Music News

Oct 10 2013

My Type of Cult

cult_postGig Review: The Cult
Festival Hall, Melbourne
Saturday 5th October 2013

I have always been a bit of a trivia geek, and one of my favourite trivial subjects is collective nouns. Who’d have thought that a group of crows was called a murder? Or a skulk of foxes, or a whoop of gorillas? Whilst there are a plethora of collective nouns to keep my trivial mind entertained, I feel I could easily offer some new entries to this category. Such were my musings when I attended The Cult’s epic gig at Festival Hall in Melbourne last weekend. For a start- how about a riff of musicians?

The Cult’s 2013 World Tour, dubbed Electric13, was promoted as the first time the band would perform their seminal album, Electric in its entirety. And the fans were out in force to show their support! The capacity crowd were there to enjoy some serious rock- proving that not only is there still a huge market for this genre of music but also that old rockers never die! The age of the crowd was evident in many ways, from the lack of crowd surfing to the visible technology… it’s been a long time since I saw someone videoing a gig on their Blackberry!!

Electric was considered a breakthrough album for The Cult in 1987. It was the third album for the band, following up 1985’s Love which featured the hit single She Sells Sanctuary. The popularity of Sanctuary shot The Cult into the charts and the spotlight, increasing pressure on the band to deliver a standout followup… and they certainly didn’t disappoint.  Working with Def Jam founder and producer, Rick Rubin, the band set about developing a sound that was both unique and physical. The resulting album was Electric- now synonymous for its stripped-back, riff driven hard rock.

Support act on the evening, Redcoats, provided a great contrast of up-and-coming talent versus industry veterans. This outstanding Melbourne 4-piece dished out an intense rock-laden set, helping to prove that in an industry that is currently dominated by dance and RnB fluff, quality rock can still be uncovered if you know where to look.

And then there was The Cult….

The band’s original two members- lead singer, Ian Astbury and guitarist, Billy Duffy proved they still had what it takes to rock hard into your 50s when they hit the stage. Astbury, ever the rock-god in his skin tight leather and ostentatious fur lapel, kept his admiring fans mesmerized with flawless renditions of hits such as Wildflower, Lil Devil and Love Removal Machine. And Duffy unleashed windmills on his axe so effortlessly that at one stage I thought he might take flight and continue to play as he hovered above the crowd! It was pure old-school rock.

Although played continuously, the set-list was clearly divided into two parts- the Electric album was played first in its entirety, followed by a selection of ‘other classics’. It was undeniable that the crowd were there for Electric. The air somehow seemed more charged during the first half of the set, and the fans more lively. That being said, my fave tracks in the second half included Sweet Soul Sister and an encore performance of SpiritWalker that brought the house down. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the entire set, I have to admit I was a little disappointed that they didn’t knock out a few more of their classic hits- the omission of The Witch was, in my mind, inconceivable!

I suppose it was the sign of a great gig that by the time the lights came up, I was covered from head to toe in an array of sticky substances including bourbon and vodka premixes. Indeed, the Jack Daniels and Smirnoff Blacks were flowing as freely as water at a rave, much to the glee of a crowd with an extremely high bogan ratio. Not that I have any problems with the aforementioned subculture…. in fact I happily embrace my bogan heritage, from my teen years awash with flannelette fashion and undercut hair, through to the notorious suburb I currently call home. I must admit I was not so much overwhelmed but more-so impressed by the tremendous turnout of bogans to this gig. So much so that I have decreed that from now on, the collective noun for a group of bogans be termed a cult of bogans!  Rock on people, rock on!

