Saturday, 29 December 2007

2007 - The Year That Was (Cam's Take)

Well, Christmas has come and gone, to be followed in a few days time by New Years. It seems like as good a time as any to take stock on... The Year That Was.

Initially I thought that I should do a 'Top 10 Brisbane Bands in 2007' list, or something along those lines. However, as I thought about it I realised that that particular idea really didn't appeal to me. For one thing, I felt like I was always forgetting someone who was deserving, or perhaps giving credit to someone else who I thought may be objectively deserving but that I had very little personal connection to. And anyway, what worth do my opinions have in these matters? It's one thing to write a subjective review of a show or release, where I'm presenting my opinions as purely that: my opinions. It's another thing to give something some sort of objective ranking and score, and I felt like I had no business doing so (you might notice that we don't give ratings in any reviews here - a blog by its very nature has an inflated opinion of its own worth without going to that extent).

Instead I thought I would come up with something a little less structured and a little more personal. The following are a selection of things that were important to me from throughout this year, or that were important to the groups of people who are, in turn, important to me in some way. What was important to you? Let us know. This isn't supposed to be some sort of be-all-and-end-all list, and these opinions are only valid to me, so please feel free to add in your own experiences and favourites from this year. Lord knows I've probably forgotten about a bunch of things.

Best New Venue: The Lofly Hangar. Hands down. It combines the best elements of 610 (DIY culture, interesting bands, casualness) and The Troubadour (great vibe, comfy chairs). Plus you can actually stay out the back and have a conversation with someone without being bothered by valley morons / crazy volume. If it wasn't for the difficulty in getting home at the end of the night it would be perfect. Then again, if it were more accessible then perhaps some of the magic would be lost.

Biggest Loss: Skinny's. Although I have to admit that I haven't shopped there as much in recent years (I could never seem to find what I was after), I still tried to buy tickets from there. It's always been a good place, especially with their regular instores. RIP.

Most Blissful Moment: Lying on the floor of The Globe, drifting in and out of consciousness as Bloon played a pretty amazing (and somewhat rare) set of 'ambient rock'.

Most Surprising Shows: I'm going to list a couple of sets here that I really enjoyed after not really having high expectations beforehand:
  • BigStrongBrute @ Ric's - What I was expecting from this set (keyboard driven pseudo-electro-clash) and what I got (noise inflected country-rock) were so completely different that it really surprised me. It was really great.
  • Rocketsmiths @ Ric's - It wasn't so much that I loved this show and this band, but more that I was expecting to not really like the band very much at all. The fact that I really enjoyed the show surprised me, so credit where credit is due.
  • Chris Perren & The Wicky Massive @ The Hangar - I had absolutely no idea what to expect from these guys. Some dude (I'll make an educated guess and say that it was Chris Perren) set himself up behind a laptop and synthy thing, alongside a guitarist and drummer. What followed was one of the more successful amalgamations of electronic and 'organic' music I've seen. And their drummer was very impressive.
Least Surprising Surprise: The Rational Academy didn't release their album. Shock! Although they did put out a lovely little 7", so they weren't completely lazy.

Most Exciting New Bands: Again, there are a few to mention here... so I'll mention them.
  • Do The Robot - could be the new I Heart Hiroshima, ie: the band that somehow manages to walk the line between widespread appeal and precious 'indie ideals'.
  • The John Steel Singers - that rare thing: an interesting 'serious' band. Slick but not lifeless. Poppy but not boring. They're becoming a pretty good live act, too.
  • Rialto Decibel Choir - unfortunately it seems that they're relocating to Melbourne in the early months of 2008, but for the meantime they're one of Brisbane's best new bands (if you can stomach the drama... personally I love drama).
  • Shiver Like Timber - I'm pretty sure that Ms Dircks appeared prior to 2007, but she's really gone up a few notches in terms of recognition this year. Certainly one of the more weighty presences on the Brisbane scene.
  • Rooftop Nightwatch - I wouldn't have mentioned these guys normally, considering how close I am to the band, but a lot of people seem to be talking about them.
  • Nova Scotia - carrying the torch for that particularly Brisbane brand of melodic-noise-rock that was so popular 5 or so years ago. A fine band that hopefully will stick around long enough for more people to notice them.
  • Shakes - 90s revival meets 00s emotional bombast. Nirvana meets Arcade Fire? That's a terrible description that does a disservice to the band, but I'm lazy.
  • Then there are the bands that aren't quite 'old', but aren't quite 'new'. Your Scul Hazzards, Butcher Birds, Violent Soho (can anyone say '90s revival'?), Del Toro. All worthy bands who enjoyed a successful year, most of whom have new releases coming out in the next year or so.
I Just Don't Get...: Yves Klein Blue. I'm sorry, I'm sure they're nice guys and all... I just don't get it. At all. To me their music seems calculated, noncohesive and, at times, boring. I can tell that they're relatively talented musicians... I just can't get into their music at all. But heaps of people seem to love them, and now that they're on Dew Process they're almost guaranteed to be successful, so good on them I guess.

