Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Weekly News - February 27th

Okay, maybe not so weekly news. I've been without internet for the last three weeks or so, but I'm connected again so no excuses. Thankfully not much has occurred in that time, but here's the important bits.

  • Screamfeeder are gigging again, with original drummer Dean returning to the fold. The band have scored the support slot for Buffalo Tom next month.
  • The Scul Hazzards have now departed Brisbane for France. While he band will release their debut album later in 2008 via local imprint Valve, you can have a sneak peek at one of the new songs, 'Greater Good', on their myspace.
  • The venue and date for the third installment of the No Culture event have been announced. This time round it will take place over two days (30-31st May) with the first day occurring at Lofly Hangar and the second at Ahimsa House.


Monday, 25 February 2008

Favourite Brisbane Bands - Cam's Top 5

Recently we here at Before Hollywood were requested to list our favourite Brisbane bands by a local music-related company. Since we are nothing if not beholden to the machinations of the music industry, we graciously complied. Therefore, let me present to you my 5 favourite current Brisbane bands (Gav's will be forthcoming).

Note: this is not an 'of-all-time' list, I'm just talking of bands who are releasing stuff right now. Also, even though Ed Kuepper, Robert Forster etc are still releasing music, I thought it kind of went against the focus of BH to list them here, since they don't really need any assistance from me.

Is there a better band in existence than Turnpike? If I'm being objective then the answer is probably yes, but if I let myself give in to sentimentalism then the answer is a hearty 'NO!'. They're the sort of band who seem to inspire fanaticism in a percentage of people who chance across them, but equally seem to be fated to remain on the relative fringes of the more 'successful' aspects of the Brisbane music 'scene'. I think the band are perfectly ok with this, though.

I think that the thing about Turnpike that equally turns some people off and lures others in is the ugliness to their music. Adam's guitar verges on white noise a lot of the time, the music regularly goes through 90 degree turns to take you somewhere unexpected, and the band walks this weird line between being completely shambolic and incredibly tight - somehow they manage to be both at the same time. But when you get past that there's also a strange sort of beauty in there; you realise that there are actual melodies in the haze of distortion and screaming, that some of the time they're playing a fractured form of pop music, that the jarring transitions actually make perfect sense, and that the push and pull between the three players is what makes the band so thrilling - there's that constant sense that everything could fall apart, or that something completely amazing could be about to happen. Sometimes you get the former, but more often it's the latter.

The Rational Academy:
It's been a long time coming, but The Rat Acad are finally going to be releasing their debut album in a the next few weeks. I remember seeing my first (the first?) RA show back in the little room near the entrance of 610 back in 2004. I was super excited about the band, as it featured members of the recently disbanded Autumn Giants, Delpino and Iron On. It was a Brisbane indie-rock supergroup, and the descriptions I'd heard of the band sounded fantastic. For me, they lived up to those expectations. Through the years (and countless drummers, plus the recent addition of bass and occasional flourishes of live glitchy laptop... stuff) they've retained their core sound of distorted, down-tuned guitars married to loud drums and relatively meek vocals, creating a dreamy pop soundscape. They've also managed to move into some interesting new territory, especially on record (see: the cut-up folk of their debut EP '(drums)', as well as the synth-pop of '2004' from the upcoming full-length 'a heart against your own').

Ambitious Lovers:
Last Thursday the Ambitious Lovers returned to performing live, and it was a heart-warming thing to witness. While the lineup has changed, the core vibe has remained the same: mostly beautiful but occasionally cathartically ragged ukelele underneath boy-girl vocals, with 'junkyard' percussion accompaniments (ie: drums made out of milk crates, wine glasses, kitchen utensils, etc). Where it can sometimes seem as though most local bands are just trying to rip off their favourite international acts, Ambitious Lovers seem to be able to effortlessly carve out their own unique sound and feel, even though they may be fairly comfortably lumped in with the whole 'freak folk' thing. Equally, they don't ever come across as being willfully difficult - there is always a beautifully written song at the core of even their most wayward moments. And when they do 'pretty'... well, they do it like noone else in town, with an authenticity that convinces.

