REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: BEN SALTER – THE CAT

It seems like Ben Salter is set to take on the likes of Dave McCormack, Tim Rogers, Tex Perkins, et al. for the title of hardest working man in Australian Music. His list of credentials is almost tiring to read- from the intelligent hard rock of Giants Of Science to the folk/rock/country of The Gin Club, the garage skuz of The Young Liberals and bluegrass/folk from Wilson Pickers. And then there’s the busking and moonlighting in short-lived outfits The Hi Waves, Fatal 4 and Megafauna. The guy seems to have practically done it all and certainly had no shortage of people to support him in producing his long-awaited solo debut, The Cat.

The record was recorded and produced with Gareth Liddiard and Robert F. Cranny (Sarah Blasko) at Liddiard’s rural studio in Havilah, Victoria. The list of guests includes the former’s bandmates in The Drones: Fiona Kitschin and Dan Luscombe while Mike Noga received a songwriting credit for “I Am Not Ashamed”. Other guest musicians include Gin Club alumni Angus Agars and Ola Karlsson, plus jazz saxophonist Julie Wilson and many others. It was a cast of thousands, from those offering musical duties to the many supporters that funded the project via IndieGoGo (and yes, they all rate a mention in the liner notes).

The songs for The Cat were ones Salter says didn’t fit any of the aforementioned formats or that he was simply reluctant to part with. Some were certainly persistent forces to be reckoned with considering they’re over ten years old. So if you’re thinking this album is just another solo outing by a bandmember who is offering a slightly quieter affair with an acoustic guitar and playing the songwriting troubadour, then you’re sadly mistaken. Salter himself admits that there are touches of all his projects to be found here, but as a whole it sounds like no one in particular. He’s got a point, because with instruments like the Hurdy Gurdy, saxophone and Swedish bagpipes, there is always some extra embellishment or flourish to keep things interesting.

One thing Salter learned during the whole process was that he and Liddiard have a shared sense of restlessness, meaning they get bored easily. To combat this, they took an unconventional approach to the pop, rock and folk format. Salter admired Scott Walker’s documentary, 30 Century Man and opted for an organised chaos approach with the musicians. They were not allowed to hear much (or all) of the tracks that they would ultimately contribute to; there would be no guidelines or playbacks and it was a maximum of three attempts at each song. Not only did it all work in their favour, it also gave the proceedings a live and endearing, captured-in-a-moment feel.

The title track began life as a poem after a neighbourhood cat was tormented by a gang of birds. “Opportunities” – like a number of the songs offered here – starts off sounding like an acoustic Josh Pyke-esque number before a curveball like some bagpipes or some other such layer is thrown into the basket. Elsewhere, there are potshots at Brisbane’s Valley nightlife (“West End Girls”), a song by Cranny (“German Tourist”) and cuts originally written for The Young Liberals (“Once In A Life Time”) and Wilson Pickers (“Opportunities.“)

“Things Fall Apart” is a tender, piano ballad that precedes “So Tired Tonight” where Salter sings personal and rather witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. These include: “I’m a funny fuck, all-singing and all-dancing/Destined to give up and let the good Lord give me cancer”
“I Am Not Ashamed” meanwhile, was a waltz that transformed into a disordered pop-punk song with intergalactic keys courtesy of the Korg.

Over the years Salter has received compliments like “World’s greatest songwriter” from those in the know (including no less than one Tim Rogers). His blend of pop songwriting has been likened to the melancholy introspection of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake and the poignant opulence of Neil Finn and Paul Kelly’s tomes. Salter has worn many guises and as a result, his solo debut is equally rich, varied and relatable. It’s the product of a musical life well-lived where creativity has been honed just by doing and of course, getting out of your comfort zone. In short, The Cat is a clever and emotive pop/folk gem, a product of diverse experience that will stand the test of time.

 

Originally published on 10 October 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/30357/Ben-Salter–The-Cat

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REWIND DVD REVIEW: DEAD KENNEDYS – IN GOD WE TRUST, INC. – THE LOST TAPES

The In God We Trust, Inc.- The Lost Tapes DVD has to be the ultimate wet dream for the hardcore Dead Kennedys fan. On June 19th 1981 the legendary punk band recorded the In God We Trust, Inc. EP at Subterranean studios but a defective tape meant those sessions could not be used in the final mixing process (because it deteriorated on playback). Instead, they had to go re-record things two months later at Mobius studios and the sound from the original session hadn’t seen the light of day until now. Five songs have been rescued and remastered and packaged with some live footage (that the hardcore fans would’ve no doubt already bootlegged).

