Monday, 16 May 2016

Last Words on...Glenn Frey

Vale Glenn Frey

Eagles songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Glenn Frey passed away on January 18, 2016.

Despite a 14 year absence between their initial breakup in 1980 and their MTV reunion special in 1994, and then sporadic moments in the public eye between then and the release of their first new music since "The Long Run" ("Long Road out of Eden" appeared in 2008) The Eagles were ubiquitous: on radio, on T-shirts, in iconography, in appearances in films and so on.

Familiarity obviously breeds contempt. Because the news coverage and commentary in the wake of Glenn's death was markedly different than it was with David Bowie a week earlier. Almost all of the commentary was glowing for Bowie. The commentary on Glenn Frey was increasingly negative, claiming he was a rather unpleasant individual (and worse).

At the end of the day, it is counterproductive to be negative about him in death, just as it was in life. Sure enough in the "History of the Eagles" documentary, at least during the last half, he painted himself as an arsehole in dealing with his bandmates. We can criticise but nothing is going to change that. He wouldn't have cared what we thought anyway. It is what it is. What is probably better and a more fruitful enterprise is to look at what he managed to achieve.

No matter what we think about the Eagles, a hell of a lot of people like them. Even if you never want to hear "Hotel California" ever again, at least in this country, it broke open commercial radio to independent music (it's funny to think that The Eagles were considered "alternative" for the first couple of album releases!!!). Their albums were masterfully written and recorded, even if the lyrics of "Lyin' Eyes" are lazy and the song drones on for about 3 minutes too long.

Glenn Frey had palpable talent. He is clearly audible as a guest vocalist and guitarist on the early Bob Seger track "Ramblin' Gamblin Man" and on some of the Eagles' early records ("Desperado" especially) his guitar work is stellar.

Ubiquity clouds judgement and can negatively influence taste, but that's not the Eagles fault. You can't blame them for never being away from radio for long. Blame the commercial radio stations. I'm personally glad Glenn gave the world the music he did.

Vale Glenn. He will be missed.

Last Words on...David Bowie

Vale David Bowie

David Bowie left this earth on the 10th January 2016. Yes it's taken me this long to find the words to write in response.

It's hard to process what Bowie's loss means to the world. Or even to me. The music he gave us indelibly soundtracked our lives for so long, and it did so with such potency. It felt like the music's charismatic creator would be around forever.

Never mind the fact that David himself was out of the public eye for a decade before the surprise release of "The Next Day" in 2013. Even with the release of the record, he remained reclusive, rarely making public appearances and making almost no attempts to promote the record. He didn't get a chance to promote his latest record "Blackstar", as his untimely passing occurred two days after the album's release.

Bowie always seemed to be masterfully in control of his music, his image and his career. He changed from one thing to another during the 1970s with effortless ease and grace, always ahead of the curve and defining trends rather than following them. It came as shock to me to read an old quote from the NME dating back to 1984:

"I always thought I was intellectual about what I do, but I’ve come to the realization that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing half the time."

If he didn't know what he was doing then he was constantly trying on new concepts and ideas to see what fits. He was once described by filmmaker Nik Roeg as being "awkward within society". It appears to be that he was possibly changing the outward look to hide the insecurity within. That insecurity drove his restless creativity to go beyond the norms of what should be expected of him.

Watching the "Reality Tour" live DVD again in the wake of his passing, it appears that on this tour he was finally comfortable with himself, in his own skin. He'd finally reconciled what it meant to be David Bowie. It was a glorious sight.

To the every end, with the "Blackstar" album, he challenged the listener, challenging them not to rest on their laurels and the assumptions of what David Bowie could be. He gave us what we now can assume were hints of his impending mortality, but the needle was barely off the record from the first playing of the album before that could fully set in. The news hit the world like a collective kick in the head.

Bowie gave the world so much joy with his fantastic and challenging creativity. He inspired and entertained us for close to 50 years and Earth's loss is Heaven's gain. The music will live with us and I'm personally greatful for his fine works.

Vale David. Your life's work will be remembered long after the pain of your sad passing has faded from our memories.

The Triumphant Return of FACEplant

FACEplant, Grrumble and Shuda: Live at the Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle 14/05/2016

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. And there's nothing like a nostalgia gig to remind yourself how old you've become. Looking around the room at my fellow 1990s gig goers, my how we've aged! But all the beer bellies and receding, greying hairlines are not going to get in the way. The vibe in the room is electric and we're all hoping the main act will lift the roof off of this place.

We're gathered here on something of a red-letter occasion for adolescent Gen X Novocastrian gig goers from the 1990s: when FACEplant, the next big thing to follow Silverchair onto the national stage, make their rumoured resurrection a fact. Stories have been going around for years about this night, and finally, it happened.

The night opened with Shuda, a Central Coast band (they laughingly referred to themselves as "out-of-towners", but near enough). Warming up the crowd and fired up about the impending release of their second record, the crowd took to them and gave them some good attention. Pete Davies, combined larynx and 6-string shredder, is a big bloke with a big voice; the guitar in his hands looked almost miniature by comparison. He gave that thing a guttural rumble that let you know you were alive. He donned a King Parrot shirt for the set. However the band he fronts sounded nothing like the Sydney hardcore outfit. More like Shihad-meets-Iron Maiden. If anything, the first couple of songs sounded a little too deferential to their influences. Over the course of their short set they threw in enough stylistic curve balls to keep us guessing.


Aside from FACEplant getting back together, it was also a showcase for one of their contemporaries of the era, the recently reunited Grrumble. Grrumble made a mean sound out of one Les Paul, bass, vox and drums. While they trod a path with a heavy grunge feel, they always added elements of metal to the mix to create something quite interesting. They were a tight unit back in the day and tonight they proved they still had it. They played a crowd pleasing set, including this writer's personal favourite "Justice". Their 1995 EP has been reissued as was available at the Merch stand. Reviews to come later...


FACEplant (uppercase FACE, thank you) finally hit the stage to the sounds of an electronica and sample-heavy audio experiment. A remix of sorts of what turned out to be the opening song when the band slammed in seamlessly into the first chord. 20 years may have passed between gigs but who'd have known? The hair may be a lot shorter, but the band still had it. Their enthusiasm on stage was almost tangible and the packed house loved them for it. In 1994 the band were playing a melodic surf-grunge but by late 1995 they have turned darker into a drop-tuned, Shihad-esque grind. Tonight's set showed the best of both sides. They gave the crowd plenty to sing along to and quite a few tunes some of us hadn't heard - I'm looking forward to hearing them released in the near future. They played all the tracks from the now-near-impossible to find 1995 EP "Upper Case FACE" and taking a few risks with the arrangement on "Eyes", slowing down the tempo and revving up the drama.

FACEplant have made it clear they want to keep going as of now. If the shows are as good as Saturday night, the future looks bright for them. Now, if only they'd dig through the vault and release the vintage recordings for the fans and get some new tracks on the shelves to further the momentum.

Welcome back, lads...