Nova Scotia:
They're by far the newest band on this list, having only existed for a matter of months, but after (self-) releasing two pretty amazing indie-rock/pop EPs and playing a handful of quality shows they've convinced me that they're a band to love. And really, with the pedigree behind the members of the band Nova Scotia was always going to be at least 'pretty good'. Luckily for us, they've pretty much surpassed all of their previous groups - they've somehow managed to take many of the best aspects of those bands and then add in new elements to take the whole thing further.

Iron On:
My review of Iron On's recent release 'The Verse' may not have exactly been glowing, but make no mistake: Iron On are a really good band (in fact I'm listening to the EP right now and liking it a lot more... though the things that I didn't like about it before still grate on me). They've been releasing quality music and playing quality shows for too long to be discounted, either by any perceived 'stagnation' in the band or purely because they've been around for so long that they start being written off due to their ubiquity in the 'scene' or, even worse, the fickle nature of the indie rock community. Iron On's sense of pop-songcraft is strong, and experience has polished it to the nth degree. The only question is whether or not they can continue to release music without things getting stale. We'll all find out later in the year, when they release their sophomore album. I'm hoping they release the sort of album that they've shown they have the potential to make.

Special mentions: Nightcrash (too recently disbanded), Scul Hazzards (too recently relocated), Rialto Decibel Choir (too new), Bloon (too 'reportedly finished' and too 'plays once in a blue moon', but still awesome), Shiver Like Timber, a whole host of others.


Review: Nova Scotia - Maritime Disasters EP

Some regular Before Hollywood readers (???) may remember a review I wrote for a little EP called 'Bear Smashes Photocopier' by the band Nova Scotia. Furthermore, you may remember that it was, in fact, BH's first record review. If you have especially good recall skills (or you clicked on the link) you may remember that I liked that EP quite a lot. Nova Scotia have just release their second EP, entitled 'Maritime Disasters', and it's... well, it's freaking fantastic.

The first thing that struck me about the CD is how good it sounds. The opening track, 'Windswept Mile', is all crystalline guitars and smooth melodies - it's not what you'd expect from a band that contains members of Eat Laser Scumbag, The Sips and Toadracer. Nova Scotia have really expanded their array of sounds - while they still have the mid-90s indie rock thing going on (often being very reminiscent of bands like Pavement, Polvo, Weezer and The Flaming Lips) they're now taking it to some unexpected places. There's not a sound on this record that isn't beautifully reproduced and meticulously placed - or at least it sounds that way, maybe it's a lot less planned out and the band just fluked it. I doubt it though.

The following track ('Penny Dropped') sounds more like the Nova Scotia we heard on their previous release, all galloping drums and screaming guitars and keyboard hooks and straining vocals. It's just that everything is BETTER (and hell, things were already pretty damn good with this band). Listening to this song on the bus to work this morning I was given goosebumps by the energy that it contains. It's almost Neutral Milk Hotel-esque in its sense of joyous noise (we're talking 'Holland 1945' here).

They follow that up with 'The Last Boy Band', which could well be my favourite song on the EP. The basis of the song is a bouncy, repetitious bassline which pretty much plays over and over until the end of the song. Bit by bit the band adds in instruments - first the vocals, then drums and a guitar, some doubled vocal parts, another guitar, before the song explodes into screams and woozey distortion about halfway through. It's a thrilling moment, it really is. It's also catchy as hell. Seriously, I've had this song in my head for weeks.

And so it continues from there with the other three songs. 'Crawling Through The Mud' sounds kind of like Weezer, with big choruses featuring group vocals. 'Secrets Of The New Age' features chugging guitars underneath another great vocal melody and dueling lead guitars. There are even glockenspiels! Glockenspiels! Finally, the 6 minute long title track closes out the record in slow burning style. 'Stalin's Holiday Bungalow' was a similarly epic closer on the previous EP, but where that song built up and exploded in cathartic glory, 'Maritime Disasters' offers a more contemplative and smouldering end to proceedings.