What follows is just under an hours worth of gritty, up close and personal footage at the studio where you can almost smell the blood, sweat, cigarettes and alcohol (not to mention the odd smells from the sticky carpet). There are some mistakes and false starts, some between-song banter and a no-bullshit, lay ‘em down quick and dirty approach. The numbers are often belted out with a Ramones-like, breakneck speed with absolutely minimal faffing about with tuning or sound levels. It’s just four blokes playing together live in a room and getting on with it!

The candid studio experience certainly ain’t a new thing and given the age of this particular footage, the visuals have actually come up rather nicely. The studio itself really does live up to its “Subterranean” name because even the viewer can gauge the tiny size, oppressive heat (with singer, Jello Biafra often shirtless) and mangy carpet.

The five rescued songs are: “Religious Vomit,” “Rawhide,” “Hyperactive Child,” “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now” and “Nazi Punks F**k Off”. There are also live versions of the aforementioned and some other songs taken from American shows that took place between 1979 and 1986. These see the band at varying points wearing tape over their lips, donning ridiculous hats and Biafra sprayed with beer by fervent fans. The overarching theme however, is of four angry young men with opinions and above all, profound political messages.

The Dead Kennedys had styled their music on the Ramones and Sex Pistols (even going so far as to want to be America’s answer to the latter Britons). They played their own incredibly fast, hardcore music full of brute force, volume and fury like multiple kicks in the teeth. For the trainspotter fans, there is a live version of “Kepone Factory” with different lyrics to the recorded offering and “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now” makes two appearances. One is a much jazzier kind to the vicious sneer of the recorded output.

If there’s any fault to be had with the collection it’s that it’s too short and could’ve been combined with the accompanying The Early Years release. But then we should note that these ARE punk songs and not Led Zeppelin epics. Also, the animated titles introducing the tracks are both jarring and stupid. They’re very contemporary and similar to NOFX’s “Franco Un-American” clip and don’t really fit with the feeling of the raw live and studio footage; although I realise I’m being rather pedantic.

In God We Trust, Inc. is best summed up by radio DJ and music critic Anthony Bonet who introduces the feature and described it as: “Four young men channeling their punk influences with such exuberance and self-confidence that they come up with something distinctly their own”. It may have been a 30-year wait but it’s one that was certainly worth it…

 

Originally published on 4 May 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/28386/Dead-Kennedys–In-God-We-Trust-Inc-The-Lost-Tapes

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REWIND DVD REVIEW: DEAD KENNEDYS – THE EARLY YEARS LIVE

The Early Years Live DVD by legendary punks, Dead Kennedys comes with a caution and directions. It warns that the following material contains violent imagery taken from “actual everyday life” and that the program “could be offensive to those individuals who prefer not to deal with reality”. It also says to play at “High volume!” and takes in nine live cuts from shows that occurred between 1978 and 1981, with most of these naturally from their San Francisco hometown.

Their work had been termed “devil music” by American conservatives and is full of blinding, red-hot fury and uncompromising, political messages. The compilation runs at just 30 minutes and features nine of their early tracks, most notably, “Holiday In Cambodia”. Their biggest hit comes packaged with live footage of the graphic horror of the Pol Pot regime with firebombing, shell-shocked victims and the aftermath of destruction reinforcing the point of the anthem. Perhaps someone with a sick sense of humour or someone who simply wasn’t thinking had the job of running order as they placed a cover of “Viva Las Vegas” right after this. God, ya gotta love Americans!

The full footage here actually featured on a 1987 video and comes complete with some very rudimentary, old school computer graphics. We get to see the band up close and sweaty, the hardened men playing with as much reckless abandon as the psychotic audience members that launch themselves both off and onto the stage and into the throng without a care in the world (and most definitely many years before people breathed the words, “Public liability”). There are thunderous drums, ballsy bass, gigantic guitar riffs and spitting bile and screams that bite like a right pain in the ass (something the authoritarian figures of the time would have felt thanks to these guys). The group were one aural assault but also very tight and expert musicians and you only need to look at an number like “Kill The Poor” with its fifties blues played by bratty punks if you’re unconvinced.

