Wednesday, 26 February 2014

6 Ft Hick: "Train Crash"

image source: Amazon

This album serves somewhat as an unofficial album of the week.

This week has seen me blasting out the one and only live album by Queensland swamp rockers Six Foot Hick entitled "Train Crash".

Six Foot Hick have existed for a bit over 15 years now and they continue to inflict their unique brand of calamitous and riotous rock on the unsuspecting as well as the faithful. They mine a sound not unlike The Beasts of Bourbon or the Scientists at their peak, or even Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. They existed in a kind of Brisbane-based mini-scene with bands like Blowhard and The Onyas. What stands the 'Hick apart somewhat is they lack the Onyas' blatant crudity.

The album was recorded in both Sydney and Melbourne during 2005 and it serves as a potent reminder of what an unstable tinderbox of a band they are.

Slamming through 14 songs in around 40 minutes, the band are full of fire and brimstone. This a non stop display of energy coupled with high octane songs played at ear splitting volume.

The stars of this, well, train crash if you will, are the Corbett brothers, Ben and Gregory, who are completely off the chain on this record. They sing scream and howl their way through the set of rudimentary garage rockers like men possessed; no doubt exorcising the horrors of a bogan farm upbringing behind the Banana curtain.* If this is anything to go by, life in Queensland under Sir Joh's iron fist was really horrible!

Turning this album up loud you can almost feel the sweat and spit of the experience. It is completely wild and unhinged. You can't help but feel alive and invigorated from investing your time into this record. This is music that is raw, real and lived in. The kind of stuff that makes Independent music worthwhile.

Check it out below. Enjoy!

* The term "Behind the Banana Curtain" refers to the culture shock that a traveller from New South Wales heading north into Queensland sometimes experienced, especially from the 1960s through to the 1980s. It inferred that Queensland was a cultural and social backwater, substantially behind the times compared to the rest of the nation. 

The Problem with Spotify

It's pretty fair to say that Spotify has revolutionised the way way my family and I listen to music as well discover new music these days.

And never before have I been able to access, listen to and experience such a wide range of music, both new and vintage, so quickly and easily before. It's as simple as reading about a new album or artist in a magazine or online and, within a few clicks, I'm listening to their latest album (Thom Yorke's music notwithstanding).

I've decided that one of the drawbacks of being so heavily involved with Spotify is that while I listen to a heap of music, I rarely go back for a second listen to anything. I am finding that I'm not connecting with the music on the deeper level that I normally would if I had actually bought the album.

This is becoming an issue especially around the end of the year and compiling a best of list. I don't hang around long enough to get into and appreciate an album or an artist anymore. Maybe, but not having invested the time and money into a product as I normally would, I don't have the same listening experience.

I really only noticed this behaviour when I a friend of mine sent me his list of the best albums of 2013 and I realised that, while I have listened to a shitload of music, I couldn't identify and remember half of it. I couldn't even remember the Triple J Hottest 100 winner of 2013, despite the fact that the song had been added to one of my playlists since the middle of the year from when I first played Vance Joy's EP. Go figure.

For this reason I am dedicating some of my listening time to one, maybe two, specific album(s) per week, usually during the commute to and from work: a kind of "album of the week" type scenario. So far this year this plan has worked well and it has seen me listening to (and really getting into and enjoying) the following albums:
  • Spiderbait - Spiderbait
  • Henry Rollins - Get Some Go Again.
  • Even - The Street Press Years
  • Custard - The Essential
  • Life Coach - Alpha waves
  • The Wonder Stuff - The Singles

Eventually I'll get around to reviewing all these albums on the blog, but the idea behind this thinking is to use Spotify to actually engage in music the same way I have for years. It has only come to my attention lately that I haven't actually done that. Who knew?

Have your listening habits changed as a result of using Spotify? Have you discovered some great new music only to find you've forgotten about it just as quickly?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

100 LPs Shortlist #37: Gary Moore - "Still Got The Blues"

It's been a while since I've added to my list of 100 albums that I grew up listening to. But this is one that has dropped off my radar until just recently.

Gary Moore got his start as a rock guitarist after leaving his native Belfast in the late 1960s. He moved to Dublin and then onto England where he based himself for the rest of his career. His rather unusual career trajectory involved him joining Thin Lizzy no less than three times, and performing a rapid switch from rock to heavy metal to blues as the mood strikes.

His guitar style is not dissimilar to many other rock shredders of the day, including Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee or Joe Satriani, and on this record, an album of straight blues tracks, his soloing isn't much different to the aforementioned guitarists.

Upon re-listening to this album recently, it struck me, moreso now than it did then, how much Gary's soulful vocals clash with his Les Paul-through-Marshall-stack-turned-up-to-11 guitar sound, and then put that against the tone of the music and you have a rather odd mix that doesn't blend too well.