There are only 100 copies of this record available. For the love of God, I hope that someone gets a hold of this band and forces them to make more than that, but in case noone does I implore you to get out to see this band and BUY A COPY (you'll also have the added joy of seeing a great live act). There is NO reason why some of these songs couldn't be huge. Pretty much every song here is ridiculous good and really well recorded - there's none of the roughness of Bear Smashes Photocopier, and the polish on these songs actually enhances the energy put out by the band. Seriously, I don't have a single bad thing to say about this record, not even a lone lukewarm comment.

This is the best thing I've heard come out of Brisbane in a long time.

Here's a live video of 'Stunted Rabbits' (from Bear Smashes Photocopier) and 'The Last Boy Band' (from Maritime Disasters) from earlier this month at Ric's. It was a really great show.


Thursday, 21 February 2008

Cam's Gigs of the Week - February 21st

After a week off, here's another round of Gigs of the Week.

Thursday 21st:
All & Sundry, Ambitious Lovers @ Ric's Bar - It's the last ever All & Sundry show, and the first one for the Ambitious Lovers in quite a long time (they've recently had a lineup change).
Fi Claus, Jackie Marshall, An Horse, Def Radio @ The Zoo
Sickboy (NSW), Peregrine (NSW), Rooftop Nightwatch, Inntown @ Step Inn

Friday 22nd:
Scul Hazzards, Violent Soho, Little Lovers, Nova Scotia, Feathers @ Step Inn - Scul Hazzards launch a 7" and say goodbye to Brisbane.
Joel Saunders, Dot.AY, Wax + Wire DJ @ Club Russia - A new club is opening at 15 Trafalgar St Woollongabba. This is the launch night, and as such it is ALL AGES.
Ignition Festival: Butterfingers, Bob Evans (WA), Yves Klein Blue, Mary Trembles, The Gin Club, Brindle, Kristy Apps @ University of Queensland
Television Eyes - Rialto Decibel Choir, Fricken Hex, Lucien Simon, The Revolutions, Fox N Arrow @ The Troubadour - Ctrl-C + Ctrl-V = 'Local filmmakers and musicians collide at the Troubadour this Friday night to present an evening of intersecting film and music.'
The Skybombers (Vic), Idle Cranes @ Ric's Bar

Saturday 23rd:
Texas Tea, Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Jacky Winter @ The Troubadour
Let's Not But Say We Did, Monster Monster @ Club Russia - Unlike the launch the previous night, this is not All Ages.
Toy Balloon, The Sea Shall Not Have Them @ Ric's Bar, 4pm
An Horse, Chalk & Cheese, Matt Palmer @ The Hive (161 Elizabeth St, CBD) - Another ALL AGES show.

Sunday 24th:
Yeo & The Fresh Goods, Mr Laneous @ Ric's Bar, 4pm


Saturday, 9 February 2008

Joel Saunders, Night Crash, Shakes, Rialto Decibel Choir @ The Zoo (1.2.08)

The Lifted Brow may be one of the premier literature-related zines 'round these parts, but the wordy types involved in said publication also seem to know a bit about music. Exhibit A: the countless great bands who have been involved in the various launches and fundraisers for the zine. This particular show was no exception, with The Lifted Brow putting together a great local lineup to say farewell to a whole list of people who are soon to be leaving this city of ours.

Opening the night were Rialto Decibel Choir. This is a band who obviously takes pride in their craft. Their songs are polished, well put together and delivered with confidence (even when the band announces before a song that they don't know it very well and will probably screw it up). They've recently released their (quite fine) debut EP, and many of the songs from said release were given an airing on this particular evening, my favourite of which being 'Like Folding Chairs' with its drum and bass outro. Furthermore, many of the songs that weren't included on the EP are even better than those that did make the cut, and often displayed a sense of pop-craftmanship that isn't readily evident on the available recordings. Apparently there are plans to record an album soon, so that's something to look forward to.

