Friday, February 25, 2011

Live Review: Swervedriver

When: February 16th, 2011
Where: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD

Swervedriver remind me of the high school social ladder. Remember when everybody was picking their friends to hang out with and after all is said and done there's the dregs of four or five people to form what inevitably is described as the leftover group? When shoegaze was the prominent genre back in the late 80s/early 90s Swervedriver were that band.

These instances can go one way or the other. With Swervedriver re-forming in 2008 (despite the rumblings  that they'd never actually broken up), you can judge which way their fate tilted all those years ago between tap houses in Oxford.

Swervedriver are what I like to call the ultimate driving band. They allude to cars and driving a lot throughout their body of work. Their music has reached a wide demographic of folk over the years. In fact, it'd be fair to say that out of all the shoegaze bands, Swervedriver could well possess the most diverse fanbase. That theory was best applied Wednesday night at the Zoo, as all walks of life seemed to spawn from the woodwork. A remnants of the completely unhip and strugglers of social ladder certainly filled the air, forming one of the most bizarre Brisbane crowds I've ever had the pleasure to share a presence with. This aspect of the night added to the whole awesomeness of the thing. I felt at home, for a change.

Mainman, Adam Franklin, although seemingly a run of the mill type of lad, still shoulders an elusive zeal that is associated with most shoegaze collectives. His side projects (solo albums and Magnetic Morning) aside, he certainly is the superglue of Swervedriver. The tempo of his melodic vocal shifts the music into a dreamy direction while his guitar assaults with an assortment of pedals add to the floating embers that fill the room. Franklin is assisted well, though. The rollicking rhythm section of Jez Hindmarsh and Steve George hold it all together while Jimmy Hartridge adds the necessary sprinkles of tone and harmonics on second guitar, keeping things nice and interesting.

The below setlist speaks for itself. The "been their since day one, me" types were in ecstasy. Okay, so the crusty dude who continually roared "HARRY AND MAGGIE" didn't get his wish, but it didn't stop him from lacing those around him in rum and ice while he was wigging out to 'Never Loose That Feeling' and the brilliant 'Duel'. He enjoyed himself and those around him - despite that rum smell seeping through their cloths - were in some way actually happy that he was happy. That's what Swervedriver brought to the table. An escapism. It was a night where you could leave your worries at the door. Maybe even leave them there on the way out, too. After the day I'd had, it was the perfect combination.

Juggernaut Rides
Scrawl and Scream
The Birds
Deep Seat
Just Sometimes
Rave Down
Girl on a Motorbike
These Times
Never Loose That Feeling


Son of Mustang Ford
Kill the Superheroes

Words by Simon K.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Books - Jonathan Franzen: Freedom

Author: Jonathan Franzen
Title: Freedom
Published: August 31st, 2010
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Jonathan Franzen; Freedom. The novel on the tip of everyone's tongue. The American writer has been heralded as one of the finest of the 21st century, which does seem like a bit of a sweeping statement. However, to those who hit the novels regularly, how much current material do you actually read? I for one don't delve into all that many current releases, as I'm too busy catching up on past gems and masterpieces alike. Like a lot of you, I'm sure.

With this qualification - or lack thereof - I'm not one to swing one way or the other to such a statement. However, those who put Franzen on the proverbial pedestal above his modern contemporaries may not be so wrong after all. The quality that Freedom delivers is quite evident. The characters are unique in their own right; the story in itself holds a deep relevance in today's society; and last but not least, it's extremely addictive for the reader. Franzen certainly knows how to tap into the vein of modern western culture, with various references throughout the journey pointing towards an obvious nexus of being 'down with the kids'.

The characters throughout Freedom are the clincher. They're shaped with aplomb. With a bridge in generations and a contrasting social demographic between them,  they have extremeley admiring facets, with Franzen making a clear distinction between admiring and liking somebody and how different these two feelings can truly be.   

Although Freedom is my first Franzen experience, it's evident that he demonstrates a vast knowledge on American suburban life. He seems to pick apart the stock standard American film on such a subject that you manage to see on television at least twice a week and articulates the notions to an absolute tee. Maybe his biggest message with Freedom is how anybody can be sucked into this way of life.

