Monday, 31 March 2014

The Musical History of Adelaide Part 1

Welcome to a new series where we will take a trip around Australia looking at the notable bands that came from the major Australian cities and regions.

First stop is Adelaide.

Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. It was originally established in 1836 as a city for free European settlers in the old colony. It is located on the River Torrens. It contains a population of 1.23 million people, which is a whopping 77% of the population of South Australia.

Adelaide was known for being quite a progressive town in its early days, giving religion and culture space to exist unhindered. As such, Adelaide is colloquially known as the "City of Churches", owing to the fact there are churches of pretty much every flavour you can think of having a presence there. It is also quite a cultural hub, with many music festivals happening either annually or biennially, including the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the WOMADelaide world music festival, among others.

The nearest capital city is Melbourne, 654 kilometres to the south east, with which is shares a fierce rivalry on the football (Aussie Rules, thank you very much!) field.

Adelaide also has a reputation for being a working class city, with many manufacturing industries based there, starting with boat building in the early 1900s and, until recently, automobile manufacturing.

Adelaide was a hive of activity during the mass migration period of the late 1950s and 1960s courtesy of the 10 Pound migration scheme. Like many other areas of Australia, "10 Pound Poms" moved in with their young families for a new life, and with plenty of opportunities for work. Many of the children of these families came of age right at the time The Beatles exploded onto the music scene, and the in-thing to do was to form a band. Being a cultural hub of sorts, there were plenty of places to play gigs in Adelaide, if you were any good.

From the 1960s onward, Adelaide has given us many great musicians and artists. On the serious side, Percy Grainger was born here (the writer of "English Country Garden" among many many other tunes), plus also Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian, and children's entertainer Patsy Biscoe come from here.

Over the next few posts we'll take a look at some of the memorable acts that have formed in Adelaide.

The Twilights
The Twilights were a band made up of British Immigrants living in the working class satellite town of Elizabeth. The were formed in early 1965 and had a number of big hits until their breakup in 1969. The band is notable for the first public appearances of Glenn Shorrock, who went on to front Axiom and the Little River Band, as well as Terry Britten, who has been a songwriter-for-hire for the likes of Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Cliff Richard. "Needle In A Haystack" was their only number 1 hit, released in 1966.

Zoot started out in Adelaide as a beat group playing Mod covers, but were persuaded to change their image radically with the marketing campaign "Think Pink - Think Zoot". Their early singles watered down their tough mod stance but they then upped the ante when they discarded the pink and introduced a new guitarist, a young Rick Springfield. Rick was responsible for turning up the amps and radically re-working existing tunes, like "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles (see below). The band also featured a future Little River Band member Beeb Birtles and future solo pop star Darryl Cotton.

Masters Apprentices
The Master's Apprentices started as a tough R&B group in the mold of Them or The Rolling Stones. They started life as an instrumental band in the mold of the Shadows in the early 1960s, but after the Beatles hit big, every instrumental band went scurrying for a singer. The Mustangs found Jim Keays and turned into a heavy blues band called Master's Apprentices. They had a genius guitarist in the form of Mick Bower, who had composed all their early hits, and right when the band were hitting their stride, he had a nervous breakdown before a gig in Tasmania and he quit the band. They struggled through a number of lineup changes before settling on Doug Ford as a guitarist. The had a second lease on life and produced some of the most enduring Australian classics before calling it a day in 1972. Jim Keays had a moderately successful solo career. Doug Ford disappeared to England somewhere and bassist Glenn Wheatley went on to manage the career of Little River Band, and later Moving Pictures and John Farnham.

