Saturday, 16 August 2014

Nickelback...?

Yesterday I was asked why I hate Nickelback so much. It must be said that what followed was purely my viewpoint and not a definitive article on the merit of the band.

The roots of this start around 1999-2000 when I worked in a Sydney office where the radio was always on, with the dial welded on Triple M - the station for all things rock. At the time Post-Grunge was a "thing". Bands mining this sound were a dime-a-dozen. 3 Doors Down, Stonesour, Staind, Matchbox 20, Live, and a bloody awful but thankfully short-lived band called Default were all given gracious amounts of airtime. Nickelback were also part of this esteemed group.

The problem with these bands is that, after a while, if you shut your eyes and listen you'd think they were all the same band. Such was the lack of personality they all shared. Add into the mix the constant repetition that commercial radio have turned into an art form and you have a recipe for disaster with me. If familiarity breeds contempt, what does ubiquity breed? Pure hatred?

All these years later, a new Nickelback record sounds like an old Nickelback record. As I think their sound was contrived to start with the fact that they haven't evolved their sound in 15 years leads me to think that they have designed and calculated their sound for maximum sales potential. You might think there is nothing wrong with that, and maybe there isn’t. Personally I just don’t think there is any integrity in it, and that is not what I look for in music.

I'm looking for bands and artists who create music as the purest expression of their souls and emotions. I want to hear musicians playing at the peak of their powers, as opposed to creating something that adds up to less of the sum of all the parts. The counter argument is that the players in Nickelback are very talented. I agree, but they don't demonstrate it on their albums. If they're that talented, they are capable of far more than the mediocrity they've shown us already.

Still, Nickelback are resilient enough to ignore the haters. They're rightfully not going to care what I think. And more power to 'em for that.

Again, this is one writers view and not a definitive statement. Like everything else on these pages, it is the start of a discussion. Counter arguments welcome as long as they are tastefully supplied.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Vale Robin Williams

Well, didn't this one just take the wind out of everyone's sails?

I'm not going to say much, because there have been plenty of other people who have said it more eloquently than I am able to. 

But I will say this: as a creative whirlwind, an inventive comic and a genius performer, this is a massive loss to the world.

And I'm really feeling this loss deeply. I mean, we all expect to die at some point. It's one thing to die from old age, or illness, or even an accident. I just find that when someone dies by their own hand to be particularly tragic. I don't find it to be very romantic, either.

Most stereotypes fall way short of the mark, but they do ring true to a degree. The overarching thing that struck me is the idea of "Tears of a Clown". The idea that the funniest people amongst us, the ones we think are always funny, always there for our amusement (or so we'd like), are the ones with the darkest demons - they often just don't let on that they're in pain. This isn't the case for every comedian, but there is an overwhelming number of comedians that you could name to support the theory...



In light of this sad event, what was undeniable was the man's talent. Here is a live performance of his work as a Stand-up comic, on stage in New York in 2002.

Vale Robin, you will be sorely missed, my man.


Friday, 8 August 2014

In Defense of Radio

Image courtesy of Reunion Radio

Despite the concept looking a little anachronistic in 2014, I still love Radio.

No really, I do. I just think that, in Australia, its content is poorly executed. Mindless bullying pro-conservative talkback presenters, vacuous imported pop music, machismo-driven rock stations are all an issue for me. However there's still a lot of fun to be had in the medium. For example, exciting things are happening in the digital spectrum, with Triple J Unearthed being an amazing station, showing the majors that there's plenty of room for a station playing all Australian unsigned music. And community stations around the place like FBi and East Side Radio in Sydney, and 4ZZZ-FM in Brisbane are doing interesting things in their respective areas.

And if they don't float your boat, look online to a whole range of overseas terrestrial stations that stream online, or dig your way through the massive directory of amateur stations on Live365 or Shoutcast.com.

Radio gets a bad wrap, however, in both the independent media and, occasionally, in these here pages as well. I've been thinking about the criticisms that people have been throwing around, especially towards stations like Triple J and the BBC's Radio 1 to try and see if they have any merit.

Both of these stations have recently been in the news because of the fact that the music is too "teeny-bopper", or playing to an audience much younger than that of the listener making the criticism.

The criticism would carry more weight if the target audience of those stations wasn't aged between 12 and 25. If you were born in the early part of the 1980s, chances are they're not playing anything you like for that very reason.

The selection process for new additions to the station has also come under fire of late, with Radio 1 using all kinds of other-worldly metrics to measure the quality of a band and their work.

There is some merit to the criticism. If you're looking at the number of YouTube views or Twitter followers a band has, before you've even listened to the record, you have to ask what's the point? The BBC is not supposed to be a commercial broadcaster, where I'd imagine these statistics would carry more sway.

But I'd like to ask, whatever happened to listening to a record and determining its value based on whether it is a good song or not? Then again, that in itself is problematic, because in whose opinion is the song a good one?

The problem with this approach is that the band has to do exponentially more work to get noticed. Twitter followers and YouTube views can happen overnight, but only if you pay for them.To my mind, radio exposure is one of the main ways that these numbers can be increased - I'm not sure having the equation the other way around is particularly sensible.