Probably the best example of this is when Gary duets with Albert King on one of Albert's own tracks "Oh Pretty Woman". Albert's own guitar sound is timid, meek and mild compared to the heavily overdriven slashing style of Gary. I loved it at the time, delighting in the fact that the elder bluesman was almost eaten alive by the Irish shredder. Now I just think it's a bad example of a rather painful culture clash.

Gary Moore tears through these songs, with abrasive sounding guitar in hand, with all the subtlety of a North Queensland sugarcane cutter. His guitar sound rips them to pieces, throwing in lead guitar techniques and flashy tricks that date the record to its era, when it seemed every guitarist who wanted to be taken seriously had to throw in a bit of tow-handed fretting.

At the time this came out, I was a beginning guitarist with high ideals, playing the blues and taking my first steps into lead guitar, looking up to people like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix for inspiration. This was a staple part of my musical diet of the time, however in retrospect, I just think it has worn well. My tastes have changed to the point where the subtlety and restraint of Moore's mentor Peter Green wouldn't have gone astray on this record. However, the record was a product of its time and reflected the values shared by likeminded musicians and record buyers alike, and so it is what it is.

Moore-y never had another sizeable hit record like this again. He died of heart failure on 6th February 2011.

Check out the album for yourselves below. Enjoy.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Vale Bob Casale of Devo

I have to say up front I've never been a fan of Devo. I put this down to two things: my own ignorance, and the failure of radio to adequately play a wide enough selection of their tunes. Outside of "Beautiful World" and the song that is generally the go-to Devo track for most stations, "Whip It", I rarely heard anything by them. It's a shame on both accounts, because even though both of the aforementioned tunes are largely unremarkable, digging deeper into their catalog reveals some excellent music.

So, as it happens, guitarist Bob Casale, aka Bob2, from Devo passed away this week, age 61 of heart failure. This leaves me in an unfortunate position - having to remember his contribution to popular music, and yet knowing next to nothing about him or the band he was part of.

Devo's career in the late 70s and early 80s was fairly unremarkable. Inasmuch as they had hit singles and albums as did the touring treadmill like any other band of the day. However, the reason the band formed in the first place is what is truly fascinating.

Lead singer Gerard Casale, Bob's big brother, was a self described hippie until he personally witnessed the Kent State shootings of 1970. He knew two of the victims of the shootings as well.  He then started to entertain the thought that mankind had in fact ceased to evolve, and rather had started to de-evolve as a result. This idea became the catalyst for the ideas of the band Devo.

Bob Casale was also a medical radiation technologist, and also played keyboards and guitar for Devo. He produced and engineered all of the band's albums since 1984.

As mentioned before, there are plenty of great tunes to get into by Devo. Starting with "Freedom of Choice", the best of Devo is a great place to get acquainted with the works of the band. It is posted below.

Vale Bob2. R.I.P.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

INXS: Hand picked by TSATF

Usually with the resurgence of a band or musician into the public's consciousness, music fans like myself often take the opportunity to reappraise their back catalog.So I guess it comes as no surprise to anyone that I've been spinning a few of my old INXS LPs again of late.

With INXS, I've always had a love/hate relationship with. I grew up with the band's music on radio and on dubbed cassettes during my formative years. I still have a soft spot for "Underneath The Colours", as well as the three big ones "The Swing", "Listen Like Thieves" and "Kick". By the time "X" was issued in 1990, I was over them. I never gave that album, nor the subsequent ones, any serious attention.

In the ensuing years, I've had occasion to spin them again. There are certainly some jewels among the rough, but then, as much as now, some of their work is just purely irredeemable. "Baby Don't Cry" is still the worst song they've ever recorded, and I've never liked "Suicide Blonde". I still don't.

There are still many key records in the history of INXS that have gone missing on reissues and on streaming Services such as Spotify. In the recent telemovie "INXS: Never Tear Us Apart", they make mention of their cracking first single "Simple Simon" as well as a side project by Michael and Melbourne based electro-wizz Ollie Olsen called "Max Q", who issued one very interesting and worthwhile self-titled record in 1990, which is well worth tracking down.

MAX Q - Way of the World

Max Q - Sometimes

The same with the soundtrack to "Dogs In Space", a film Michael starred in, and was directed by Richard Lowenstein. It features an excellent track by Michael called "Rooms for the Memory". None of these are available digitally at the moment, so let's hope for their speedy reissue.

Michael Hutchence - Rooms for the Memory

What you have here is a playlist, hand-picked by yours truly, of some of the hits and hidden gems from the INXS back catalog. Of particular note is the 1994 collaboration with Ray Charles called "Please (You Got That...)", which is one of the best things the band ever committed to tape.