I've read that people have been critical of his works because his topics don't seem to venture all that far outside of his own labyrinth. Is it better knowing something well or only having a surface of knowledge on a wide array of issues and concepts? Tough one, but if people want to aim up and call Franzen a one trick pony the simple answer would this; It's a pretty special trick at that.

Words by Simon K.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Brit Awards 2011

Those who don't know me, I'm not really one for television. However, this morning it was there (the TV, of course) and the remote was in reach, so I thought, why not? 90 per center of Western Civilization partake in these endeavours, so why should I be any different?

What I stumbled across was this year's Brit Awards. Apart from Jarvis Cocker's sabotage of MJ's live performance, the only memory I have of this is back at the beginning of 2004 when The Darkness (remember them?) won best British Act pipping Radiohead at the post. The thing is, they probably didn't pip them at the post at all.

This blog wasn't designed to take pot shots, so I do apologise if there's any offence caused, but if ever there was a farce then surely this industry back slapping parade takes the proverbial biscuit. "It's amazing. You're amazing. I'm amazing". Is anyone else sick of people over emphasising every little fucking thing by calling it "amazing"? I sure am. James Corden? This is a music awards presentation, not a sketch show. Lewis Hamitlon? Doesn't he drive cars? Avril Lavigne? The last time I heard of her Nick Cave was making perpetual references to her cunt in during his latest novel, The Death of Bunny Munro. Boy George? He's done nothing in 30 years! Actually, that's a good question; what the fuck has he done? Cheryl Cole? Ashley Cole, you know that spanner that plays for Chelsea Football club. You know him. You know IT!

You'd think the Arcade Fire's awards/performance was the shin dig's saving in grace however it's gone too far for any compensations of the like. The fact The National were mentioned in the same breath as Justin Beiber sums up this complete and utter joke. Mastercard's little advertisement on the podium was a nice touch, too  (I've just been told they've always sponsored the event). If that's the case, then the organisation has probably been running on credit for the last 20 years. They probably even help fund Justin Hawkins's drug habit; may have paid for his rehab, too! The world of credit. Why the fuck not, let's promote it. Every other fucker's racking up or "maxing out" their bits of plastic. Let's start from the top!

So, maybe I'm the best part of six or seven years too late with this little vitriolic sprawl, but hey, I felt it needed to be said. After all, I'm not really one for television.

Words by Simon K.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

PJ Harvey. The women doesn't need an introduction. Her new album, Let England Shake, is yet another defining piece of work that witnesses the singer-songwriter from Dorset, England once again moving into new territory.

To coincide with Let England Shake, UK newspaper, The Guardian, conducted an 18 minute interview with Polly Jean, which takes an in depth look at the themes and sounds that make up the album. 

You can listen to the interview, conducted by Alex Petridis, here.

Words by Simon K. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Big Day Out 2011: The Week That Was

The Week In Full:

Sunday January 23: Big Day Out - Gold Coast
Monday January 24: Tool - Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Thursday January 27: Big Day Out - Sydney
Friday January 28: Grinderman - Enmore Theatre
Saturday January 29: Primal Scream - Salinas

Big Day Out 2011. I never thought I'd be excited by this festival ever again. Five years on the bench and seemingly in the midst of retirement. What changed? In September when I heard Primal Scream, The Stooges, Grinderman, Tool, and the Deftones were on the Big Day Out bill I thought it was an apparent wind up. Particularly with the demographic BDO promoters Vivian Lees and Ken West have shifted towards over the more recent times. Sure, their headlinders have always been admirable but their line-ups over the more recent times have been shallow to say the least. It appears sentiment may have forced their hand this time around, with this one having a touch of "for the fans" about it.

This line-up was more than enough to warrant some annual leave from the dreaded walls of working life in order to enjoy BDO week just like the earlier days circa 2004. I'm sure many were in the same boat back in the early 00s when the Big Day Out and the corresponding sideshows were the only permanent fixture on the annual calender.

