Tuesday, 24 July 2007

WolfGangFinch Kids Launch: I Heart Hiroshima, Nite School, Do The Robot @ Alhambra Lounge (19.7.07)

Photo courtesy of WolfGang's myspace site.

WolfGang has quickly turned out to be one of Brisbane's best club nights in the last few months and last Thursday night saw to continue that trend in aid of the Finch Kids collective and the launch of the first issue of their new zine (appropriately named, Finch Kids). While WolfGang have recently been bringing out the heavy weaponry (don't forget to check out Yacht next Wednesday), they decided to keep it local this time around.

Starting off processions were Do The Robot. The three-piece tries its best to defy pigeonholing, yet they do so with out sacrificing any part of their song craft; a fact due mostly to the brilliant guitar work of Matt who invokes the spirit of Kevin Shields at times. While the formula of each song tends to shift between Shoegaze swirls and post-punkish stabs of guitar, beats lifted straight from a Joy Division (this is a compliment not an insult!) and indie-pop singing courtesy of leading lady Sera, the influence of other sources comes through such as the no wave guitars of 'Dr Death' and the almost trip-hop-like beats of 'Bad Art'. At times, however, the band seems to extend the songs longer then they should really go for. This may be due to a lack of material to fill out the set with, but the songs tend to become boring once they go past the 4 minute mark. Other then that minor setback Do The Robot are definitely a band to keep an eye on for the future.

Following on from Do The Robot was Nite School. Never having heard anything by these two ladies I had no idea what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised by the driving guitar and punchy drums of opener 'Eat Shit Or Rust'. Surprise soon turned to boredom, however, as I realised that every track was going to sound the same. While the grinding riffs of Bridie Smith's guitar recalled that of The Birthday Party or early Sonic Youth, and Andrea Blake utilised her stripped down drum kit to slam out a rhythm worthy of The Who or The Kinks, together the two elements fail to comprise a complete song and everything falls flat on its face.

Last on stage was a slightly inebriated I Heart Hiroshima. Touring in support of their recently released Punks EP and soon to be released album Tuff Teef, the trio took to the stage with the vigor we've come to expect of them. Playing a short set of recent and older songs, the band got the crowd dancing with opener 'Punks' and 'Red Hands'. Having perfected their sound of kindergarten-chic hooks and rhythmic riffs, courtesy of Matt and Cam, combined with the driving, flailing, manic, and downright danceable drumming of Susie, it will be interesting to see how far this trio goes with their debut album.

All up it was a great night provided by WolfGang and Finch Kids, and I'm definitely looking forward to similar events in the future.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Greg Charles gets GoB's nod.

I thought that I should mention that Toowoomba resident Greg Charles (aka Charles Curse, aka the guitarist from Blonde Cobra) recently won a cool $20k as the first recipient of the Grant McLennan Fellowship. The prize was judged by ex-Go Betweens members.

So, I wonder what he's going to do with the $20k? It looks as though he may be heading to New York for a bit of a stint. If he was The Red Paintings he could record half an album...

Here's a link to an article from The Courier Mail.


Stature:Statue, No Through Road, The John Steel Singers @ Ric's Bar (20.7.07)

I missed the first band, Twist Oliver Twist, but since I don't get paid to do this that's ok. I didn't talk to anyone who had seen them, so I don't even have second hand information on their set to pass on. You can have a look at their myspace if you want, though.

The first band I did see was The John Steel Singers. Full disclosure: I am friends with this band - I organised two of their first few gigs and I recorded their first demos. With that out of the way I'm free to say that I think that, on a technical level, they're probably the best pop songwriters in Brisbane. Their songs are so intelligent and brilliantly written while still containing amazingly catchy melodies and hooks. With that said, they're not always the most engaging live act (don't kill me guys, hear me out). While I've never seen a 'bad' JSS show, sometimes it seems as though they're content to merely play their songs on stage without really putting a lot of energy into the actual performance, especially in the vocals department (although with the number of 3 part vocal harmonies they employ, maybe I'm asking too much). I'm someone who really values energy in performance, so this is probably more of an issue for me than for other people (and admittedly, I've never seen a JSS show where the crowd wasn't totally into the band). Also, the last few times I've seen the band it's been at somewhat larger venues (The Columbian, The Globe, The Zoo), so maybe it's only an issue in bigger rooms.

