Monday, 30 June 2008

Weekly News - June 30th

So weekly might be a somewhat misleading title, but I'm going to try and get this back on schedule.

  • In case you've yet to hear, Brisbane has a new festival in the guise of Sounds Of Spring. The event will be held October 11 at the RNA Showgrounds. Unfortunately the first lineup doesn't excite me all that much, with only a smattering of interesting acts on the bill. Hopefully any forthcoming announcements can rectify this.
  • I'm not sure if I totally grasp the concept of Brisbane PARK(ing) Day, but from what I can tell it partially involves gigs being played in carparks. I'm all for this sort of thing, and if you are to then head over to the website to get involved. The actual day is September 19th so get in quick.
  • Room40 head honcho Lawrence English has a forthcoming album titled Kiri No Oto. The album is apparently an attempt to transpose "the visual effects of mist, mirage, snow fall and the like to a variety of acoustic situations."
  • Local imprint Mere Noise Records is now offering a number of past releases for purchase on iTunes. The label has released some great records from bands like Texas Tea, Butcher Birds, The Dangermen, and The Warm Guns.
  • New Music:
    • At Sea - Scream Like A Queen (Live): This is a damn good song; sounds like The Drones if Gareth Liddiard was a girl.
    • No Anchor - Drone Me Out Pt.1/Drone Me Out Pt.2/The Night Of My 2nd Car Crash: These three tracks are off No Anchor's forthcoming debut, Fire Flood And Acid Mud (which was recorded by Cam). For and band consisting of just bass and drums, No Anchor get a very impressive sound happening.
    • Mr. Rascal - Here Comes The Winter/Funeral Song/Ode To Peace: Mr Rascal also has an album due in the near future, and they're showcasing the songs on myspace at the moment. These three are all great little folk-rock numbers. 'Ode To Peace' is a standout with its mandolin/choir thing making it something like Radiohead's 'Exit Music (For A Film)'.
    • Do The Robot - Dressed In Red (Demo): Sounds like strawberry ice-cream.
    • The Fricken Hecks - Hot Kives/NIghtmare of Anne Stripe/For The Girls
    • Hot Liquid Sex - Emergency: From their debut EP Unexpect The Expected.


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cam's Gigs of the Week - June 26th

So, since people apparently used to read these things I figured I'd start them up again.

Thursday 26th:
I Used To Skate Once: I Heart Hiroshima, Ouch! My Face (Vic), No Anchor, Good God @ The Zoo - It's free! Definitely very recommended. That said, I can't go. :(

Friday 27th:
Nova Scotia, Deaf Wish (Vic), The Sips, Turnpike @ Rosie's Upstairs - Nova Scotia's first show for a while, and one of Turnpike's last shows... for ever??? Some listings have this as being on Saturday night, but it's not.

Saturday 28th:
Stature::Statue, Emergency Emergency, The Cairos @ Valley Studios - Another first show for a while? Stature::Statue return.
Ouch! My Face (Vic), Art of the State, Go Go Go Go! @ Ric's Bar
Deaf Wish (Vic), The Insurgents, Shock Value, Turnpike @ Jugera Arts Hall - All Ages.
Ska Extravaganza: Foghorn Leghorn, Blowhard, Suspect 7, Rubix Cuba @ Coolangatta Hotel

Sunday 29th:
The John Steel Singers, Skinny Jean @ The Powerhouse (3pm) - Another free Live Spark show.
Edward Guglielmino, Mei Lai Swan, Chris Brady @ The Troubadour


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Secret Birds @ Ric's (20.6.08)

Secret Birds played Ric's on Friday night. All three members of I Heart Hiroshima were in the band, plus the three recent 'regular' members (so that's two drummers, three guitarists and a bassist). They played three chords repeatedly for half an hour. It sounded like Sunn O))) covering Neil Young's 'Cortez The Killer'.

That's really all I have to say about it.

Edit: ok, so apparently it actually WAS a half hour cover of Cortez The Killer. There you go.


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Skinny Jean, Mr Maps @ Ric's (8.6.08)

Starting with a minimal setup of mandolin and vocals before gradually building up to a five-piece band during their first song, Skinny Jean began their set with a sea-shanty-esque folk number that could quite easily have come from The Gin Club. I'd never gone out of my way to check out the band before, since their name had always made me think that they would sound like any number of bands aping the fashionable NME-electro-rock sound. However, I'd recently been told that they didn't really sound much like that at all, so I figured I should go see them.

Having successfully defied my expectations with their first song, they then thoroughly confused me by playing... an NME-electro-rock song, complete with prominent synth lines and dancing hi-hat beats. While I was still trying to reconcile the two disparate genres displayed so far, the third song came out sounding like some cross between Pavement (slightly discordant interlocking guitar parts) and Jeff Buckley (overly dramatic male vocals). And so it went; quiet folk against stadium rock against big band jazz against indie pop. I couldn't figure out whether what I was seeing was one of the worst or one of the most awesome sets I've seen... ever. What can't be denied is that the band can put on a pretty entertaining show.