Also included is a short news piece from 1979 about singer, Jello Biafra running for mayor, in what would be his first but not last taste of American politics. His policy included: banning cars from the city centre, having police run for office every four years and to relieve community tension by erecting Dan White (the public official who murdered Harvey Milk) statues so people could throw eggs (sold by the Parks Department, naturally) at ‘em. He also planned to clean up the neighbourhood with a vacuum cleaner.

The latter may have been a silly idea but a stupider one was made by the person left in charge of the DVD features who decided a sing-along option was a good idea. For the most part, the words whiz by at break-neck speed like an out-of-control freight train rendering them absolutely bloody useless. Similarly, the band’s biography (and specific information about the individual members) is set rather fast and can’t be paused. And if that weren’t enough, that’s the full extent of the features, meaning there didn’t appear to be too much consideration given in transferring this lot from video to DVD. It’s a shame really, because I’m sure plenty of Dead Kennedys fans would have appreciated an extra song or 10.

The Early Years Live sees the group’s seventies and eighties line-ups pulling out all the stops with their clever social commentary and punch-in-the-face-style punk racket. As it commands, this is best when played fast and of course, LOUD!

 

Originally published on 4 May 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/28385/Dead-Kennedys–The-Early-Years-Live

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: GEORGIA FAIR – ALL THROUGH WINTER

Georgia Fair’s debut LP, All Through Winter sounds like they’ve returned to their “spiritual home” in the United States. The music offered by the Sydney folk duo sounds similar to the infamous West Coast sound synonymous with the likes of artists such as: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Just simply disregard the fact that recording in North Carolina was their first visit to the US and was even the first time these beach-loving boys had seen snow.

The story goes that the guys spoke to Bill Reynolds from Band Of Horses and the three bonded over a mutual love of Dylan. Reynolds invited the boys to make a record but more importantly, come keep him company and eat ribs in the mountains. The trio joked that they’d call the LP, Ribs and Reverb because they were devouring the former and putting the latter – like sauce – on everything. At least you can say there is meat on these song bones, as the pair tackles meaningful topics like love, nostalgia and loss.

All Through Winter flows on from the Times Fly EP and includes the latter title track as the opening song. It proves a chilled-out ode to the passing of time. “Blind” meanwhile, is a piano ballad by a tormented man pining for his love.

Dinosaur Jr. have also asked us, Where You Been? but on Georgia Fair’s track of the same name they offer a Jack Johnson-inspired beach ballad with an added shuffle. “Float Away” lulls listeners into a dream-like state and like much of the music on this record, is relaxed and gentle. It also sums up the entire effort really well with the lyrics: “I will float away/back to the old days”.

The vocals and harmonies are particularly noteworthy on this release. At times they are quite soft, melodic and breathy, like a cross between Alexander Gow’s from Oh Mercy and Toby Martin’s from Youth Group. At times a muted delivery, it means they can come across sounding organic and nuanced and brimming with a sense of yearning. As Benjamin Riley said: “This record feels like our first true, honest offering” and it is certainly evident in their delivery.

But the album is not just about spiritual quiet. “Remember Me” is a pop romp sharing a hint of flavour with Bob Evans’ “Friend”. Penultimate track, “Morning Light” sounds like The Beatles’ “Two Of Us” crossed with a country hoedown. Of course, the gold is to be found in the introspective moments because Riley and his bandmate, Jordan Wilson make music that is like the signposts to the whole gamut of human emotion.

Georgia Fair may be a duo of two twenty-something guys wearing vintage clothes and using equally old gear but they’ve created something that suggests a maturity far beyond their actual ages. With eleven well-crafted song tapestries, they often sound like they’ve lived years in a single day. So we’re glad they’re here to tell their tales around the campfire, with acoustic guitar in hand and heart on sleeve.