Friday would indicate that this is the case, because in the intimite confines of Ric's there was no lack of energy from the band. In fact, I'd say that it was the best set I've seen them play. I could tell that the band have been touring and practicing for their EP launch in August, because they were really tight (without being so rehearsed as to cross over into being somewhat boring). Their songs were as melodic as ever, but they also injected some much-needed noise into certain sections (giving their Kinks-esque pop a decidedly 'experimental-Wilco' feel), while their ambient segues between songs sounded as natural as I've ever heard, not forced like they could sound on previous occasions. I was also pleased to see the return of their two-piece brass section to their live set - recently the trumpet has gone awol, leaving a lone trombone for a song or two per set. Guys, more brass! Said brass was used most effectively on the untitled closing song, featuring one of their catchiest choruses followed by dueling guitars solos and one hell of a chord progression to finish.

Download a live recording of The John Steel Singers' set here (courtesy of ex_king_john of tregbo).
Download their early demos here (featuring songs that will appear on their forthcoming EP in better recorded versions).

Next was No Through Road (from Adelaide), playing in solo 'man-with-a-guitar' mode. The man really faced an uphill battle, playing such music on a Friday night at Ric's, sandwiched between the huge sounding pop of The John Steel Singers and the insane energy and volume of Stature:Statue. To his credit he gained the attention of a decent percentage of the room, largely thanks to his willingness to scream his head off while playing such quiet music. Indeed, if there's one word to describe NTR's music it's 'dramatic'. Maybe even melodramatic. But hell, I'd rather see something that flirts with being over-the-top than something that's safely within the borders of supposed good taste. Overall I can't say that I fell in love with NTR's music on Friday, but I'm certainly interested enough to see them next time they're here in full band mode.

Capping off the night were the super-energetic Stature:Statue. Quick summary of the band: loud, angular, yelly, massive hair. Seriously. Massive hair (although less massive than it used to be, now that the singer has had his cut). My impression of the band is that they sound like what Wolf & Cub would sound like if their influences had skipped a decade or two; instead of sounding influenced by 60s psychedelia and 70s prog rock, Stature:Statue sound more like 70s/80s punk (of both the regular and post- varieties). I guess that puts them in the same league as a lot of other energetic post-punk outfits doing the rounds at the moment. However, I never felt myself thinking 'here we go, another one of these bands'... and I'm not quite sure why. I mean, they're super energetic, with flailing limbs and guitars going every which way, but that's not exactly uncommon in their chosen genre. They have an insane rhythm section, but again, not all that uncommon. Highwire vocals? Nothing new. Good use of effects? Not exactly ubiquitous in the genre, but not exactly unheard of either (although they did use some really cool looping effects on the vocals). I can't quite figure out why they seem better than most other bands that sound like that. Without hearing a good studio recording it's difficult to determine whether it's because of superior songwriting or just a great live show. I think that for the time being I'm going to have to put it down to the Seriously Massive Hair. Hey, it worked for At The Drive In, right?

Oh, and I think that they might sing in Italian sometimes.
if (true) bonusPoints++;


Friday, 20 July 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - July 20th

These things are being posted later and later in the week, aren't they? Luckily I don't really have a huge amount of recommendations for this week.

Friday 20th:
Stature:Statue, No Through Road, The John Steel Singers, Twist Oliver Twist @ Ric's Bar
Violent Soho, Vegas Kings, Roshambo, Nova Scotia @ The Step Inn (aka The Shamrock)

Saturday 21st:
Capital, Me Mu & Meow, Strange Attractors @ The Troubadour
Nova Scotia, Re:enactment @ Ric's Bar, 3pm

Sunday 22nd:
Feathers, Shiver Like Timber @ Ric's Bar, 3pm
SixFtHick @ Ric's Bar, 9pm

It's the weekend of Ric's. Thank god it's free.


Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Review: Butcher Birds - Eat Their Young EP

Apparently the 'grunge revival' is on in Brisbane... or so I've heard from many a source. At the forefront of this movement, along with Violent Soho, are Butcher Birds. But where Violent Soho thrash and scream and break shit, Butcher Birds take a more subdued route, relying more on pure volume and the power of The Riff.