INXS and Ray Charles live on Letterman 1993 (this is so COOL!!!!)

Kick back and chill with these tunes, and take a look at the YouTube clips as well, and do something that Channel 7 failed to do in its ratings blockbuster: celebrate the music.

Monday, 17 February 2014

INXS on TV: The Verdict

You may remember my recent post about the INXS telemovie "Never Tear Us Apart" where I speculated that it would be less about the music and more about the off-stage antics... turns out I was correct.

Reading three reports on the topic this week, one each from The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Guardian, one would think that each of the reviewers were watching a totally different program from another.

The Guardian opines that it "...takes us back the age of bare-chested rock excess, and not much more", while making the obvious point about how uncensored the show supposedly is based on the amount of groupie boob exposure it contains.

The Sydney Morning Herald claims that it was "sex drugs and rock 'n' roll with...a batch of bad wigs" and that it played out like "Home and Away [but] with better music",while News says that the show was "...true event television, powerfully and unflinchingly told". I'm sure that is correct if you like watching soapy dramas.

The sad thing about this production is that it doesn't do anything for the bands legacy. I can't help thinking that INXS will end up with a place in Australian music history like the Doors now possess in American music history: they'll pretty much be known by those with all but a passing interest as "Michael and those other blokes". They will be always regarded not as great tunesmiths, but as the pub band who made more money and scored more drugs and pussy than anybody else.

Ditto the Doors.

Their music will always be tied to its era, dated by [then] contemporary production values intended on making everything sound bigger than anything else, at the expense of restraint.

Ditto the Doors.

They will always be mentioned in the same breath as all the gratuitous debauchery and excess of the period - some of the worst elements of the time - because THAT is how the media and social commentators have seen it and called it. And what is this telemovie doing about it? Nothing - it is doing exactly the same thing: Celebrating the excess and not the reason they got to enjoy it: the music.

I can think of heaps more bands that were way more successful worldwide than INXS back in the day but they are not even regarded with anywhere near the kind of reverence they are. What about Milli Vanilli? They sold way more copies with their one album than any INXS album did. Why aren't they highly regarded anymore? Because the music was shit, and it remains so. INXS's albums may sound dated but the songs are killer. Without the music, there wouldn't be an INXS to make a telemovie about.

Having said that, the Sydney Morning Herald piece rightly says that the whole reason this program exists in the first place is down to the "enduring power of the late Michael Hutchence, the lead signer whose charisma and magnetic stage presence could blow a concert audience clean out of their seats, and whose death in 1997...remains an intriguing...part of the legend."  It's his tabloid-headline-grabbing antics the punters want to see - the music, as many viewers will see it, was a means to an end. This probably explains why it pulled in nearly 2 million domestic viewers on each respective Sunday night.

The death of Michael has been ruled suicide and NOT auto-erotic asphyxiation by the NSW State coroner - a fact that has been disputed by the late singer's family and friends. This issue wasn't tackled all that well in the film, largely because Michael died alone, the details surrounding are sketchy at best and any depiction of it would be purely speculative. It was handled tastefully, however, in my view, it did attempt to build to a climax and yet strangely failed to reach it.

So now they're proclaiming that this is the television hit of the year. It's a big call, considering we're only 6 weeks into the year. It was hugely successful in terms of ratings, substantially less so if it is measured on content. Did it match the hype? Hardly. But at least it got chins wagging, and the remaining members of INXS will get a boost to their retirement funds with back catalog sales going completely apeshit in the last few weeks.

I just hope we don't see a sequel that chronicles the aimless and pointless years in the aftermath of Michael's death, including the awkward choice of Terence Trent D'Arby as a vocalist and their credibility-destroying foray into reality television...the less said on that issue, the better.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Life Coach

One of the best new discoveries I have made in recent weeks is Life Coach, a Washington DC based band that has evolved from another band, indie-rock darlings Trans Am.

The guitarist from Trans Am, Philip Manley, wanted to start a Kraut-rock styled experimental project, heavy on the electronics. He issued one solo album called "Life Coach" and then decided to flesh out a band with live musicians in order to play the music live. What you have is a band that pitches themselves somewhere between ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's experimentalism and Pink Floyd's space-iness, with all the lumbering crunch of Tool.

Their debut album "Alphawaves", released last year on the awesome indie label Thrill Jockey, is 40 minutes of strategically organised noise that is as compelling as it is inviting. The instrumental first half contains so much depth, its layers unveil themselves with repeated listens. Track 5, "Fireball", features a Zeppelin-esque groove, but much, much heavier, with a solo so awesome it'd make Jimmy Page blush.

This is a record that is highly recommended, and well worth listening to a few times, especially to get the full benefit out of it. It requires VOLUME! So play it LOUD!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Wonder Stuff

What an interesting and strange little band the Wonder Stuff are. But I'm absolutely loving the band's singles collection right now.