Encouraging Sign: Continuing on from last year, it's been really cool to see a lot of young folk musicians appearing around the place, most significantly at all ages / DIY shows. Acts such as Let's Not But Say We Did (who were quite impressive in their guitar-and-string-section format - they've recently changed formats again, though), Shiver Like Timber and (prior to their transformation into a rock band) Rialto Decibel Choir head this 'scene', but it's been good to see so many other people picking up an acoustic and fingerpicking their way through a set.

Congratulations: ... go to Greg Charles, the winner of the first Grant McLennan Fellowship award. Let's hope New York treats him well.

Bands I Feel Bad About Ignoring: There are certain sections of the Brisbane scene that I think probably deserved more of my attention, either in this list or just in general. For example: Texas Tea, most of the Mere Noise / garage rock scene, Turnpike (still my favourite Brisbane band on their night), Night Crash, Little Lovers, To The North, and many of the more 'established' bands, plus plenty more that I've forgotten about. I'll be trying to rectify this.

Song Of The Year: Joel Saunder's 'Porch Song'. Yes, it's kind of rough. Yes, sometimes he struggles with the combination of electronic and acoustic elements when he plays live (although he's definitely improved a lot in this respect, and now has a 'proper' band anyway). But when he hits those last lines of the song and his voice strains and the reverb fills the recording... it's pretty fucking amazing. And that's not nothing.

As much as it can be bitchy and tiring and thankless and seemingly worthless to be involved in the Brisbane Music Scene (TM) at times, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Thank you to those who put in the effort to make it so. For that I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful break over the holidays (for those of you lucky enough to indeed have a break).



Thursday, 27 December 2007

Weekly News - December 27th

I'm a day early on this one, not that it matters as there has been a distinct lack of happening things in Brisbane this week.

  • Common People are upping the ante for New Year's Eve and putting on their first night to feature bands. If you haven't got plans already then you do well to head to Rosie's and bring in the new year to the sounds of Nite School, Secret Birds, Influenza, and Tell All.
  • You may have noticed a lack of the ubiquitous 'best of the year' list on Before Hollywood. Fear not as Cam is brewing a 2007 roundup right now, but if you can't hold out until next week to get another dose of inane ranking than head over to Rose Quartz. The blog has collected top 10 lists from a number of Australian and New Zealand artists, including our own Shiver Like Timber, Joel Saunders, and BigStrongBrute, and is worth a look if you want to see albums from M.I.A., Radiohead, Beirut, Panda Bear, Animal Collective, LCD Soundsystem, and Deerhunter arranged in assorted ways.


Sunday, 23 December 2007

Weekly News - December 23rd

Sorry about the tardiness on this one, I'm having trouble with the soul crushing weight of consumerism that rears its ugly head this time of year. There isn't much happening this week anyhow.

  • BigStrongBrute have completed their debut album and are set to release in early in January next year. For a sneak peek scheck out the three tracks online at their myspace.
  • Hendrik Olivier also has a trio of new songs on his myspace. His unique take on folk-rock blends the newer folk ramblings of artists like Devendra Banhart with a background of post-rock similar to Mogwai or Sigur Ros. Definitely worth a look in.


Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cam's Gig's of the Christmas / New Year Period

Well, this is the last of the gig guides for this year. There's a lot going on in the next two weeks, and since I'll be out of town next week I figured I might as well just write all of the upcoming gigs down in one go.

Thursday 20th:
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side @ Ric's Bar
Bonefinger Xmas Party: Glasshouse, Grand Atlantic, Idle Cranes @ The Troubadour - a free show, but email to be on the list to gain entry.

Friday 21st:
Bloon, Rialto Decibel Choir, An Horse, Dollface, DJ sets for ReStream and Lowbitlove @ The Lofly Hangar - what a way to see out the working year. I think I'm going to end this night drunk, in tears and in love with everybody. You should too, wherever you may end up.
Scul Hazzards, Quiet Steps @ Ric's Bar - Maybe you'll end up here. You wouldn't be doing badly if that were the case.
Godnose, Dick Nasty, Plan of Attack @ Club Phoenix - Or maybe here?
The Horrortones, Digger & The Pussycats, The Band From Hong Kong, The Heels @ The Troubadour - SUPERBAND plays Christmas show.

Saturday 22nd:
The Gin Club, Texas Tea, The Rocketsmiths, At Sea @ The Zoo - this should be a really great Christmas party. The Gin Club will also be selling copies of their new rarities album, 'Hissy Fit'.
Intercooler, Iron On, Mary Trembles, An Horse @ Skinnys - say goodbye to a Brisbane institution with this special, final in-store on Saturday... and buy some cheap stuff while you're there.
Young Doctors, SixFtHick @ Ric's Bar
The Red Paintings @ The Tivolo - There's an All Ages show at 3pm, then a special Adults Only version at 7pm. Don't forget your Dr Seuss outfit.
Postcards For Abby, Sunflower, Hazards of Swimming Naked @ Valley Mall Rotunda - I'm not sure how the Hazards got this gig, but I say there needs to be more apocalyptic post-rock in the Valley Mall.

Sunday 23rd:
Bloon, Plutonic9 (USA), Uriema (USA), Chelsea Charlton @ Sub-Station #4 (Petrie Tce)

Wednesday 26th:
The Dave McCormack Supa Fun Happy Post Xmas Show @ Ric's Bar - Ric's really are putting in with the Christmas spirit this year, hey?

Thursday 27th:
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side @ Ric's Bar - again!

Saturday 29th:
Violent Soho, The Sips @ Ric's Bar - It seems like most of the other major venues are shut.

Wednesday 2nd:
Yeow Meow, Joel Saunders @ Ric's Bar - Still, you only need one good show a night, right?

Thursday 3rd:
Granite Lakes, Ben Salter & The Young Liberals @ Ric's Bar - Yep, Ric's again.

Friday 4th:
Rialto Decibel Choir (EP Launch), Split Sombre (Vic), Do The Robot, Dollface @ The Troubadour - Rialto launch their debut EP with some great bands.
Quiet Steps, Turnpike @ Ric's Bar - man, I'm going to be running between Ric's and the Troubadour all night.

Saturday 5th:
BigStrongBrute, All & Sundry, Greg Charles, Let's Not (But Say We Did) @ The Troubadour - should be a fine, fine show.
At Sea @ Ric's Bar (3pm)
Feathers, Secret Birds @ Ric's Bar (9pm)


Saturday, 15 December 2007

Review: Iron On - The Verse EP

I imagine that the vast majority of readers of this blog would be at least passingly familiar with Iron On. You know, lots of distorted power chords and relatively simple lead guitar parts, boy/girl vocals, big drums and bigger bass, even bigger Superchunk/Sandpit fetish. Yep, Iron On. For this review I thought I'd go through Iron On's previous releases, to give a bit of context. So, without further ado:

The Understudy - Not a bad start at all. In fact the EP opens with a song that is still amongst the band's best (though as far as I'm aware they don't play it much anymore), in the form of the Kate Cooper sung 'Ruddy' (that vocal chant backed by distorted bass chords towards the end of the song is a particularly brilliant moment). I hadn't listened to this release for quite a while, and was surprised at how good it was when I recently returned to it. It's much rawer than the band's other releases, and probably features some of the most complex song structures in the band's discography (ie: it doesn't rely on the 'clean verse, distorted chorus' formula to as great an extent as their subsequent releases... in fact a lot of the songs don't even really have obvious choruses).