The EP starts off with the precisely pounded drums of 'Mower' before being joined by hugely distorted guitar and bass underneath simplistic lead lines and melodic vocals, pretty much setting the blueprint for what follows. It should be noted that the vocals throughout the EP tend to find a good middle-ground between all-out riot grrl screaming and subdued shoegaze cooing. In fact, that's a pretty apt description of the band's sound overall; too heavy and 'sexy' to be punk, but too aggressive and dynamic for shoegaze.

Second off the block is my personal favourite, 'Tiger Paw'. It sounds like something that could quite easily fit in on the last two Sonic Youth records; catchy, with guitars that are content to snake along playing intertwined melodic lines with commendable restraint. That is, of course, until the chorus, where the guitar become their most Loveless-like in their distortion and gliding dissonance.

'Great Escape' holds the middle position on the album, and personally it's my least favourite. It's not bad per se, but the chugging palm-muted guitars seem to drag the song out beyond its 3:30 running time. Following on immediately after it is 'The Deal', another song built around a sludgy riff. Compared to previous song, 'Deal' benefits from a much catchier verse riff, a pretty cool chorus and outro (complete with chants of 'turn it up!') and a great deal of brevity (clocking in at an economical 2minutes).

Eat Their Young finishes with my second favourite track, 'Sweet Sweet Cones'. Built around a slowed down bass riff that recalls Pixies, the band pulls things back to a leisurely pace throughout the verses, waiting until the choruses to unleash the power chords. At the three minute mark the band heads into a massive middle sections with guitar harmonics that remind me of The Giants of Science's 'The Letter B' before returning for one last chorus and finally finishing with guitars feeding back.

So yeah, it's a good EP. I've found myself listening to it a lot more than I thought I would, largely due to 'Tiger Paw' and 'Sweet Sweet Cones' (and 'The Deal', to a lesser extent). It's definitely a first EP - I find myself thinking of Iron On's debut when listening to it, in that there's room for improvement but simultaneously the band have hit the ground running on a few tracks. Personally I'm hoping that Butcher Birds' next EP (or album) will be to this EP what Iron On's Everybody Calm Down was to The Understudy: more dynamic, noisier and yet more pop, and ultimately more assured. When I listen to this release I often find myself wishing for more feedback, more raw guitars, and drums that sound a bit trashier. This is definitely a fairly Hi-Fi recording (it's more Nevermind than In Utero or Bleach), and I wonder if it's perhaps to its slight detriment. A band like the Butcher Birds would probably benefit from a rawer edge.

Overall, I recommend it if you like your guitars loud and your riffs heavy.


Saturday, 14 July 2007

Pig City Festival (14.07.07)

It'll be a bit hard describing the atmosphere at the Pig City Festival as it was unlike anything I've experienced before, but I'll give it my best shot. First off a massive congratulations to the Queensland Government, 4ZZZ, and anyone else involved in organising the event. I was unsure what to expect but the Festival definitely exceeded all expectations. Around 6,000 people turned up to the University of Queensland on the day, and they squeezed into the big top marquee. Another congratulations is in order, this time for the sound crew. Pig City was probably the first festival I've been to where there hasn't been a major technical fuck-up. But now to the performances.

First off were the Apartments. The opening slot is a hard ask for any band, and Peter Milton Walsh led the band through a well preformed set; albeit one lacking in any sort of fanfare. With a selection of old and new tracks the Apartments set an excellent precedent for the day.

Next off the mark were Screamfeeder. The trio, sporting stalwarts Tim and Kellie and new recruit Steph on the drums, launched into a set made up of some of their more energetic songs. 'Explosive Friends', 'Hi C's' and '1 2 3 4 5' were stand out tracks and the band left the stage with the crowd salivating.

The Ups & Downs were the only band on the lineup I was unfamiliar with, and after their first few songs I was still skeptical. I was soon swept away by their beautiful melodies, however, and by the time they broke into 'The Living Kind' the entire crowd was singing along. 'In The Shadows' and 'Perfect Crime' capped off a perfect set; one which the band seemed to enjoy as much as the crowd.

