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!!!