Column: CD Reviews
| Date Published: Wednesday, 3 February 10
| Author: Justin Hook
| 3 years, 3 months ago
Just because your dress sense consists of whacking a baking tray on your arse, a bra made of tulips and a gingerbread house for a hat – doesn’t make you an edgy pop culture icon. Just because you have the attention of the world’s media – doesn’t make you worthwhile. Just because you copied Madonna’s shock and bore media management campaign – doesn’t make you savvy. Just because your songs sound good on the radio – doesn’t mean this is pop.
The Fame Monster looks and sounds like a quickie to capitalise on GaGa’s chart ascendancy and fill a gap in the market. At a swift eight tracks and under 35 minutes it’s tailor made for short attention spans. Bad Romance starts things poorly sinking with sub-Poker Face-sims; probably one of the worst of the album.
Alejandro is her La Isla Bonita moment; as a Madonna rip-off it works just fine. The ass end delivers a couple of dance pop nuggets – but it all feels nastily pedestrian especially for an album nominally about the shallowness of fame. GaGa has spent virtually every minute of her career reminding us she is first and foremost a visual proposition and undoubtedly these songs would get some sort of life on stage. But as it is, The Fame Monster sounds like an excuse to run out a few b-sides and loose tracks and give her a reason to flash her vag to the world. Again. Like she needs a reason.
From the embarrassment of riches on offer, Melbourne’s always adventurous Chapter Music label has selected a couple of the most talked about local groups for the first two instalments in their new EP series, which feature a seven inch single accompanied by a CD of extra tracks. The Twerps present a ragged take on the already none-too-polished Flying Nun blueprint, with former Batrider axeist Julia MacFarlane adding her splintered, highly melodic leads to proceedings. The whole thing drifts along in a haze of shimmering, reverb-heavy guitars and languid vocals, with irresistible pop pearlers Good Advice and Fly Away standing out as particular highlights. Superb.
By contrast, the highly-touted Dick Diver take a more studied, (marginally) more polished approach which isn’t as immediately engaging. The rhythm section - bassist Al Montfort (UV Race/Straightjacket Nation) and drummer Steph Hughs, (ex Children Collide/current Triple J presenter) - is tight, the beats snappy, the guitars are clean and spikey, vocals to the fore, the lyrics brought into focus. As with The Twerps, shafts of The Go-Betweens’ celebrated ‘striped sunlight sound’ filter down on Dick Diver, but there’s also a definite country vein running through Arcs Up. The quality on offer here is sure to drag suburban indie-pop hermits away from their collection of flexi-discs long enough to head down to the local record store for copies of these limited run sevens. You should, too.
Behind the sweet name Adelle lies a mad symphony of vicious rock. This is the second offering from the four-piece band from Queensland and it’s a goodie. The emphasis is definitely on the heavy side but there’s a pleasing variety in the presentation of the various tracks, from fast and jagged in Under the Spotlight to the ballad Spider Fingers. The opening track, a CD highlight, employs a blues approach with a grumbling, slow bass.
At the other end of the scale, the emotional torment of The Informant is emphasised by a guitar that screams like the pulling of finger nails. The powerful and confronting lyrics are frequently enigmatic, leaving much to the listener’s interpretation.
What is certain is that the images employed by Adelle to impart their message read like a stroll along the top shelf of the thriller section of the video shop: mutiny, hostage situations, executions and home invasions. The most shocking image is that of crashing into a wedding procession in They’ve Said Triage.
Clever lyrics appear in Vella Lavella as in “I’ll leave my memoirs in the frost on your windscreen”. In Get the Gak (song titles are often as a big a riddle as the lyrics) the vocal treatment to the chorus has a Beastie Boys quality to it. Adelle is sure to make heads bang with this one.
Friends, take trouble to hear this loveliest of long players. A grand deliverance of aesthetic joy from cover to end stanza, Bonfires on the Heath is the stereo renaissance seeped from the fingers of The Clientele those new (new) romantics from Hampshire.
