Monday, 29 June 2009

Review: The Quickening - White Blossoms

I've been finding it kind of hard to think of things to write about for this record review. If I was a better (or worse) writer I'd probably do some sort of concept review that features heavy use of terms like 'radical' and 'awesome to the max', as they're the sorts of things that pop into my head when listening to The Quickening's 80's influenced tech-punk / fantasy metal. If I were more versed in this sort of uber-tight punk rock I could probably just focus on the technical aspects with some degree of authority. The fact of the matter is that I'm none of these things, and so I feel somewhat underprepared to discuss this, frankly, quite fantastic record.

A quick bit of background: The Quickening have been around for a few years now, starting off in the same sphere as the similarly impressive Dick Nasty (who helped The Quickening launch this record a month or so back, along with No Anchor and Nova Scotia - one of the best nights of local music I've seen in significant amount of time). However, where Dick Nasty have mostly stuck to a fairly traditional thrashy punk-rock, The Quickening have wandered off into the realms of fantasy metal with a heavy 80s influence, a world of bandanas, near-falsetto singing and blazing guitar solos. In the process they have without a doubt become one of the most fun bands in Brisbane, without crossing the line (or jumping the shark, perhaps) and becoming pastiche.

The technical stuff is likely to be the first thing that hits you about White Blossoms - Bryce Moorhead recorded the album last year, and it's good to hear his recordings getting even bigger and clearer sounding (not that they were necessarily ever small or muddy). The band's musicianship is good enough to be able to withstand such clear production... actually, it's more than merely 'good enough', it's quite frankly pretty astounding at times. The drums are powerful and cracking, the bass is solid, while the two guitars trade impressive riffs and solos over the top of it all. Meanwhile, Chris Farrer's vocals continue to reach higher and higher pitches (although guitarist Matt Bach adds some more traditional punk rock... umm... barks behind him). If you don't find yourself in your bedroom on a Saturday morning, wearing nothing but your underwear and a pair of socks, miming the playing of at least one of these instruments while listening at top volume then I'll eat my sweatband.

All of the songs on White Blossoms careen from one riff to another, changing tempos and moods as the band sees fit. 'Yamaraja's Abode', for example, starts out with a catchy mid-tempo riff before plunging into all manner of intense guitar interplay, culminating in a guitar-god solo before returning to earth with immense group vocals. The whole thing just screams 'EPIC'. Even better are the last two songs: 'The Ballad of Stuart Morley' alternates between fist pumping riffage and almost reflective choruses, while closer 'The Blase Are Kicking Arse' is without a doubt the most over the top song I've ever heard from a Brisbane band. This is not hyperbole, I challenge someone to show me a song that beats it in this respect.

The whole thing just kicks serious arse from start to finish. I can't think of many records that are more fun to listen to that have been released in recent years. I think there's really only one thing left to say...

Hell yeah!


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Gigs of the Week - June 24th

Wednesday 24th:
Turnpike, Seaplane @ Ric's Bar - Recommendation of the week.

Thursday 25th:
I Used To Skate Once: Secret Birds, Kirin J. Callinan, Stemford Hiss, Potato Masta, Doom Doom @ The Zoo
Moon Jog, Velociraptor @ Ric's Bar
Shishkin & Choomby, Extra Foxx, Star Sludge @ Step Inn (Front Bar)

Friday 26th:
Grey Daturas (Vic), Secret Birds, Blank Realm, Tom Hall, Neck Hold @ Step Inn
Fans: Rocketsmiths, Dead Letter Chorus (NSW), My Fiction, The Gallant @ Alhambra
Yves Klein Blue (Album launch), Philadelphia Grand Jury (NSW), Last Dinosaurs @ The Powerhouse
Foot Foot Foot: Scraps, Music For Slow Dancing @ Black Star Coffee (West End)
Grand Atlantic, We All Want To, Lovers of Modern Art @ The Zoo
Toy Balloon, Running Guns @ Ric's Bar

Saturday 27th:
Aleks & The Ramps (Vic), Big Strong Brute, Mixylodian (Canada), Lion Island, Joel Saunders, Mt Augustus, Pure Being @ Top Floor
Keep On Dancin's @ The Troubadour (1am)
Folk Foulk @ Ric's Bar (4:30pm)
Bent: Dizzygotheca, Twist Oliver Twist, Girl With Cake, Kristy Apps @ QAHC
Ball Park Music @ The Powerhouse

Sunday 28th:
Drawn From Bees, The Strange Attractors @ The Powerhouse
Rocketsmiths, Dead Letter Chorus (NSW), Numbers Radio, Skinny Jean @ The Valley Studios


Friday, 19 June 2009

Gigs of the Week - June 19th

June 19th:
These Hands Could Separate The Sky, Hazards of Swimming Naked, Arrows, Willows @ Valley Studios
Idles Cranes, Taste of Teeth @ Ric's Bar
Anonymeye, Mt Augustus Solo, Nick Smethurst, Before The Table Fell @ Browning St Studios - BYO, All Ages
Texas Tea, The Jook Joint Boys, Fletch (WA) @ The Troubadour
Pony Up (Canada), Little Scout, Last Dinosaurs @ The Zoo
Mexico City, Hotel Motel, Vagrant City Scandal @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Kate Bradley @ Kitty O'Shea's
Into The Ocean (EP Launch), King of Red Lions, Concrete Street @ Club 299
Big Benedict, Princess Rodeo, The Estates, Boss Level Monster @ The Globe

June 20th:
DZ, Toy Balloon, Comic Sans, Swaying Buildings @ The Hangar
Villains of Wilhelm, Fearless Vampire Killers (Vic), The Touch (SA), The Salvagers (NSW) @ The Troubadour

Just 21st:
Fete De La Musique @ All over Brisbane - see the website for details. Featuring We All Want To, The Danger Bunnies, Hazards of Swimming Naked, Dizzygotheca, Madeleine Paige, My Fiction, Mt Augustus and MORE.