The Gold Coast was the first injection of nostalgia. The Vines are still shite. Craig Nichols still sounds like a wannabe Mike Jagger. Their music still sounds like the dregs of grunge. Is there anymore to say? Not really.

Lilyworld (or the Lily Pad as it was called way back when) still gained a few laughs. Bogans on Acid; says it all, really...

Paroxide plus fake tan equals Bliss N Eso. Barbeque hip hop has its perks. You can take your shirt off, get some fresh air from the unrelenting sun and talk about pingers and bitches whilst showing off your tattoos of the National flag. Stereotypes, stereotypes. But as the law of averages go; an element of truth may lie somewhere beaneath. Just might.

Deftones: A far happier commodity eight years down the track since their previous BDO appearance. Depsite a collective minus long time bassist Che Cheng (bless his soul) this band has risen above all the petty genre associations to still hold relevance. 'Be Quiet and Drive' never sounded better. Sydney's show witnessed Sacremento's finest bust out "White Pony" landmarks 'Digital Bath' and 'Knife Party'. A great return for Chino Moreno's men.

The Stooges: Iggy and the Stooges? Sorry, but it's The Stooges in my eyes. James Williamson. 'Shake Appeal' nothing more needs to said. 'Death Trip'; see previous. Iggy Pop; a leather hand bag that contains a Duracell battery and I say that in the greatest respect of the man who invented Punk. Mike Watt; the journeyman with the growling bass line during 'Raw Power'. Just as good as when the Motor City's crusty bunch hit our shores back in 2006. 'Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell'; again, see previous.

Rammstein: For what these German lunatics clearly lack in musical proficiency, they gain in stage presence. Not really my cup of tea, if I'm honest. I don't really warm to rough sex so their music doesn't get much play at the pad. Still, if you haven't seen Rammstein live then it's hard to explain what their show comprises of. Yes, plenty of fire, but it's the manner in which they use these pyrotechnics. If you have managed to catch a glimpse, then you'd know. It's like when people say "You have to see Metallica". Just put this theory into practice and not think about the musical virtuosity.

Tool: Don't you hate being short changed? Or in a more literal sense, attempting to relive your youth only to then realise that certain elements can't be felt introspectively. That's how I kind of felt about Tool this time around. 'The Patient' was great, as to was 'Flood' while my knew found lust for 'Aenima' continues to blossom. However in between that seemed lacklustre to say the least. Their sideshow didn't do anything to alter the fact. A Peach cover? What about some 'Eulogy' or 'Pushit'? Duped for $153.00.

Primal Scream: Screamadelica; it doesn't need an introduction and certainly not by a amateurish piss ant like myself. 'Don't Fight it Feel It', 'Loaded', 'Come Togehter'. Genre defining. Hearing this album in its entirety was something many would not have even contemplated 18 months ago. The Scream Team stole the show. Maybe not by their Big Day Out performance but their sideshow at Salinas would easily slot into my top five gigs of all time. The crowd, the energy, the soul. The swoon to 'Movin' On Up'. Mani's bass explosion to 'Higher than the Sun' which bounces off the walls. 'Loaded' washing over the sweaty faces of the crowd while Bobby Gillespie walks around with smiles to his band mates. Andrew Innes reciprocates standing with a perpetual look of admiration to the crowd. 'Come Togehter' defining the night as auspicious. Perfection is amongst us.

Grinderman: So my girlfriend's new sexual fantasy has swung from Ewan McGregor to Nick Cave. I guess that's okay, right? Energy, fits of white noise; what a sound way to end your Big Day Out. Nick Cave and his Grinderman collective could have and maybe should have been the Australian headliners on the main stage, however the essence of what they're about would've been lost in a dust bowl of the masses. 'Love Bomb'  IS the bomb live. 'Worm Tamer' is a cathartic mess with Warren Ellis flailing his guitar all over the place. 'Palaces Of Montezuma' holds the set together with its come down swagger. 'Kitchnette' is a drawn out facade with Cave running back and forth from the crowd to the keyboards with a "I JUST WANNA RELAAAAAXXXX" followed by a "Get those shoes on your fucking feet, I can hear him comin' up the stairs, TIPPY TOE TIPPY TOE". None other than Lord Nick could pull off such a feat. Multiply the overall energy of their BDO set to the Enmore show the next night and you get the gist of what it was like.

