Tag: Music

MUSIC REVIEW | Regurgitator – Dirty Pop Fantasy (2013)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Never messes around in getting to the point.”

Gurge

When not out and out embracing the poppiest of pop music, the ‘Gurge has always had a knack for hiding catchy pop songs under distorted guitars, dark lyrics and the odd sprinkling of hard core hip hop.  With their latest, Regurgitator tries to have it both ways.  While a lot of Dirty Pop Fantasy sounds like it could be Unit: Part 2, the rest sounds like the more modern day incarnation of Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely, heard on 2011’s SuperHappyFunTimesFrineds and 2007’s Love and Paranoia.

(Review originally posted September , 2013)
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***2013 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | The Bronx – The Bronx IV

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It’s been five years and two albums from side project Mariachi El Bronx since the last album from Then Bronx.  All this time away has seen a new sense of melody make its way into their sound without sacrificing any of the attitude and aggression that made first three albums pack such a punch.


Sticking with the self-titled tradition they started with their debut a decade ago, The Bronx (or IV) opens with The Unholy Hand, a great reintroduction to that familiar Bronx guitar crunch and even more familiar vocal growl of Matt Caughthran.  Five years ago, a track like Past Lives pointed toward the possibility of more melody within the The Bronx sound and now IV delivers.

The influence of five years recording and touring as their mariachi alter egos is clearly seen in a song like Style Over Everything and closer Last Revelation, while Torches and Life Less Ordinary slow down to almost a ballad tempo (and hopefully these are the closest to a ballad this band ever comes).  But none of this is to say they’ve lost any edge.

There’s still plenty Caughthran rage to get the blood pumping, still that almost tribal drumming of Jorma Vik and still the kind of guitar riffage that feels like it could tear right through you if you’re not careful.  After such a long break, this is a more than satisfying return from The Bronx with plenty of what attracted fans in the early days.  But IV show a clear evolution as musicians and song writers that proves they’ve still got plenty to say and plenty of ways to say it.

The Bronx

***2013 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | The Reigning Monarchs – Black Sweater Massacre

Monarchs
When you decide to play ska music, you’re committing yourself to a pretty narrow set of genre rules.  When you decide to start an instrumental ska band, you’re taking away the one aspect that can help most to make your songs sound different from each other, lyrics and vocal melody.  So, with a pretty tough self-imposed challenge, it’s awesome to hear how varied and unique each track is on The Reigning Monarchs new long player, Black Sweater Massacre.

Album opener It Might Be Perfect Right Now could be used in the opening titles of a Leone spaghetti western.  Which is the start of recurring western sound that pops up a couple of times throughout Black Sweater Massacre that I don’t remember being so prominent on their 2009, self-titled debut.  The title track is a mix of Dick Dale surf guitar and text book ska horns, the perfect early album setup for what’s to come.  Because if you’re not already on board after this one, The Reigning Monarchs just aren’t for you.

The eclectic Steakhouse­ somehow mixes blues, surf, rock and hard boiled noir all at once, and never becomes the mess that combination sounds like it should be.  And because this is a ska record, you know there’s gonna be plenty of upbeat fun, with tracks like Thuggery, where ska meets 12 bar blues, and Moto Guzzi, with its jazz guitar and muted trumpet solo sounding like the party at a young, rich playboy’s apartment in the 60s.  Tanya Donnelly is a late album breather, slowed down and chilled out before the album surfs and rocks it’s way home with Blood Red Metaflake.

As an album, Black Sweater Massacre sounds like the soundtrack to a really cool movie that I wish existed.  The Reigning Monarchs have a pretty simple philosophy; Surf, punk, reggae, ska. And when it’s as fun and as cool as Black Sweater Massacre, there’s no reason to make things any more complicated than that.

The Reining Monarchs

***2013 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Regurgitator – Dirty Pop Fantasy

Gurge

When not out and out embracing the poppiest of pop music, the ‘Gurge has always had a knack for hiding catchy pop songs under distorted guitars, dark lyrics and the odd sprinkling of hard core hip hop.  With their latest, Regurgitator tries to have it both ways.  While a lot of Dirty Pop Fantasy sounds like it could be Unit: Part 2, the rest sounds like the more modern day incarnation of Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely, heard on 2011’s SuperHappyFunTimesFrineds and 2007’s Love and Paranoia.


