Sunday, 28 October 2007

Review: Turnpike / Del Toro Split EP

This particular EP has been out for a while now, but since there are still some copies floating around (and I haven't written anything substantial in about 2 weeks) I thought that I would finally put together a write-up for it. So here it is.

A bit over a year ago local go-getters 'Del Toro' won the 4zzz Radiothon band prize, said prize entailing a weekend's recording at Airlock Studios. Being the community minded people that they are, Del Toro invited Brisbane indie-noise-rock stalwarts 'Turnpike' to join them in this endeavour, the idea being to released a Split EP featuring one song from each band. Strangely enough, that's exactly what ended up being released.

Side 1 (or Track 1, since it's a CDR release as opposed to the original idea of releasing a 7") belongs to Del Toro's track 'Hinge & Pluck'. It's vintage Del Toro (or as vintage as you can get from a band that hasn't yet released an album... although that's coming next year, courtesy of one Mr Casey Rice). It's Ennio Morricone as played by Love of Diagrams. There's that trebly-as-fuck guitar tone, all delay and wah and washes of distortion. There's the awesome bass part that pretty much drives the song. There's the rock solid drumming that slithers between the immovable bass and the piercing guitar. Yep, Del Toro. Actually, there is one notable aspect to this song which differentiates it from every other one of the band's tracks: 'Hinge & Pluck' is... well, it's sexy. It will make you want to shake your post-rocking booty. Or at least nod your head while sitting in a darkened corner with your arms folded.

Where Del Toro's offering will make you want to get your skank on like some dread-locked hippy, Turnpike's 'Selling, This Century' is more likely to get you to do some emo-kid thrash-moshing*, complete with windmill kicks, etc. Any regular readers may know that Turnpike are pretty much my favourite Brisbane band, and this track is a pretty good example of why. The song starts with a classic Turnpike riff, alternating between (relatively) subdued verses and all-out choruses that essentially utilise the same riff. About one third of the way through the song the band goes into a breakdown that leads to a tense buildup-and-windown-again, taking us to the final third. At this point the band kicks into top gear, with the noisey riffing and screams being joined by a delightfully dissonant piano. Adam King is one of the most energetic guitarists I've ever heard/seen, and the rhythm section behind him is able to give him the base that he requires to go off and let rip with his dissonant math-rock shredding (and similar shredding of his vocal chords). Both bands on this release really seem to rely on their bassists to keep the song rooted, with the guitarists riffing over the top while the drummers find some sort of middle ground between the two.

This EP was recorded by local engineer Emerson, who also recorded The Butcher Birds' EP. While I was somewhat critical of the sound of that recording in my review of it, I think that Emerson's slick style actually works a bit better with these two bands. Del Toro have possibly the thinnest guitar sound in history, paired with one of the thickest bass sounds - Emerson makes the two components work together better than in any of the band's previous recording, while giving the drums a welcome step up in power. Turnpike, on the other hand, have one of the most chaotic sounds around, with the guitar tone approaching white noise at times. The extra sheen that this recording gives the band suits them well, as it reins in their noisier elements while still capturing their crazy energy, making the band sound tighter than ever. I don't quite think that it equals Bryce Moorhead's recording of their Not Lost EP (still my favourite sounding Brisbane release, and probably Turnpike's high-water mark), but Turnpike's sound has changed a bit since then, with a much greater emphasis on repetition and noise.

* yes, at 24 I am completely out of touch with 'youth culture'.


Friday, 19 October 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - October 19th

Yes, there are more gigs.

