Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sunday Sessions: Christmas with Paul Kelly

As you know, Christmas is upon us, and we here at The Sound and the Fury Podcast are winding down for the end of the year. Life have been very stressful for me at least this year, especially in the last few months of the year, and this is one of the reasons why the blog has been so slow lately.

There will be more great music and great stories on the blog in 2014, as well as a few new surprises up my sleeve. This year we welcomed our new contributor King101, and I look forward to seeing more of his great work in the new year.

There will be more intense playlists. There will be more interesting videos and heaps more next year, so stay tuned.

Stay safe over the Christmas break. Have heaps of fun and we'll catch you all again soon.

For now, I'll leave you with a great Christmas song from one of Australia's finest songwriters, Paul Kelly. This tune is written from the point of viw of a prison inmate who cannot come home to be with his family for Christmas. It is called "How to Make Gravy".

Enjoy, and I'll see you next year. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday Sessions: Christmas with...Bad Religion???

Yep, you heard it right. Bad Religion have made a christmas album, of traditional hymns in their own style, without a hint of irony.

It turns out that, despite not subscribing to any one religious belief, lead singer Greg Graffin was a choirboy as a youngster and actually enjoyed singing these songs during that period. Who knew? That at least explains how the band had such great vocal harmonies on their other great tracks like "21 Century Digital Boy" and "Anaesthesia" for example.

Still, I thought this was a rather odd thing for the band to do. They rail against commercialisation and secularisation of religion anyway, and of course railing against extremism in all it's forms. I think it's a bit hit and miss. It doesn't matter who records "Little Drummer Boy" I'm still not going to like it.

But I do think it's an interesting way to listen to these time honoured songs on one's own terms as opposed to having them rammed into your ears while you part with your money in shopping malls during December.

What are your thoughts? Take a listen to a sample below.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Whatever happened to Hip-Hop?

With the recent release of Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP Part 2", I began to ponder "whatever happened to Hip-Hop"?  Upon listening to the aforementioned album, it's clear that hip-hop as a style of music really hasn't evolved or grown much. Indeed, Eminem hasn't changed his music much either for that matter.

So what happened? Probably nothing that any real hip-hop fans would be concerned about. However, for a style of music so innovative, personally I think its a shame that it appears to not have developed past its adolescence.

Hip-Hop is probably the last recent, genuine innovation in popular music. What started out as an underground phenomenon in the ghettos of New York City, has since gone global. It was genuinely innovative due to the fact that it fused existing recordings (usually old funk, soul, disco, and in some cases Krautrock by the likes of Kraftwerk) played on a pair of turntables, upon which the DJ would create a looped musical backdrop for an MC to rhyme over.

The MC spat out fast, breathless, rhythmic lyrics with mind-boggling precision, filled with street-wise references and clever rhyme schemes. Sure Bob Dylan may have attempted it or even defined the stream-of-consciousness narrative of fast flowing verse in the 1960s (see "Subterranean Homesick Blues" for proof, and he may not have even been the first), but on the streets of New York it was turned into an art-form by Afrika Bambaata, Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang and The Rocksteady Crew in the early days.

These artists were street-wise but were very pop-music focussed. A tougher and more aggressive, in some cases socially and politically conscious, style was pioneered by RUN DMC and Public Enemy, with rabble rousing messages of hope and fighting the good fight for better services and rights within society. The Beastie Boys introduced frat-boy fun into the mix. And then...

...from the West Coast of the US, from South Central LA, came Ice-T and NWA, with a gritty, portrait-of-daily-life style music, painting a bleak picture of life on the streets: running and dealing drugs, hustling guns, armed robberies, police brutality, gang turf warfare all peppered with gratuitous references to violent killing and sex, with liberal use of profanity. For a while in the late 80s and early 90s, this music seemed genuinely threatening and people in positions of authority were affronted by it. But for once, music was dangerous again, and therefore exciting.

The problem, as I see it, is not that I'm offended by rap music's gratuity, but rather that this blatant shock tactic has become the rule rather than the exception; the standard by which one should make Hip-Hop. From where I sit, Hip-Hop hasn't evolved from what Ice-T did with "Original Gangster" in 1991. Ice-T made a habit of being violent, profane and sexually explicit in his music before everyone else did and now everyone is still doing that, 20-odd years later. It's almost as if it is a style of music in a state of arrested development.

Maybe, of course, that is entirely the point. As a teenager myself in 1990, listening to NWA on headphones for the first time, it did feel quite subversive to be listening to music that your parents would be righteously pissed off at you listening to. I'm sure, now in 2013, teenagers still feel the same about smuggling home a Kanye West album and hearing the shocking revelations and sensational stories within. Maybe that's why it hasn't changed much in 20 years - because the audience gets younger as older fans move on, and a new generation of teenage boys looking for that record guaranteed to piss off the parents discovers the music.

Even now, NWA is still frighteningly stark and pointed, the subjects spoken about by Obie Trice and his D12 posse are exactly the same as the ones sung on NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" in 1988. But what's probably more interesting is how Hip-Hop has been blended with other styles of music: with Rock (Run DMC and Aerosmith, Public Enemy and Anthrax), and with Jazz (US3, Quincy Jones on his "Back On The Block" LP).

Hip-Hop in Australia and the UK has taken a while to take off, not least because early exponents of the style in these regions were slavish imitators of US artists. Notwithstanding The Streets (UK grime MC Mike Skinner whose work was just plain awful, I thought) artists like Britain's Tinie Tempah are making huge inroads with their own unique British flavoured style.

In Australia, the Hip-Hop scene has flourished underground without much mainstream coverage. For years Aussie MCs have suffered from the cultural cringe: with rap seen as an American style, local types rapping in a Aussie drawl was seen as anachronistic. Mind you, through a hell of a lot of hard work, we've seen the likes of The Hilltop Hoods, Bliss 'n' Eso, The Resin Dogs, Drapht and heaps of others become successful on the festival circuit.  It's been a long time coming, mind you. Locally we haven't taken to Australian hip-hop much before 2006 when Hilltop Hoods' "The Nosebleed Section" became a surprise smash, without falling into the same repetitive trap as (U.S.) West Coast hip-hop has.

What's your view on Hip-hop? Is it still fresh and exciting? Or tired, repetitive and staid? Let us know in the comments below.


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The 26-genre Challenge

I've said it before and I'll say it again:


With the help of Dave from BoyInABand, he has created an alphabetical, 26-genre piece that covers everything from opera, dubstep, xoomii, jazz, Viking metal (!!!) and heaps more in just over three minutes.

Sure, it'll make your head spin. But the depth and breadth of the talent of these guys is indisputable - it knows no bounds. It is expertly done and well worth your time.

WARNING: Mind the strobe effects during the Trap section towards the end.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Album Review: Billy Joel: The Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997

I'd really like to give you a blog about an artist I listen to a lot, and that is Billy Joel.

I bought his Complete Hits Collection God knows how long ago now, but it would be the most bashed album I have. It's been played through good and hard times and keeps giving even now.

My simple theory is this: get a greatest hits and find songs you like the most, THEN go and buy the album it came from and see where it takes you. It makes you perhaps a selective listener but usually only serious musos will tell you to listen to everything!

I'll give you a few of my faves off this album and some of the knowledge I have acquired from looking into a track. This is a 52 roughly track album, being three CDs worth.

Now, I'll give you two and see how you like it- this IS my first blog :)

1. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. From "The Stranger", 1977.

This being a piece with more than one theme, much like an ABA form, or ternary form gives you a lot of interesting ideas. Joel has a few songs in his arsenal like this with more than one central theme, musically speaking.

We start and end in an Italian eatery trying to choose your wine. Much like Vienna, it has a European flavor. It sets the scene and gives a grand sense of scene, table, chairs, your lovely lady and wine and it then leads to the main meat of the song- which Joel named fondly during writing as the Ballad of Brenda and Eddie. This is when it really gets going:

"Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the King and the Queen of the prom, riding around with the car top down and the radio on..."

The lyrics give a couple in the heights of youth, plenty of eagerness and tension with everything to gain, who cares about the consequences with the life-like lady holding the purse strings. And it's this that really brings down the pair in the end.

The melody with all Joel's creativity binding with really wonderful lyrics, as per the two lines given above.
It's fun, it's lively as I've just said- youth, vigour and anticipation of a rich future with "...deep pile carpets and a couple of paintings from Seers (a US department store I imagine) a big waterbed that they bought with the bread they had saved for a couple of years." This rhythm has zing! It's got bite, and anyone having moved out and started a live-in relationship knows what this is all about.