READ FULL REVIEW

***2013 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Neko CaseIt could be a conscious desire to eventually tackle every style and genre music has to offer.  It could just be a short attention span.  Or maybe it’s a gold fish attention span.  Whatever it is, Neko Case seems determined to never be pinned down.  From country, to pop to alt super group The New Pornographers, Case has proven herself up for any musical challenge thrown her way.  And she tackles more than one with The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.



READ FULL REVIEW

***2013 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants – All Hat and No Cattle

chris_shiflett_and_the_dead_peasants_all_hat_and_no_cattle

From time with punk rock stayers No Use for a Name, to sold out arenas all over the world with Foo Fighters, to punk super group / cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Chris Shiflett is obviously a man passionate about his music, who will take any outlet on offer.  And when you’re in a band as big as Foo Fighters, those outlets are probably a little more numerous than for your average journeyman guitarist.  But make no mistake, Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants is no vanity project.


READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | Future of the Left – How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident (2013)

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When I stumbled across the video for Future of the Left’s Sheena is a T-shirt Salesman, I watched it two or three times a day for weeks.  Now, close to two years later, I still watch it pretty regularly.  It has a kind of anti mainstream, punk attitude I hadn’t heard or seen for a long time.  And it turns out, that song might be one of the poppiest, and most mainstream songs they’ve ever written.  With How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident, Future of the Left are much more interested in noise, weird time signatures and throwing you curve balls every time you think you’ve got them figured out.

Just when you get in the groove of disjointed rhythms, screamed vocals and machine gun guitar, you get The Male Gaze, all jangling guitars and sweet “ooh ooh” backing vocals.   Singing of the Bonesaws combines the spoken word of a proper, reserved English gent over a thundering bass line and sparse guitars, with typically cynical Future of the Left lyrics like, “A survey says paedophiles run the BBC, but look at the alternatives”.

French Lessons has a disarmingly quiet and sweet sound, but I won’t even try to interpret what the lyrics are saying when Andrew Falkous sings about, “I’m reading you like a pamphlet, that I picked from an idiot, on a unicycle in a town square”.  Some things are best left not understood.  His snarky sarcasm is a little more literal on How to Spot a Record Company when he declares, “Gotta obey, gotta obey, gotta obey the media”.

Rarely do Falkous’ lyrics fit nicely into rhyming couplets or a neat four bar structure.  Instead, it’s more like he’s written a series of essays about everything wrong with the world, then found a way to force them into music.  Future of the Left and How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident are sometimes aggressively messy, sometimes forceful and confronting, sometimes surprisingly musical, always impossible to ignore.

Future of the Left

MUSIC REVIEW | Spiderbait – Spiderbait (2013)

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It’s been almost a decade since Spiderbait released an album of all original material.  And the fact that they decided to self-title this comeback makes me think Spiderbait the band sees Spiderbait the album as a line in the sand, a clean start to a new era.

A key part of Spiderbait’s sound has always been Kram’s tendency to never settle for hitting the snare once if there’s any chance to belt it half a dozen times in any given bar.  And it’s that attitude that makes sure you know this is a Spiderbait album the instant the drums kick off opening track, Straight Through the Sun.

First single, It’s Beautiful is all about signature Janet English sugar sweet vocals, daring the guitars and drums to drown her out.  But these familiar Spiderbait sounds don’t mean this is a band relying on formulas that worked in the past.

Supersonic starts with acoustic guitars before moving into dreamy synths.  This certainly isn’t the Spiderbait of 1996.  And as much as a part of me would love nothing more than for them to release sound-alikes of Spanish Galleon and Ivy and the Big Apples for the rest of their lives and mine, it’s impressive to see them so willing to try different things more than 20 years into their career as band.

As much as I like the experimentation, I also appreciate the familiarity of a simple, stripped back, lo-fi tracks like Where’s the Baseline or What You Get, that could both have easily found a place on an early record like Sha-Shavaglava.

