Friday, 30 August 2013

Steppenwolf

This is just a quick post as the dreaded bug that has been striking everybody else ill around me has finally come home to roost. In other words, I feel like utter crap.

Anyway, Father's Day is this weekend and in honour of my father, I'm going to share a song that he had in his music collection when I was growing up.

He owned the 7-inch single, and it was a genuine anomaly among the Peter Paul & Mary and Neil Diamond records:

Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride / Sookie Sookie

This is the single issued as the follow-up to "Born To Be Wild", and for my money this is a way better track. It was the last time the band troubled the singles charts ever again in this country.

The mastering on the original single in mono was so hot that it bursts through the speakers - if you turn it up loud enough it'd pin anyone under 50kgs back in their seat.

The first thing that hits you is that odd, multi-layered feedback sound at the start for about 10 seconds before it kicks in. Absolutely brilliant!

Below is a TV performance from 1968 of the track. The fashions and the haircuts are thankfully dead and buried, but at least the music was cool.

Happy Father's Day, to all the dads out there!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Dio, Deep Purple, Dodgers and Bach

What do Ronnie James Dio, The LA Dodgers and Bach have in common?

At first glance, not a heck of a lot. But even the most tenuous link between them can be worth exploring, as there is a lot of relevance to kids of a certain age.

You see, each of these songs was played during the Children's television timeslot on the ABC, circa 1978-1979, as fillers between programs. As the ABC doesn't show commercials (except promos for its own programs), and as some programs were of odd lengths, gaps would appear in the schedule. And what better to fill them with than some cool music and, just maybe, influence a generation of youngsters into digging something more musically interesting? These days, the ABC does similar, but it fills the gaps with kiddie crap like The Wiggles, tailor-made for kids, whereas in the late 70s, there wasn't much of that kind of stuff.

The three songs shown below certainly were interesting, even if the vids themselves were not necessarily all that entertaining (Fleetwood Mac, I'm looking at you). They may have played more than these three songs, but these are the ones I remember most from that period. Each song holds up well under musicological scrutiny, and one would find there is much to learn from each track here should they wish to delve deeper.

1: "Love is All" - Roger Glover and Friends.

I was discussing this song with some friends over dinner the other night and they admitted they'd never heard it before. How could you not know the happiest song ever written? In fact, if this is NOT the happiest song ever written, please tell me so I can shut up about it.

As a song, it has an odd lineage. It was designed as a project for Jon Lord, keyboard player for Deep Purple. He didn't have time to fulfill the project so he handed it over to Roger Glover, who had not long left Deep Purple. He enlisted a whole heap of musos for the album, some of whom were more renowned for their much heavier music than this. He enlisted (then-)current members of Deep Purple (Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale), ex-members of the Spencer Davis Group, and various session musos who were doing the rounds at the time (Liza Strike and Barry St John sang on "Dark Side Of The Moon" for example).

The album relates to the various members of the forest who have all been invited to a grand feast and ball. This track is the "party" song, where all the characters make their way to the ballroom and have a great night. The artwork (and animation in the video) is extremely brightly coloured and endlessly detailed. The song itself is one of three on the album that feature the vocals of one Ronnie James Dio, who was about to make a big splash as the vocalist in a band with another former ex-Deep Purple member, Richie Blackmore's Rainbow.

The album and single on its original release in 1974 didn't really do much, but the ABC played it frequently in 1978-79 and it started selling and became a top 10 Australian hit at the time.



2. "Tusk" - Fleetwood Mac

We all know how successful Fleetwood Mac were in the late 1970s. The album "Rumours" went stratospheric, and they needed to come up with a suitable followup to capitalise on their momentum. The resulting LP was Tusk, and the title track was one of the lead singles from the album. It's one of the strangest and most ambitious albums ever made by a major label artist, but its musical adventurousness is what makes it fascinating.

The Song itself was based around a riff that guitarist Lindsay Buckingham bashed out during soundcheck at gigs. They took the riff, added copious amounts of tribal drumming along with a handful of pithy, mumbled lyrics and a marching band and there you go. Recipe for a classic hit? Hardly. If nothing else, it demonstrates the condition of a rock musicians cocaine-addled mind in the late 1970s.