If you don't try and learn this lyrics and attempt to sing along, you might as well stop the iPod in your car, lock the vehicle and walk. It's hard not to plus air drum and air piano. If you're a wanna be a muso, a bit of imagination can't hurt!!!

Throw in an accordian, sax, clarinet break a nice band into the mix, and this is full, red-blooded romance, look at life party-style. It brings a very well relatable subject matter: love and love lost and the money you throw at life . Please, grab this live at Yankee stadium, a few years ago now....Joel at his best!

Bring a bottle of rose...this is fun.

2. The Night is Still Young, From: "Greatest Hits Vols I & II", 1985. Not previously released as a single.

In this day and age, being 2013, more couples are meeting and/or marrying, settling down with children at a later stage in life, whether careers, or lifestyles govern them growing up...youth is young and staying young for as long as they see fit. I dunno, what do you think? Where are you these days?

So, Joel opens with the idea: "I'm still young, I have plenty of life in me, what the hell, I love you."

The Wiki people have Joel from the video as man on a business trip, leaving his wife behind. I haven't actually seen this video, so my interpretation is somewhat different from the my hearing what lyrics I can understand.

This song is somewhat dreamy in orchestration I think, It gives you a taste of Joel's old familiar harmonica as per "Piano Man". Simple octave (or two) dubbing of the verses gives an odd feel, more conversational in style. It nearly seems as if it's a near middle age man living with a still-young man's ideals. A pinch of reflection leading to his current position with his woman by his side: he's basically giving her credit for being his wife and as some do, a man who IS in his mid-life, is saying " a lot of catching up I gotta do, but the night is still young..."

I'm sure he's not the first or last to feel as if he needs to take stock of his life and state his intent and purpose. There is an accompanying video to go with this with Joel appearing as a lower class worker, blue collar and in his down to earth raggy way- it's easy to feel affection this style of visuals. He also appears driving a lorry where a young man with suitcase jumps on the back. One wonders if he's picturing himself as his lyrics give a hint towards possibly.

This is a song with a contemplative, typical honesty Joel offers-which I really love and respect in this man, in his music and lyrics. Joel is not afraid to put some growl into his voice. Showing again, as I tried to give you the feel for, a young man in an older man's body with the world at his feet- even though he might struggle to bend over to tie his shoelaces- but he's giving it all for his lady.

3. This is the Time, from "The Bridge", 1987.

I really wanted to give you a song off one of two significant albums to me- being The Bridge and Storm Front.

For now, This is the time is a nice life ideal to live by, involving the usual, Joel- type subject matter. He's for all intent and purpose talking to either his lady or if we might think, talking to us.

It's easy to give the love lyrics to his lady and take the lyrics of 'advice' when he neither says need you, or any lyric containing connotations to 'her'. Joel after all seems a very personal a person who, you might imagine, could enjoy giving his advice to anyone close, and if we spend the money, we can glean from his 'ancient heart' and knowledge and ideals.

This, being an album I was given by an uncle, uses all the keyboard electronics typical of 80's music. If you grew up in the era as I did, and some of my close friends, you'll recognise this. In thinking, even early 20's music fiends can easily recognise an 80's song, some with dissent - why I can't fathom! But I'm getting off topic slightly.

As this last review will conclude this blog, I'm sure you won't mind my indulgence- I picked this song because I like it. The first 2 were non sentimental- not so this one!

I think this song is nicely orchestrated, akin to "The Night is Still Young" - but after all, this is what art is all about: telling a story through a sensitive art-form such as music.

It has its crescendos and vice versa- meaning strong points and softer points. The lyrics do drive this piece.

"This is the time to remember, cos it will not last forever"

this sums up life in general.

Now, this actually takes practice and experience to have a sense of appreciation for. If you have not lost, you cannot find comfort. If you are not hungry, you won't appreciate food. If you're not cold, you might not value your clothes, shelter or house. The experience of hardship can indeed give you more value of that when you might have it return.

This might be the central theme to this song. It also has a touch of love involved -

"and these are the times you'll turn back to, and so will I..."

the romantic comes back from Joel again. That usual heart on the sleeve type, giving us his thoughts.

Until next time! Enjoy!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sunday Sessions: Black Sabbath

During a visit to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) yesterday, I heard a story about a project a student was working on, which was developing an exo-skeleton, for those who are disabled or who suffer from reduced muscle capabilities.

This exoskeleton fits to the exterior of a person and has sensors, motors that can increase and decrease the amount of torque applied, with the purpose of giving the wearer increased strength.

Does that concept sound familiar to you? It kinda did to me...

...and a suitably heavy guitar riff to match the heavy hardware of the wearer...:


Vale Nelson Mandela

It came as a shock to the world, despite the fact he was 95 years of age, to hear that Nelson Mandela has passed away. While not a musician, he became a folk hero, a freedom fighter battling against an oppressive and racist regime in South Africa known as Apartheid.

How he became the face of the anti-apartheid movement, from his jail cell, where he was with plenty of other people jailed for the same reasons, I'm not quite sure. But he did inspire a hell of a lot of people and a great deal of music as well.

Most notably, he inspired Gerry Dammers, leader of The Specials, to write a freedom anthem calling for his release from prison, in 1983. It would be a further seven years before that would actually happen.

In looking for other examples of music inspired by the great man, I found this. It is a dub-reggae album inspired by his life, his story and his struggle, and what it means for other oppressed nations around the world, especially impoverished ones like Jamaica.

The album is called "Nelson Mandela: African Dub Excursion" featuring artists like URoy and the Mad Professor. Aside from being a gorgeous piece of music with its sublime grooves and inspirational lyrics, I think it is a fitting tribute to a man who was the first to admit he was no saint, but who was one of the reasons an international movement to end institutional racism began.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

November 2013 Mixtape

For the first day of the southern hemisphere summer we've had weather consistent with the last few other words, Four Seasons in One Day. For a summer's day it's a remarkable 23 degrees centigrade.It's normally a hell of a lot hotter!

Still, there's a new playlist from The Sound and the Fury Podcast waiting in the wings for you to check out. It features:

  • Classics from Johnny Moped, Supergrass, Pretty Things, Machinations, Split Enz,
  • Obscurities from Olivia Neutron Bomb, Youngblood Hawke, Permanent Me, Ember Swift, iOta, Art Blakey and more
  • Punk screamers from Negative FX, The Normals, OFF!, The Tunnel Rats, The Damned, The Saints, The Randoms, The Zeroes and more
  • Aussie Classics from Even, The Birthday Party, Mondo Rock, Paul Kelly, The Reels, Regurgitator and heaps more.

Here it is below. Dig it!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Bruce and the Saints

It's almost common knowledge now, but as usual I'm a little slow on the uptake.

However, Bruce Springsteen is including a cover of "Just Like Fire Would", a classic by Brisbane punks The Saints on his new album, which is released in January next year.

The Saints really have battled to be respected by the music industry for years, despite the initial flourish of success in the late 70s in England. To get the nod from a musician the likes of Bruce Springsteen is an awesome achievement, but it's been too long coming, in my view.

The band had to leave Australia to even get any kind of exposure in the first place. Brisbane in 1976 was so uber-conservative that anyone playing music like theirs would be harassed by the police. Johnny Rotten may have described the British Monarchy as "the fascist regime" but that was poetic license. Sir Joh's 1970s Brisbane was two steps away from the real thing.

Here is the original of "Just Like Fire Would", for your listening pleasure.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Eric Carr, late of KISS

So now that we have remembered when Freddie Mercury died, who remembers where they were when they heard Eric Carr died?


I thought so. It wasn't exactly headline news as far as most media outlets were concerned.

I didn't even hear it on the news. I heard Doug Mulray on Triple M mention it during his between-song banter on his famous breakfast show.

Eric had a tough job to do in Kiss. After Peter Criss left in a cloud of drug-induced haze in 1980, Eric was drafted in as a full time replacement. He stuck it out for just over 10 years, through the leanest times the band ever experienced.

His first album with KISS was the hugely divisive and poor-selling "Music From 'The Elder'" in 1981. He then played his heart out the return-to-form but still poorly selling "Creatures of the Night" in 1982.