 

Originally published on 23 November 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/30858/Georgia-Fair–All-Through-Winter

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: HARRY JAMES ANGUS – LITTLE STORIES

For a trumpet player, Harry James Angus plays a mean guitar. Well, you could say that, but then you’d be discounting his actual playing – his great fingerpicking style is so good it’s almost finger-lickingly so. Plus, that’s not even taking into his account his successes as a versatile and creative musician with bands like The Cat Empire and Jackson Jackson

Little Stories is his debut solo studio album, one that borrows material (six tracks) from his Live At The Spiegeltent collection. It was three years in the making with Angus playing the role of magpie- collecting up tomes and tinkering with them for hours in his lounge room. They provided him with hours of entertainment even if his self-described long-suffering wife had to listen as he stumbled through ideas, laughed at his own jokes and watched his characters take on lives of their own.

On his website Angus describes the work as “unfolding stories of buried bones, murderous stove cooks, sentimental corporate bankers and mystical cricket players”. If you want some musical reference points then you need look no further than the songwriting geniuses of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits but note that there is the added narrative styles of Paul Kelly and Ray Davies, not to mention the Aussie twang and dash of humour found in Darren Hanlon’s work. Angus is by his own admission a frustrated short story writer and with eleven of these babies it’s easy to see how he reached that particular conclusion.

On “Daddy’s Millions” Angus dusts off the old notebook and pen so that we get a soft, Lennon-esque acoustic tune which is perhaps Bendigo’s answer to Pulp’s “Common People”. “The Batsman” builds on the Australian theme, this time with lyrics about a disgraced cricketer with a left-field (geddit?) folk track and hints of Gareth Liddiard’s bite. There are also moments with Pete Townshend’s vocal range and lyrics that build on the latter artist’s dissection of life behind blue eyes. It also contains the charming words: “I just put another cherry on my cherry tree”.

We get some Mumford & Sons-inspired folk with searing harmonies on “My Boring Life” while “The Banker” could be an anthem for the Occupy generation. Angus proves he can belt out a sweet and modest ditty just like his bandmate, Felix Riebl did on his recent solo album. While the two are honest singer-songwriters, the difference is that the former is content in his personal life and enjoys writing gritty lyrics that verge on the anti-folk, anti-love and other messy sentiments soaked in beer, blood and vomit (like “The Stovecook & The Waitress”) or an abattoir worker in a stark love/hate portrait (“Matty & Josie”).

“Underground” is a little bit of everything- part murder ballad, part chorus line set in the Wild West and quiet moments looking for the answer, with these usually spent staring into the bottom of a bottle of whisky. The hard-liquor swilling is also obvious on “In The Smallest Hours” with its vibe not unlike a Johnny Cash ramble with an added whistle and a hum.

Little Stories is an engaging, if unusual, hodgepodge of ideas. Hovering the line between outright cheekiness and greater meaning, it can be rather confessional and introspective. However, at other moments Angus seems content to tell his yarns about the world through the eyes of an idiosyncratic character or ten. In short, these songs are all interesting and rather tall tales; best told and enjoyed with a cup of tea… or ten.

Review Score: 8/10

 

Originally published on 10 November 2011 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/albums/harry-james-angus-little-stories-2011-lp

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: MICHAEL JACKSON – THE STRIPPED MIXES

How many people does it take to release a record? The answer is two- one greedy record company type and one dead celebrity (preferably a superstar). Okay, so that’s an extremely cynical view of the music industry machine but it must be said that there is an element of bad taste marring Michael Jackson’s The Stripped Mixes. For the bulk of the listen I feel rather saddened because Joe Jackson exploited his young son in the beginning (like one of today’s show business moms) and now the record label is taking advantage of Jackson as they announced the album a full half hour after his memorial extravaganza, and released it to the masses before his body has even been laid to rest.

But if you can stop yourself being overcome with cynicism towards this album – and it is difficult – there is one undeniable feeling that should prevail, and that is that the kid/tortured adult/tragic creative had one hell of a voice.

Assembled on this record are eleven Motown classics and those responsible for compiling the set have selected some of the best songs from The Jackson 5 records through to his own early solo material. The story goes that the original session tapes recorded when Michael was between the ages of ten and barely a teenager were discovered, and two producers have gone in and re-crafted the songs. While they have not gone and rebuilt the wheel musically (as there are some numbers that sound so close to the original you’d have to be an absolute pedant to pick out the differences), the most obvious change is that the vocals are given front and centre stage and really allowed to shine.