While at first glance Kev Carmody may have seemed an odd participant in the festival, his banter in between songs demonstrated how integral part of Brisbane music he is. Kev is as much a storyteller while speaking as he is singing, and his tales of Brisbane's past entranced the crowd, as did the songs 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' and 'Images of London'. A beautiful rendition of 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', in which the entire crowd sang out the chorus (as they did for Kev's take on 'Midnight Special' also), had to be one of the highlights of the day.

Following on were the ever-entertaining Pineapples From The Dawn Of Time. The seven-piece, which included go-go dancers and clergymen among its numbers, got the crowd rocking and dancing with its quirky psychadelia. 'Saha' and 'Too Much Acid' were set highlights (probably the only band who you'll ever hear sing "one day I'll shave my back for you").

My failure to read the set times properly meant that I missed the one-song set by The Parameters and thus the next band I saw were Dave McCormack and the Polaroids. Kicking off with one of my all-time favourite tunes, 'Bedford', Dave & co. played a tight set comprising mostly of Custard songs (with a little laser gun thrown in for good luck). An amazing performance of 'Alone' was followed by 'Girls Like That' and 'Apartment'; both of which got the crowding singing and dancing again.

The singing and dancing didn't stop as The Riptides hit the stage. While many of the songs lacked the rawness of the recordings nothing could stop the crowd from jumping around. The Riptides upped the ante towards the end with 'Shake It' and 'Sunset Strip' both of which received rapturous applause.

Regurgitator were the first band of the night to run into trouble (keyboard and microphone malfunctions, both of which were soon rectified). Fortunately they were also the most energetic band of the night, and blew away the problems with and excellent set. The band mixed a set of classic songs ('I Sucked A Lot Of Cock', 'My Friend Robot', 'I Wanna Be A Nudist' some of the best) with two excellent sounding new songs (the questionable 'Blood & Spunk' being the best of the two); all in all a perfect entree to The Saints.

Next up was the Go-Betweens tribute featuring Kate Miller-Heidke and the Brisbane Excelsior Band. While the set may have been awkwardly placed between the two loudest bands of the night, the crowd enjoyed the short set comprising of soaring versions of 'Streets Of Your Town', 'Clouds', and 'Cattle And Cane', the latter of which ended in some opera from Miller-Heidke; something which seemed to unsettle the elderly punks standing behind me.

Well, what's there to say about The Saints? Arriving on stage to tumultuous applause the original trio, aided by a stand-in bassist and a three-piece brass & saxophone section, quickly launched into a searing version of 'Swing For The Crime'. While the band perfectly executed the first three numbers they didn't hit their stride until 'No Time'; a song frontman Chris Bailey claimed resulted in the band being kicked out last time they played it at UQ. The song, now with added brass section, showcased the amazing roar of Ed Kuepper's guitar. A crowd sing along to 'A Minor Aversion' preceded a hilarious monologue by Bailey which segued into the Saints' trump card '(I'm) Stranded'. While Bailey mistimed the first few lines of the song it was difficult to notice with thousands of people singing along. The set reached another highpoint with 'Know Your Product' with it soaring trumpet and Bailey's massive stage presence sending the crowd into hysterics. Following this was a soaring rendition of 'Messin' With The Kid', a song that benefited greatly from the touch of horn the Saints added. The band rounded up the set with an epic 7-minute rendition of 'Nights In Venice'. Returning to the stage for the encore they performed a haunting version of a song I can't for the life of me name (points for you if you can tell me what it was) as well as a fired up version of 'River Deep, Mountain High'. Overall I enjoyed The Saints first proper gig in over 25 years. While a few people were taken back but the achingly over the top performance Chris Bailey gave (To quote MP: "the self-indulgent little turds."), the contrast of Ed Kuepper's and Ivor Hay's excellently subtle performances combined for an amazing spectacle in my eyes.

All up it was the best day I've had all year and here's to the Queensland Music Festival rocking it out next year!

Check out the photos I took here.


Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - July 11th, AND Pig City: Ups And Downs

Go to the Pig City Festival on Saturday. Seriously. I can't, because I'm in Melbourne this weekend (which reminds me... any Melbourne readers, go and see this). However, if you're in Brisbane then you should go to Pig City.

Otherwise go and see...