The video was filmed in an empty Dodgers Stadium in LA with the University of S. California Trojan Marching Band. In fact the footage looks like a montage of bits from the cutting room floor that were spliced together to make a clip. Hell, one member of the band was absent, so he appeared in the clip in the form of a cardboard cutout.



3. "Tocatta" - Sky

Here is another great song that was played regularly during this period. I think these sorts of tracks were chosen not necessarily because they were populist, but because they held broader appeal than, say, the B52s. Then, as now, this is a chilling piece of music. Bach really knew how to conjure up a dark mood, and while he did it many times I think he did it best with "Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor", from which this piece is drawn. Sky were amazing, and so was John Williams, who played the electric acoustic on this track.



Monday, 26 August 2013

Who (or what) The Hell is Spizz?


Sadly relegated to a footnote of UK Punk history is one Kenneth Spiers, aka Spizz. The singer/guitarist had some minor success with his rather quirky brand of Punk and New Wave, but not enough for him to be regarded as the innovator that he should be.

Before Billy Bragg took on the rabble solo from the stage, Spizz was up there doing it himself. With his blend of surreal, stream-of-consciousness ranting and oddball sci-fi stories, he was a true original. Where the Clash were known as political firebrands, Spizz was hardly as strident in his message, but his DIY approach to music was similar to the other punk groups that were his peers.

He should have been held in the same esteem as, say Wire or Gang of Four, or even the Buzzcocks, but he never made it that easy for himself. You see, he formed a band, initially with only himself, and then with others, but insisted on changing the name of the band annually, but always with the word "Spizz" in there somewhere.

To Wit:


You get the picture, I'm sure. The original idea was to use as many band names as possible to establish a world record. He was denied that right in the late 1980s. But it would have made it difficult to maintain continuity of following when you change your name every 12 months. For the most part of late, he's reverted back to Spizzenergi as the full time name, as under that name he had the most success. Under this name he released classics like "Where's Captain Kirk?" and the social commentary of "Soldier Soldier". 

To my knowledge Spizz hasn't made a record for a good 10 years or more. There's plenty of compilations of his classic work in print and they're worth a spin or two. 

Here's a Five Piece pack by Spizz. If you like what you hear, there's heaps more on Spotify

ENJOY!!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Super Best Friends film video in Parliament

This video has garnered quite a lot of press this week, and so it should. It's bloody good!

Super Best Friends are a Canberra punk band who just so happen to have a bass player, Matt Roberts, who works for the ABC as a member of the press gallery in the Federal Parliament.

Matt Roberts has the enviable (or deplorable, depending on your viewpoint) privilege of having access to many high profile politicians and media personalities. So when he wanted to make a video for his track about the repetitive nature of the news cycle, who better than to ask than these guys? Over three months he filmed bits and pieces of various pollies having fun and mocking themselves, lip-synching to the lyrics of the song. It's a masterstroke, I reckon.

Probably the funniest part was when shadow treasurer Joe Hockey was asked to be in the video, he declined saying he hated the song and that he'd do it "if it was more like Nickelback"!!!! That's hilarious!

Even Joe's boss, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, conceded to making an appearance. It's great fun to play spot the Pollie and media personality. It's a very clever video for a pretty good song too.

Check out the video below. Enjoy!



Monday, 19 August 2013

Remake/Remodel #4 - Paul Dempsey's Shotgun Karaoke

Those who have heard Melbourne band Something For Kate know what a talented guitarist and songwriter frontman Paul Dempsey is.

Not that we need any more evidence of his greatness around here, in his recent web series "Shotgun Karaoke", he has again proven to be a spellbindingly great musician, able to turn his hand and unique guitar talents to a number of different songs by many artists that are somewhat jarring. For example, how many musos do you know who can cover Iron Maiden, Sheryl Crow, Husker Du and Queen? And then do it well?