The music does what it’s supposed to do, evoking the right mood but not being overly showy. In some cases, the beautiful string flourishes create more epic and inspired moments (particularly in “Ben”) and the result is a crystal-clear set of songs that sound absolutely sublime, especially when you consider the age of the singer at the time and the fact the tapes are around forty years old.

The early hits like “I’ll Be There,” “ABC,” “I Want You Back” and “Got To Be There” are found here, and it’s great to sit back and really relish these staples. The pinnacle of the release however, is a very young Michael singing, “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It is such a big song for a little tyke but boy, does he execute it well! Personally, it is worth buying the album for this song alone, but I guess for the fans that already own Jackson’s solo debut album, Got To Be There, this is hardly a revelation. But there is no doubt that many casual fans would have missed hearing this wonderful cover, as it would have been lost in the bells and whistles, dance moves and pop classics to come. This song is also the most heartbreaking one, given the difficulties and notoriety he would subsequently experience. But ultimately, hearing something so soulful and potent solidifies the fact that his music (both covers and originals) will live on in listeners’ hearts and minds for some time yet.

The Stripped Mixes is an excellent album for completist fans, new additions to the MJ bandwagon and a great primer for those genuinely curious in the early part of his career, when he was an innocent youngster with a voice of gold. But the point remains that comparing the soul and Motown classics of his childhood with the pure pop gems he would spawn in the ensuing decades, is really like comparing something black or white and at its basis lies the MJ phenomenon and really the whole man, child (or man-child) and the enigma.

 

Originally published on 23 August 2009 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/the_stripped_mixes_michael_jackson

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REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: PAUL MCCARTNEY – MCCARTNEY

An initial glance at the Paul McCartney Archive Collection may cause some listeners to think Sir Paul is copying Neil Young in repackaging efforts. In reality, two of Paul McCartney’s solo records get the reissue treatment with McCartney and McCartney II paving the way for the forthcoming Wings reissues: Wings Over America, Wings At the Speed Of Sound and Venus and Mars.

In 2011 McCartney comes repackaged in multiple formats including vinyl, a 2-disc special version with unreleased bonus tracks and a limited edition with a special book. The standard copy is one purely for new fans as it simply offers the original 13-tracks, albeit ones recently remastered at the famous Abbey Road studios. It also boasts special packaging; there are plenty of gorgeous photos taken by the late Linda McCartney with many of these having been seen in recent press coverage for the latest compilation of her photos titled, Linda McCartney: Life In Photographs.

To better understand McCartney it is best for us to step back to April 1970 where The Beatles were on the verge of releasing Let It Be. The others asked Paul to delay the release of his debut solo effort, a request he declined. Instead, he released the LP to the English media with a Q&A booklet detailing the impending break-up of the band, meaning the music was always going to be associated with this notorious act rather than evaluated objectively for its actual content.

McCartney is essentially the equivalent of getting a makeover after a particularly acrimonious break-up. It’s about attempting to maintain at the very least an air of normality and attempting to suggest that you’ve moved on and are better off without your former significant other (or in this case, others). You see, Macca was happy and content having found peacefulness at home with his love, Linda and – at least here – didn’t resort to anger or potshots at the guys previously known as his brothers in arms.

McCartney is a homemade affair with most of it recorded on a four-track machine at his abode in Scotland. While unpolished in parts, it’s certainly very interesting and pleasing on the ear. Paul produced, wrote and performed the entire album with instruments like: bass (duh), drums, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, organ, piano, melotron, toy xylophone and even a bow and arrow. The only assistance he accepted was from his wife Linda in the form of light, backing vocals. And save the behemoth hits by Wings, McCartney is certainly up there with some of Paul’s better post-Beatles efforts.

The 13 songs are a raw set full of simplistic chords and lyrics that at times even seem to sound more like works in progress than actual completed tracks. There are six instrumentals and songs like “The Lovely Linda” and “That Would Be Something” are no more than a few lines of lyrics on repeat. The former is a home demo with Paul playfully gushing some lyrics about Linda into a mic with effortless softness and whimsy. The latter meanwhile is a rambling and quiet affair that got the stamp of approval from George Harrison.