Friday 19th:
Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers (NSW), The Rocketsmiths, Plastic Plastic Alice, McKisko @ The Globe
Cloud Control (NSW), Mt Augustus @ Ric's Bar
Lords of Wong, Hits, The Dangermen, New Jack Rubies, Subcity Smack @ Rosie's Upbar

Saturday 20th:
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse
Beer & Loathing In Bris Vegas: The Gonzo Show, Aheadphonehome, The Sea Shall Not Have Them, Come To Where The Carpet Stops, Premier Nights, Swaying Buildings @ The Troubadour
Toy Balloons, Tragic/Athletic @ Ric's (3pm)
Peabody (NSW), Yeow Meow @ Ric's (9pm)

Sunday 21st:
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse
Regurgitator, New Pants (China), I Heart Hiroshima @ The Met


Friday, 12 October 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - October 12th

Gigs. There are some of them on this weekend. You should go to one. Maybe even multiple ones. Which ones? I don't know. Maybe the No Culture Festival at Ahimsa House on Saturday? Or Del Toro & Scul Hazzards at Ric's that very same night? Roshambo/R.A.D. at The Troubadour?

But... pictures speak louder than words. Here are them now...

Oh wait, don't have any.



Saturday, 6 October 2007

Review: Regurgitator - Love And Paranoia

Regurgitator have always been known as a bit of an amorphous band, but with their latest album Love and Paranoia they have certainly outdone themselves. This time around Quan Yeomans, Ben Ely and Peter Kostic have been joined by Seja Vogel (of local popsters Sekiden). Recorded in Rio De Janeiro, Love and Paranoia stands up to Regurgitator's formidable back catalog.

'Blood & Spunk', the opening track, is classic Regurgitator, blending a shouty, pop-punk verse with a good dose of electronic instrumentation. The excellently titled second track 'Drinking Beer is Awesome!' continues in the same vein, but this time exchanging the lyrics for a subtlety poignant comment on the culture of fear in contemporary Australian society (something that is present throughout the album). Next up is Love and Paranoia's highlight, 'Romance of the Damned',
a track co-written and sung by Quan and Seja. The new wave-style love song, written from the perspective of a stalker, has some of the creepiest and most humorous lyrics("I was lost in your eyes/I knew you were mine/The first time I Googled you") that I've heard in a while. Following this is the grunge-tinged title track, and Quan's emotional lyrics can really only be described as being about love and paranoia (funnily enough). The musically upbeat but lyrically depressing 'Hurricane' is next, and the track again raises the spectre of paranoia and fear. The trademark 'gurge humour raises its head again on 'Destroy This Town' in one of the couplets of the year: "Phil Collins is a fucking genius/Who knows if he really means it." Other than that, however, the track falls flat on the ears. 'Psychic Dirt' is next, and while its rockabilly riffs would definitely entertain in a live show, they come across a bit tame on record. The short interlude of 'Sun Comes Through My Window' is the only track on Love and Paranoia with its samba drumming is the only evidence of the band having recorded in Brazil. 'Magnetic', written and sung by Seja, is the first Regurgitator song to not have any lyrical input from either Quan or Ben. Anyone who is familiar with Sekiden will know what to expect; a joyful combination of keyboards and pop-punk guitars. The love songs continue (quite unexpectedly for anyone familiar with Regurgitator) with 'Michelle', a song that, apart from Seja's keyboards and the (hopefully) ironic cock-rock solo in the middle, brings to mind some of the band's earliest works. The closing track, 'Armageddon Premonition', is the unlike anything the band has previously recorded. Returning to the paranoia side of the album, 'Armageddon Premonition' combines vocodered vocals from Quan with music that sounds like the lovechild of Can and Radiohead. The result is a track that operates as a perfect closer to an engaging album, and one of Regurgitators' best to date.


The John Steel Singers, The Rocketsmiths @ Ric's Bar (5.10.07)

The Rocketsmiths have never really interested me. They just never really seemed like 'my thing'. I'd heard some tracks on 4zzz a year or two ago (back when they were called The John Citizens) and hadn't really thought much of them. I'd resigned them to being one of those bands that existed outside my sphere of music. However, when it was announced that they were going to be playing with The John Steel Singers at Ric's, on a Friday night, for free, I decided that I might as well check them out. In the time that had passed since I had handed down my initial judgement on them they'd become one of the better known Brisbane bands, so I figured I should give them another chance.