The Angels

The Angels started life in Adelaide as the Moonshine Jug and String Band, before going electric as "The Keystone Angels" and then just The Angels in 1976. They feature the mad Irishman Doc Neeson on vocals, whose stage performances are a sight to behold. (Rumour has it that Doc once offered to manage the career of the aforementioned band Zoot). Wildly successful in Australia, they have attempted to succeed in America but have struggled due to management and label pressures and, of course, their name. They had to change it to "Angel City" to avoid being confused with a 60s girl group The Angels (who'd had a hit with "My Boyfriend's Back" circa 1960) and a glam metal band of the period called Angel. They tried again in 1989 as "The Angels From Angel City" but they weren't altogether successful then either. Still, the track "Marsellaise" still gets played on rock radio in the US and Pearl Jam, Guns and Roses and Nirvana have all cited the band as an influence.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Curiosity of the Three-Sided Live Album

What is the point of a three sided live album?

Now I'm not talking about a three sided vinyl album as such. These are becoming more and more common as albums around the 60 minute mark, designed for CD or legit download, are too long to fit on a single LP but are not long enough to properly fill 4 20 minute album sides.

No. I'm talking about the live album with one side of studio material. Why? No really, why do they do it?

They certainly make a disparate listening experience, especially when the album is on CD. Take KISS "Alive II" for example. The KISS Alive! album series was supposed to chronicle live tracks from the preceding three studio albums. It worked for the first "Alive!" album, which sold gazillions of records and made the band superstars. For the sequel, they kind of ran out of live tracks and didn't want to duplicate any from the the first live album. Or the new songs didn't stretch out long enough, like they did on the first album. So they padded out the existing 15 live tracks with 5 studio leftovers: three average originals, an Ace Frehley gem and a dodgy sounding Dave Clark Five cover.

On CD, as you could imagine it is a strange experience listening to CD2, half live, half studio. It kinda kills off the vibe very quickly.

The strange thing is that this is not an isolated incident. Genesis issued a live album specifically for the US market called "Three Sides Live" with recent singles on side 4. They issued the same album in Europe and the colonies, but with extra live tracks on side 4, making the album effectively four sides live. Go figure.

The Moody Blues issued one exactly like this in 1973, "Live +5", ostensibly as a contractual obligation and clearing house before inking a new deal, in advance of the "Octave" LP.

Graham Parker's last album for Vertigo, "The Parkerilla" in 1978 was the same - a contract filler and kiss off to America where he barely sold a record during his career to date. It was originally issued as a three sided live album with a studio version of "Hey Lord (Don't Ask Me Questions)" as the only track on side 4. Vertigo records must have considered that a waste of vinyl as they reissued the album on a single record (stretching the playing time of the single LP to 54 minutes), but not reprinting the sleeve (which still lists the tracks on four sides.)

In the CD era this really doesn't happen anymore...that I know of. With one exception.

You Am I's fifth album, and final one for RooArt "...Saturday Night 'Round Ten" was issued as a single CD with 67 minutes of solid live material, with a bonus CD of studio tracks called "Ignorance and Vodka". That would probably make it a nice "three sides live and one side not" album on vinyl...

The three sided live album seems pointless - a contract filler in an unusual fashion. But is it worth it? In most of these cases (Graham Parker and You Am I exempted) these albums are not really the finest hours of the bands in question. The two albums that work in this format also work perfectly well as a single album - the studio tracks not being necessary. As far as live albums are concerned, none of them are going to end up on a list of the greatest live albums of all time, but then, contract fillers are rarely works that have a great deal of thought applied to them anyway.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

10 Songs that Describe the 1980s

The 1980s were the "Me" decade, which came with two sub-themes to it:

1. "Look at me!"
2. "It's Mine. What's mine is my own, and whatever else I can get, by any means legal or otherwise, is mine as well".

Point 1 explains the outlandish clothes, the big hair, flashy cars and the like that was the fashion. But along with point 2 there was a real developing sense of corporate greed during the period, which culminated in the stock market panic of 1987.

In the early 1980s I was in grade school in Newcastle, NSW, but it seemed everybody between the ages of 18 and 24 all worked at the BHP steelworks, or steel-related industries in town.

The times were marked in other countries (less so than here) of a real rift between the Haves and the Have-nots. Thatcherism and Reaganomics seemed to push the concept of open markets and a sense that whoever earns it, gets to keep it. Whomever is cunning enough to play the game right and gets to the top first wins the lot. It also meant a lot of pain for smaller families, especially when interest rates in Australia hit 17% in the late 1980s...