Elsewhere, we get “Junk, “a soft acoustic number that wouldn’t have been out of place on Revolver. It was actually offered as a potential for The White Album and is later reprised as “Singalong Junk,” this time a crisp-sounding instrumental. But the album’s most famous track is easily the classic, “Maybe I’m Amazed”. A radio and live favourite, Paul wrote this for Linda who became his rock and support during the breakup of The Beatles, as she was the one who bolstered his spirits and gave him the confidence to write again. It is often given the rather appropriate title of “One of his finest love songs”.

Overall, McCartney has an easy charm thanks to its thirteen tracks of soft rock and balladry and despite the events transpiring at the time, the mood is warm and light. Even though it is fragmented in parts and overshadowed by the sheer weight of The Beatles’ legacy, it does hold its own as a great effort, albeit an over-looked solo one from a gifted songwriter.

 

Originally published on 8 August 2011 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/29615/Paul-McCartney–McCartney

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REWIND LIVE REVIEW: THE LIVING END, KING CANNONS, HUNTING GROUNDS @ THE ENMORE THEATRE (04.09.2011)

 

Here are the angry young men. It was a phrase Joy Division wore as a badge of honour in the late seventies. Fast forward to Sydney in 2011 and we have three bands that qualified for that tag. The scene was Father’s Day night with some punters bringing the old man along to party with the youngsters and in-betweeners who banded together like an army to enjoy some fine, true blue Australian talent.

The babies of the bill were Hunting Grounds, winners of Triple J Unearthed High who previously played under the moniker, Howl. This 6-piece of raucous vagabonds certainly seemed suited to the previous name thanks to the spirited yelp of singer, Lachlan Morrish propelling every song. They started with the war cry, “Blackout” and while they were tough as nails it wasn’t a patch on the gig they’d played at the Metro supporting Philadelphia Grand Jury. Last year it felt like they had enough raw power to set the city alight whereas tonight they were far less nihilistic and at times even sedate, being more like a candle burning than a major flame.

There were plenty of big guitar riffs à la Black Sabbath while at other moments they sounded like contemporaries, Papa vs. Pretty. Squashed at the front of the Enmore’s stage they squealed like banshees and seemed like the wrong fit for this lavish venue. Their blend of rough-round-the-edges rock with tracks like “In Colour” and “I Hear It’s Love” would have been better suited to a warehouse party that had to be shut down by the fuzz or at a pub with sticky carpet and copious beers. That said, we did get a three-way drum-off in the closer, “I Hear It’s Love” where a showman, time-keeper and hard-hitter gave it their all and redeemed things exponentially just before the whistle blew for time.

The second lot of The Living End’s friends were up next. King Cannons are the New Zealand-via-Melbourne group who were dressed in all black and promised some fun rock and roll music. These guys were another sextet who used additional percussion to the typical guitar, bass, drums and keys weapons of choice. They soon got the crowd rocking with music similar to the Foo Fighters.

These guys made me think that while songwriters and folk musos often wear their hearts on their sleeves then they have a different tact, wearing their influences in this fashion. On every track there was a hint of a musical great that had preceded them, from cool surf guitar to The Police-like delivery of “Teenage Dreams”. There was some 60s R&B harmonica, sounds of sunset and even Nirvana-esque grunge.

In “Stand Right Up” we got some inspirational blues as frontman, Luke Yeoward shared things in common with another fan of the genre, Jack White, addressing everyone with sweet thoughts and dedicating tracks to the audience, other bands and even the tour’s workers- the bar people, the road crew, etc and single, “Take The Rock” to the people at the front requesting it. In all, it seemed like a rather successful marriage of 60s music with punk and it definitely whet people’s appetites ahead of the forthcoming debut album due next year.

The Living End have come a long way since their first gig in Newtown. Back then they performed to a total of five people at a place that is now a Greek restaurant. Over the years they’ve been through some drummers and had a member overcome a car accident. Throw some kids into the mix and it seems they’ve come out the other side still retaining the goods, sound and fury.

The show opened with a triptych from their sixth album, The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating. “In The Morning” showed frontman Chris Cheney in fine form creating the remarkable guitar riffs for which he is known. He declared, “Rock and roll!” and they whipped out “Heatwave” and “Machine Gun,” with the former seeing the first formations of circle pits and fingers pointed high at the call of “This is a heatwave!” The latter meanwhile saw the first of many moshers for the evening.