Friday 13th:
The Rational Academy, Charlie Curse @ Ric's Bar - Indie-pop.
Whiskey Go Gos, The Gin Club, Texas Tea @ The Troubadour - Raw rock and alt.country.

Saturday 14th:
Do The Robot, Sweet Lady Brick @ Ric's Bar - Indie-pop Mk II.

I was supposed to do a write-up for the Ups And Downs but I've been so busy lately that I haven't really had the time. I suppose that this is my last chance, so here's a few quick words...

The Ups And Downs were started by the brothers Atkinson (being Greg and Darren) in the early-to-mid 80's. They played a dreamy brand of jangly guitar pop-rock ala bands such as The Church and Cocteau Twins. As with many bands from that era, they never really gained a real following in Brisbane, and so moved down to Sydney partway through their career. They had a rather successful single in 1986 with 'The Living Kind', which introduced the band to overseas listeners (namely the UK). However, bad timing and bad business decisions meant that the band missed the boat in terms of 'making it' overseas, eventually breaking up in 1990. The Atkinson brothers (Greg moreso than Darren) continued to make music in a somewhat noisier, grunge-inspired band that some people may still hear being played on JJJ from time to time... that being Big Heavy Stuff (of whom I was/am a huge fan... 'Maximum Sincere' is still one of my favourite albums).


Monday, 2 July 2007

Review: Scul Hazzards - Count Less Dead EP

I am a big fan of the Scul Hazzards' House of Heads EP, and an even bigger fan of their live performances, so I was a little skeptical approaching Count Less Dead following the departure of the original vocalist and drummer. The band is now a three-piece, with Steven Smith taking on vocals and guitar antics, Tiffany Milne handling bass, and new recruit Leigh (also of Night Crash and Shakes) rounding up with drums.

My skepticism was misplaced however, and Count Less Dead builds on the Scul's previous sound, providing the mess of noise with a rudimentary structure that propels the songs forward. First track, 'Lines In The Dirt' couples a D.C.-punk riff with Leigh's frantic drumming before blending into an arresting noise-punk chorus. On 'Junket' the Scul's channel early Sonic Youth without resorting to being a carbon-copy of their heroes. 'Copicats' expands on the formula utilised on 'Lines In The Dirt', albeit with less effect, with a droning riff driving the song along before decaying into white noise and distorted snare hits. Final track, 'Vague Dream', juxtaposes a repetitive grunge bass riff from Tiffany with scattered drumming and ghost-like guitars before ending with a beautifully messy wall of guitar sound. 'So Long' was the only track on the EP which i found myself disliking, with its dirge-like bassline reminiscent of 'I Choke' off the debut EP with different lyrics over the top.

Count Less Dead
is another impressive effort from Steven Smith and co., and is a promising precursor to the Scul's debut album set to be released in August.


Sunday, 1 July 2007

Pig City: The Apartments

While the Go-Betweens may now be defunct following the death of Grant McLennan, the Pig City festival will play host to their closest relative, The Apartments, a band that share striking parallels with Brisbane's most critically-acclaimed band.

Led by Peter Milton Walsh (himself a former Go-Between), The Apartments are one of most fondly remembered bands to emerge from the Brisbane music scene in the late 1970's. The band formed in 1978 and, under the able leadership of creative spark Walsh, soon became a formidable band. The Apartments, however, were a stark contrast to the punk bands which made up the Brisbane scene, and the band had quickly fallen apart by October 1979. They posthumously released their debut EP, Return Of The Hypnotist, later that month.

In 1984, Walsh revived The Apartments and began recording their debut album, The Evening Visits And Stays For Years. The album, released in 1985, showcased their unique influences, melding the familiar style of acts such as the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan with more diverse influences, ranging from Serge Gainsbourg to Big Star. The Evening Visits... became a cult classic in Europe, yet, similar to the Go-Betweens, received little attention in Australia.

Their follow up, titled Drift, was not released until 1992. Drift built on the success of its predecessor, with a heavier, post-punk inspired sound heard throughout the album. 1995 saw the release of their third LP, A Life Full Of Farewells, which is considered by many to be their greatest album. The Apartments, now based in France, quickly followed up this success with FĂȘte Foraine in 1996, and Apart in 1997. Both of these albums continued the form found on A Life Full Of Farewells. Following the release of Apart the band broke up for a second time, and Pig City will see what is only their second show in a decade(they played The Troubadour a week and a bit ago).

