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!