Another common complaint is that radio plays the same songs over and over again. Radio 1 seems to only have a limited number of spots available for new music every fortnight and to my mind it seems to be quite low. Still, what's the reason for it? Is it to enforce repetition and minimise variety?

Maybe, but the fact of it is that that is what we require to get to love a song - repetition.You know that album that you say is your all time favourite? It didn't get that way from a single solitary listen - you didn't play it once, file it away for 20 years and then claim it to be your "life-changing" record. No, you played it, over and over again over a long period of time. And so it has to be with radio.While I have no problem with that, per se, I just find some radio programmers and their song choices questionable.

The other reason for repetition is the logic that listeners don't typically listen to radio for more than 2 or 3 contiguous hours per day. By that logic, theoretically someone listening at 10:30am won't be listening at 2:00pm and therefore playing the same song at both these times most people would be oblivious. That's why the "No repeat work day" is a great idea, to cater for businesses who do have the radio on all day.

So, in an age where the internet is changing the way we discover and consume music, can radio compete? It's certainly trying hard, but will it ever return to be the cultural force it once was?

Who knows...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Australian Crawl



Here at TSATF HQ we love a bit of good ol' Australian Crawl, or Aussie Crawl as we colloquially know them.

While we never listen to their work on a daily basis, when we do it is usually with sustained interest. Inevitably, listening to the band's work is accompanied by a game of "What the hell is he singing about?" Because, let's face it, regular vocalist James Reyne and occasional lead singer Guy McDonough are quite loose with their use of syllables. They both share a common trait of distorting and contorting the English language in such an unusual way.

Quite commonly I will listen to a track - and take into account that I have been listening to these tracks for a number of decades - and then read the lyric sheet and think "there is no way you have just sung those words!"

For example, take a listen to "Letter From Zimbabwe" below. Do you know what they're on about?



Nup. Didn't think so.

And it's not as if the songs have lyrics that are intelligence-starved either - the lyrics, when you read them, are quite literate and clever. It's just that the vocalists seemed to be somewhat linguistically challenged...

Still, even if you can't work out the lyrics when listening, the band were adept at some catchy musicianship, with listeners being able to hum the guitar lines and bass lines of their most popular songs almost as much at the vocal line! That to me is the mark of a well constructed song.

The band's entire back catalog has been reissued in 2014 and is now all available on Spotify. Take a listen to the band's Greatest Hits again below!

ENJOY!!!


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lake Street Dive and Mavis Staples




We love a bit of Lake Street Dive here at TSATF Central. It turns out that the band's performance were regarded as one of the highlights of the Newport Folk Festival a couple of weekends ago. From a number of accounts it was a quality set, and it makes we wish I could have been there to see it.

Their set was elevated from the great to the transcendent when gospel soul legend Mavis Staples came onstage to duet with the band on their track "Bad Self Portraits". Lead singer Rachael Price looks to be in absolute heaven with a smile so wide it almost meets her ears!

Take a look at the clip below, courtesy of Chris from the Boston Through My Eyes blog. This is truly goose-bump material. It's a true shame that American National Public Radio (NPR) didn't record the band's set; instead preferring to go with the Jeff Tweedy/Jack White/Ryan Adams-type big name artists to showcase.

Take a listen to this inspiring performance. Sing along with Mavis, and smile along with Rachael!


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Sunday Sessions: Godstar



Godstar are one of a handful of guitar-pop bands whose work is so ingeniously simple and catchy that it makes me want to start a band and write music again.

Formed by Half a Cow label owner Nic Dalton, the band features a revolving door line-up of musicians including Evan Dando of the Lemonheads and various members of Sydney bands such as Smudge, The Plunderers and The Hummingbirds. The songs are short, sharp and insanely catchy, with loads of fuzzy guitars and vocal harmonies.

The overall impression one gets is that the music is quickly recorded and mixed, without too much attention to bum notes or slightly off harmonies. It's all a little rough around the edges, but that's what makes it endearing. It's all recorded in various Sydney recording studios with whoever is around at the time. What you are left with is a bunch of great songs wrapped up in a neat package for maximum fun.

The band have released two studio albums in the form of "Sleeper" (1993) and "Coastal" (1995), as well as copious amounts of seven-inch vinyl EPs and singles and a few compilation albums before calling a day in 1998. All are available from the Half a Cow label website. 

Nic has also been involved with many other bands since, such as Sneeze, and the Gloomchasers among others. Pretty much the name "Half a Cow" can be taken as a trademark of quality - anything you find on that label is worth listening to, but start with the Godstar releases and go from there. 

Check out some of the bands highlights below. Enjoy your Sunday!









Friday, 1 August 2014

July 2014 Playlist

Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for the Sound and the Fury Podcast July 2014 playlist. A selection of carefully chosen songs to illuminate your living room, or wherever you feel like listening to it.

This month you get over 200 songs featuring:
New music from: Little Bastard, Dick Diver, Calling All Astronauts, Manchester Orchestra, Iron Reagan, Gaslight Anthem, Ed Sheeran, Courtney Barnett, Bully, Bellowhead and heaps more
Classics from Led Zeppelin, Fifty Foot Hose, Queen, Show of Hands, Liquor Giants, Miles Davis, Sebadoh and heaps more.

Set the list to shuffle, crank it up and ENJOY!!!