Midnight Oil – Don't Wanna Be The One
There could have been a number of other Oils tracks I could have chosen, but this one speaks volumes on the realities for those at different positions on the corporate food chain. "We end up in home units with the brick wall view..."

Redgum – Lear Jets Over Kulgera
This song heralded the start of the resources boom in Australia, with foreign investment making a motza out of the "poor young mineral-rich country". This track wins an extra credit badge for working the word "giegercounter" into the lyric.

Billy Bragg – Between the Wars
A vocal critic of Margaret Thatcher, Billy Bragg sang songs in support of ordinary workers lost in the shuffle of the push towards corporatisation and privatisation. This didn't just happen in Britain, but all over the world, and this is a timely reminder without the workers, executives and upper management don't make a profit.

Warumpi Band – Blackfella/Whitefella
Indigenous people of Australia, up until the 1980s were un-mentioned, under-represented sub-class who struggled to get their voices heard in the media. Some bands prior to Warumpi were making noises along similar themes (Goanna's "Solid Rock" being one example) but this one is the most powerful and influential. This begat "Beds Are Burning" by the aforementioned Midnight Oil.

Spandau Ballet – Gold
The 80s were characterised by the chase for money, and more of it, heralding a new age of decadence and excess.

Tears For Fears – Shout
For all the money, parties and celebration, a lot of people still weren't happy and the rise of the expensive therapist started.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
This track is included because during the 1980s you had two superpowers, the USA and the (then) USSR flexing their collective military muscles in each others direction, daring each other to push the button that could blow the planet into smithereens.

Frank Zappa – Valley Girl
The "look at me" culture of the San Fernando Valley can be seen as a metaphor for the the fashion of the times - big outfits and even bigger hair. This Zappa parody was is precisely what "Clueless" was in the mid-1990s.

Metallica – Master Of Puppets
The corporate drug culture is probably something that was not openly discussed at the time, but it was prevalent. This theme was tackled by Frank Zappa on "Cocaine Decisions" but Metallica did it the best with this powerful and emotive anti-drug anthem.

Prince – Sign 'O' The Times
Touches on the fallout of era's behaviour: drugs and hedeonism, AIDS and poverty, bad hangovers and money going around and around and around and.....

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Infectious Grooves ft Sarsippius - "Spreck"

Image course: Christy Borgman

How often these days, in the context of a pop album, is a standalone character with an interesting personality introduced?


The Infectious Grooves were a funk-metal side project of Suicidal Tendencies members Mike Muir and (future Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica bassist) Robert Trujillo, and Jane's Addiction drummer Steve Perkins. Their first album "The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move..." in 1991 features some vicious funk workouts interspersed with some skits about a wise cracking, jive-talking reptilian lover named Aladdin Sarsippius Sulemenagic Jackson, the Third, trying to get into the studio to lay down some vocals for the band, but he can't convince the security guard to let him in.

Sarsippius is voiced by singer Mike Muir, and he's a rather endearing little cheekpot. The first album didn't have him singing any tunes, but he did hint at having hits (that no-one ever seems to have heard of) called "Whipped Cream (Put It All Over Your Body) and "The Love You Will Find Is The Love That You Will Never Find 'Cos It's The Love That Is Not Always Able To Be Found".

On the second album, 1993's "Sarsippius' Ark", he gets space for a tune, called "Spreck". This is one little funky monster of a tune, truly the definition of an "infectious groove" is ever there was one. Rob Trujillo plays the coolest bass line I think I've ever heard him play, while our man 'Sip tries to convince his "layday" to "Spreck" with him.

I have no idea what "Sprecking" is. Is it a distortion of the German word "Sprechen" which means "speaking"? If so, it makes something so simple sound so sinister, and downright fun!

Check out the YouTube clip below, kick back and "Spreck it, y'all".