The leg stretching continues with I’m Not Your Slave, a dirty, sludgy guitar sound that I’ve never heard Whitt play before, with surprisingly effective falsetto vocals from Kram.  Then things get a little more comfortable again with The Sun Will Come Shining, almost like a sequel to Calypso in its optimistic, good time vibe.

I know a lot of my love for Spiderbait in 2013 is cemented in nostalgia for my teenage years in the 90s, but what I like most about Spiderbait the album are all the chances it takes, the experimentation, the deliberate steps away from what grabbed me when I as 15.

Plenty of bands from that era, many of them Spiderbait’s Australian contemporaries, have decided to get back together for cash grab tours in recent years years, I’ve been to more than few of those shows and really enjoyed myself.  But hearing Kram, Janet and Whitt refuse to cash in on old times and really strive for something new makes me realise how much I’ve wanted this, without ever actually knowing it.

Spiderbait

MUSIC REVIEW | Big Star – #1 Record (1972)

1-Record
For years, Big Star has been one of those names that pops up constantly in articles I’ve read where bands I Iike reference then as an influence.  Or musical journalists can’t wait to include them in some ‘best of all time’ list.  But that’s where my knowledge stops.  They didn’t have a single huge hit song I knew, I can’t name any members who made their way into other bands I know of, and I didn’t even know what kind of music they played.   So I thought it was time I got on board with what seems to be their most well regarded album, the appropriately named #1 Record.

Opening track Feel starts with a Wilco style country jangle intro, then rips into some Zeppelin infused vocals, before a Crowded-House-Mean-to-Me-esque horn section kicks in.  I know two out of three of those comparisons came after Big Star, but they’re only way I can describe the eclecticness of this song.

The Ballad of El Goodo is the kind of sound I generally expect from the early 70s.  A little hippy, nice harmonies, flanged out electric guitars, finger picked acoustic guitars, and a driving, but not heavy groove.  Then comes In the Street, or as I’ve known it until now, the song form the opening titles of That 70s Show.  But this is much more confident, cooler, alt-country (complete with cowbell) version than the faux hard rock version used on the TV show.

For me, the standout of #1 Record is Don’t Lie to Me, awesome 70s rock, falsetto harmonies complete with psychedelic breakdown.  After that, the second half of the album settles into dreamy, mesmerising succession of one laid back acoustic contemplation after another, with tracks like Watch the Sunrise, My Life is Right and Give Me Another Chance.

After finally listening to Big Star, I get it.  I know why their name keeps popping up and why it’s talked about in such glowing terms.  Like everything by The Band, #1 Record offers songs written and played by real musicians who bring an extra layer of authenticity to every track.

Big Star

MUSIC REVIEW | The Reigning Monarchs – Black Sweater Massacre (2013)

Monarchs
When you decide to play ska music, you’re committing yourself to a pretty narrow set of genre rules.  When you decide to start an instrumental ska band, you’re taking away the one aspect that can help most to make your songs sound different from each other, lyrics and vocal melody.  So, with a pretty tough self-imposed challenge, it’s awesome to hear how varied and unique each track is on The Reigning Monarchs new long player, Black Sweater Massacre.

Album opener It Might Be Perfect Right Now could be used in the opening titles of a Leone spaghetti western.  Which is the start of recurring western sound that pops up a couple of times throughout Black Sweater Massacre that I don’t remember being so prominent on their 2009, self-titled debut.  The title track is a mix of Dick Dale surf guitar and text book ska horns, the perfect early album setup for what’s to come.  Because if you’re not already on board after this one, The Reigning Monarchs just aren’t for you.

The eclectic Steakhouse­ somehow mixes blues, surf, rock and hard boiled noir all at once, and never becomes the mess that combination sounds like it should be.  And because this is a ska record, you know there’s gonna be plenty of upbeat fun, with tracks like Thuggery, where ska meets 12 bar blues, and Moto Guzzi, with its jazz guitar and muted trumpet solo sounding like the party at a young, rich playboy’s apartment in the 60s.  Tanya Donnelly is a late album breather, slowed down and chilled out before the album surfs and rocks it’s way home with Blood Red Metaflake.