The fly-on-the-wall video series has been immensely popular, with songs being recorded in backstage areas, toilets, kitchens and more while on the band's recent tour. We've discussed the Iron Maiden cover here on the blog before. There are many other gems in the series, which has now concluded. These 18 songs are quite beautifully interpreted. Paul has just announced a followup solo tour based on this concept, playing many of these songs as well as songs form his solo album.

Here for your viewing pleasure is a YouTube playlist of the entire series, but a Spotify playlist of all the original versions of these great songs.

Enjoy!

Shotgun Karaoke


And the original versions can be found here:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunday Sessions: Alice Cooper

Hey Stoopid! Why? Why the hell not.

Not one of Alice's most fondly remembered albums, and that's understandable, because it's uninspired. But the title track is a killer.

So, without any further ado...hey, hey hey hey!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

100 LPs Shortlist #35: Sting - "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles"

Sting - The Dream of the Blue Turtles

When one thinks of the biggest and most successful artists of 1985, one might be inclined to think of Madonna or Cyndi Lauper, or even Michael Jackson. In fact the biggest selling LPs of the era were by Dire Straits ("Brothers In Arms") and Bruce Springsteen ("Born In The USA"). Not exactly the most "pop", in the strictest sense of the world. Even the other world conquering artist of the day, Prince, was making records that sold massively but were anything but typical pop fodder.

So Sting decides to put the Police on hold for the foreseeable future in 1984, after a massive world tour. In the middle of 1985 he returns with his first solo album, much of which sounds like a more radio-friendly version of many of the tracks from the last Police LP "Synchronicity", but there was hints of a more sophisticated musical direction coming, in the form of Jazz. He enlisted some of the hottest Jazz players of the day (most notably Branford and Wynton Marsalis) to add their musical touches to his sometimes too-clever songwriting.

I listened to this album quite a lot when it came out. The singles were all over the radio, but the album tracks are quite worthy too. I loved the single "Russians" at the time, even if, at age 9, I had very little knowledge of what it was about (I had no idea what Prince's "Darling Nikki" was about either as I happily spun my copy of "Purple Rain" on the turntable. Thankfully neither did my parents!)

This album is somewhat odd in the amount of musical styles that are covered in its brief 40 minutes. Bookended by the two main singles "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" and "Fortress Around Your Heart", these two songs wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Police album "Synchronicity". The other single "Love Is The Seventh Wave" is African music done almost totally on synths, which gives a rather odd texture to the piece. There is uber-serious and grown up darkness and brooding on "Children's Crusade" and "Consider Me Gone", frivolity on the Police remake "Shadows In The Rain", and a smooth jazz song about Anne Rice's character Lestat the Vampire on "Moon Over Bourbon Street".

There is only a small amount of filler on the record in the almost avant garde leaning title track, which has a small free jazz excursion in the middle of it.

All in all it makes quite a heavy listen for the young person, but I loved it regardless. Looking back, this is probably one of the earliest examples of "adult contemporary" music, or, in less flattering terms, one could say "Music for Stockbrokers to listen to in their Ferraris". It probably also did a lot to introduce a lot of listeners to Jazz, a music still foreign to most pop listeners. It probably also inspired a lot of other insipid attempts at this style of music in the years hencewith, not least from Sting himself...

Take a listen again for yourself.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Models reunite...apparently

Recently I saw a banner ad on a website advertising Melbourne band the Models reuniting, with their original 1982 lineup. I have since searched the web and I can't find any other information about the tour!

This brings up a number of issues personally. I find this period of the band's work challenging and difficult, largely because I came to the band when they rebuffed their sound with a radio-friendly sheen in 1985 with the "Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight" album. As such, I've found going back to the more arty, post-punk inspired early task quite difficult. Not to mention my issues with nostalgia tours...

Like other local bands like Dragon, Hunters & Collectors and Split Enz, their peak periods coincide with their strongest work, which incidentally happens to be their most accessible for new listeners. Their earlier works seem to be exploring their sound and constantly defining and redefining their identities. But that doesn't necessarily make it any more approachable.

Having said that, the Models' main pre-fame period did give us some excellent tracks, such as the quirky and robotic "I Hear Motion" (1983) and the spacious and breezy "Local and/or General" (1981).