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Vale Scott Asheton

image source

With the current theme of losing some of the very best and iconic musicians running hot this year, on the 16th of March we lost the drummer for the Stooges, Scott Asheton.

Scott Asheton may not have been the most technically proficient drummers in the world, but he was one of the great "caveman" drummers. By that I mean he belts the skins hard in simple, pounding rhythms, playing exactly what the song needs and deserves, and nothing more. He never overplayed anything,  but then the Stooges only ever played their tunes in a rudimentary fashion, and for that reason we love them.

They didn't need to be flashy, they didn't need to be showy. The songs didn't demand it, and were better served without it anyway. That's what made the band great. The swagger, the spit 'n' grit shone through without any of the frills that turn great bands into lesser lights. The Stooges were just as cool for what they didn't play, as much as for what they did.

The grooves were anchored by Scott's drumming, but they were simple grooves that locked in tight, and yet swung and rocked like mad.

The first three albums by the Stooges are essential listening in my book, despite the fact that they died the absolute death in the marketplace on first issue. The first, self titled LP is lesser of the three. Album number 2 "Fun House" is on fire, from start to finished. To quote Henry Rollins, "Careful, that one will leave marks." Album #3 "Raw Power" does what it says on the tin - it is raw, with enough grunt to power a Hummer 2 towards a speeding ticket. It is the prototype of what Punk became, four years before The Clash and the Pistols.

Ironically, the Stooges were hated by the generation of people they belonged to (i.e. my parents), but to the next generation and all subsequent ones, they are inspirational. Despite these records being up to 45 years old, they sound as fresh today as they did at any point in history - although probably moreso now, because they would have sounded so "out of fashion" in their day.

Thanks for the music Scott. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What the hell is Crabcore?

Music journalists seriously have a case to answer for. Especially ones who write for rags like the NME and Melody Maker. These people who, for some reason, just invent names for styles, scenes or genres of music that they feel need a name.

No longer content to call music "Rock", or "Pop", or "Metal", now there's Death Metal, Hardcore, Extreme Hardcore, Metalcore, Mathrock, Deathcore, Emocore, Screamocore, Grindcore, Nintendocore (yep - apparently that's a thing), Brit-pop, New Wave of New Wave and who knows what else.

The Guardian's music section has an amusing story on music genres that didn't catch on, largely because they were dreamed up by a bunch of half-pissed music journos in a Camden pub.

The funniest one I have heard in a long time was not featured in this article, but is just as random. It is...

...wait for it...


Yep - you read that right. Crab. Core. The name is just as stupid as the term "Baggy" was for describing the sound of the Stone Roses. (Baggy came about because in the video for one of the Roses' songs, Ian Brown wore a loose-fitting, or "baggy", shirt. And so a sub-genre was born...)

Crabcore. For those who don't know (which pretty much describes, well, everybody) it is a style of heavy music, not unlike Emo (another contrived and ridiculous genre name) but it is so named because of the way the band members stand and hold their instruments.

(click to enlarge)

That's right - they look like crabs.

Tim Berners-Lee might think the internet is the place to solve everybody's information needs, but when you let the weirdos loose on it, you get crap like this.

The exponent of this earth-shattering genre we will witness plying their trade below is a US band called Attack! Attack!  Note the presence of a rather attractive blonde girl throughout the clip. She seems to have her hands over her ears for most of it. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Crabs Crabcore!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Alice In Chains Unplugged

It's interesting evaluating an artist's work after his or her passing. Especially one whose life and work was so heavily marked and affected by their own life choices.

With Alice In Chains, of course I'm talking about the late Layne Staley, whose heroin addiction was the prism through which his world view was seen, and as such that is the prism that, for better or worse, his lyrics and music was filtered through.

Ultimately, it was this addiction that claimed his life, but it also incapacitated him, and effectively ran the band off the road, right at the height of their career in the mid-1990s.

When I first heard the band's breakthrough single "Would?" in 1992 at the insistence of a schoolmate of mine, I hated it. As the band's legend grew, and their reputation as hard drug users, my interest in the band was killed off.