Everybody Calm Down - My personal favourite, it seems to get everything right. It's more polished than The Understudy but not as slick as Oh The Romance, it has the right balance of noise and pop, and features not a single dud track. It also finishes with my personal favourite Iron On song, 'I Had To Read It More Than Once'. I just think that this is one of the best releases to come out of Brisbane in recent years. Apparently the band doesn't think too much of it, though (?).

Oh The Romance - After two successful EPs, Iron On released their debut album. To be (somewhat brutally) honest, it would have made a much better EP. Although it features some of the band's best material ('Learn Today, Earn Tomorrow', 'Playing Hard To Want', 'More Than Tape'), it also contains some songs that could probably best be described as 'Iron On By Numbers', which cause the album to get a bit samey towards the end. Although thanks to the production services of one Magoo, even the lesser tracks sound pretty huge. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fine album, I just think that it needed a bit more variety to live up to the EPs.

Which brings us to the present, and The Verse. Personally, I find this EP to be something of a mixed bag, though in a different way from Oh The Romance. Where the band's debut album tended to consist of songs that either worked in their entirety or just never quite found that much needed spark, many of the songs on this EP find that spark for certain sections and then lose it in others.

The EP starts with 'One Man Band', which kind of approaches being one of those 'Iron-On-By-Numbers' songs. There's nothing wrong with it, in fact there's a lot right with it - it's a well written song with a good melody (I really like the 'ooo' backing vocals in the verses) and a good amount of energy, but it just never really leapt out at me. I find it somewhat strange that it's the radio single, not because it's not representative of the band and their sound (because it is representative, VERY representative) but more because they've written countless songs that are far better. In fact I'd probably say that it's the worst song on the EP - which I guess says something about the band's consistency, since as I mentioned before it's still a good song.

Ross Hope's 'Showing Signs' follows next, and on this track Iron On get most things pretty spot on - there's some interesting delayed guitar parts in the verses, and the choruses are quite frankly huge. Very satisfying. There's just one problem... Hope's damn American accent. It's a pet peeve of mine, so maybe other people don't even notice it, but his vocal affectations are starting to annoy me to the extent that they just about ruin songs that I otherwise love. He doesn't talk that way, so why sing like that? There's something about the accent that kind of makes me question the sincerity of the rest of the song. Still... great freaking chorus. Probably the best song on the EP, accent notwithstanding.

The next two songs ('Snow' and 'Can't Concentrate') explore some new ground for Iron On, being predominantly acoustic songs with some new (for Iron On) choices in instrumentation, namely some keys and drum machines. They're both quite good songs too, and show that the band are looking to expand their sound to an extent, which bodes well for their next full length.

The Verse finishes with 'Terrible Year', which again shows some interesting new ground being explored by the band, this time in the form of a sludgy two-chord riff in the verses. It's interesting, it works in putting an slightly new spin on the Iron On Sound... and then the choruses come in and just completely jar with the verses. Two chords, upbeat, it's like they've been ripped from a completely different song. Not necessarily a bad different song, but... it just sounds weird. I've had about a month to get used to the changes and they STILL sound strange.

I love Iron On. I don't love this EP, but I do love bits of it. I like the fact that it shows the band covering some new ground. I think it shows promising signs for their forthcoming sophomore album. I like Iron On when they're a little bit weirder (which is why I like Everybody Calm Down the most), and The Verse shows them being a little bit weirder. I just think that on a few occasions they've chosen to be a little bit weirder in a weird way. Still, I'd rather see them try something new and maybe come up slightly short than to just blindly continue on with the sound that they've pretty much mastered.