 

cult_post2

Sep 29 2013

Giddy-up

Foals_Melbourne_Concert_02Gig Review: Foals

The Palace, Melbourne: Sept 26th 2013

I’m lucky in the fact that a number of my closest friends have impeccable taste in music. When we come together, we create a musical network where our latest discoveries can be appreciated, old faves flow as freely as the drink of the day, and occasionally a good old fashioned DJ-off dominates the evenings activities. There are some friends whose word is  gospel and when they recommend a new song or artist, you take it for granted that the offering is going to be gold. Such was the case when two of my closest mates gave me an ultimate birthday gift earlier this year: tickets to see Foals play at one of their two sold out gigs at the Palace Theatre in Melbourne. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of Foals- over the years they’ve enjoyed their time in the indie spotlight with tracks such as Inhaler, Miami and their latest feelgood dance floor filler, My Number. Indeed, I have been enjoying their latest album offering, Holy Fire, a great deal since its release earlier this year. But I hadn’t dug much further below the surface of this English 5-piece group. Well I’m here to tell ya that after checking out this gig- I have my shovel well and truly ready to do some excavating!

Surprisingly, this was the first gig I have seen at Melbourne’s Palace Theatre, but I certainly hope it won’t be the last. What an iconic venue, giving me flashbacks to similar multi-level  establishments such as the Roxy and Tivoli in Brisbane or the St Kilda  Palace that mysteriously burned to the ground a number of years back (now replaced by a glorious car park). Sadly it looks to be heading the way of too many other quality live music venues in Melbourne- set to be demolished in favour of a 30-storey apartment complex as soon as 2014. While that gives me a sick feeling in my stomach, for the moment I shall revel in the fact that I got to see this epic band play there and tear the place down with their music!

Oz indie-pop darlings, Alpine, proved to be the perfect light and breezy entree to the meaty main that was about to be served up.

The thing that most surprised me about seeing Foals live was the amount of rock…. wow! they really rocked! In saying that, their musical styles shifted as fluidly as sand blowing across the Sahara- from heavy guitar driven rock to catchy pop and new-wave dance. Their style is often categorised as new rave or math rock. To the uninitiated, this is a term applied to music that fuses elements of electronic music, new wave, rock, indie, techno, mashup, breakbeat hardcore and electro house.

If I could suggest direct sound comparisons to older bands, it would be to the likes of Porno for Pyros, Talking Heads, even lending itself to old-school U2 at times (if only in the guitar riffs). Then there’s contemporary comparisons- groups such as The Music and Hot Chip. You gotta love a band that produces a sound so unique that it takes 6 or 7 conflicting comparative bands to describe them!! That’s Foals to a T.

From the opening instrumental Prelude, leading into the ever-catchy Total Life Forever, it was song after song of crowd-pleasers  and bounce-along remixes. My favourite tracks had to be the rock-your-socks-off version of Providence and my fave track Inhaler. My air drums were also working over time to the totally rocking Spanish Sahara and final track Two Steps, Twice. Foals’ album sound really fails to convey the rich, layered and hypnotic acoustics they create during their live sets, enhanced, no doubt, by the intimate setting.

Lead singer Yannis held the crowd captive with his incredible stage presence (there was plenty of beard envy going on, no doubt) and conveyed his total trust in the crowd through stage diving, guitar and all, into the hyperactive audience on more than one occasion, even taking an unforgettable leap into the crowd from the first floor, sending fans into an ecstatic frenzy.

Amidst the deluge of mediocre musical offerings that are siphoned down our throats everyday through commercial channels, it is refreshing to be reminded that there is plenty of genuine talent out there, and Foals definitely brought this home. It was a gift that will continue to give with my memories of the live set and my increased appreciation for Foals discography in the future.

Foals_Melbourne_Concert_01

 

* images courtesy of Take 40

preatures_postGig Review: The Preatures

Northcote Social Club, Friday 13th September 2013

If there’s one song this year that’s had me sashaying across the lounge room, it’s The Preatures, Is This How You Feel? The smooth, retro vibes first came floating from my television, seducing my eardrums late one evening (or was it early one morning?) in mid-2013, jolting me from my semi-comatose state on the couch and causing me to take note of the band producing these pleasing auditory advances.