In Australia the band are all but regarded as a one-hit wonder, on account of their mega-hit in 1991 with Vic Reeves - a cover of Tommy Roe's classic "Dizzy".

However, the west-Midlands band had an entire back catalog of clever and quirky songs that are well worth reappraising. The band were described as if Hunter S. Thompson were an influence on the Beatles, they may have looked and sounded like the Wonder Stuff. I'm not quite sure that's quite correct, but what gets me is the clever lyrics, sometimes bordering on the obsessive and snarky but not malicious, set against the bouncy music common to the rich British pop cannon.

Try not singing along to these:

It's Yer money I'm After, Baby

The Size of A Cow

Welcome To The Cheap Seats


Monday, 10 February 2014

January 2014 Playlist

Welcome back to the first monthly playlist for 2014. Contained within is a bunch of killer tracks from:

  • Redgum
  • iOTA
  • Mama Cass
  • Evan Foster
  • Anthrax
  • Black Cab
  • Andy Prieboy
  • John Williamson
  • Born Ruffians
  • Philip Sayce
  • Peace
  • Beechwood Sparks
  • The Mermen

and heaps heaps more.

Put it on random and crank it up. Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 February 2014


Finally the new INXS biopic Mini-series is on tonight. Channel Seven has been flogging the promos for weeks now and it has finally time to show the first part.

There's been a lot of discussion around the place about "will it be any good". Without having seen it, it's supposed to be a biopic, not a documentary - there's a difference.

Biopics, while useful, are not always accurate nor informative. They are designed to tell a story and to entertain an audience, not necessarily to deliver the facts surrounding the story.

The story of INXS is already well documented around the traps anyway, and judging by the promos, the biopic is less about the music and the band, but rather the sordid private life of singer Michael Hutchence that very much became public thanks the scavenging British Tabloid press. It's my great fear that this miniseries will focus on the off-stage turbulence and not on the artistry of the band.

To be fair, the drudgery of overdubbing harmony vocals and in-store appearances is not what makes a good story. The stuff that will hook in the punters is the success, the drugs, the relationships and the sex, all of which distanced Michael from his bandmates, and ultimately finished with his demise.

I'll still watch it, and I'll see if my fears are confirmed.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Vale Pete Seeger

Image courtesy of the Washington Post

Peter Seeger has died at the age of 94. Not a bad innings for a guy who was once one of the most hated men in America.

Pete was a folk singer with a radical bent, who used his music as a platform for political debate and for raising awareness of injustice and other social ills in the world. He was enormously influential to people such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Peter Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie, Martin Carthy (of Fairport Convention) and countless other folk singers.

While he was beloved as a singer and a songwriter, contributing many a classic to the great American songbook ("If I Had A Hammer", "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?", "Turn! Turn! Turn!"), it was his activism that landed him afoul of the law. At the age of 17 he joined the Young Communism League and started writing anti-war/anti-draft songs. At age 22 he was a full member of the Communist party in America. He joined a group called the Almanac Singers in 1941 and they were notorious for their songs promoting Industrialized unionism and racial inclusion.

After serving in World War 2, he reconstituted the Almanacs into The Weavers, and they started having some major hits with records such as "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and "Goodnight Irene". During the early 1950s, a house of Representatives committee called the "House Un-American Activities Committee" was created to flush out Communist sympathisers in Hollywood and the Music Industry. The Weavers were named on the House blacklist and they were banned from the media. Struggling for work, the band wrote a jingle for a Cigarette company, and Pete resigned in protest.

Being named on the blacklist, Pete found it difficult to get gigs or even to rent a place to live. Soon after moving in he told in no uncertain terms by neighbours he was unwelcome. He was indicted by the house in 1961 and sent to jail for a year before the conviction was appealed in 1962.

After his name was cleared, he started performing solo shows, which were picketed by far-right-wing groups like the John Birch Society who believed he was an insurgent! He renounced communism early on and until his death believed that following communism was the wrong way forward, once he discovered the horrors of Stalin's regime.

Here was a man who not afraid to stand up and speak out for his convictions. And he paid dearly for them. He supported and promoted the careers of many an aspiring folk singer and he has fans as varied as President Obama and Johnny Rotten.

He will be sorely missed. Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Our 300th Post! The Best of 2013

Image with thanks to Michele Woodward

Wow! Our 300th post!

Who'd have thought we'd make it this far?

It's been a hectic year thus far and I've been a bit behind the 8-ball in getting this blog updated, but hopefully we'll be back in the swing of things shortly.

To celebrate, here is a belated playlist of the best tunes from 2013, with lots of great new music from the year, including the latest from Hottest 100 winner Vance Joy and heaps of other great stuff.

Get into it!