Monday, 15 June 2009

Review: Seaplane - We Didn't Know Anything Was Wrong

Over the years Seaplane have been a fairly constant figure on the Brisbane indie scene. At least that was the the case up to the last year or so, when the band seemingly disappeared entirely. In recent months they've returned with a new drummer (Scott Brique, otherwise known as the singer from Nova Scotia) and this, a new 12" record titled We Didn't Know Anything Was Wrong.

WDKAWW opens with a similar one-two punch as Seaplane's previous record, Technical Difficulties, with a fairly epic instrumental number followed by a shorter 'pop' song. In this instance the opener is 'The Man With No Name', a song built around some vaguely middle eastern noodling and big, crunchy guitar chords (the guitars in the big 'choruses' are also backed by some wordless vocals that continue the song's exotic theme). 'The Man With No Name' is kind of reminiscent of GY!BE's 'Albanian', but packed into a lean two-and-half minutes instead of sixteen. Coming straight on the heels of the opener is lead single 'The Soiree', a sub two minute rock song built around a four-chord progression, a Regurgitator-esque 'ooo-ee-ooo-ee-ooo' hook and a screamed chorus courtesy of Dale Peachey. From there the record heads into the Stirling Bartlam sung 'The Switch' (sounding like something from Big Heavy Stuff's early records), before slowing down with Peachey's more reflective (but still awesomely epic) 'Feather'. It's a great end to the first side of the EP, and probably my favourite track.

Side Two begins with the tense 'Plastic Jesus', which probably doesn't quite earn its 4:24 running time seeing as it's essentially just two chords repeated for the entire length of the song; that said, the combination of length and repitition does seem to reinforce the claustrophic feeling of the song. Similarly relentless is 'Rinse It', which treads a similar path to the previous track, but that throws away the tense restraint in favour of continual build towards a noisy climax (although the lyrics provide something of a humourous juxtaposition, consisting of various instructions being directed at former drummer Conwae Burrell - who mans the drums throughout this record as his final act in the band - to wake up, clean his house, etc). Penultimate track 'The Underture' is a lofi instrumental racket whose brevity increases its potency, taking us to We Didn't Know Anything Was Wrong's closer in the form of 'Shotgun', another slower and more reflective song. Even at their most mellow, as they are on this track, Seaplane still cram in more guitar chaos than most other acts doing the rounds at the moment.

We Didn't Know Anything Was Wrong pretty much offers up what you'd expect from a Seaplane record: scratchy guitars noodling around relatively simple song structures, insistent drums, and reedy vocals. That may be a fairly big reduction of their sound, perhaps unfairly so, so I'll add this: I would say that this is their best release - it's more consistent, cohesive and better engineered than anything else they've put out (and their prior output is not weak). The guitars are the real focal point of the band, on here they're more restless than ever - they might only be based around a handful of chords on any one song, but the way they dance around those simple building blocks is the band's strength, rarely playing a given section the same way more than once or twice. The end result is somewhere in between Nova Scotia's slacker pop and the more chaotic sounds of Turnpike, and pretty much equal to those bands' output.

Here is the video clip for The Soiree:


Friday, 5 June 2009

Gigs of the Week - June 5th

Friday 5th:
Quan, Running Guns, Moon Jog @ Ric's Bar
Mary Trembles, Sulphur Lights, The Estates @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Kick A Hole In The Sky (You Am I Tribute) - Speedstar, The Rocketsmiths, The Daisycutters, The Blackwater Fever, Andrew Petersen @ The Troubadour
Almost Invisible: Axxonn, Do The Robot, The Scrapes @ Browning St Studios
Autumn Exchange (Redux): Oh Ye Denver Birds, Kitchen's Floor, Cougar Flashy (Vic), Marl Carx, Folk Faulk, Loose Grip @ Ahimsa House (7:30pm)
Greenfest @ Brisbane Botanic Gardens - see

Saturday 6th:
Paddington Fair: Dave McCormack & The Polaroids, The Horrortones, Halfway, Sabrina Lawrie, Madeline Paige, The Honey Month, Re:Enactment, lots more @ Neal Macrossan Park (from 10am)
Beachfield, The Little Lovers, Greg Charles @ The Troubadour
Holes And Poles: Anal Traffic, Jacob Diefenbach, Twist Oliver Twist, Silver Circus, Lesbian Super Group @ The Globe
The Black Water Fever, Little Parade @ Ric's
New Neighbors (USA), Re:Enactment, Aviator Lane, Mt Augustus @ The Hangar
Greenfest @ Brisbane Botanic Gardens - see

Sunday 7th:
4zzz's Brain Banana @ Jubilee Hotel - featuring way too many acts for me to list here, check out the 4zzz website instead.
Live Spark: Halfway, The Black Dog @ The Powerhouse
Greenfest @ Brisbane Botanic Gardens - see

Tuesday 9th:
Hungry Kids of Hungary, Oh Mercy, Tara Simmons @ The Troubadour