Sadly the band didn't last all that much longer after these tunes were released. A massive lineup change in 1984 saw the band draft in James Freud, late of a solo career, into the lineup for their biggest success with "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight" in 1985, then a final LP "Models Evolution" in 1986 before the band called a hiatus in 1988. Singer James Freud had one solo record in 1990 "Step Into The Heat" before descending into drug-and-alcohol-induced anonymity. The band were inducted into the ARIA hall of fame in 2010 and shortly after Freud was found dead, apparently of suicide.

Check out the original lineup in its glory below:



Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sunday Sessions: Foot Village


Image Source

Who (or what, as the case may be) the hell is Foot Village?

According to Wikipedia:

"Foot Village is a tribal noise rock band from Los Angeles, consisting of four drummers of which two also do the vocals."

Oftentimes, the vocals are done with megaphones, largely to be heard above the sound of the drums!

On paper this would sound like a complete cacophony, and sure enough it can be, at times. But there are moments where it is just the most exciting music I've heard for quite a while.

Here is a band who perform with completely unhinged manic energy. The band clearly are getting catharsis from their music, and it can also be the same for the listener. The music is fiery and powerful with just a few drummers and some massively intense yelling. If this was what Anger Management classes were like, then sign me up now!

If one was to describe this, at first it would sound like a half a dozen gorillas escaped the zoo and started tearing up the stock in Billy Hyde's Drum Clinic. On closer inspection, there are many deeper elements of avant garde composition in this. Echoes of minimalist composers like Steve Reich and some of the early Philip Glass pieces (such as "Music in the Shape of a Square") spring to mind, with the groove and feel of some classic rock can be heard within. It also reminds me of the craziness of Keith Moon or even Animal from the Muppet Show.

This is my latest favourite band to jump around the loungeroom like a lunatic to. The track below "This Song Is A Drug Deal" is so visceral and intense you can't help but want to move your body in ways it probably shouldn't (or at least at my age, it probably can't!)

Check out Foot Village below. "This Song is a Drug Deal" comes from their 2013 release "Make Memories" while the other clip is an outtake from their 2008 video "Live at the Smell".

Enjoy!



Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Greatest Song Ever Written?

Yep, I can already hear the sniggering commencing...

It's the million dollar question and it is unlikely to ever be answered in a conclusive, definitive fashion. Mankind is ever going to agree on what is the greatest song ever written, but that's not going to stop a debate at the Bendigo Writers Festival this weekend on the topic.

Out of all the art-forms, I believe that music is by far the most divisive and the most subjective. In fewer other art-forms does the manifesto "One man's trash is another man's treasure" resonate so profoundly. There is hardly ever likely to be a consensus on the greatest song ever written for generations.

What could you possibly consider as the criteria for establishing a song as the best?

The structure of the song - i.e. two verses and a chorus?
The emotional impact?
The perfect chord structure?
Depth and profundity of the lyrics?
The performance or the interpretation of the song by a number of different performers?
Or a combination of all of these?

Bot only that, there could be many, many songs in the canon of song that tick all the boxes above, but then again they may do so only for some people and not all. As you can see already, it's such a touchy subject that is fraught with problems.

That's not going to stop people nominating their favourite songs for the title. Nor is it going to stop the arguments. And there still won't be a definitive answer to the question.

What songs would you nominate and why? Write a note in the comments.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Review: The latest from Calling All Astronauts



The debut album in this day and age is a curious thing. It can make or break a band, as much as it always could. But, depending on the length of time a band takes between first bursting into the public's consciousness and releasing the LP, the album could have a number of different results.

Take, for example, the first LP by Grinspoon, in 1997. If rateyourmusic.com is correct, before the album was released there were two EPs and two singles before the album was released, with a total of 5 tracks from these releases appearing on said album. By the time the promo cycle was finished, a further 3 singles were issued and thus a total of 7 out of the 16 tracks were well known to the public. Thus the album pretty much plays a bit like a best of LP.