Shakes were next up, playing their final ever show. Originally Shiver Like Timber was supposed to play in this slot, but since Shakes planned farewell show last weekend (at a house party) was shut down by the police it was decided to swap the two acts around. No major issue there, as Shiver Like Timber (aka Betony Dircks) also doubles as the singer in Shakes. Anyway... previously Shakes have been a band whom I've always enjoyed but have never been 100% head over heals in love with - always guaranteed to put on a solid show with some well written songs, but not really the sort of band to get you raving about how amazing their show the previous night was (then again I've only seen them maybe four times). This show was probably the closest I've ever seen to them getting to that level. With The Zoo's sound system they were really able to fill the room with the full volume of their twin guitar, bass and violin attack - they're a band who thrive on bombast and drama (much like Rialto), and on this night they were able to spread themselves out in full flight. It was probably the best I've seen from them, and it makes me sad that I didn't get to see any more of them.

The Night Crash. This was another final gig, and if you never got to see this band then I pity you. I remember at my first Night Crash show turning to a friend after pretty much every song and exclaiming something along the lines of 'holy shit!' or 'how the hell do they play that!?'. After a couple of years they can still have that effect, even after having to rein themselves in slightly when adding a third member on bass. As a band who spent the majority of their life playing D.I.Y. venues, being up on The Zoo's stage was obviously awkward. I know this because before they played a single note they announced as much on the mic, and invited anyone who was game to join them onstage. I gladly took them up on their offer (after an initial attempt at jumping up where I almost bashed my knee cap out of place... *fail*) and enjoyed watching the first song of their set standing right next to the band, along with maybe 15-20 other people. Unfortunately the venue staff weren't too happy with this arrangement, and security firmly ushered everyone offstage as soon as the band finished the song. While it was a damn shame that the Night Crash weren't allowed to play their final show in this manner, they didn't really let it affect their performance: it was a typically impressive show, with the players showing their ability to a) change dynamics on a dime and b) remember more parts per song than most other bands would have to remember thoughout an entire set. Truly, their hardcore-technical-jazz-math-punk will be missed.

Headlining the night was Joel Saunders, joined by his new band Crazy Hearse and the Illage dancers (who also took the spotlight for a rap song of their own). This is the third time I've seen Joel play with Crazy Hearse, and personally I think it's a sizable improvement over his previous setup. With a DJ in the band (Dan of Monster Monster fame) he can still include his electronic and noise elements, but the utilization of 'real' instruments (a second guitar, keys, backing vocals, accordion and live percussion) gives things a more organic feel. Additionally, using a DJ instead of complete backing tracks gives the band the freedom to extend sections for as long as feels appropriate. It also gives the band an added safety net when things don't quite go to plan.

Things didn't seem to quite go to plan on this particular night. While the first two Crazy Hearse shows I saw lead me to believe that the days of Joel struggling with his machines were behind him (and us), there were a few times at The Zoo where things definitely fell apart - I'm not sure what the reasons for this were, as their previous Zoo show with Girl Talk was pretty rock solid. I guess it's merely a case of getting comfortable with the new setup - it's only their third show after all, and playing along with live beats is pretty hard (oh yeah, full disclosure: one of my bands has played with Joel Saunders as his backing band a couple of times, so I know how hard it is to stay in time with those beats). In any case I don't want to make it sound like it was a huge problem, at worst it was a case of waiting through an out-of-sync chorus for the band to re-orient themselves with the programmed beats, while at other times it really didn't have much of a negative impact at all. Personally I'd rather see the band put their all into their performance and perhaps go somewhat 'off' than watch them rein themselves in to play more 'professionally'. I mean hey, they may well be playing covers of Top 40 hits but there's still a lot of punk rock in their methods - it's exciting to watch a band like them play. Oh, and don't forget that they play originals too - Joel Saunders can write a SONG (see: 'Porch Song', my favourite local song of last year).

So there you have it. Two bands who chip away with consistent performances and tried-and-tested songwriting, two bands who attempt to 'bottle lightning' with shock-and-awe displays of dynamics and noise. It's a shame that in 6months time only Joel Saunders will still be playing - the others are all breaking up or relocating. But hey, reunions are all the rage these days, right?