After checking out the band online, I was disappointed, but somewhat surprised to discover they had already sold out their sole Melbourne show during an east-coast tour in June. How had these guys slipped under my radar? As it turns out, at that stage they had only released one EP (2012’s Shaking Hands). So, sell out shows based on one EP and one feel-good hit? I definitely had to check out what all the hype was about. I was justifiably excited to see that less than 3 months later, they were undertaking a more extensive national tour to launch their new EP, Is This How You Feel?,  this time playing one of my favourite venues, the Northcote Social Club. Their first show sold out in a matter of days and they went on to sell out another two shows at this establishment.

I always love the crowd that the Northcote Social Club attracts and tonight was no exception- a wonderful blend of hirsute men and indie chicks unafraid to brandish their individuality. They were out in force with only thing on their minds- The Preatures!

The headliner’s set kicked off with their latest release- the 70’s-funk invoking, Manic Baby, setting a slow-simmering pace which the Melbourne crowd  happily shoulder-shimmied to. As the set list progressed, the songs increased in tempo and the infectious energy of the band’s lead members leeched into the audience, encouraging them to push the boundaries of the infamous Melbourne shuffle.

The 5-piece Sydney outfit’s unusual lineup incorporating two lead singers delivers a perfect symbiosis of masculinity and sweet, sunshine-laden soul. Gideon Bensen channels an uncanny blend of David Bowie and Kings of Leon frontman, Caleb Followill. It’s a voice that I could close my eyes and listen to endlessly. Isabella Manfredi’s dynamic and intoxicating voice offers a throw-back to the powerful female vocalists of the 80s such as Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde. It’s the voice I think I hear when I perform my daily shower set list. Along with the other band members, they delivered an hour-long set that left me on a high, but also feeling a little like Oliver Twist…. “Please Sir, can I have some more?” Apart from the the tour’s namesake track which was always going to be a winner, crowd favourites included the Motown-inspired  Take a Card, and the encore performance- a sultry remix of an older release, Pale Rider.

I’m delighted that I got to see the band in such an intimate venue as I have no doubt they are making a B-line to bigger and better things. They have a sound that is just not replicated in present day musical circles. Take it from me, if you get a chance to catch The Preatures, jump at it- you won’t be disappointed.

The Preatures’ debut album is due for release in 2014. You can download three of their tracks for free from the Triple j unearthed website (http://www.triplejunearthed.com.au/ThePreatures), but if you want their latest tunes, get out there and purchase their recent EP and show your support for quality Oz music.

preatures_gig1

preatures_gig2 Images courtesy of Faster Louder website

alex-turnerAlbum Review:

The Arctic Monkeys- AM

I’ve gotta say- I’m feeling a little flustered. Actually, if I were wearing a collar, I’d definitely be hot under it! You see, I’ve just finished listening to the Artic Monkey’s latest album- AM. It’s quite possibly the most anticipated album of the year for me, with each single managing to monopolise my home stereo and force me to shimmy the volume to full on more than one occasion. I have to say, the wait was worth it. I sometimes find that the released singles are all an album has got going for it when it finally sees the light of day. But that’s definitely not the case with AM… It got my heart beating like there was danger lurking behind every shadow, but a delicious type of danger, like dating a guy that you know is going to break your heart. The entire album drips with this sinister energy and it makes for compulsive listening.

Amazingly, it’s only been 7 years since this English  indie-rock 4-piece released their debut chart topper- Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Since then, there have been 3 more albums (Favourite Worst Nightmare, Humbug & Suck it and See), with AM making it album #5. Each album has offered a unique sound and musical progression for the band, from the early frenetic-paced garage-rock hits such as I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor to the psychedelic undertones of Crying Lightening and the retro-swagger of The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala. AM is definitely a coming of age album, offering a sound reminiscent of Dan Auerbach / Black Keys mixed with a good dollop of Queens of the Stone Age (Josh Homme even makes a guest appearance on one of the songs), a touch of seventies Black Sabbath and a smattering of John Lennon on the slower tracks such as No. 1 Party Anthem. According to frontman Alex Turner, “It sounds like a Dr Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.”