Friday, 14 December 2007

Weekly News - December 14th

  • We have naught but sad news this week, with the announcement that Skinny's will be closing its doors on Christmas Eve. The store has been in the game for around three decades so it is sure to leave a hole in the cultural heart of Brisbane. There is a silver lining to this cloud however, as Skinny's is planning on going out with a bang in the form of an in-store concert featuring Iron On, Little Lovers, Mary Trembles, Intercooler and An Horse on December 22nd.


Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Robert Forster & Band @ GOMA (08.12.07)

Hats off to Robert Forster and his band for an excellent set at the GOMA's Andy Warhol Exhibition opening. The band covered three of the Velvet Underground's albums with 'I'm Waiting For The Man', 'All Tomorrows Parties' and 'What Goes On' the stand out tracks. For those who didn't make it on the night you can have a look at some photos here, as well as the video below.


Friday, 7 December 2007

Weekly News - December 7th

  • Its December and that means end of the year lists, and locally there's none bigger then 4ZzZ's Hottest 100. Anyone can vote, however 4ZzZ subscribers go in the running to win 10 CD's. Entries close Christmas Day, so get in quick and vote here.
  • Undertow, the Gold Coast's resident street press, is releasing a compilation showcasing the city's musical talent. The featured artists cover the spectrum of the Gold Coast music scene, ranging from the internationally and nationally recognised (Operator Please, Winnie Coopers), to local favourites (The Daisycutters, The Presidents Bush). Proceeds from sales of the CD go to charity so make sure to pick up a copy when its released next week.
  • Garage-punks The Busymen are launching their debut album this week (a decade after they formed!). Distort All Levels is being released on Turkeyneck Records and promises to serve up a uniquely 'Brisbane' take on the proto-punk sound of the 60's.
  • Things are on the up and up for Del Toro. The band have recently finished recording their debut album, Hydra, with veteran producer Casey Rice (Tortoise, Veruca Salt, Dirty Three). The first evidence of this is the stellar track 'Unlimited', available to hear on the band's Myspace. The trio have also scored support slots in January for US alternative heavyweights Low and Built To Spill.
  • Brisbane's very own supergroup (of sorts), Rooftop Nightwatch, have unleashed a bunch of demos. Don't let the tag put you off though, these are excellent quality recordings so be sure to check them out.
  • For those lamenting Brisbane's prodigal instrumental hip-hopper's Briztronix (Who have recently released their debut LP), I suggest having a listen to the latest release from Monster Monster. The track 'Nine Minutes And Fifty Something Seconds' is to be released as a single in the future, but for now you can listen to part of it in the Monster Monster's myspace.
  • Bit of a public service announcement to finish off. Mary Trembles bassist Tanzie had three guitars stolen last Saturday in Bowen Hills and would probably like them back. Check out the details here if you know anything.


Thursday, 6 December 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - December 6th

Things aren't quite as crazily busy as they were last weekend, but there's still a few things to choose from.

Thursday 6th:
Teeming With Wildlife, Candy Falls @ Ric's Bar

Friday 7th:
Television Records Christmas Party: Edward Guglielmino & Tim Carroll, Jackie Marshall, Carry Nation, Lucien Simon, Cameron Elliott, CometowherethecarpetstopS @ The Troubadour
Dizzy Gotheca, Twist Oliver Twist @ Ric's Bar
Busymen, Pineapples from the Dawn of Time, Kewpie Doll @ Rosies Upstairs

Saturday 8th:
Iron On (EP Launch), Violent Soho, Butcher Birds @ The Zoo
Capital, Hot Liquid Sex @ Ric's Bar
4zzzFM Birthday Bash: The Meanies, Blowhard, SixFtHick, Dick Nasty, Suspect 7, Nova Scotia, Nightillion, Afro Dizzi Act, Dub Doubt, The Dangerman, Elation, Lao Mirador, Bazmati, Dementia 13, Timber & Steel Sound System @ Jubilee Hotel - Starts at 12pm, just the one stage. I saw a timetable somewhere but can't find it right now... if it turns up I'll post it here.
Euripides Berserker, Ryu Vs Ken, Quiet Steps, Collisions @ Fat Louie's

Tuesday 11th:
Dew Process Christmas Party: The Grates, Dr Dog, Whitley, Yves Klein Blue @ The Zoo