Seeing their fortunes continue to wane, KISS pulled the publicity stunt of their lives: the took their makeup off. This ensured that the pantomime aspect of the band was gone and it announced a new "serious" outlook for the band. At least in the short-term, it ensured that 1983's "Lick It Up" sold respectably. They continued to release records throughout the 80s but with diminishing returns, due to the fact that they were competing for airtime with a bunch of similar looking bands who were copying the band's 1970s style (sans makeup). They'd become just another band who looked and sounded similar to every other band.

In 1988, the band issued the contentious "Smashes, Thrashes and Hits" compilation LP. It features a number of remixed, re-edited and some cases re-recorded versions of their hits, plus two new songs. On this record they band committed what many fans considered to be the ultimate sin: they replaced Peter's vocal on "Beth" with a new one by Eric. No offense to Eric - personally I prefer his version, but to many people this was akin to rewriting or airbrushing history.

Eric found his voice again on 1989's "Hot In The Shade" by contributing lead vocals on "Little Caesar" but not long after the release of that album Eric was diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer found in his heart.

Eric was a genuine talent. He could play drums with the best of them, but also had a sweet voice. He played guitar and bass and would often record his own demos at home playing all the instruments himself (a la Dave Grohl on the first Foo Fighters LP).

In the chequered history of KISS, Eric Carr's contributions are a high point. May he rest in peace.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Where were you when....

Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Chances are, like me, you weren't even born at the time.

So where were you when you heard Freddie Mercury died? The man gave up his fight against AIDS on the 24th November 1991. It happened overnight Australian time, so most people didn't find out until the next day.

I, for one, was in Maths class, last period on that Monday 25th, when the kid behind me happened to mention to me that Freddie has died. I didn't believe it. On the walk to the train station on the way home I spoke to a couple of mates and hadn't heard the news either, thus strengthening my argument that my mate over my shoulder in Maths had no idea what he was on about.

When my mother picked me up at the other end of my train journey, I said to her "some bloke in my Maths class tried to tell me that Freddie Mercury died overnight". She replied "He did. He died of HIV". I couldn't believe it. I felt so stupid. And sad. I played "Greatest Hits 1" all night after that.

It was probably the first time that a rock star's death had had any impact on me. I remembered when Stevie Ray Vaughan died. That was strange, but then I'd only heard one song of his ("Crossfire") so it didn't bother me terribly. On the other hand, Queen's music I'd grown up with, or at least since they issued "Radio Ga Ga" in 1984. I'd followed them ever since then, so Freddie's death came as quite a shock.

So where were you when you first heard about Freddie's death? Did it bother you? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunday Sessions: Things of Stone and Wood

In keeping with Australian Music Month, this week we take a listen to Melbourne Hippie Folk-Rockers Things of Stone and Wood.

I was playing my Spotify Australian classic playlist yesterday and ToSaW's "Share This Wine" came on. It's such a great song, although the video is horribly dated, with the ghastly hippy-trippy day-glo clothing and dreadful dancing. (See Below).

The song the band is known for is "Happy Birthday Helen", which, while hugely catchy and popular, I'm not a big fan of. "Share This Wine" has a much more interesting and potent lyric, but the love songs always get the punters in.

Still, the Melbourne-centric, mandolin adorned strum-along tunes have held up remarkably well in my view since their first release in 1992. Their second LP "Junk Theatre" was moderately successful but it had no real hit singles, despite having a number of great songs on it. The band were dropped by their label Sony Music not long after. They released a few independent albums before calling it quits around 1997.

According to Wikipedia, lead singer Greg Arnold now produces records for Skipping Girl Vinegar (among others) and is a lecturer in music for the Melbourne Institute of TAFE.

For this week, kick back and chill out to the sounds of Things of Stone and Wood.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hot Rollers

I was just checking out the new Spiderbait record. I'll write about it later, but in short it's as tuneful, crunchy and as eclectic as you'd expect the band to be.

But in doing so, I was reminded of an obscure side project that the 'Bait's drummer Kram was involved in for a very brief period with Ritchie from Tumbleweed. It was called Hot Rollers. They released one LP and a couple of singles in 1998 and then...

...they went back to their day jobs. The album was a hodgepodge of odd tape experiments, instrumental noodling and all kinds of weirdness, however there were a few shining examples of greatness within, most notably the lead single "Wickerman Shoes".

The follow-up "Silver Bullets" is also worth a spin. It kind of out-Bee Gees the Bee Gees at their peak, but it's still not quite as memorable as this track.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday Sessions: The Church

Well, that was a hectic week. Hence the fact that there were no posts this week.

Now that Sunday is back, and it's pouring with rain, what better than to kick back and chill out with some amazing Australian music.

Traditionally, November is the time of the year when radio station Triple J (and their parent company the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, aka the ABC) run what they call Australian Music Month. There's been so much great local music that you can hardly have just one day to celebrate it, so at least we could do is give it its own month.

Today's act have a very British sound. That's appropriate because Britain is known for its rain, and for the fact that their guitarist is from Liverpool in the north of the UK and their bass player is also English.

The band are called The Church. They were formed in Canberra in 1979 and have been a fixture on both the local and international music scenes since the release of their first LP in 1981.

They have a sound that could be described as "jangly", not unlike bands like The Byrds, R.E.M., or maybe even the Smiths at a stretch. Electric 12-string guitar playing, a heavy driving rhythm and deep, often inscrutable lyrics, the band have created a rich catalog of work.

For this week, I present to you The Church.


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Sunday Sessions: Ammonia

Following the recent screening of "The Sunnyboy" on the ABC, a Yorkshire-born mate of mine who has been living in Australia for over a decade now has stated that the 1980s were clearly a golden age for Australian Music, in his view.

True that, I say.

The Mid-1990s were another great golden age for music in my view. However, so many bands have been swept under the carpet of history in the intervening years. Unfortunately, today's artist is one of them.

Ammonia were originally a Perth-based 3-piece who burst out of the same vibrant scene as Jebediah (featuring Kevin Mitchell, aka Bob Evans), Adam Said Galore, Lash, Little Birdy, Sleepy Jackson and Karnivool. They played a kind of melodic grunge, but even then that's underselling the music. Ammonia's releases were on Murmur, home to Something for Kate, Silverchair and the aforementioned Jebediah.

They formed in 1992, released two albums "Mint 400" (1995) and "Eleventh Avenue" (1998) before calling it a day in 1999. "Mint 400" was a great, straight ahead rock album, while "Eleventh Avenue" expanded on this with experiments with synths and mild psychedelia. Both albums are worth more than a few listens, but to get you started, here's a couple of tunes by way of introduction:

"Keep on My Side" (from "Eleventh Avenue")

"Suzy Q" (from "Mint 400")

Friday, 8 November 2013

A Modern Protest

Our local hamburger shop, independently run and privately family owned, is under threat from a corporate giant.

Hungry Jacks (an Australian reseller of all things Burger King) is threatening a small Central Coast takeaway shop because of their sumptuous homemade hamburgers they call the "Wambie Whopper". They are claiming copyright infringement on the term "Whopper". As the term is a colloquialism I don't know how that will play out in the courts, but the locals don't like big business threatening the little guy.

Here is a protest song, written to the tune of "Zombie" by The Cranberries in support of Wambie Whoppers against the big corporate might of HJs.

Check it. And if you're ever on the central coast of NSW, go have a Wambie Whopper while you still can!

STOP PRESS!!! As of 08 November 2013, Hungry Jacks' CEO Jack Cowin has announced that any legal threat to Wambie Whoppers has been revoked and they have apologised for any ill will. The two businesses are now allowed to co-exist in peace. YAY!!!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Sunnyboys

The Sunnyboys were one of the great bands in the 1980s Australian Music boom. A group of surfers from Kingscliff, just south of the Queensland border, moved to Sydney and christened themselves after a brand of triangular ice-block.

They were a fiery, passionate band playing the songs of prodigious songwriter Jeremy Oxley. At 18, Jeremy composed all the songs for the first Sunnyboys LP in 1981, including classics like "Happy Man", "I Can't Talk To You" and "Alone With You". Under duress he wrote all the songs for second LP "Individuals" in 1982 before Jeremy was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

There is a recent documentary based on Jeremy's struggle called "The Sunnyboy" that was shown on ABC1 on Sunday night. It is a heartbreaking story of a man who was cut down in his prime as a hugely talented musician.

