Category Archives: Features


Could the conservative walls of country music culture be breaking down?


For the longest time, country music and its community has been viewed as overtly conservative in its views towards sexuality and gender – and in many ways it still is. When you look at the major stars of today – the Luke Bryans, the Florida-Georgia Lines, the Blake Sheltons – the dominant image of country stars continues to be the straight, white, women-loving man. And that’s a status that seems to have been further cemented by the popularity of the “bro country” sub-genre that currently dominates the airwaves – known for its worship of barbecues and beach parties, and even more so for its celebration of women in bikinis and Daisy Dukes.

However, with the changing nature and opinions of society towards the LGBT community, so too appears to be a change in conversation in the country music culture, as alternate views, opinions and identities continue to gain greater traction and recognition.

This has become particularly more evident overnight with the announcement that not one but two male stars in the US have come out as gay.

Ty Herndon, who has had 17 Billboard hits over the last 20 years, announced in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that he was “an out, proud, and happy gay man.”

“I’ve been dreaming about being in country music since I was six years old and it’s my life, it’s what I do, it’s who I am and I went to great lengths to cover up that fact to be a country star,” Herndon said.

Inspired by Herndon’s announcement, former child star, Billy Gilman also came out as gay, revealing his sexuality in an emotional Youtube message to his fans.

“It’s difficult for me to make this video, not because I’m ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it’s pretty silly to know that I’m ashamed of doing this knowing that because I’m in an genre and in an industry that is ashamed of me for being me,” Gilman said.

However Gilman, who had a massive hit in the year 2000 as an 11-year-old with the song ‘One Voice,’ also added that people he was friends with in the industry already knew about his sexuality and had been extremely supportive.

“I want to say that all of the artists I literally grew up in front of – Keith Urban and Vince and Leann Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive.”

Of course they are far from the first country artists to identify themselves as gay – ‘Single White Female’ singer Chely Wright came out in 2010, while Australia’s own Beccy Cole revealed she was gay in a special about her life on the ABC’s Australian Story in 2012.

Singer-songwriter, Steve Grand, also caused a stir last year when his ‘All-American Boy’ video went viral with over 3 million views, achieving him widespread acclaim for being the first openly gay male country artist to write a song about a male love interest.

There’s also been a fictional exploration of homosexuality in the major country music scene in the hit TV series Nashville, with one of the lead characters, Will Lexington, being an in-the-closet gay country star.

And maybe biggest of all has been megastar, Garth Brooks’ return to the mainstream scene. Brooks, a long-time, vocal supporter for the LGBT community, released his first new album in a decade, Man Against Machine, with the first song released from the record, ‘People Loving People,’ calling for universal acceptance of love in the face of evil:

“All the colors and the cultures circle ’round us on a spindle

It’s a complicated riddle, the solution is so simple…

It’s people loving people”

The song follows in the same vain as his 1993 hit ‘We Shall Be Free,’ that featured the lyrics “Cause we shall be free / When we’re free to love anyone we choose,” and thus became a LGBT anthem, leading to Brooks being awarded a GLAAD Media Award. His re-entry into the business could become a major contributing factor in a shift away from bro country and its typically sexist ideals.

Even Kenny Chesney, whose celebration of beach culture many have associated with the rise of the bro scene, opened up in an interview earlier this week that he wants the role of women in country music to change from the way they are portrayed in videos and by “bro country” artists.

Do all these elements signal vast and sweeping change? No. Herndon and Gilman are admittedly fringe figures of the scene, and their coming out will unlikely have a major impact on the culture as a whole. But it does seem to indicate that some serious changes could be on the horizon for the industry and its dealings with sexuality and gender – particularly with the support of the likes of Brooks and Chesney.

What is safe to say, however, is that just like what the sporting world has seen with the likes of Michael Sam and Jason Collins recently coming out, a major country music figure will eventually identify themself as gay. Until then though, it’s great to see Herndon and Gilman have finally found the courage to share their story and hopefully help to usher in change and broader acceptance in the country music community in the future.