My favourite tracks are undoubtedly #2- R U Mine, which makes me want to slow dance in my cowboy boots and dark glasses in a smoke-filled bar;  #6 No. 1 Party Anthem which fills me with  an overwhelming desire for the arrival of summertime, and #9 Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High, whose lyrics and video-clip offer an uncanny reflection of my younger years.

Whilst the songs can be readily enjoyed on their own, it comes across to me as an album that was made to listen to from start to finish, with a sublime mix of swarthy, brooding ballads and softer, poetic pieces allowing you to occasionally come up for air.  The album will be officially released on 10th September, but you can currently preview the album in its entirety by streaming it through iTunes. Let me know what you think!

There comes a time during any good drinking session when the everyday banter we tend to call conversation inevitably takes a sharp right hand turn and heads towards more obscure territory. It is about that time of the evening when topics such as, “If you could have any superpower what would be?”, become a serious debating matter. One such ponderous contemplation at one aforementioned alcohol appreciation evening, was the subject of being stranded on a desert island, and what albums would we choose to take with us.

I could immediately name one or two…. music that I could never tire of, and albums that I consistently enjoy cover to cover. To name 10 such albums, however, required a little more thought- if I was planning for an eternity of isolation with only me and my 10 albums, then I would need to consider a delicate balance of musical genres- I would need to account for the days when I just wanted to kick back and take in the whispering ocean, and also for those days when the insanity of exile kicked in. So without further ado, here is my top 10 list of albums that I would choose to take with me if I was shipwrecked on a desert isle.

 

groove_armada1. Groove Armada – Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub): This album has the perfect blend of thumping dance tracks and smooth soulful melodies to make it ideal to play from here to eternity.

 

 

 

john_butler2. John Butler Trio – Sunrise Over Sea: An appropriately named album for being shipwrecked on a desert island! The combination of twelve-string guitar and rhythmic congas has always elicited a primitive instinct within me, which may well equip me when I get my Castaway on.

 

 

daft_punk3. Daft Punk- Alive: Just because I’m alone, doesn’t mean I can’t dance (I plan to epitomise the saying, dance like no ones watching, because- well- no one will be….) and for me, there is no better album to bust a move to than Daft Punk.

 

 

rolling-stones4. The Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet: There had to be some old school rock’n’roll in there and if I’m talking rock, I’m talking The Stones. This album contains a perfect mix of blues, rock, country and folk to allow it to grace my shortlist.

 

 

Nick_Drake5. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter: I can’t really think of a better album to embrace the solitude of an uninhibited island than Nick Drake. Perfection.

 

 

 

Belleruche

6. Belleruche – Turntable Soul Music: Just in case my island turns out to be inhabited by a hot native, I’ll have the ultimate aphrodisiac of an album to seduce him with!

 

 

sam_cooke7. Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend: I definitely needed something old-school amongst my selections, and there’s nothing so sweet, so soulful as the man himself- Sam Cooke. With so many hits under his belt, I had to cheat a little and select one of his Best Of albums.

 

 

TheProdigy8. Prodigy – The Fat of the Land: One cannot simply dine on coconut and wade in the crystal waters whilst soaking up the reclusive lifestyle, and the Prodigy is undoubtedly the band whose music is a virtual defibrillator to get me motivated. Now excuse me whilst I head out to hunt me some wild guinea fowl!

 

 

The_Black_Keys9. The Black Keys – Thickfreakness: For those days when I’m feeling the blues of having no one around, I’ll have some Black Keys on hand to pour me a cup of concrete and help me harden up.

 

 

 

MozartRequiem10. Mozart – Requiem: Just because I’ll be getting all native-like, doesn’t mean I can’t retain a bit of culture. Plus, this is great music to send me off to sleep on those nights when the gentle lapping of the waves starts to sound like zombies slowly approaching on the sand to consume my half crazed brain.

 

 

Well, there you have it. What would make your list? Post a comment below to let me know!