In a sense he was Australia's Syd Barrett - a talent robbed by mental illness (although Syd's was arguably drug induced). Nevertheless, "The Sunnyboy" is a painful fly-on-the-wall look at one man's daily battle and the effects on his family and friends.

If nothing else it should serve as a lesson to legislators to ensure that treatment of mental illness is properly managed and funded. But that's another story...

The Sunnyboys deserve their legacy. Their music is still vital and potent and is worthy of another listen.

Alone with you:

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Format vs Fun.

In the last 12 months, a band who calls themselves "Fun." (complete with the full stop) have become a massive band, with hits like "Some Nights" and "We Are Young".

I had such high hopes for this band and I have to say I've been somewhat disappointed. This band was formed by the lead singer of mid 2000s pop band "The Format", Nate Reuss. The Format's first record "Interventions and Lullabyes" was a great pop album; easily one of the best of the early 21st century. I've played "The First Single" here before, and I still reckon it was one of the best pop songs written in the last 10 years or so.

Having listened to the latest record "Some Nights" it strikes me as though they are making a conscious grab for pop stardom by using the tricks of the moment - autotune, randomly misplaced expletives, and some occasionally vapid lyrics. The melodies and the song structures are interesting and the textured music is also noteworthy, but for some reason it adds up to the sum of their parts, in my view.

I liked the two aforementioned songs, but they have a high burn rate - after a few listens one is completely bored with them. The rest of the "Some Nights" LP suffers the same fate.

Considering this is their second album, there is room to grow and to improve. I think they'll have a long career ahead of them, and Nate is a gifted songwriter with a stellar voice. I look forward to hearing what else they have to give us in years to come.

Check them both out. Who do you prefer?

The Format - "Snails"

The Format - "The First Single"

Fun. - "Some Nights"

Fun. - "We Are Young"

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sunday Sessions: ISIS

Hey all,

I know I posted this one a while back as part of our Best female artists series, but for Sunday Sessions this is the perfect chill-out tune.

ISIS were a Brisbane all-girl feminist folk act from the 1990s. They released one self titled LP and it included this total gem: "Treat Yourself Gently".


Friday, 1 November 2013

October 2013 Playlist

October has been a turbulent month for all of us here on the east coast, with all the local bushfires and the unseasonably extreme weather. With all that in mind, here's a new playlist!

Featuring tunes from: New Order, The Cult, Screaming Trees, Nobunny, Broken Bones, Pretty Things, Bobby Bare, Oasis, Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, James Brown, and stacks more.

Crank it up and ENJOY!!!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

September 2013 Playlist

How remiss of me! I forgot to post the playlist at the start of October!

Ahh well, in time for November, you not only get September, but also the October one as well.

Let's start with September, however. What you get in this month's playlist is:

  • A few songs in honour of the Australian federal election from the likes of Billy Bragg, Midnight Oil, Redgum, Reset and more
  • Classics from The Band, Pink Floyd, The Police, Motorhead, MC5, Infectious Grooves, Meat Loaf, Janis Joplin, Jerry Reed and more
  • Australian rock from Motorace, Master's Apprentices, INXS, Chain, Hunters and Collectors, Frente, The Dugites and more
  • New tunes from Arctic Monkeys, Diesel, Cactus Channel, Ice Sea Dead People, The Public Opinion Afro Band, Shat Shorts, Spiderbait and more
  • Oddness from The Dumb Earth, Captain Everything, Muhal Richard Abrams, Notorious Cherry Bombs, Yellow Scab, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and heaps more.


Johnny Moped

It's Halloween again. Only recently has it seemed to have taken off in Australia, with little kids walking around in supposedly creepy costumes knocking on doors going "Trick or Treat!"

Seriously, none of them are actually very macabre, or scary at all. I reckon if they knocked on the door of any given house an they were greeted with this, they'd shit themselves:

That's Pogues frontman Shane McGowan. With all the drink and drugs that guy has taken, it's no wonder he looks like that, but then it's a wonder he can still stand up. And it shows, especially when you see him interviewed in a new biopic on one of the man's heroes: Johnny Moped.

The band (and eponymously-named singer) Johnny Moped were a short-lived London punk phenomenon, playing the same haunts as The Pistols and the Clash. The band featured at various times Chrissy Hynde (The Pretenders) and Captain Sensible (ex-The Damned) in their ranks. Shane was one of the loyal fans who attended most (if not every) gig they played from 1977-78.

The documentary "Basically, Johnny Moped" has been filmed by Captain Sensible's son Fred. I won't give away the general plot of the story, but this is something I want to see. Basically Johnny's live shows would be so outrageous and so insane that you wouldn't know what you were going to get on any given night. They only made one LP ("Cycledelic") and a handful of singles before he dropped off the radar altogether.

Still, the first single "No One"/"Incendiary Device" is one hell of a record. With its slurred, growled and howled vocal line obscuring the words (and from I can make out that's probably a good thing) this still is a goosebump inducing track.

Have you seen "Basically, Johnny Moped"? Is it any good? Leave a comment below if you have. In the meantime, check out the movie trailer and a clip of "Incendiary Device".

"Basically, Johnny Moped" trailer:

Incendiary Device:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Broken Bones

I was listening to this the other day and some young and impressionable tried to tell me this was "screamo". What the hell is Screamo anyway? Is that some kind of derogatory description of hard and fast music that they probably don't like?

Who cares anyway. There's nothing like a bit of vintage hardcore punk to remind you that you're alive. And what better than a band like Broken Bones to deliver it to you.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Vale Lou Reed

Image Source

Singer for the Velvet Underground Lou Reed passed away in his native New York overnight. He was 71. Online there have been massive outpourings of grief in tribute to him, with many op-eds glowing in hyperbolic praise for his work.

I've never been a huge fan of his work, but I can appreciate a maverick when I see one. Lou Reed was definitely one of those. Lou followed his muse constantly, pushing himself, his critics and his audiences in new directions constantly throughout his career. He challenged and confused us music fans at every turn, and infuriated us on more than one occasion. I also believe he pushed the limits of rock music as an art-form in previously uncharted and, in some cases, very dangerous waters.

From the outset, as a member of the Andy Warhol-patronised Velvet Underground, his music pushed the boundaries of pop - it introduced avant garde elements such as drones, minimalism and noise, while Lou's lyrics dared to delve into areas and topics that were considered taboo.

Only Lou Reed could write a song about drugs that would dare to describe the time and place to make a drug deal, and the price, all in straigh-forward, to-the-point detail. And yet, as simple as he makes it sound, it does not sound appealing or attractive in the slightest, which is entirely the point.

Even songs that sound happy have deep dark undercurrents. While "Walk On The Wild Side" has a breezy, free-flowing feel, the lyrics about transvestites and gratuitous sex are anything but breezy.

And this is a common theme in his work, chronicalling the lives of the dispossessed and the marginalised in the seedy underbelly of major cities: the hustlers, junkies, pimp, prostitutes, drug dealers, the sexually experimental. He was never afraid to call it like he saw it, which often meant calling it for exactly what it was.

Even his collaboration with Metallica, the much-maligned and ill-conceived "Lulu", dealt with these dark issues, and again pushed audiences and critics to the limits of their sanity. It wasn't the first time he'd done that, mind you. He released the contractual-obligation LP "Metal Machine Music" in 1975, a wall-to-wall atonal noise-fest over 4 sides of a 65-minute double LP. While people like Lester Bangs reckoned it was the greatest record ever made, it annoyed the shit out of a hell of a lot of people. But this was purely his intention. He wanted to be confrontational to test the limits of an audience whom he percieved to be fleeting in their tastes.

The confrontational maverick type is all-but-gone these days, with only a few like Nick Cave still pushing the envelope. Lou was an original, to be sure. He will be missed. R.I.P.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sunday Sessions: Webb Wilder

Webb Wilder is an artist who, for some strange reason, has slipped below the music radar for the better part of his career. Despite having a tough and gritty, yet accessible alt-country-rock sound, they barely sold a record in this country.

For Sunday Sessions this week, check out Webb Wilder. I've had the 7" single of "Hitting Where It Hurts" since I was in high school - I still own it and I still get goosebumps when that chorus kicks in. "Human Cannonball" has a hilariously clever lyric and a groove that is just infectious. Their LP "Hybrid Vigour" is probably the one that sold the most copies over here. It contain both these singles but it is so difficult to find. Should you see it, invest in it, and you won't be disappointed.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Hitting Where it Hurts

Human Cannonball

Friday, 25 October 2013

Stiff Little Fingers

Most writings about the late-1970s punk explosion seem to focus on only two epicentres: London and New York. These were probably the two biggest concentrated areas for punk rock scenes, but they are by no means the only two.