Originally published on

10 songs we never need to hear covered again


Some songs transcend being merely songs.

Often referred to as “anthems” or “classics” they’re the tunes you know all the words to without ever having sat down and read the lyrics. Songs that you never need to look at the screen for at karaoke. Songs that seem like they were never written and always just existed.

They’re also songs that are covered over and over again incessantly until the point that you almost can’t stand to hear them ever again.

Whether it’s being belted out by a contestant on The Voice, fumbled by the terrible acoustic duo at the pub, or croaked by that one douche bag that seems to make an appearance at every house party with his guitar – these songs always manage to find their way into bad musicians repertoire, with each performance rendering them more and more unbearable.

Here is our definitive list of songs that we never need to hear another cover of for the rest of our lives.

1. ‘Hallelujah’

Leonard Cohen wrote it. Jeff Buckley made it immortal. Rufus Wainwright made us smile to it during Shrek. Even K.D. Lang did aterrific job with it. But that should be it – let it rest. ‘Hallelujah’ has been done to death by every singing contest show and every bloke that can barely play guitar trying to show his new girlfriend his sensitive side. If you or your terrible band play a cover of ‘Hallelujah,’ you don’t really care for music, do you?

2. ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’

It’s a famous tale – Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis kills himself; rest of the band start New Order; no-one gives them a chance; they write ‘Blue Monday’ and become superstars. And although we’re just as sick of hearing ‘Blue Monday’ as ‘Bizarre Love Triangle,’ it’s the latter that seems to get the most acoustic guitar treatment. That’s mostly the responsibility of Australia’s own Frente!, who did a stunning job of covering the song in the early ’90s. But much like Frente!, this song should largely disappear from public.

3. ‘Yesterday’

You just shouldn’t play The Beatles. Full bloody stop. You’re never going to beat the original and especially not ‘Yesterday.’ Paul McCartney allegedly wrote the song in a dream – that’s how amazing it is, it’s not even of the conscious world! If you think you have a terrific cover of ‘Yesterday’ in your catalogue, put down your guitar, go outside, catch a bus to the nearest ocean, and start swimming towards the closest country that’s never heard ‘Yesterday’ (Spoiler alert: there isn’t one).

4. ‘Never Tear Us Apart’

Even people that don’t like INXS love this song. It’s easily their best material, and unfortunately that’s lent itself to be covered 4,036 times this year alone. It’s a beautiful love song, full of heart, emotion, tear-jerking lyrics and one helluva sax solo. Except when you play it. Then it’s shit.

5. ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’

This song gets covered so much it makes Bon Scott spin in his grave – and he didn’t even sing it. You may have shook me all night long, but we want to shake you until you shut up!

Also, whoever let this happen should be shot into space.

6. ‘Blister In The Sun’

Just like the SEGA Master System 2 with Alex Kidd built in, all acoustic guitars come with the pre-packaged ability to play ‘Blister In The Sun.’ The Violent Femmes’ biggest hit is also their most mind-numbing , over-played nonsense. “Body beats, I stained my sheets, I don’t even know why.” What?

That being said, how awesome is it in Grosse Pointe Blank? Love that movie.

7. ‘Imagine’

Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s not hard when you hear a cover of ‘Imagine.’ For a song that has more importance than arguably any other ever written, it sure does get banged out a lot by people who’ve never had a complex thought in their life. Eddie Vedder – the God of rock himself – only just covered this song recently because he didn’t feel he had a moment powerful enough to play it. It took him getting criticised for criticising war to wheel it out. Criticising war!

8. ‘I Will Always Love You’

If you were alive during the ’90s then you have this one permanently tattooed on your brain. That’s not a figure of speech – if you died and had to have an autopsy right now, they’d crack your head open and find “And ayyyyyyy, eeeeeee ayyyyyyyy, wiiiiiilllll alllllll…” inked right into your grey matter. It’s a song we never have to hear again because it’s already playing in our eardrum somewhere still. We wonder if Dolly Parton knew she was creating such a monster when she wrote this hit. We also suspect she, nor her bank account, really care.