While Skinny Jean may be able to put on a pretty decent imitation of a whole slew of genres, Mr Maps (lead by one Chris Perren) seem to have hammered their musical chops into shape in order to perform a supremely impressive display of the post/math-rock sound. If I were to compare them to other bands (and I'm about to), I'd say that they're like the flawlessly technical Battles attempting to incorporate the wide-eyed sound of Sigur Ros' 'Takk' album, or if the expansive Do Make Say Think combined their lengthy jazz-inspired workouts with the disco-rock of Of Montreal (or any number of psych-pop bands from the Elephant 6 collective). Occasionally they descend into sounding like a somewhat derivative version of Explosions In The Sky, but I was only reminded of that band for a minute or two in the final song of the set, before Mr Maps threw in yet another time change and headed off in a completely different direction.

Special mention must be made of their drummer, Sangdae Yang. While each member of the band has a pretty good grasp of their respective instrument, Yang is one of the most accomplished drummers I've seen in Brisbane (especially now that Leigh Fischer is overseas with Scul Hazzards). He sits at his kit, barely moving except for the flurry of his arms playing more complex rhythms than I've seen in a long time, throwing in interesting fills, providing ambiance when a strong rhythm isn't required, handling time changes with ease, and all the while keeping locked together with Perren's sampled rhythms. Meanwhile, the guitarists shred away with fretboard-tapped melodies and arpeggios, the keyboardist provides melodic hooks, and the bassist keeps everything locked together and understandable.

Those who like their music simple and unpretentious will most likely hate this band, which I'm not sure is really warranted as their music is not complex for complexity's sake - in fact, there's a large part of Mr Maps music that is totally accessible, even 'pop'. It may be instrumental, it may require great skill (and hours upon hours of rehearsals, I imagine) to play, it may be difficult to dance to at times, and it may well play to the audience's head as much as it plays to their heart or their loins. All of that aside, I don't think that this is music solely for the chin-scratching intelligentsia - at its root there is still something very communal to it, even populist.


Monday, 9 June 2008

The Rational Academy, Do The Robot @ Rics (6.6.08)

Do The Robot are a funny band. They're one of the most warm and soothing bands I can think of (in a kind of cold, detached way), while also having the ability to be weirdly grating. They released their debut album a few months back (Amp On Fire, which this post will kind of be reviewing while simultaneously discussing their show on Friday), and this event has caused me to re-evaluate my stance on the band. The first time I saw them they struck me as potentially brilliant shoegaze/pop band, and while that's still the case for the most part, the record shone a light on one particular flaw that had previously been largely hidden in live performance; namely, Sera's vocals.

I'm not saying she can't sing, in fact I think she has quite a good voice - it's strong while still fitting in with the hypnotic sound of band really well. The thing about it that irks me is that pet peeve of mine, the Fake American Accent. Sera is probably the worst offender of this I've ever heard - worse than Patience of The Grates, worse than Ross Hope of Iron On. Both of those vocalists are backed by tight, energetic, concise playing and songwriting that takes some of the focus off their singing on onto the music behind them (plus you get the feeling that they can't really help singing like that). This isn't the case to the same extent with Do The Robot - their songs are largely quite sparse and repetitive, giving plenty of time to pay close attention to the vocals.

Ninety percent of the time it's not a problem, but there are occasions where it pretty much ruins a song. Take the track 'Audrey', where Sera sounds like a 20year-old Kim Gordon. Actually, she sounds EXACTLY like a 20year-old Kim Gordon. This may not seem like much of a problem to a lot of people, but the thing is that Kim Gordon is a pseudo-beatnik New Yorker - Sera isn't. Her accent comes across as overly affected and therefore somewhat insincere, which then has the effect of breaking the spell that's so well created by the the hypnotic guitar and drums.

I guess this is another case of me being overly picky with a really good band. I actually REALLY like Do The Robot, which is why I find them to be such a frustrating listen every now and then. Matt's guitar parts are often really well written, injecting a deceptive amount of melody into what are often two- or three-chord progressions. The drums parts (played live on record and usually played via a backing track or drum machine live) are generally lively and inventive, turning music that could be somewhat 'samey' into something much more vital. And, despite my previous comments, Sera's vocals are usually dependably melodic and vibrant. The band has a real knack for taking a limited amount of elements and wringing every last drop of musicality from them over the course of some lengthy compositions. While some might find the band to be somewhat 'boring' (as the album's reviewer from Rave did), others will find their minimalist compositions subtly beautiful and enveloping.

As long as you don't mind the accent. Hey, it seems like I'm the only person who is bothered by it.