In my opinion, some far more potent and intense music came out of a few obscure areas where there was great social unrest and/or oppression of true artistic expression. Areas such as Brisbane in Australia, and Northern Ireland, specifically Belfast.

With Northern Ireland struggling with "The Troubles" during this time, young punks took to making music to express their frustration. One of the most potent blasts from this turbulent period was the first single by Stiff Little Fingers: "Suspect Device".

The band may be more renowned for their follow-up record "Alternative Ulster", largely because it is more musically accessible to the masses. Suspect Device is righteously angry, not discussing the actual devices used in the explosions of the times, but pointing out that sections of the general populace are way more of a danger to society if they're backed into a corner for long enough. Like an animal cornered, an explosion of rage is not only imminent, but somewhat guaranteed.

The first Stiff Little Fingers LP "Inflammable Material" is an essential in any punk record collection. From start to finish it is one angry, fiery explosion of rage. It makes the Sex Pistols look like rank amateurs.

Check out the first single from the first Stiff Little Fingers album, one of many potent statements on the Troubles they wrote: "Suspect Device".


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Bernard Cribbins - "Right Said Fred"

The English have a grand tradition of the music-hall comedy song. They always seemed to produce such clever work. From George Formby to the Goons and beyond, their humour reaches me in a profound way.

Today's track is a piece by Bernard Cribbins, recorded in early 1962 at Abbey Road Studio 3 by none other than (soon to be forever known as the Beatles producer) George Martin. This was the same studio that the Fab Four recorded pretty much everything they committed to vinyl for the next 8 years starting in September of that year. (Bernard famously quipped in an article for The Guardian "we warmed the studio up for them!")

This record features some clever editing and dropping in of sound effects onto the original tape (something very tricky to do with the primitive technology of the day!)

We know George Martin as the man who helmed the Beatles records. Bernard, on the other hand, was a veteran of the British film industry, starring in some Carry-on films and some early Dr Who specials. He is extremely well known to people now as Wilfred Mott, father of Donna in the recent series' of Doctor Who. He also narrated the children's show "The Wombles" in the 1970s.

This song is brilliant inasmuch as it's the tale of a bunch of workmen trying to move something heavy into a flat in an apartment building. The efforts of our boys are, well, pretty crap, really. So they end up drinking a few cups of tea. In fact, they drink a hell of a lot of tea. In fact, if this song doesn't hold the record for the most cups of tea drunk in a two-and-a-half minute pop record, well then it bloody well should. Between the three blokes mentioned in the song, they drink no less than 16 cups of tea!

Anyways, the song is made all the funnier by the dubbed in sound effects and the cheeky brogue of Mr Cribbins. At 51 years old, this song is still a charmer and never fails to raise a smile.

Check it out below, with a cute little period clip of an amination made for television to support the song.

Monday, 21 October 2013

How to buy Indie label music

The independent record label is a curious beast. They can be both fun and troublesome in equal turns, both for fan and proprietor alike.

By fun, I mean that you can procure some of the most amazing music ever made that, in a lot of cases, has slipped under the radar. By troublesome, I mean you may have great trouble sourcing some of the most amazing music ever made that has slipped under the radar.

Most record labels that we now call "major" labels started out as simple businesses that grew to a monumental size. Some labels start up and are swallowed up by huge multinational companies. Others stay independent but secure deals with majors to press and distribute their product. But the one thing that often distinguishes the independent label from the major label is the fact that the people pressing the records believe in the talent they are supporting. It's not that major labels don't do that, but often the major label is focused more on sales and less about the music, while the ethos of the indie label is usually the other way around.

Indie label releases are usually fewer in number than that of a major label, and often pressed in smaller quantities. Distribution can be somewhat limited as well, meaning that upon original release a record may not have even made it to your local record store. Legendary U.S. indie label SST, home to Black Flag, Husker Du, Minutemen and the early Sonic Youth albums, had major distribution problems. So while critics in major magazines and trade publications were raving about albums like Husker Du's "Zen Arcade", it barely sold any copies because they had major problems getting the records into shops around America. Ditto legendary Memphis band Big Star - their first two records are mandatory listening for any music fan, but they sold poorly due to distribution problems.

In Australia, it was no different. We have had many brilliant labels that sprung up in the major cities; many of whom were also shop-fronts, stocking the records for retail sale and also stocking records by their local peers/competitors.

The roll call of awesome labels in the 1980s include:

Red Eye
Half a Cow
Missing Link
Mushroom/White Label

among many others. The great thing about these labels is that they often supplied the world with amazingly great music that the major labels thought was uncommercial or that no-one in their right mind would touch. That's why The Saints released their first single independently, and why Radio Birdman formed their own label.

And the Indie label phenomenon hasn't stopped there. There's still plenty of great ones out there: Matador, Elephant Stone, Dischord, Inertia, and hundreds of others. The trick to buying music from an indie label is to try a sampler disc first, which is designed to introduce the listener to the bands and releases on the label. Failing that, take a plunge, buy a single and take a listen. Chances are if you like that one release, you'll love other releases on the same label.

I happened to chance upon a 10-inch EP on a Scandinavian label called Bad Afro about 10 years ago. The band was The Royal Beat Conspiracy. It took a few listens to get into it, but when I did, I loved it. I investigated the label catalog a bit deeper and discovered a heap of great bands on the label, many of whom released some killer 7-inch singles: bands like The Burnouts, The Maggots, Sweatmaster, The Rockets, The Dialtones. It's not that they necessarily sound identical to Royal Beat Conspiracy, but they are like-minded, inasmuch as they play hard-driving guitar-based garage rock.

It often pays to dig a little deeper and to find something unusual. You may find the next big thing, as tiny indie label SubPop found when they signed bands like Soundgarden, Band of Horses, and some bunch calling themselves Nirvana...

Have you ever uncovered a gem of a record on an indie label? What was it and what label was it on? Let us know in the comments below.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Sessions: Notorious Cherry Bombs

We've all heard about the lists of crazy names of Country music songs. They always contain great song titles like "I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim Is Getting Better". But, in most cases, those songs don't actually exist.

Believe me, I've tried looking.

In my view Country music has always benefited from a little bit of humour. I've often found it too one dimensional to be taken seriously anyway. The mainstream country brigade has done its best to enforce a strict code of conformity and it bores me shitless.

Enter the humourous country song...stage left.

The Notorious Cherry Bombs got their start as the backing band for Emmylou Harris in the early 1980s. The chronology of the band from that point forward is as confused as a redneck family tree, so I won't go into specifics. For trainspotters, the band consists mainly of Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, who supply the songs and the lead vocals.

The song I'm going to feature today is a genuine song with a hilarious title, and it's the anomaly on their self titled album. It was also their biggest single, although it only charted at number 47 on the country chart because, as they mention in the lyrics:

"'s alright if we say it,
'Cos the radio won't play it...
It's hard to kiss the lips at night that chew your ass out all day long..."

This track ironically pokes fun at the cliched country music breakup song, which no doubt Rodney and Vince have written a few of their own in their careers. This one nails it beautifully, with a very funny video to boot.

Take a listen to "It's Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long" by The Notorious Cherry Bombs.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Morrissey's Autobiography

Image Source: This Charming Charlie

The Guardian has been all afroth about the new Morrissey Autobiography.

One article went so far as claim that The Smiths were "a miracle". Now there's a textbook example of hyperbole if ever there was one.

I mean, I quite like the Smiths and a lot of Moz's solo work, but that's a bit much, really...

I'll probably get around to reading it one day. I'm not in a rush. But one of the funniest things about this supposed cultural event is that British comedian Peter Serafinowicz sings the words to the opening page of the book to the tune of The Smiths' "William, It Was Really Nothing", complete with facial expressions and overwrought emotive delivery. It's hilarious!

Enjoy the weekend, guys.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review: "Crucible: The Songs of Hunters and Collectors"

Image source: The

This is the first tribute album dedicated to Hunters and Collectors, and the latest tribute album collecting a whole heap of hip young Australian indie bands.