I'm somewhat glad that I did. While I don't think I'd go so far as to say that they are, in fact, 'my thing', they're definitely not 'not my thing' either. If I were to sum them up with a quick one-liner, I'd say that they were Brisbane's ultimate bar-band. They're like The Hold Steady but with more of a rootsy feel and less poetic pretensions. They're energetic, with a big sound that's perfect for drinking to (I guess...). There's shades of country, rockabilly and plain old classic rock in their sound, with bar-room piano and rock'n'roll guitar solos a-plenty. Lead singer Dom works the crowd like someone who is used to playing venues much larger than Ric's, while the rest of the band supports him with some pretty tight playing. Ultimately, while they're probably not a band that I'd actively seek out, if they were added to a bill that I was 50/50 on, they'd most likely influence my decision towards going rather than the opposite.

The John Steel Singers. I've already reviewed them twice since we started this blog, so there's not really much point doing a hugely detailed review of them here again (additionally so when considering that there will probably be reviews of this show in next week's street press). So, to quickly sum things up, I thought that this was perhaps the best show of theirs that I'd seen (with the possible exception of their EP launch at The Troubadour). They're getting much more energetic on stage while actually increasing their tightness, which I guess comes down to how often they're playing these days. There are no doubts that they're a well rehearsed band, but thankfully they're turning into a well rehearsed band that hasn't wrung all energy and spontaneity out of their performance, which is something I was admittedly somewhat concerned about. I guess that I needn't have worried. It's also reassuring that a lot of their best songs are the ones that weren't on their EP (eg: the popular set closer, 'Poor Rich').


Friday, 5 October 2007

Cam's Gigs of the Week - October 5th

Friday 5th:

The Rocketsmiths, The John Steel Singers @ Ric's Bar - Classic guitar pop.
Brindle, Wind & Brackets, Flaminga Crash, Liam Griffin @ The Globe
Johnny Cash Tribute Night @ The Troubadour - I shot a man in Brunswick St Mall, just to watch him die... and because I didn't like his man-bag.

Saturday 6th:
Del Toro, Rialto Decibel Choir, Mass Migration, Chris Perren & The Wicky Massive @ LoFly Hangar - Should be atmospheric
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side @ Ric's Bar (3pm Cheeseboard)
Flaminga Crash, Do The Robot @ Ric's Bar (9pm)
Intercooler, Mary Trembles, The Gallant @ Step Inn - Intercooler and Mary Trembles are attempting to raise money to head overseas.
Jacob S Harris, Mexico City, Texas Kate (ie: Kate from Texas Tea), Chris Dale @ The Troubadour - mellow out.
Ryu Vs Ken, Willows, Space Between Trains @ Fat Louies
Turtle Creek, Dead Stock Circa, Mt Augustus @ The Alley - early in the evening (6pm). Hardcore/metal bands take over for the second half of the evening. I have no knowledge of them so I neither recommend nor un-recommend (???) that part of the night.

Sunday 7th:
Iron On, Do The Robot @ The Powerhouse (3pm) - a free show, as part of the Live Spark series.
We Are All Aliens Showcase @ Tongue & Groove - a showcase for the forthcoming 'We Are All Aliens' compilation CD (featuring a selection of Brisbane 'indie' artists). Unfortunately I've heard that Blue Carousel and Tricycle Fair have had to pull out, but there's still Joel Saunders, Illage, Mark Zian, Chloe Turner, Veya, Mt Augustus and a whole heap more. Starts at 6:30pm.


Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Rational Academy, Kate Bradley @ Ric's Bar (3.10.07)

This particular show was part of the 2007 Big Sound showcase (and will probably be the only show I see from said event). As such there were plenty of 'industry bigwigs' (I guess?) strutting around with entry cards attached to green sashes hanging from their respective necks. However, Ric's was about as full as it usually is on a Wednesday night, ie: not completely empty, but still with plenty of room to find a space to watch the band / get through to the bar without bumping into anyone.

