Monday, 23 May 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #9: Ratcat - "Blind Love/Tingles"

Quiz question: Who was the band who kick-started the 90's alternative rock revolution in Australia?

If you were thinking Nirvana or Silverchair, you'd be wrong.

In 1990, a small, start-up indie label with major label backing sprung up and started signing small bands from around the country - The Screaming Jets from Newcastle, The Hummingbirds, the Trilobites and Tall Tales And True from Sydney, Martha's Vineyard from Perth, all scored hits of various magnitudes, but there was one band from their initial crop of signings that went stratospheric...Ratcat.

Ratcat were instrumental in bringing the alternative/underground into the mainstream. They were an inner-city Sydney band, playing small venues and releasing independent singles and albums, and had done for about 4 years before they unleashed the "Tingles" EP in 1990, on the rooART label. It went gold in no time at all. The lead track "That Ain't Bad" was a noisy yet simple scuzz-pop gem that starts off quietly with just bass, drums and vocals, but when the chorus hits, the wall of guitars is so thick and heavy it's like a smack in the face. The rest of the record comes through with plenty of great cracking tunes, heavy on the noisy guitars with plenty of melody.

Noise-pop/shoe-gaze - or whatever the buzzword of the time was - bands didn't sell massive amounts of records, because critical acclaim doesn't often translate over into record sales. Ratcat's nearest contemporaries at the time would have been bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Neds Atomic Dustbin, Dinosaur Jr, Inspiral Carpets and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

What's more, for any indie record to hit the mainstream charts and get airplay on mainstream radio in 1990/1, let alone an AUSTRALIAN one, was no mean feat. The only other local bands at the time to come close were The Hummingbirds and The Screaming Jets. And then, in 1991, things went nuts.

The biggest locally produced record of 1991 was their single "Don't Go Now" which hit number 1. In May the accompanying album "Blind Love" sold over 100,000 copies and the band was hot property, with their gigs filled by screaming girls everywhere. They quickly issued a live mini-LP by the end of the year and a rush-released follow-up in 1992 called "Insideout" but by the close of the year they star had faded.

Early in 1992, Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene became the biggest thing since the last big thing and Ratcat were quickly forgotten. Their massive impact in those early months B.N. ("Before Nevermind") has been played down by rock historians of the last decade or so and the band, while they have continued to gig and release records, have not scaled their once dizzy heights again.

The band are doing some shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their landmark "Blind Love" LP. Take a listen below to both the Tingles EP (the first 6 tracks) and the Blind Love LP (the rest) to remember how great they were.

Friday, 20 May 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #8: Anthrax - "Persistence of Time"

I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday...

It was 1996. Radio JJJ were hosting Jason Newstead of Metallica to premiere the first single from their first album in 5 years - "Until It Sleeps". I was sitting in my car, in the carpark of a McDonalds, chomping on a caramel sundae, en route to my next guitar student's house. I was listening to this bass-player berate anybody who'd dare to speak up against the mediocrity of the song. I'd missed hearing the playing of the song so I paid no real attention to the jibbering.

They played it again. And I hated it. I was upset and outraged on so many levels.

In protest at the perceived weakening of the bands resolve and of their muscular sound, I went looking for some real thrash metal. Enter Anthrax.

"Persistence of Time" is the last album of the band's first, some would say "classic", period. Lead singer Joey Belladonna would leave/be fired not long after this album. It also happens to be their darkest, heaviest and most pummeling record to date.

In 1996, post-"Until It Sleeps", my need for metal was satiated by this record. I moved from my Metallica fixation and onto other things from here. It's still a perfect car album. The goosebump-inducing into to "Time" is still great. The seemingly strange choice of cover version contained within of "Got the Time" by Joe Jackson is incendiary.

Anthrax would morph and change into the 90s and beyond, but this was a unequivocal high point in their career. They never left heavy music behind, but they never made a record this consistent again. Turn it up and MOSH!!!!!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Songs To Wear Pants To!!!

Songs To Wear Pants To!!! One of the coolest and greatest websites on the planet for music!!!

Andrew Pants, the author and creator of STWPT (real name Andrew Haung) is something of a Canadian musical prodigy. Proficient in playing a number of instruments (and a number things that he passes off as instruments), he writes songs based on subject suggestions sent in by readers on his site, then he records them, playing all the instruments himself. The songs vary in style from flat out punk to Gregorian-style Chants, and all points in between.