As is par for the course, Tribute albums are hit-and-miss at the best of times. I really wanted to give this one my full attention and an open mind, but it's just so lackluster that I just can't help feeling disappointed with it.

The music of Hunters and Collectors is, by its very nature, emotional. "Soul" is probably not a word associated with the band, at least in the Motown sense of the word, but in a purely spiritual sense. It is music that expresses the purest of feeling, from the guts. It creates a space where deep-rooted longing, love and loss collide with a heady mix of bravado and sensitivity.

In short - it's music that breaks your heart while it's kicking your arse.

Each and every one of the bands on here (with the exception of three) reinvents the song in their own style, giving a modern sonic update of sorts. Full power to the bands for doing that. But, at the same time, they have stripped every ounce of soul, feeling and, in some cases, recognisable melody away from the songs, leaving them with all the excitement of a wet mop. If the originals had a power and drive like a Pilbara road train, these new versions have converted them into a 2-stroke lawnmower: Especially on songs like "The Slab", "Do You See What I See", "True Tears of Joy", "Still Hanging Around" and "Hear No Evil". On Husky's version of "Blind Eye", the find the emotion that was obscured in the original and bring it to the fore, exposing the depth of pain in the lyric.

The Panics have taken a difficult, angular original in the form of "Alligator Engine" and made it accessible, while the Living End and Something for Kate have kept the original power of their respective songs, largely because they play them note-for-note like the original versions. Ditto Eddie Vedder and Neil Finn, whose version of "Throw Your Arms Around Me" is pretty by-the-numbers as well.

On tribute albums you don't necessarily want to hear a band play the song in a carbon-copy of the original, but you also don't want to hear people take a t-bone steak and turn it into a tofu platter either. Unfortunately, on this album, you get both...although a lot more of the latter than of the former, admittedly.

Here's the album on Spotify below. It includes the originals from track 16 onwards. Make up your own mind.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Peter Sellers: "I'm So Ashamed"

In discussing the Miley Cyrus pop debacle, I was reminded of this classic from Peter Sellers, released in 1958 and produced by George Martin, the man who helmed the Beatles recordings.

He laments life as a pop star: once hugely famous, then he releases a series of flops. So he changes styles and nothing seems to work. He worries about becoming irrelevant and, as such, not having a career in music for much longer.

"Please buy this record", he whines at the end.

It makes me think of all the X Factor/Idol winners and contestants, who have to go through the kind of rigmarole of singing all styles despite the fact they don't suit them. They have massive success to begin with, then shortly after, die the death.

This record as released 55 years ago. Have things really changed much?

You be the judge.

The Controversy of Miley

Image source: Cagel Cartoons

The Guardian has been actively discussing this Miley Cyrus thing for a while now and...

Yeah ok, I'll weigh into the debate. Previously I hadn't wanted to, however...

All this controversy over Miley Cyrus twerking, or twonking or whatever the hell it's called, is all a bunch of hot air. And there's too bloody much of it (cue the irony).

It's almost as if society, collectively, is shocked by all this gyrating and sexual innuendo. But here's the thing: it's not like it's a new phenomenon. From the outset, rock and roll has thrived on the relationship (either real or imagined) between music and sex. It's in the music's DNA.

Don't believe me? You can't tell me "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" is a song about the act of making and serving drinks in a milk bar.

In her younger years, Miley was a star custom made for television. Now, at the age of 20, she's far from burnt out, but is desperate to shake off her past as a squeaky clean, Disney-branded pop-idol. I totally understand why should would want to do that. If you're a creative artist you don't want any future work defined by what you did previously or, in her case, the character she was previously.

Image source: Cagel Cartoons

It's not as though she was the first young star to wantonly break free from the powers that defined her career until now. The Monkees (if you can remember back that far), The Sweet, Tiffany, Christina Aguilera and many others have branched out and had many arguments with the powers that be and/or done outrageous things in order to express themselves as they see fit. It's pretty much the nature of the creative beast.

Eventually, most musicians want to try something different because that's where the muse takes them. Sometimes it can be great, and quite successful (compare the 1960s Status Quo with the post-1969 Quo), sometimes it can be atrocious (Metallica's "Load" anyone?)

Her behaviour is somewhat unbecoming, and probably not something everybody wants to see, granted. Is it out of character for someone her age and in her position? No way. She's not the first woman to get all nekkid as a way to get attention to sell product and to draw a line in the sand between their past and the present: Kylie Minogue, Nikki Webster, Tiffany, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and heaps more have all done it before her, and Miley won't be the last, either. Does that make it ok? Not really. But, would her latest record be sitting on top of the charts without this kind of (no pun intended) exposure? Personally, I doubt it.

Any publicity is good publicity. This twerking thing took place a few weeks ago. And look: we're still talking about it. The papers are still debating it. So, who wins out of this? Easy: Miley, and those who make money off her image and her music are the winners. Keep the name in the eye of the public because, as we all know, out of sight means out of mind.

It's sad, in my view, that it has come to this. It's always been said that "Sex sells", but it's depressing that the image is what sells the record, and not the music. The music should be doing the talking, not the associated controversy and all the other crap surrounding it. Have you noticed how the media are all in a fit about what Miley does in the video for her latest single, and not actually what the music sounds like?

And it seems to be only women who need to do that.

For some reason muso blokes don't need to get their gear off when they want to be controversial - not that I want them to any more than I want Miley to. But, men just seem to scream and swear a lot louder than before (see Eminem and Kanye West for example).

A lot of people seem to be worried about the impression our children are making of this. Well, where are their parents? The parents are the ones who should be guiding their kids, talking about these issues and explaining the right ways to behave and how to approach their self worth and image. When they see this kind of stuff, they cannot "un-see" it, so parental guidance is a must in this scenario.

Miley can do whatever the hell she wants, and probably will continue to. She doesn't give a crap what I think. Either way, none of this is going to make me want to buy her records...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Remake/Remodel #5: ONJ's Physical

Now, how can anyone forget THAT video? Sooo 80s.

The absolute nadir of 80s pop. In hindsight we can look back and think "what the hell...???" but back then this thing was bigger than Texas. I wonder how many people were inspired to take out gym memberships because of this clip?

And don't let all the vibrating arse cheeks, leotards and legwarmers fool you: this is not a song about exercise. Well it is, kinda...if you count that sort of thing as exercise, which I guess you could. You know what I'm on about, surely.

Funnily enough, it's not often you hear a cover version of it. Much less by a band that takes its cues from a band like Pavement. However, Dollar Bar, indie rockers from Brisbane Australia have taken this synth-ey 80s come-on, seemingly stripped the glamour out of it and made it sound dangerous, dirty and, well, to some ears anyway, downright creepy! It's quite hard to describe Dale's vocal delivery on the Dollar Bar track, whether he's playing the desperate and socially inept nerd looking for an elusive bit of action, or whether he's dispiritedly and nonchalantly making a play without really expecting any positive result.

There's something strangely warm and attractive about our Livvy's delivery in the original, but it also kind of reeks of tacky, overpriced nightclubs where the beautiful people hang out (read: NOT ME!!!). Dollar Bar sounds like they're trying to pick up at a LAN-party hosted by Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

In my view, there's something oddly compelling about Dollar Bar's version that sets it above ONJ's version, but largely because I'm kinda over the cheesiness of the original...and I've personally heard it too many times in my lifetime to be truly objective. I approve of the redone treatment.

Take a listen to both below. Which do you prefer?

The original:

Dollar Bar's cover, from their Bandcamp page:

Sunday Sessions: Swamp Dogg

Swamp Dogg, aka Jerry Williams, is a funk and soul performer with a truly bizarre edge to his work. He cuts a unique figure on the musical landscape, somewhere between Frank Zappa and James Brown. He has always been a popular songwriter for other people, but his own work has been considered to left-field for general consumption. That's a real shame, considering just how damn good a lot of it is.

Considering the man was influenced in equal part by the aforementioned Soul Brother No. 1 AND Frank Zappa, you can expect what you'll get is both incredibly funky and also incredibly strange. Only Swamp Dogg would release funky soul tunes with titles like "The Love We Got Ain't Worth Two Dead Flies", "I Couldn't Pay For What I Got Last Night". "Santa's Just A Happy Fat Fart" and ""Choking To Death (From The Ties That Bind)". Usually his album artwork is pretty funky and odd too, but the music is killer.