But it was classics that made everyone quite literally loose their shit. Anyone who’s seen the group live knows that it doesn’t take much persuasion to get everyone joining in with the call and response in “Second Solution”. Scott Owen always does his amazing balancing act on the double-bass going up high and then daring to go even further than his fist-pumping devotees thought possible.

The electricity in the room continued with Cheney noodling away on the guitar like Jack White with the machine gun sway of “How Do We Know?” He then asked if there was anyone old enough to remember their debut record. He said, “Forget Silverchair. We were only eight, very advanced” and then launched into “Save The Day”. If anything, the guys made it all look so effortless that they have to be worthy contenders to fill the void left behind by the ‘Chair and the ‘Finger.

Feeling refreshed on this particular Sunday night, Doc Cheney prescribed the best medicine (sweating it out) as they knocked back “Song For The Lonely” before throwing a curveball in the form of The Choirboys’ “Run To Paradise”. The fact is The Living End’s material – like this pub classic – seem to have been written specifically for putting your arm around your mate, bellowing the chorus and balancing a tinny in the other hand. The crowd were up for it and would have happily seen the anthem through but it was time for “Roll On” where the stage theatrics were cranked to the max. Scotty got up close and personal with his charges lifting his bass ever higher, while Cheney finished with a Pete Townshend-like jump and drummer, Andy Strachan hit the skins hard like old Keef.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” saw the promise of an acoustic record but “All Torn Down” proved why they should stick to what they do best. Its perfect symmetry of excellent rockabilly punk and thoughtful lyrics meant the crowd lapped it up and wouldn’t wish for things to be any other way.

There were plenty of opportunities for mobile phones and lighters to make an appearance and Owen twirled his bass with great aplomb during “Universe”. But the set would peak with the finger-pointing jump of “Who’s Gonna Save Us” and the meaty “Prisoner Of Society”. Basically, you know you’re seeing a helluva show when people are screaming themselves hoarse, limbs are flailing, objects are flying and there seem to be more legs in the air then arms, but that’s precisely what happened. By comparison, the set closers, “Raise The Alarm” and “The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating” seemed rather tame. The new number was a curious choice of closer even though people did sing along during it and in the same way whilst waiting for the encore. Cheeky buggers.

There was not much left to do now but bring this baby home with “White Noise” and “Away From The City”. The finale, “West End Riot” saw Cheney atop Owen’s bass during the tracks timely and chaotic ending. The guitarist had proved he is easily Australia’s answer to The Clash’s Joe Strummer with his clever lyrics, wit and ability to play and do more with a single guitar then some three people can often do.

Cheney and Co. had put on an awesome rock show with the down-to-earth musicians mirroring the crowd and everyone feeding off of each other’s energy as we bounced around and the room filled with limitless possibilities. Registering easily at 10 on the Richter scale and notching up enough energy to smash the instruments just by thinking about it, it was honest, confident and heavy raw power of the highest standard – no need to raise the alarm.

 

Originally published on 05 September 2011 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-living-end-king-cannons-hunting-grounds-enmore-theatre-04-09-2011

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REWIND FILM REVIEW: EASY VIRTUE

A film adaptation of a play originally written by English playwright, Noël Coward in the roaring twenties is given a contemporary makeover by writer/director, Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). The result is an atypical period piece brimming with comedic moments that ensure the audience will have a gay old time during this particular romp.

Jessica Biel stars as Larita Whittaker, an exotic and other-worldly American cougar (oops, creature) who has won over the affections of John (Ben Barnes) in an egocentric love which seems destined to spell all kinds of trouble for his unashamedly English family who are tightly controlled by their matriarch (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Larita admits that her youth was stolen from her during her first marriage which concluded with her husband’s death in rather mysterious circumstances. This left her a little bitter and she now has no qualms about taking away John’s youth. Perhaps as a result, this staunchly American outsider can at times be difficult to warm to except on the occasions when she locks into battle with THE Mrs. Whittaker (Scott Thomas), whom many audiences will feel utter disdain for due to her prim and condescending manner.

Larita is shunned by most of the Whittaker family (as even her babe-faced spouse proves too immature to defend her honour) but she does find an unlikely ally in the equally free-spirited, Mr. Whittaker (Colin Firth). He is a funny and likable character right from the get go despite being a former soldier who went AWOL on his family after the Great War ended, only to be dragged back to the mundane country no doubt kicking and screaming.