To hear just what your missing check out these treats:

The Apartments' Myspace

Mp3: The Apartments - Help (Return Of The Hypnotist EP)


Bloon, Hazzards of Swimming Naked, Grids/Units/Planes, The Rational Academy @ The Globe (30.6.07)

The first thing that I should say in post is that I actually play in a band that could quite easily be labelled 'post-rock'. Keep that in mind when reading the following review...

Ok, so missing my train meant that I arrived at The Globe in time to see The Rational Academy's final two songs. This makes a total of 6 songs that I've heard from the last two times I've seen them (tonight because of my tardiness, and a few weekends ago when The Zoo only let them play 4 songs before booting them offstage for some reason). Nonetheless, those two songs sounded pretty good, with the band's new rhythm section seeming to lock into the Rat Acad sound. Hopefully I can catch a decent length set of theirs soon.

Next was Grids/Units/Planes, a one-man-band whose music I guess could be filed under the ambient / IDM banner. The music was definitely very pretty, somewhat along the lines of Mum with lots of bells and warm synth tones combined with a (comparitively speaking) decent ear for actual songs and, dare I say it, melodic hooks. Still, the moments when the guy decided to add vocals to the songs often seemed quite grating; it's not so much that he has a bad voice, but more that his particular vocal style is very jarring considering the pretty music that lies beneath it.

Hazards of Swimming Naked certainly have an eye (and ear) for the dramatic. In fact, the phrase that kept running through my mind while they were playing was 'the post-rock Slipknot'. Their set started with The Globe's curtains pulled shut; behind the curtains a delayed guitar was tapped with a mallet, creating a wash of sound. As the first delicately picked guitar line started the curtains were pulled back, revealing six bands members (3 guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist) all wearing black hooded jumpers and white masquerade masks, backed by projections of lightning and crashing waves and avalanches. The music they created was, to put it bluntly, pretty standard post-rock. Basically, take the louder songs from Mogwai's last two albums (ie: Ratts of the Capital, We're No Here, Travel is Dangerous) and you have the blueprint for Hazards' sound. To the band's credit, they did add some interesting drumming patterns (courtesy of the two-man percussive section) and some almost 'hip hop' beats. Even better, there were certain times when the music would reach the point where you'd normally expect everything to explode into the predictable noisey crescendo, only to have the band decide to forego such obviousness in order to explore more interesting territory. And of course when those cacophonous parts did come, with distorted bass chords and all three guitarists strumming as fast as their arms could manage, it could still bring that same thrill that listening to 'Christmas Steps' gave back at the turn of the century. Certainly, as a band they're very good at what they do. I guess that the problem is more with their chosen style of genre - post-rock, and especially the Mogwai / Explosions in the Sky / Mono variety of post-rock, is a very tired and limited genre to my ears. That said, the crowd seemed to love it, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy it overall too. I'm just not sure that I need to hear it again for another 6 months or more. Still, if you're partial to some very well executed epic instrumental rock, then you could do a lot worse than catch Hazards in full flight.

Lastly came Bloon (unfortunately they don't have any form of web presence that I can find), who are pretty much peerless in terms of instrumental rock in Brisbane. Unlike Hazards of Swimming Naked, Bloon's music relies less on big dynamic shifts and more on subtle build-up and release of tension. There are no moments in Bloon's music where things suddenly go from quiet and pretty to loud and crushing - everything is a gradual shift from one level to another. With just two guitarists and a drummer, Bloon make astoundingly lush music. I guess their general formula can be reduced to one guitarist making delayed washes of guitar chords while the other plays melodic guitar or synth lines over the top. In that respect they're not overly different from 90% of post-rock bands. And indeed, as good as Bloon are, I don't think that they transcend the boundaries of post-rock. What they are able to do, though, is make the sort of music that the best post-rock bands are capable of - music that creates shivers down your spine and sends you into some weird sort of trance. Indeed, lying on the sloped floor of The Globe listening to them, I believe I fell asleep for a few minutes. I have to say, it was the most pleasantly blissful feeling.