It was this unplugged show that changed my mind. Hearing it purely in audio format, the power of the music is what shone through. The songs are uniformly strong and almost always feature the bands trademark harmonies, which are almost always a perfect fifth, lacking a major or minor tonal centre.

The beauty of the "Unplugged" format was that you got to see and hear the artists without the layers of effects and distortion applied to their instruments. This didn't work too well for Nirvana (in my view) but in the case of Alice In Chains, it was a perfect demonstration of their strengths while removing the aspects of their sound that they would usually hide behind.

This album proved to me that here was a band with a strong back catalog with talented musicians who can blend their various talents in an impressive format.

The band obviously draw heavily from their two acoustic EPs "Jar of Flies" and "Sap", but they treat us to acoustic arrangements of songs from their heavy albums too. Of particular note is the acoustic treatment of "Down In A Hole" which sounds like it should have been acoustic all along.

Recorded in 1996, it turns out that this was one of the last public performances by Alice In Chains. It was the first for some time, and one of the last with Layne, who died in early 2002. As such, Layne looks like he spent the entire show in a typical kind of narcotic haze that makes you wonder how he managed to play this show at all. Still, it is great to have such a wonderful souvenir of the band's talents in their rawest form.

Apparently, tickets were extremely hard to come by to this show, and were offered up at something like US$300 a pop (unheard of at the time). The four members of Metallica had front row seats. Bassist Mike Inez wasted no time getting stuck into the Metallica lads and their (then) brand-new short haired look (it's a heinous crime to cut your hair if you're a metal band, apparently) by scrawling "Friends don't let friends get friends haircuts..." (sic) on his bass.

Anyway, here below is the full performance of Alice In Chains unplugged, complete with between-song improv stuff, and a stuff-up and retake of "Sludge Factory". There is a few choice words in this broadcast that would make it somewhat Not Safe For Work and small children, just so that you are warned.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Philip Sayce

I like my blues rock.

No really, I do. I've grown up listening to Gary Moore, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Healey, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Stevie Ray Vaughan at the like. I just find that pretty much everything calling itself "blues rock" since Stevie sounds like...well, a pale imitation of Stevie.

Although recently I discovered Philip Sayce. I don't know a whole lot about him, aside form the fact he is a Canadian who has done a lot of session work for the likes of Jimmy Barnes and Melissa Etheridge, as well as had a solo career of some note for a while. But I do know that he has somehow managed to breathe some new life into this form that has been so uninteresting to me lately.

What you see below is a live performance of his track "Morning Star", and to be honest, superlatives are hard to come by after watching this. You could say it's "amazing" or "blistering" but that only scrapes the surface of just how awesome this is.

See for yourself below.

Cue the jaws hitting the floor...NOW!

Friday, 14 March 2014

My Best Musical Discovery

What is your favourite, most enlightening, musical discovery?

Is there a band or an album, or a style of music you had never encountered before, looked at it, thought it unworthy, and then played it and it has blown your mind?

What was the "lightbulb" moment for you?

For me, one of the moments was when I discovered, by accident, jazz. Or more specifically, jazz fusion, but that was the first step into jazz.

In 1991, I was fascinated by guitarists who could tear up a fretboard. However, I was tiring of the overt posturing and stupid costumes and haircuts of the metal bands of the day.

In 1990 I bought some vinyl from a neighbour's garage sale, on the same day that about four houses in my street had similar garage sales. In 1991, we co-ordinated again to have simultaneous garage sales, and this time I'd picked up some more unusual vinyl. The record shown above was one of them and the idea of surround sound, or quadrophonic sound intrigued me, and still does. This album was a sampler of different artists remixed for quadrophonic, including Alice Cooper and Frank Sinatra.

Considering it only cost $1, I bought it, because I wanted to hear the Frank Zappa track on the album. Zappa's records were extremely hard to come by (as they are now) and I took any chance to listen to his work. But I didn't have a quad system, so anything I heard on this quad vinyl was only ever going to be in stereo. No biggie. Move on.