As an album, Black Sweater Massacre sounds like the soundtrack to a really cool movie that I wish existed.  The Reigning Monarchs have a pretty simple philosophy; Surf, punk, reggae, ska. And when it’s as fun and as cool as Black Sweater Massacre, there’s no reason to make things any more complicated than that.

The Reining Monarchs
Listen to Black Sweater Massacre on Spotify

MUSIC REVIEW | Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals (2013)

Sleigh Bells
With a combination of bratty rap, sweet melodies and balls out, grrrrl aggression, the vocals of Alexis Krauss are disarmingly cute, with an almost siren quality.  You know you’re being lured in for the kill, but you also know it’s totally worth it.  Derek Edward Miller’s guitars still offer plenty of fuzzed out, speaker killing crunch, with a new edge of polished pop that really works.

READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | The Bronx – The Bronx IV (2013)

Bronx_IV_rgb_1500x1500-800x800
It’s been five years and two albums from side project Mariachi El Bronx since the last album from Then Bronx.  All this time away has seen a new sense of melody make its way into their sound without sacrificing any of the attitude and aggression that made first three albums pack such a punch.


Sticking with the self-titled tradition they started with their debut a decade ago, The Bronx (or IV) opens with The Unholy Hand, a great reintroduction to that familiar Bronx guitar crunch and even more familiar vocal growl of Matt Caughthran.  Five years ago, a track like Past Lives pointed toward the possibility of more melody within the The Bronx sound and now IV delivers.

The influence of five years recording and touring as their mariachi alter egos is clearly seen in a song like Style Over Everything and closer Last Revelation, while Torches and Life Less Ordinary slow down to almost a ballad tempo (and hopefully these are the closest to a ballad this band ever comes).  But none of this is to say they’ve lost any edge.

There’s still plenty Caughthran rage to get the blood pumping, still that almost tribal drumming of Jorma Vik and still the kind of guitar riffage that feels like it could tear right through you if you’re not careful.  After such a long break, this is a more than satisfying return from The Bronx with plenty of what attracted fans in the early days.  But IV show a clear evolution as musicians and song writers that proves they’ve still got plenty to say and plenty of ways to say it.

MUSIC REVIEW | Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (2013)

Neko CaseIt could be a conscious desire to eventually tackle every style and genre music has to offer.  It could just be a short attention span.  Or maybe it’s a gold fish attention span.  Whatever it is, Neko Case seems determined to never be pinned down.  From country, to pop to alt super group The New Pornographers, Case has proven herself up for any musical challenge thrown her way.  And she tackles more than one with The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.


READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | Regurgitator – Dirty Pop Fantasy (2013)

Gurge

When not out and out embracing the poppiest of pop music, the ‘Gurge has always had a knack for hiding catchy pop songs under distorted guitars, dark lyrics and the odd sprinkling of hard core hip hop.  With their latest, Regurgitator tries to have it both ways.  While a lot of Dirty Pop Fantasy sounds like it could be Unit: Part 2, the rest sounds like the more modern day incarnation of Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely, heard on 2011’s SuperHappyFunTimesFrineds and 2007’s Love and Paranoia.


READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | Pet Shop Boys – Electric (2013)

pet_shop_boys_electric_0713_2

The Pet Shop Boys have a lot to answer for.  Their 80s chart topping hits can take a lot of the credit for bringing electronic music into the mainstream.  And while that revolutionary sound stopped being evolutionary very soon after, there’s a lot to be said for a band who recognises their strengths and works to them.  Electric is the Pet Shop Boys embracing the new, while building on the old at the same time.  Neil Tennant has one of the most unique and recognisable voices in pop, and it’s that unique recognisability that gives the Pet Shop Boys a sense of sameness, both good and bad.


READ FULL REVIEW

MUSIC REVIEW | Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants – All Hat and No Cattle (2013)

chris_shiflett_and_the_dead_peasants_all_hat_and_no_cattle

From time with punk rock stayers No Use for a Name, to sold out arenas all over the world with Foo Fighters, to punk super group / cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Chris Shiflett is obviously a man passionate about his music, who will take any outlet on offer.  And when you’re in a band as big as Foo Fighters, those outlets are probably a little more numerous than for your average journeyman guitarist.  But make no mistake, Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants is no vanity project.


READ FULL REVIEW