Funny witticisms are rife in the script (“You’re English, pretend to smile”) and these are combined with some slapstick jokes that make the piece rather humorous. The former are often exchanged at lightning, blink and you’ll-miss-it speed but unfortunately this is in stark contradiction to the setting of the house in the English countryside where moments can at times tend to lag and meander past ever so slowly. The musical score to the film is also a prominent feature, although it can be a tad disconcerting to hear contemporary songs performed in an old-style jazz arrangement (yes, I’m looking at you “Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones.)

While familial struggles and dysfunction are not a new premise and nor is the story of a boy meeting a girl and the two falling in love despite their differences a revolutionary concept; it is doubtful that these (still) relevant topics have been presented in such a light, gay and whimsical manner before. And this is likely a testament to the beautifully eccentric mind responsible for conceiving the play in the first place, irrespective of how true to the original this film may actually be.

REWIND ALBUM REVIEW: ESKIMO JOE – GHOSTS OF THE PAST

They’ve been touted as the likely contenders to fill the void left by Powderfinger and possibly Silverchair. They started in the “underground,” cracked the mainstream and went experimental on the subsequent follow-up. Their home state has been dubbed as having, “something in the water” due to the large number of quality artists coming from the region. And so it is that in 2011, Eskimo Joe is left to set up their own label and release their fifth studio album, Ghosts of the Past independently.

This LP has been christened the “dirty 30s” record by the band because singer/bassist and front man Kav Temperley has said you can’t keep singing about teen angst and bad relationships when you’re in a happy one with a new wife and bub. The best source of inspiration these days it seems is not what’s currently going on but the demons that dot the past. The adult themes found here include: feelings of fear, nostalgia, being trapped and haunted by personal history, needing control and of course, relationships and all their inherent complexities. The latter touches on self-destructive and even violent ones but these are all achieved form having lived vicariously and voyeuristically through the jagged life experiences of others.

Eskimo Joe originally set out to make a rock album with piano, guitar, bass and drums just like the Pixies did so wonderfully on their masterpiece, Doolittle. But the West Australians also wanted to make a uniform-sounding LP and this is perhaps one of the major pitfalls of this release. In seeking cohesion and attempting to build an atmosphere where we know the exact band and album we’re listening to, they’ve also created something repetitious and a tad staid, at times riffing on themselves and at other moments lifting one too many musical ideas from the likes of U2 and INXS (particularly when they’d already referenced the latter on their break-through, Black Fingernails, Red Wine).

The eleven tracks offered here are certainly less polished and far grittier than the band’s previous works, like when Temperley and Co. confront a nemesis on the eerietitle track. Then there’s the music in “Echo” where we get the force of Black Fingernails… coupled with Inshalla-era keys and sentiments like feeling overwhelmed and moments repeating themselves before your very eyes.

On “Gave It All Away” Temperley sits and shakes his head at a friend who is making the same mistakes he made in his twenties. “Just Don’t Feel” meanwhile, sees him yearn for the past with a Lior-like ballad complete with strings and ruminating about how things: “Just don’t feel like it used to”.

The nostalgia card is also played up big on single, “When We Were Kids”. It is a simple tale of youthful pleasures like getting stoned and trying to get off with a girl, something that lends itself rather well as a warmer to the other catchy, radio-friendly hit, “Love Is A Drug”. The same unfortunately cannot be said about “Drowning In The Fear,” an energetic but altogether forgettable song that is like most of the album’s second half.

Ghosts of the Past uses lots of vivid, supernatural imagery- ghosts, echoes, skies on fire and demons in various forms all while evoking a vague, almost spiritual atmosphere. It was refined over a series of jams in the beer garden of the Norfolk Hotel in Fremantle and while borne from humble beginnings, is a slow-burning affair of heavy and straight down the line pop-rock songs. In short, it shows that Eskimo Joe, for better or worse, has grown up and come out the other side a little older, somewhat wiser and prepared to face their past head-on.

 

Originally published on 9 September 2011 at the following website: http://sludgefactory.com.au/eskimo-joe-ghosts-past-cd-review

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

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