The Zappa track was underwhelming. When I flipped the record over to side 2, I'd skip track 1 (Bette Midler's "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy") and onto track 2, never having heard Billy Cobham before, I just sat back and listened. What I heard was so amazing, that I couldn't believe my ears. This so other worldly, as though it was beamed in from some other planet.

I found out later that this was jazz, played on rock equipment. Fusion, in other words. To be sure, this isn't to everybody's taste. A lot of people who I've played this to complain that they can't hear any "music", but I think that defeats the purpose. This is about playing in an ensemble with next to no rules. When you hear this on vinyl, you have to check to see if the record is on the right speed. It is impossibly fast. Jan Hammer's keyboard solo in the first minute or so is totally off the chain, while Tommy Bolin's guitar solo starts off tastefully enough, before launching into a totally flurry of notes and other strange guitar effects.

This track made me sit up and take notice of the fact that there was more out there than just rock and pop. There's a whole new way of playing and constructing notes. It changed my life. It started me on the road to finally leaving Motley Crue and their ilk in the past. For good.

Take an open mind with this one. You might not get it straight away, but when you do you'll never hear music the same way again.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

February 2014 Playlist

Welcome to the latest Sound and the Fury Playlist, loving curated by hand and ear during February 2014.

This month, you get:

Aussie gems from: Australian Crawl, The Butterfly Effect, Custard, Chad Morgan, The Cruel Sea, Delta Riggs, Even, INXS, James Reyne and more
Punk bashers from Bracket, Asteroid B-612, Green Day, Slapshot, Six Ft Hick and more
Awesome jazz from Dave Brubeck, Larry Carlton, LA Express, Ahmad Jamal,

and a whole mountain of other great songs.

Crank it up and ENJOY!!!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Lake Street Dive: "Bad Self Portraits"

"Bad Self Portraits" is the latest album by Boston-based rockers Lake Street Dive.

Describing their sound is something problematic. The All Music Guide describes them as: "... a fascinating blend of influences and complexity: jazz at heart, with an alternative D.I.Y. sensibility and a passion for classic rock and garage aesthetics."

Yep, I'm none the wiser either.

What it boils down to is this: a four piece band, with a soulful lead singer in the form of Rachael Price, whose voice would make Amy Winehouse jealous. A double bass player, which adds to their striking sound, plus a garage rock attack in the rhythm section (at times) tempered with a southern fried groove.

In short, you HAVE to listen to this album. The band are so hard to describe but strikingly easy to listen to. Disparate influences rarely blend so well. From the first track (the title track, and lead single) "Bad Self Portraits" the warm and fuzzies start instantly.

Despite having a feel that could be describes as retro, it's a song with a thoroughly modern topic: the "selfie". The spin on it of course is the selfie after a breakup. However it has a killer hook and a seductive groove that lets you forget the pain of the lyric.

The pacing of the album has a few issues. It starts off right out of the gate with crackers like "Stop Your Crying" but the quality of the songs sags a little towards the end, before finishing off brilliantly with "What About Me" and the slow burning "Rental Love". It's still a great record for almost any occasion. Recommended!


Thursday, 6 March 2014

The MC5

Featured below is one infinitely interesting film chronicling the history of Detroit-based band the MC5.

Springing up during a time of social turbulence in the late 1960s, and reflecting this in their look, their sound and their music, The MC5 were hated by the feds and and the hippies equally. They were huge in the Mid-west, and their gigs were wild, packed out affairs, but their albums sold poorly. They clashed too vividly with the Woodstock/Hippie/Free Love thing.

If only they'd known that their first LP, recorded live on Halloween 1968 at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, was to have such a profound influence on the audience that one of those present would form a band in Sydney that would inspire an entire scene of independent bands all up and down the east coast of Australia less than 10 years later...

This film chronicles the music, the times in which it was written and performed, the bands radical political connections and police harassment the band suffered almost daily. It is truly fascinating and, at times deeply disturbing.

Oh, and the soundtrack will kick your ass. Kick out the jams.