Such is "Post Modern Conspiracy", the first album by Calling All Astronauts, the pseudo-goth/punk/anarcho/metal/industrial/dance/pop band from London UK. With no less than three singles appearing before the album was released, this sets up the album as a strong and potent release, especially as the aforementioned singles are included in the package.

If you've heard the earlier singles "Someone Like You", "What's so good about..." and the stomping electro-thumper "Winter of Discontent" you'll know what you're in for. This is a solid record chock-filled with heavy beats, deep layered synths, loud guitars and David B's droning and occasionally subsonic vocals.

One can't help but think about how this reminds the listener of some of the darker indie pop of the 80s - one can hear shades of Joy Division (and by extension New Order), The The, Mission of Burma, The Wolfgang Press and others. This is not a complaint, but rather a reference point. Certain sections of the pop world are still in a heavy 80s throwback mode anyway. But while many are content to ape Madonna at her tackiest or recycle AC/DC's tired and worn guitar riffs, Calling All Astronauts are tapping into and mining a richer seam of retro gold, while adding a modern veneer to the music as well.

While David's vocals can be an acquired taste, they are absolutely perfect for the type of electro-industrial clang the band conjure up. While the lyrics are incomprehensible at times, it does so in a charming way, much like Michael Stipe on the first couple of REM LPs. Repeated listening will reveal the subtleties of the lyrics, which deal directly with the vacuousness of modern celebrity culture, consumerism and general public ignorance and apathy.

This is a very consistent release, with some very strong material throughout. The sound is consistent and solid, and it really doesn't let up much before "Eye Of God" which supplies us with a nice mashup of 80s jangle guitar and drum-n-bass-style drum loops.

It's a strong LP and those who are fans of the singles won't be disappointed. Really, most of the tracks here could be singles, as they stand up well on their own. Like the aforementioned Grinspoon LP, with so many well known songs already on the LP, with so many other songs that are just as strong on it, this could almost be their "best of" album.

The problem may well be from here is have the set the bar too high first time out? How will they top such a strong release with their second? We will wait with baited breath to see how they get on.

This one's a keeper.

As the song title goes "Ignorance is not an excuse". Take a listen to "Post Modern Conspiracy" below and get your informed.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunday Sessions: The Who

I've just finished reading an exhaustive biography by Tony Fletcher on the late, great Keith Moon, the drummer of the Who.



Across 500+ pages, it was a thrilling, gripping and ultimately heartbreaking read. Keith was a man with unparalleled passion for his music, but with some serious problems that went untreated and un-managed for the entirety of his short life. His life was complicated by the fact that he had undiagnosed ADHD, probably also some bi-polar disorder and some definite borderline personality disorder.

Couple that with becoming a superstar at 18 and a millionaire in his early 20s. He never had time to grow up, never wanted to, and as such, never did. He took amazing (and not necessarily in a good way) amounts of drugs, squandered vast fortunes of money without a second thought and destroyed relationships aplenty. His private life off stage was a shambles and it is painful to read about.

On stage, and on record, his drumming is something of a marvel. Drumsticks in hand, his arms fly around like an octopus. The synergy the group had with this madman drummer also defies logic but it is mind-blowing to listen to.

Rumour has it (unconfirmed in the book) that Keith Moon was the inspiration for the character Aminal in the Muppet Show. At least the Electric Mayhem (the band Animal played in) had the right idea and kept him on a chain!

Here's an example of the maniacal genius that was Keith Moon, playing with the Who at the the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, doing their version of Mose Allison's "Young Man's Blues"

Thursday, 1 August 2013

July 2013 Mixtape


Happy birthday to all the horses in the world, for the first day of August.

As usual, new month, new playlist, wrapping up all the cool stuff we listened to and blogged about in July 2013.

We include tracks from:

Ed's Redeeming Features
The Vaccines
Foot Village
Johnny Vomit
The Who
Area-7
Black Box Recorder
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Tumbleweed
the latest from Pearl Jam
Icecream Hands
Glass Towers
The Olivia Tremor Control

and heaps more.

Put it on random, crank it up and ENJOY!