With titles like the ones above, you can pretty much bet his music was all but doomed to fail. However the man is held in high esteem by almost everyone who has heard his music.

Here below is a scorching live version of one of his first soul hits under the Swamp Dogg moniker, "Total Destruction To Your Mind".

Check it.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Under Neath What

Whatever happened to Under Neath What? The London psych-rock band of the late 80s shine brightly for what seemed a few months and then sank without a trace.

They were a wild and out-there band. They had a great sound that still sounds awesome on vinyl, even now. They probably had their biggest success in Australia, where they were gifted with a great deal of TV coverage on Countdown Revolution and The Factory. Triple J radio backed them to the hilt.

But then...?

Unfortunately I cannot find their Countdown Revolution performance from 1989, where the band performed "Eggs Bacon Coffee and Suicide" and, in the breakdown section, guitarist Andy Berinyi goes apeshit and runs off the set around the back corridors of the ABC followed by a cameraman. As a 13-year old at the time, I thought it was the most outrageous thing I'd ever seen. I became a fan after that performance.

Still, we're blessed with some great music by the band.

Here's the band on the ABC TV show "The Factory" circa 1989 doing "Eggs Bacon Coffee and Suicide"

Here's the clip for "Straight Ahead Money"

The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

Image source: Wikimedia.

The idealistic hippie dream of the 1960s I have always found to be a fascinating historical case study. Not having been a part of it (that was my parents' generation), I get to look back at it with fresh eyes, rather than the hazy, glazy, rose-coloured ones of those who were there.

Of course at the centre of it was the fantastic music, and that cannot be disputed. The cultural landmarks of this period are characterized by the major music festivals of the era - Monterey '67, Woodstock '69 and the two original Isle of Wight festivals (1969 and 1970).

The 1970 Isle of Wight festival, I believe, is the most interesting of the lot, especially because of the expertly filmed documentary by Murray Lerner, which is linked below. The festival was both a massive success (over 600,000 people attended the tiny island off the coast of England) and a massive flop (only a small percentage of those 600,000 people actually paid to get in).

This festival has a rich back story, which unfortunately is only hinted at in the film. Sure the music is largely great (although Hendrix and the Doors' performances are somewhat lacklustre). However the sheer weight of administering an event of this magnitude was this magnitude was lost of the organisers.

I find it ironic now that many members of the Baby Boomer generation (who were teenagers when the Hippie thing took off) have risen to the top of the corporate world and are living comfortably from the spoils of capitalism. And yet, as spotty teenagers and adolescents high on acid, they were hell bent on destroying capitalism as an economic model and replacing it with some kind of idealistic Communism/Socialism hybrid. The failure of the hippie movement only serves to confirm what a flawed ideology Communism actually is: it reads well on paper, as Karl Marx envisaged it, but in practice it simply doesn't work.

With this in mind, many people rocked up to the Isle of Wight Festival mistakenly thinking it was a free festival - an excuse to have some fun, hear some great music, trip out on drugs, get some free love and bliss out for three days. Well, yeah you could do that, but all patrons were charged £3 to get in. A lot of people refused, claiming "Woodstock was a free festival, maaaaaan!". The problem was Woodstock was NOT a free festival, but so many people turned up that they made it a free festival anyway out of goodwill. As a result, many of the musicians, for whom live performance was their livelihood, didn't get paid. The promoters simply didn't make enough cash to pay the bands, and the musos actually lost money as they had to ship their own gear in at their own cost and, in some cases, had to hire expensive charter transport to get in, as roads for miles were jammed.

At the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, many of the same performers from Woodstock appeared. Throughout the film there is an ongoing battle between the musicians and the promoters, who at one point hilariously claim that Tiny Tim's ukulele won't tune unless he's been paid (18:44). It's a long and protracted battle that ends up with malicious damage to the perimeter fencing and arrests involving police and their dog squads. In the end, it becomes a shambles.

If ever there was a school for budding rock promoters, this film would have to required core content of the syllabus. Rock festivals are heavily organised to prevent problems like this occurring again. Lesson learnt, obviously. MC Rikki was trying to reason with a massive crowd of people whacked out of their tiny scones on dope for the exchange of the price of a ticket. It was always going to be a losing battle.

All this aside, now onto the music. Hendrix and The Doors were so-so on the night. Some of the (then) newer acts were transcendent at the Festival. Rory Gallagher's band Taste were spectacular, as were Free and The Who. Ten Years After were blistering; Alvin Lee giving a good demonstration of his theatrical guitar abilities. Jethro Tull just lit the place up - their guitarist Martin Barre was absolutely on fire in their set. He's brilliant. Joni Mitchell had the misfortune of having some stoner interrupt her performance to make some sort of announcement. God knows why country singer Kris Kristofferson was there but he didn't go down well, remarking that he thought someone in the crowd would shoot him. Leonard Cohen looked like he was being held up wooden stakes at his back he was so stoned.

It is certainly a unique document, and very much worth the two hours it takes to watch it.


Vale Philip Chevron of The Pogues

Irish folk-punks the Pogues are a unique band, if ever there was one. They're not all that far removed from other Irish folk groups like The Furies, The Dubliners or the Chieftains, except that the Pogues are wilder, faster and more in-your-face than any of those acts. They play traditional Irish folk music with all the grit, spit, and aggressive swagger of the English punks of the class of '77 (The Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, et al).

Reknowned for their alcohol intake and the slurring, toothless vocal delivery of their frontman Shane McGowan, the Pogues are endearing in their own rambunctious, shambolic, ragged fashion. Where the Furies are beloved of my parents generation, The Pogues are truly a GenX band.

It comes with some sadness the news that Pogues guitarist Philip Chevron passes away from cancer this morning after a long battle with cancer. It's even more shocking when you consider that he was given a clean bill of health in April 2012, but another tumour appeared in August that year.

Equally shocking, as i reflect on the band, is the fact that Shane McGowan is still alive and standing. Shane is a bloke who, to look at him, makes Keith Richard look like an alter boy. His reputation for beer drinking, drug taking and hell raising makes Pete Dogherty look like the rank amateur he really is. Based on this, I thought he'd be the first Pogues member to shuffle off the mortal coil, but alas...

So Rest in Peace, Philip.

Here's a Pogues classic in tribute: "If I Should Fall From Grace with God"

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

My Favourite Redheads...

...of the musical persuasion.

First of all, I'm not a redhead. But why are they so maligned?

One of Disney's latest heroines is a fiesty redhead, and she is a great role model, in my view. But she doesn't get it easy. Australia's first female Prime Minister was a ranga, and she copped all sorts of merry hell.

I decided to create this post in reference to a story I read where Ed Sheeran was told by an A&R guy in England to dye his hair, because he wouldn't succeed in music as a redhead.

Considering the millions of records he's sold, I guess he has the last laugh...

So here are a few of my favourite rangas (aussie slang for Redhead):

Ashley Naylor from Even:

The gloriously rich vocal stylings of Miss Neko Case, who also shares the limelight in the New Pornographers with another redhead, one Carl Newman...

Paul Brady, a singer/songwriter from Ireland whose solo work is really quite stunning. This track "Crazy Dreams" is from his first LP "Hard Station":

Sherry Rich, Australian Songstress and one half of The Grapes, with the aforementioned Ash Naylor:

So there is an inconclusive list of some awesomely talented redheads. Who are yours?


Five Piece Redhead Pack:

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Lovetones

image source

This is just a quick post for tonight as I'm wrapping up from the long weekend ready to head back to work in the morning.

Sydney band The Lovetones provided this blog with its meta-song "The Sound and the Fury", from their 2003 debut album "Be What You Want".

Heads up for the last quarter of the year. Let's do it. Enjoy!

Friday, 4 October 2013

TSATF Recommends: Brad Holder

Brad Holder is a young 20-something musician hailing from Port Hedland, in the remote mining area of the Pilbara in north Western Australia.

He has spent a few years prior to now cutting his teeth in bands such as The Manilla Folders and Still Waiting, but recently he has broken out on his own.

This week sees the release of his first music video "Stay the Night". It's a cracking piece of power pop that serves as the perfect vehicle for his smooth vocal delivery, molded from all the exposure of the Pilbara sunshine with just a hint of the red earth to give that bit of extra grit.

It's an auspicious debut. The sky's the limit, Brad. Aim high. And I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Guest Post (Director's Cut)

Last week I made a guest post on the 9999 Songs blog.