The site has been in existence for nigh on seven years now, and it shows no signs of abating, thankfully. At the time of writing, there are 545 songs available on the site, and over the duration of it's existence, the songs get better and better. Although, they tend are slightly less unique than they were when they started. You see, Andrew has a two-tiered support mechanism going with this site, right from the beginning. If you sent in a song idea via email, in the beginning, he would write a song based on your idea, but it wouldn't be any longer than 71 seconds long (1:11). If you pledged money for him to write a song, he would write it at standard length (say, up to 4 minutes or more). These days, the free songs can be any length, and it's rare that any are as short as some of the early classics like "A Bug Fell in Love With A Cat", which towers in at a whole 9 seconds in length.

At times sublime, quirky, or just downright hilarious, it is very much worth the time and effort to suss this site out. Andrew Pants, in my opinion, is a genius. I have included a playlist of songs from the site to listen to below (close to 100!!!), but it helps if you go to the site and read the background information about each song to full appreciate them. You won't be disappointed!

Assorted highlights to check out here include:

"A Bug Fell In Love With A Cat"
"If You Play This Song Backwards It Will Sound The Same" (TSATF note: and it does too!)
"Toilet Flushing Shelving Unit"
"I Am A Clam"
"I Am A Sad Sad Toaster Made Of Glass"
"Celtic Techno Burrito"
"I Am The First 50 Digits Of Pi"
"Gniht Elohw Eht Esrever"
"Shoot The Zombies"
"Everything I Didn't Like About My Previous Girlfriend"
"Crunk Juice"
"See Through Grumpy Unicorns"
"I Am Tuna"
"Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows"

and many many more!

Enjoy the sampler on offer below, and get over to the Songs To Wear Pants To site and get some more great tunes into you!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Foo Fighters - Back and Forth

I managed to catch one of the limited screenings of the new Foo Fighters documentary "Back and Forth" on the big screen on the weekend. It is coupled with a run-through of the new album "Wasting Light", played live in a band room, and shot with multiple cameras in 3D

It was a very candid film and a very informative and revealing. It begins with Dave Grohl joining Nirvana, working through their all-too-brief career and then onto the beginnings of a new project which he tentatively called "Foo Fighters"; a project he opted to explore and build upon rather than take on the job he was offered as the drummer in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!

There's plenty of great music within, as you all know. It was interesting to see the growing pains that the band went through in their early days, including having to be compared to Nirvana at every turn, as well as being asked the most banal questions from rock journalists who all wanted to know about whether the songs were about Kurt. I was disappointed that they didn't spend much time talking about their music videos. Their videos are consistently entertaining and often very funny, with the band happy to take the piss out of themselves at will.

The documentary takes on the touchy subject of certain band member's addictions and overdoses, including those of Kurt Cobain, but it is curious how Dave's own battle with substances was omitted from the film. He is known for his wild drinking, and he even overdosed on caffeine during the making of the "Them Crooked Vultures" LP. Or the fact that he was picked up for driving over the prescribed alcohol limit in Australia circa 2006. It also overstepped the Beaconsfield mine tragedy in Tasmania, which resulted in the trapped miners having a song dedicated to them on the "Echoes Silence Patience and Grace" LP.

On the whole, it was a very entertaining watch, and even the most casual fan of the band can get a lot out of it. Those looking for gossip and mudslinging won't find much here, but at least this doesn't bear any of the tawdry melodrama of Metallica's "Some Kind Of Monster" - there's no public therapy sessions in this one!

The live set in 3D at the end just demonstrates how tight the band are as a unit and just how great the new material really is. The songs pack a punch, as well as being very hooky and melodic. The record flows well from start to finish and even the slow songs are worth a few listens. The 3D vision was impressive, with a camera set up close to Taylor Hawkin's drum kit. It looked close enough that you could almost reach out and grab the cymbals, or steal the picks from Dave Grohl's mic stand!

Highly recommended. Although it's a shame it won't be visible in 3D anymore though.

Below are a couple of highlights from new record: "Dear Rosemary" and "Bridge Burning", Live on Letterman