The Rational Academy, on the other hand, have been around for long enough for pretty much everyone to have made up their mind regarding the band. Generally speaking, you already know whether or not you like their brand of noisey indie-pop. While they've experimented with various additions to and offshoots from their core sound, they still play music with the same basic blueprint they started with - walls of discordant guitars, soft boy/girl vocals, big drums, pop songs married to feedback and white noise. The only real change is that over the years the band have gotten much better at doing it. There was a time where it was pretty much guaranteed that one song per set was going to fall apart somehow, whether it was due to poor sound or a broken guitar pedal or the band simply losing its way. Not anymore. These days The Rational Academy are a well-oiled machine, consistently putting on good performances.

This was a good performance. Despite the distraction provided by the next-door venue's outdoor dance tent (wtf?), the band was able to put together a more-than-solid set consisting largely of songs from the recent A Heart Against Your Own, plus a few more (presumably) from the soon-to-come follow up album. Starting out with the epic 'Squid & Whale', other highlights included 'Beach Party' (dedicated to Before Hollywood - nice!) and 'Two Books', which was slowed considerably from the recorded version, and in the process came across as far more powerful. The set concluded with a suitably immense guitar version of 'Turin' (hey RA dudes: you should seriously consider putting this version of the song out, if you're not already).

Also, FWIW, the band played an even better - though somewhat shorter - set the next night at the Tongue & Groove (and were kind enough to wish Happy 21st Birthday to 'Sam', who was celebrating her big night with a bunch of noise-bands thanks to a venue double booking... though I have a feeling Sam and the vast majority of her friends had long vacated the band area in favour of the outdoor part of the venue, where it was considerably quieter).

PS: Yes, I know that I reviewed both of these bands together a few months ago when they supported Mum, but I figured that this show warranted a post considering we hadn't reviewed the Do The Robot album. Also, the next live review will feature two bands who haven't yet been discussed by Before Hollywood.


Saturday, 7 June 2008

Review: The John Steel Singers - The Beagle And The Dove

For those of you unfortunate enough to have missed out on the John Steel Singers' debut EP, The Beagle And The Dove is your chance to amend this. The mini-LP, which features all the tracks from the EP plus two/three new tracks, is a perfect introduction to Brisbane's fastest rising band.

The previous mentioned two/three new tracks is due to the inclusion of live favourite 'The Staged Intervention Of Poor Rich By His Righteous Peers' (b.k.a. 'Poor Rich'). Due to its extended length and intentions of it being a single, the band have chosen to record it in it's full length but break it up into the lyrical side of the track ('Poor Rich') and a coda, entitled 'Richard'. The two tracks combined result in the Singers' most accomplished song so far. Opening with a dreamy sequence complete with chimes and a bouncing bassline, 'Poor Rich' switches and swaps styles every thirty seconds or so. The result is a Sgt. Pepper-ish pop psychedelia that bursts at the seam with beautiful arrangements and clashing melodies. Marching drums, horns, dirty guitar, and choir-like vocals all pop up at one time or another during the song; indeed 'Poor Rich' could quite possibly contain the makings of 5 or 6 decent songs, but the Singers opt to mash it all together resulting in a pop collage unparrallelled in this day and age.

'Strawberry Wine' is next, clocking in at just over two minutes. The ode to passion pop is a simple yet severely contagious song, all woo-hoo-hoo's and soaring trumpet. 'Evolution', the second new recording on The Beagle And The Dove, is a much more complex song then those heard on the inital EP. Sounding like a long forgotten Dexy's Midnight Runners track, the bouncing bass line (courtesy of a combination of bass, double bass and trumpet) carrying the track along as the rest of Singers go harmony-crazy over the top.

The break-neck pace of 'Smashing The Speed Of Sound On An Empty Lake In Utah' is a nice counter-weight to the slower songs on the record. While the rest of the band don't miss a step on the song, special commendation has to go to the organ playing (provided either by Scott or Pete, I'm not certain) which adds a huge amount of urgency to the song. 'Submarines And Kayaks' manages to combine odd lyrics with even odder music, but the Singers manage to pull it off. Halfway through the band even throws a bit of continental European folk stylings, complete with accompanying accordian courtesy of Pat Elliott.

Up next is the superb 'Tony Delaney'. Returning to the Sgt. Peppers vibe of 'Poor Rich', 'Tony Delaney' is an upbeat pop song with downbeat lyrics about a man's mid-life crisis ("He's got a wife and she's got nine lovers too/He knows, she brings them around for tea."). The Singers also throw in a nifty country-rock breakdown towards the end, seeminlgy so they can claim to have covered every pop style on the record. The closing song, 'Rhapsody In Red', showcases a band that, given a worldclass producer, could easily create a pop masterpiece. The start and stop melody keeps the listener guessing all through the song, while the honky-tonk piano keeps things slightly humourous with it's call and response play with the vocals (I think there may actually be some socket wrench in there somewhere too).

For those whose heard the John Steel Singers' debut EP, The Beagle And The Dove is worth the purchase purely on the strength of 'Poor Rich' and 'Evolution'. If you didn't hear that EP then you really have no excuse now. The Beagle And The Dove is half an hour of pure pop delight that will have you hitting repeat again and again.