Secret Birds, Nikko @ The Zoo (31.1.08)

Although Gav has said that I'm supposed to be writing a review of this show, to be honest I was only in attendance for 2 of the 4 bands - Influenza weren't really my 'cup of tea' so I took the opportunity to get some dinner during their set, and I was way too tired to stick around for Scul Hazzards (and figured I'd see them at their 7" launch later this month... you should do the same). That really only leaves us with Secret Birds and Nikko.

Walking into The Zoo I was greated by Secret Birds (two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist and four drummers) playing a repetitive, descending riff while the drummers pounded out separate, interlocking rhythms. That pretty much sums up the Birds' modus operandi: repetitive riffs (all of varying degrees of 'massive') over the top of constantly shifting rhythms. Really, the drums are the focus of this band - the riffs almost seem like an excuse for the drummers to head off and do their thing. And do their thing they do, in one constantly moving piece of music (there's no inter-song breaks or stage banter for Secret Birds).

I imagine this isn't music for everyone. If you're looking for catchy melodies (or really, melodies at all) then it's probably best to look elsewhere. Secret Birds are all about the trance-inducing potential of pure rhythm and volume. The best moments were those when the guitars hit upon an appropriately massive riff which allowed the drummers to pound out their rhythms to maximum effect. By the same token, the least satisfying moments were when the accompanying riffs weren't quite thick enough to give the necessary wall of sound needed to make this style of music work. Thankfully the band hit the mark (a lot) more often than not.

That's not to say that Secret Birds were constantly going for 'everything-in-the-red' aggression. There was probably a 60-40 split between the band's loud sections and more ambient, introspective movements. During these quieter times the band seemed like a more guitar-oriented Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It was a good mix, with the more subdued sections helping to reinforce the impact of the band going all out. Actually, it was more than that - sometimes I found myself enjoying the quieter sections more than the loud ones.

For the first third or so of Nikko's set I thought they were some epic instrumental rock band (of the Explosions In The Sky / Mono variety). In this mode they were pretty enjoyable - not really mind-blowing, especially coming after Secret Birds, but good at that style of music. But then... they started singing. The vocalist attempted to sing in a mumbled baritone that was kind of juxtaposed against the music underneath. If it had worked, it would have been pretty cool (kind of like Wilderness, I suppose). However... it just really didn't work. The guy just doesn't have the vocal range to pull it off, and because of that he was hugely out of key for most of the time (as opposed to every other aspect of the band's music, which were generally pretty tight and relatively 'note-perfect'). Additionally, he doesn't have the necessary vocal gravitas to make such a style work - he sounds like a youngster (which he is) trying to sound 10 years older. With 5 years of constant smoking and whiskey drinking he might be able to make a pretty good go of it, though. Basically I think they have a good idea but aren't really able to execute it properly (yet). Still, they're instrumentally a good band, so maybe they'll get the singing thing working and everything will be peachy keen.

Oh, and they played quite a long set. Probably a bit too long.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Cam's Gigs of the Week - February 7th

Not quite as busy as last week.

Thursday 7th:
Maiden Speech (CD Launch), Hunz, Jacob Diefenbach, MC Ghostboy, Yeo & The Fresh Goods @ The Zoo

Friday 8th:
Little Lovers, Nova Scotia @ Ric's Bar - Recommended.
The Beatles Tribute Night @ The Troubadour

Saturday 9th:
Young Doctors, Side Effects @ Ric's Bar
Quiet Steps, Space Between Trains, Willows, Collisions @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall

Sunday 10th:
Prince Nod, Mr Fold, Suckafish P Jones @ Ric's Bar

Wednesday 13th:
Turnpike, Fickle Beasts, Mass Migration @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall - Apparently this is Turnpike's last show for a while, they're taking a bit of a break.


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Scul Hazzards - Last Few Bucks

This is from last Thursday at The Zoo, where they played their second last show in Brisbane before leaving for Europe. You can also check out some pictures from their set, as well as the support acts the Secret Birds and Nikko here. There should be a review of the night forthcoming from Cam.


Sunday, 3 February 2008

Weekly News - February 3rd

Not much in the way of news this week, but congratulations to An Horse for scoring the support slot on Tegan & Sara's US tour.