Musically, each song is a nod to the pop intelligentsia of the last 40 years from Arthur Lee and LOVE right up to Fleet Foxes.
One could say the lyrics are the major achievements upon Bonfires on the Heath and this should be so as it is common knowledge the band hold prose and poetry dear to the idea of the band - all collectively voting earlier on that it was ok to be influenced by Surrealist poetry but not ok to have any shouting or any blues guitar solos; an agreement that has served them well.
The lyrics are all abstract and metaphorical, odes to the common lusting for normality yet dirges that revel in the complete abnormality of the poet’s life and imagination.
Singer Alasdair Maclean does each word every justice with his sweet eerie voice and the rest of the band seem to inhale and exhale the music around it
The Clientele are certainly a band for the poets and Bonfires on the Heath should be enjoyed with a bottle of red wine and a book of Eliot’s best.
Power, the very aptly titled follow up to Oi Oi Oi,heralds a distinct transition in sound for German producer/DJ Boys Noize. His debut effort was brimming with strummy indie-disco and modish techno, a long way from the futuristic bleepy robotica of Power.
Contrast is a wonderful thing though, and this collection of Dalek karaoke really shows off the depth of his ability. After a good listen in the headphones, the first thing you notice about the album is that it really sounds good; each individual track exuding the same fullness and energy.
This makes the whole package feel much more whole rather than just a forced mish-mash of production work. The journey takes us through a myriad of substance, up and down, light and dark, welcoming and dismissive like spending a day as Keith Richards’ other half.
Highlights include the evolving vocoded monster Transmission, the downtempo Nerve and darkly evil Kontact Me.
Fans of ‘that remix of Bloc Party’ may feel a little alienated by Power due to its lurid inaccessibility, but ironically this is also its most endearing quality, a definite middle finger to mainstream club music.
It’s a proud feeling having a local band justifiably take out Album of the Week. Eager eyes awaited this first album after a slew of hypnotising gigs, and unlike your weekend dad - it doesn’t disappoint. Canberra has a great pulse of rusty folk streaming through its veins, one that’s mainly seen in older circles and can sometimes bypass us whippersnappers. Voss triumphantly sound both aged and youthful, pouring some frankly dazzling lyrics into streaks of narrative and crunchy, grubby guitars. It’s highly emotive in sections, without coming off feeling overly forced. The verses are often quite delicate, dusted with violin and some clever harmonies, with heavier sections that come and punch your face off. I’m a bit iffy with comparisons, but I guess they could sit aside The Drones, Magnolia Electric Co. and Dirty Three. For someone with a prosthetic hand, singman Owen Carroll does a tidy job with the words, breathing out spooky post-colonial anthems for the wandering madman. And daaamn, the packaging is tremendous; I would drink its bath water. You can get it from Landspeed or Smiths Bookshop in the city, and good news people – their MySpace says they’re single.
Akin to their studio efforts, Rock Is Dodelijk is a lovely swift, sharp kick to the face. The British band’s usual manic, rapid songs are wrapped in a vigorous energy that will instantly seep through your speakers. Spitting out songs every few minutes or so in his signature nasally deadpan snarl, singer (and sometime British Sea Patrol-er) Eamon Hamilton’s voice may be confronting to newcomers to the band. But ultimately it’s his vocals and sharp tongued humour that lifts Brakes from the hoards of other indie bands with jagged guitar riffs and an ironic stance.
Spread over two concerts, the first half dedicated to a gig in hometown Brighton, the second in Germany, the album loses no stamina over the 20 tracks. Launching with the hysteric Hi How Are You, the first half of the album is splattered with songs from their debut Give Blood. Five second yelping wonder Comma Comma Full Stop marks the end of the first concert, before the band jumps into another live rendition of Hey Hey, a sturdy rock song.
Later songs such as Don’t Take Me To Space (Man) with the candid refrain of “I don’t care that this world’s corrupted/I don’t want to be abducted”, prove that the band haven’t lost their peculiarity, while dipping into a softer side. Finishing with their cover of country staple Jackson, the first live album is a well recorded offering from the fantastic Brakes.