I settled on the track "Coppertone" by Fini Scad, but these were the other tracks in contention for the gig.

The brief was that I had to choose I song I liked from the year 1996. "Coppertone" may not have been my favourite of all of the songs of that year, but it's at least an interesting study.

Other ones that were on my list were:

Dodgy - "In A Room"

The Hollies meets the Who in a lost Britpop classic.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Chicken Dog"

A raw blues pastiche with a guest vocal from Rufus Thomas. Utter classic.

Allen Ginsburg (with Paul McCartney, Lenny Kaye, and Phillip Glass) - "The Ballad of the Skeletons"

Beat Poetry meets beat music, with fascionating results.

The Whitlams - "I Make Hamburgers"

A song about the two topics dearest to a man's heart: food and sex.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Guest Blog Post

I was recently approached by a musician whose talents I admire, one Francis Caravella, aka Frankie Big Face, to write a guest post for his blog.

He writes a blog called 9999 songs, a blog that, if he writes it daily, will take him 25 years to complete. Now THAT takes some tenacity!

Anyway I wrote a piece on the song "Coppertone" by Fini Scad. I hope you can lob over to his web page and take a read.

Until next time!

Thursday, 26 September 2013


"Come on over Baby, we've got chickens in the barn..." sang Jerry Lee Lewis many years ago.

Considering he was trying to get a girl (presumably) to come to a party at his house, or maybe just a party for two, this is an odd lyric in a song.

Whatever. We ended up getting three chickens this week. I would never, in a million years, have guessed we'd end up with more pets, let alone this bunch of motley looking hens. Fresh eggs will be a novelty...for a period.  If predictions are anything to go by, one egg a day per chook, that's 21 eggs a week. We don't eat that many was it is!

Considering how much we paid the chooks, the pen and the materials to build a free-range run for them, and the fact that not having to buy eggs for a while at (on average) $5 a dozen, we look set to break even and start saving money by not buying eggs around April 2015. Go figure.

Here's a tribute (of sorts) to chickens...from the Fools.

It's a great Talking Heads parody. It's a rip on "Psycho Killer". This track makes me smile. It's called "Psycho Chicken".

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Sandi Thom

Whatever happened to Sandi Thom?

In 2006 she was one of the most hyped and talked about artists, largely due to a clever marketing campaign of "live" webcasts performed in her basement bedsit in London. This was largely organised by friends of her manager. Anyway, the short web series had the desired effect, and she was signed to major label RCA/Sony/BMG. Her first single (and lone hit) "I Wish I was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)" was a reissue of her first (and only) independently issued single, and it went stratospheric. Her second album flopped due to her clashing with her label over her desire NOT to deliver more bubblegum pop music. After the record bombed, she was dropped.

The song itself came under fire at the time for a number of reasons - being mere "content" and not "art" (according to Charlie Brooker), and for being soulless; a product of marketing men with too much money. In the view of this writer, it has almost as many merits as it does problems.

For a start, what the hell do hippies and punks have in common? The punks hated the hippies and would have been more than happy to smash the crap out of the nearest spaced-out flower wearing moron. (fast forward the clip below to 6:03 to see what I mean...)

It's also a lyric of revisionist, backward looking melodrama, lamenting a period in time she did not live in. It's almost as if she was regurgitating the ideas of an older generation, where "things were better in my day", with the fervor as though she believes it.

It has a large failure to embrace the present and the future, for its bright possibilities. Conversely, that's probably why it resonated with a lot of people.

But I just can't get past the punk/hippy collision. The two don't mix.

However, the merits are amazing. How many songs can you think of in recent years that are made up just of plaintive vocals and percussion instruments? No synths, no guitars, no programmed beats, nothing. Just stomps, shaken percussion and human voices. The polyrhythms in the tune are simple but man, do they groove. It's appeal was instant and profound, and it still is.

However it is easy to get sick of it. If you could equivilate music in the same way as food, then this track has the nutritional value of a box of Smarties. Having said that, a little junk food now and then can be a good thing!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #36: Elton John - "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John presents a new LP of original material this week, his 31st overall, called "The Diving Board". I've decided to take a look at an older album of his that happens to be a favourite of mine.

This album is considered a classic, and for my money it is the best record he has ever done. This was certainly the high point of his career thus far and, after this, it's pretty clear that he was overworked as the quality of his output suffered considerably.

You see, when he was signed to a record deal with publisher Dick James' label, he was contracted to deliver two albums a year. From 1969 until 1977, a year when he didn't release any new material at all, he issued two live albums, a soundtrack, a hits compilation as well as a stack of studio albums and singles. All told, in that period, he made 15 albums, and two of those were double LPs of original material. In anyone's language, that's a hell of a workload, something that has been unparalleled in the modern era.

Surprisingly most of it is of a high standard. But this is arguably the peak of it.

Growing up in a relatively sheltered cultural environment, I'd heard the big singles the man released in the early 1980s, and I loved them ("Kiss The Bride", "I'm Still Standing", "Passengers" et al) and a schoolfriend of mine was a huge Elton fan and was collecting all his albums on CD. That was no mean feat, considering that CD collecting was an expensive exercise in the late 1980s, and that there were so many of his albums to collect.

He was talking about this song on the album that went for 11 minutes called "Funeral For A Friend". Fascinated by long songs I asked to hear it. He recorded the entire "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" onto a cassette for me to check out. Sure enough, I loved the entire album.

So what's within the covers?

This was always available on double vinyl, but in the CD era, it was a double CD until Sony revised the specs of the technology to allow 80 minutes of playing time on each disc, instead of the basic 74. As this album is 76+ minutes, it had to be a double. The 1995 reissue corrects this and now makes it a single album.

On this album is 17 songs, starting off with the double barreled "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding". Yes it does go for 11 full minutes and there's nary a boring second among them. The first half of the song is an emotional rollercoaster of whooping dynamics. It accelerates and decelerates rapidly and is full of surprises. The latter half, "Love Lies Bleeding" is a comedown of sorts, but it still a highly charged and energetic one. The energy doesn't let up until the final fade out.

After that, the album is top-loaded with classics. The original "Candle In The Wind" is next. And I make the distinction of "original" because this version is far superior to the tawdry navel-gazing and confected tributes of the Princess Diana version. The faux-live "Benny and the Jets" is amazing in the fact that is sounds live, but is far from it. We all know the title track is gorgeous, followed by "This Song Has No Title" which is gorgeous and suspenseful in alternate parts. A stunning track. "Grey Seal" ups the power and again but the Cod-reggae of "Jamaica Jerk-off" is a let down, especially after the quality we've had thus far.

The first half of the album closes out with "I've Seen That Movie Too", which is the moodier and broodier cousin to the closer in the second half of the album "Harmony", although the latter hits the nail on the head, while the former keeps hitting the fingertips...

Side 3 opens with "Sweet Painted Lady", a melancholy ode to trampy prostitutes, as is "Dirty Little Girl" and "All The Young Girls Love Alice" (you don't need me to tell you what that song is about, but it's quite a risque one for its era). The jewel in the crown of this section of the record is the US gangster character sketch of "The Ballad of Danny Bailey" which, along with "Candle In The Wind", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "I've Seen That Movie Too" and "Roy Rogers", are story songs inspired by characters from old American movies.

Side four kicks up the rock with "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll)", a 60s rock-and-roll pastiche not unlike "Crocodile Rock" but a hell of a lot less embarrassing. It also rocks a lot harder too. It forms part of a one-two punch with "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", a classic rocker if ever there was one. Guitarist Davey Johnstone carves it up on this one, with a guitar riff for the ages. If only he'd turn down the treble control on his amp a little.

"Roy Rogers" is a sweet little remembrance-in-song for a TV cowboy. "Social Disease" carries on the blues-and-booze theme of "Saturday Night..." but with a country twang, and the album closes with the sublime ballad "Harmony".

The term "tour-de-force" is one that is thrown around willy-nilly these days but it seems that in this album we have a work that truly justifies having that label affixed to it. Elton and Bernie never equaled it. They once again tried the wide-screen, all-encompassing sweep across another double album in the form of 1976's "Blue Moves". However that album just serves to demonstrate how over-laboured and overwrought both the songs and production could be, and how it was thought it should be in 1976. What was left is an overblown mess.

Despite a few questionable lyrical decisions on this record, this one is a killer. Take a listen for yourself below.