the seventies and that it fuses elements from their seminal Machine Head and Made In Japan albums. The reality, however, plays out a tad differently.

Now What?! does not contain any instant classics or hits worthy to lick the boots of their other creations (think: “Hush”, “Highway Star” and “Smoke On The Water”, to name a few). Across 12 songs it feels like the band have thrown everything at the pot and occasionally something sticks, but sometimes this makes for overblown and overbearing listening. This is after all, a band who are renown for their versatility in the hard rock, prog rock and early metal sounds and they’ve also teamed up with no less than producer Bob “The Wall” Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss) but things are also quite disappointing.

One of the biggest letdowns is Gillan’s thin, reedy voice. It has deteriorated considerably with time and lacks the expression and power of his younger days and at worst it comes across as rather nasally. The group are also onto their eighth line-up and while guitarist Steve Morse (Kansas) and keyboardist, Don Airey have been performing with the others as a live unit for some time they will never have the same chemistry as Ritchie Blackmore and the late Jon Lord (who this record is dedicated to) and who many fans consider were integral to the “classic” line-up.

“A Simple Song” starts things off rather slowly with a wander through the desert before there is an abrupt change and the electric guitars kick in. This forces proceedings back to the group’s more expected “old” sound. It’s a high energy one that makes this incarnation sound like they’re trying to be Jimi Hendrix’s backing band. It’s certainly better than their attempts to be Black Sabbath on “Out Of Hand”. This track is all kinds of wrong as Gillan sings about one night stands at what was the then humble age of 67. On “Weirdistan” things don’t fair much better with lyrics like: “Leave our skin as we merge into one/It’s beautiful/Oh yes, it’s beautiful”.

On other songs things seem to be recycled like The Stones riff on “Hell To Pay” or “Uncommon Man” in general. The latter is like a pale imitation of something from the film soundtrack to Tommy. “All The Time In The World” meanwhile, sees the band play it safe with some smooth pop while “Vincent Price” was meant to marry up eeriness with a dark rumble but it lacks punch. “Highway Star” is also included as an Australian only exclusive live track and may actually convince some of the older fans to purchase the album.

On Now What?! Deep Purple prove that big is not always better and that some things don’t get better with age. The fact is that this collection is inessential and mundane as it lacks the intensity, power, volume and experimentalism of their older works. Unfortunately, Deep Purple in the 21st century is becoming more about placing an over-emphasis on keys and producing predictable riffs as the whole party songs about fast cars and fancy women wears as thin as the hair on Karl Pilkington’s pate.

 

Originally published on 17 September 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/deep-purple-now-what

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EP REVIEW: MORGAN BAIN – SELF-TITLED

morgan bain

Morgan Bain is a young man that practices what he preaches. He has said that he thinks everyone should experiment and write songs about as many things as they can and tell a story. On his second, eponymous EP he does this while also talking cues from Victor Hugo. At the end of the day it’s all about music expressing what cannot be said and when it’s impossible to remain silent.

The five tracks show Bain can write songs that are full of spirit but are also all-encompassing and versatile. “I Think I’ve Got You” opens the proceedings and is no less than a West Australian Music Song of the Year award winner in the 15-17 years category. It’s a catchy ditty that sees some Jonathan Boulet-like pop combined with the kind of coastal vibes heard on Messer Jack Johnson’s work. It also has a little distortion and has moments when it’s totally pumping.

“Tear Me Right Apart” sees Bain follow a similar route to his debut EP by stripping things back a little bit. This one is a piano ballad where Bain bears all by wearing his heart on his sleeve and yearning for his missing object of affection. The mood doesn’t stay down for too long though, because “Thirty Five Seconds” sees the vocals soaring sky high and sounding like they were being delivered from a misty mountaintop. There is also a gentle hum at times, leaving you with room for some quiet contemplation.

The final two tracks see Bain up the rock swagger. On “She Got Me This Way” the heavier guitar riffs could have been by a pub rock band and there are moments where it’s as funky as a Dan Sultan cut. It’s a role that’s reprised on “Deep Hollow Howl” where Bain sings like a choirboy on a folk-via-pop track.

Morgan Bain is a young guy that sounds like a much more mature, old man who has been hardened by years of heartbreak, experience and life. It’s no surprise then that Bain has been playing guitars since he was eight and singing since he was three. This talented musician, multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of rock, blues, roots and indie music looks poised to continue filling the diary and airwaves with even more tales of experience.

Originally published on 16 September 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/morgan-bain-morgan-bain

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EP REVIEW: BELLTALK – LIGHTS

belltalk

 

Brisbane four-piece, Belltalk should be called “Beautiful”. Their sound is gorgeous, the members are young and attractive and the lyrics are personal and evocative. On their debut EP, Lights, they offer a varied sound across five tracks that will hook the listener in from the first breath.

It should come as no surprise that this set of songs was recorded in Ian Haug’s(Powderfinger) studio and was mixed by Sean Cook (Yves Klein Blue). The youngster’s songs reference the two gentleman’s bands plus other self-proclaimed influences like Joni Mitchell and Radiohead. Some research reveals that this band started with two friends jamming between classes at university and that various members have also studied jazz, classical and opera music.

“Remote Control” could’ve been on any one of Tigertown’s EPs. The sound is not overly original but it is sweet and epic. It’s a folk number that’s been layered with lush melodies while Caitlin von Berky’s smooth voice fills in the gaps. Von Berky’s voice is a rich one that can easily float above the chords and sweep you away and at other moments command you to sit up and listen.

On “Depicture” she asks: “Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?” Here the group combine some fuzzy and distorted guitars with some soul-searching and a swirling piano. Single, “Bright Lights” meanwhile, started life out as a drug-referenced song but underwent significant changes.

Von Berky decided to keep the riff and the band have added an urgency and passion to the percussion. It means the final product is full of an enthusiastic punch and it is ultimately an ode to never wanting to settle down. It’s a different vibe to the closer, “Treat You Kind”, which is a slower, mournful break-up ballad that will make your eyes water.

On Lights, Belltalk do just as the package describes; with some light and airy pop music that sits somewhere between the work of George and Sarah Blasko. The music is kept serene and atmospheric and things are sweet without being too overpowering. In short, it’s a multi-faceted collection of warm pop tunes best served up while dancing under a balmy sun.

 

Originally published on 12 September 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/belltalk-lights

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