Glasshouse were the first band to play, but since I didn't really have a huge interest in them I preferred to spend my time during their set sitting outside. In any case, they had really well kept hair, with fashion sense and upbeat songs to match. They may well have been great, I really don't know.

Kate Bradley filled the middle spot. My first time seeing her was when she first started playing solo after quitting from The Autumn Giants (I only got to see said band after she had left). Back then she used to play with a drummer as her only backing, and her music had a really interesting grit and edge to it; it was somewhere between earlier PJ Harvey and Jeff Buckley. Shortly after this she employed a full 3-piece backing band (to go along with her own guitar-playing), which I never really enjoyed as much as her early live format. It sounded too slick for her songs, which benefitted from a more raw approach (or maybe that's just my own preferences coming into play). Theses days she's travelling with a 2-piece rhythm section, giving her the standard guitar-bass-drums lineup. In other words, she's split the difference between her two band formats. I think that for the most part it works - her new bassist isn't afraid to hit the old Big Muff distortion every now and then, while at other times he and her rather metronomic drummer give everything a polished shine during the less rock moments. I still find myself longing for a bit more of that old rawness, but it's a pleasing step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. As for the actual songs played on this particular night, I especially liked the somewhat atmospheric closing song, which seemed to be built on variations of the one chord progression. She also played two songs from her EP, 'Alexander & All Your Daggers' and 'Any Day Now' (which was also an ex-Autumn Giants song).

The Rational Academy played to a fairly receptive Wednesday night audience, sans their (moderately) new bassist. The biggest thing I'm finding about their new lineup is the comparitive simplicity of the parts played by their new drummer; with all of their previous drummers having been quite busy on the kit, it's strange for me to listen to these songs that I've come to know so well being played with such (at times) rudimentary drum parts. Maybe it's just the drummer in me that notices it, and everyone else is blissfully unaware. On some songs the new drum parts fit perfectly - the set closer being a good example of this (I *believe* the song is called 'Pretend It's The Sea'... that's not quite the right name but it's close). However, on an old favourite like 'Pop Repeats' some of the dynamics and power of the song seem have been lost to an extent. Overall, though, I think the new members have slotted in well; it's just one or two songs where I think I just preferred the old way that they were played. I guess that sort of thing is inevitable when a band goes through such a big change in membership.

In any case, the important thing is that the songs are still as good as they ever were. 'Beach Party' will likely be the best local song released next year (if the band stays true to its January 2008 album release date), and all of the other songs that are regulars in their set are also of high quality. I really like their song '2004', however I'm not quite sure why the band insists on singing along to a backing track for that particular number. Surely Ben Thompson has enough guitar pedals to approximate the recorded sound? As far as I can make out it only consists of some pitch-shifted down guitar/bass drones (with some liberal use of delay), some cleanly picked guitar lines, a simple kick drum beat and vocals. Again, I guess that's just my personal preferences coming into play. Certainly, when the song is actually being performed I'm thinking less about the backing track than I'm thinking about how good the song is. They're definitely in my top few favourite Brisbane bands, so I guess my (hopefully fairly minor) criticisms stem from a desire for them to be perfect, which I suppose is a bit of an unfair request. In any case, they're a great band, this was a really enjoyable show and I can't wait for their album (hopefully) early next year.


Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Fortitude Valley Walk Of Fame

The Brisbane City Council has finally realised what a dearth of musical talent this city has and is now planning to create a 'Walk Of Fame' consisting of ten Brisbane artists. In light of Grant McLennan's passing away last year they've decided to name the Go-Betweens as the first inductee. The public, however, has the final say on the nine other artists joining them. Head over to the website to pick your favourite Brisbane artist from a shortlist of 25. Personally I'm hoping for the other nine artists to include Custard, Kev Carmody, Regurgitator, Resin Dogs, Screamfeeder, The Saints, and the Ups and Downs. More likely, however, it will include Savage Garden, the Bee Gees, Powderfinger, and Keith Urban, so it's up to you to get your votes in.