So, the week of nostalgia draws to its end. No matter what came out of it, one thing's for sure. Primal Scream stole the show in a big way. Grinderman slew as to did the infamous Stooges while the Deftones continue their renaissance. The rest? Well, they're just... the rest.

Words by Simon K.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010: The Year In Review - Top 30 Albums

So, here we are. It's taken the best part of December to come to this final decision, but the top 30 albums of the year have been confirmed and listed, accordingly. Still, it's all been fun none the less. First and foremost, congratulations to the artists below. The respective albums listed have been a great source of enjoyment for myself over the last 12 months and I think that will continue into 2011. Staying power is important and I think these albums - for me - will hold their value over time for different reasons. Enjoy:

30. Tindersticks - Falling Down the Mountain
Label: 4AD/Constellation

Release Date: January 25th

29. Autolux - Transit Transit
Label: ATP Recordings

Release Date: August 3rd

28. Clinic - Bubblegum
Label: Domino

Release Date: October 4th
27. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows
Label: Merge Records

Release Date: June 8th

26. Les Savy Fav - Root for Ruin
Label: French Kiss

Release Date: August 3rd

25. The National - High Violet
Label: 4AD

Release Date: May 7th

24. The Walkmen - Lisbon
Label: Fat Possum

Release Date: September 14th

23. Best Coast - Crazy For You
Label: Mexican Summer

Release Date: July 27th
22. Crippled Black Phoenix
Label: Invada Records
Release Date: August 30th
21. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy
Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: May 11th
20. Gareth Liddiard - Strange Tourist
Label: ATP Recordings
Release Date: October 1st
19. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter
Label: Domino
Release Date: August 26th

18. Steve Mason - Boys Outside
Label: Domino
Release Date: May 3rd
17. The New Pornographers - Together
Label: Matador Records
Release Date: May 3rd

16. Liars - Mute
Label: Matador Records
Release Date: March 9th 
15. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope to the Sky
Label: Young God Records
Release Date: September 21st
14. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Label: Merge Records
Release Date: August 3rd
13. Eluvium - Similies
Label: Temporary Residence
Release Date: February 23rd
12. Salem - King Night
Label: Iam Sound
Release Date: September 27th
11. Grinderman - Grinderman 2
Label: Mute
Release Date: September 14th
10. Three Mile Pilot -The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten
Label: Temporary Residence
Release Date: September 27th
9. No Age - Everything In Between
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: September 27th
8. Envy - Recitation
Label: Rock Action
Release Date: October 12th
7. Retribution Gospel Choir - 2
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: January 26th
6. Neil Young - Le Noise
Label: Reprise
Release Date: September 27th
5. Zola Jesus - Stridulum II
Label: Souterrain Transmissons
Release Date: August 31st
4. Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
Label: Spinefarm Records
Release Date: September 27th
3. Philip Selway - Familial
Label: Nonesuch Records
Release Date: August 31st
2. The Besnard Lakes - ...Are The Roaring Night
Label: Jagjaguar
Release Date: March 9th
1. Roky Erickson and Okkervil River - True Love Cast Out All Evil
Label: Anti-
Release Date: May 13th

Words by Simon K.

Beady Eye??

So Noel left Oasis a little while ago and left the boys twiddling their thumbs, and without much time passing Liam and ex-Oasis members Gem Archer and Andy Bell have stuck it out together and formed "Beady Eye". I guess this will be Liams way of proving to the world whether or not he has a good record in him or not. The first single of the forthcoming album Different Gear, Still Speeding, "Bring the Light" which is available here I've checked it out a few times and it's not bad but too early to call, without hearing the other material. The album comes out in February next year.

Ragged Glory anyone?

Words - Sean.