9. ‘Black Betty’

White rock bands covering ‘Black Betty’ is about as original as white rock bands covering ‘Black Betty.’ No doubt Lead Belly would have liked a slice of the dough everyone’s made off the song he made famous since. It’s a good thing he passed away in 1949, otherwise he might have ended upstabbing someone for stealing his song.

10. ‘Wonderwall’

If you need us to point out that this song has been over-played and over-covered, watch this interview where Noel Gallagher describes just how much money he’s made off it. You may need a sick bucket.

Originally published on

The same comments made by all music trolls


Internet trolls are arguably the worst people in existence.

Whether they’re ruining a thread on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or the comments section of a website, their horrible contributions have become the plight of all those that attempt to use the internet for interesting and engaging conversation.

They’re essentially appendixes. Ninety per cent of the time they just sit there, contributing nothing to the body. But when they do decide to get active, the best they can do is explode with poisonous secretions that threaten the existence of everything around them.

Music trolls, in particular, are a horrific form of social disease.

They assume (incorrectly) that their taste in music is vastly superior to all those around them, and like a toddler with a bucket of paint, inflict mass and widespread damage and despair without giving it a second thought – wiping their unwanted opinions all over the place, like avocado coloured Dulux on a pristine, white, shag rug.

So today we’re attempting to perform a sort of troll-ectomy by naming and shaming some of the most frequent, least creative, and most rage-inducing commentors that regularly appear on music posts and articles online, with the hope of scrubbing out some of this scourge – or at the very least, make these bottom feeders think twice before they fling their unwanted secretions around.

1. The “Who cares?” guy

Actually, probably quite a lot of people care, that’s why the article/news story/song/video was posted in the first place. Just because you can’t find it in your iTunes or Youtube playlist or record collection, doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t. You’re not interested? That’s okay. But if you’re not interested, why go to the effort of making a comment? Or maybe you secretly are interested. Maybe you are so interested that you need to try and throw people off the scent of how interested you are, so as not to be embarrassed by your obsessive, border line psychotic interest? Did you ever think about that, man?! FREAK OUT!


2. The “Music was better in my day!” guy

Nostalgia is a strong and compelling force when it comes to appreciating music. It doesn’t, however, justify your argument that music was better in a certain decade. People that insist on the fact that the ’80s was the greatest musical decade of all time, for example, are clearly mentally insane. That reads like a slight overstatement, but to people who grew up in other decades, it rings very true. The music from the ’60s, ‘70s, ’90s, ’2000s and yes, even the ’80s, was great – and a lot of it was terrible. Was it better than any other one decade – no. It simply reflects the time and culture that you grew up in/identify most with. Dub step sounds like jamming your head into a fax machine for a lot of people, but some kids today will hail Skrillex as their Beatles. Sad, but true.


3. The “Whoever wrote this has no idea what they’re talking about and their opinion is completely wrong” guy

An opinion can’t be “wrong”. It’s an opinion. You may not agree with it, but it’s still an opinion. Also, people that get paid to have an opinion on music get paid for a reason – because they either have a valued judgement of music, or they’re eloquent and considerate in their expression of why they do/don’t like music. Either way, an opinion is like a butt hole – everyone’s got one, some people are just lucky enough to get paid to show theirs’ off.


4. The “They’ve been making the same record for 30 years” guy

They’ve probably been selling a shit load of records for 30 years too – and you probably own more than half. Bands like AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers – they landed on a formula, and you know what, it’s theirformula. Michael Clarke doesn’t smack a century one day, change hands, and then assume he’s going to smack a century the next. Sometimes you stick with what you’re good at and that’s successful for you. That’s what inspired you to enter into the lucartive world of aquarium building, right? Maybe their fans find something more enjoyable and relatable in every new record? Maybe they’re honing their sound over the years? All we know is that if someone was going to pay us a ton of cash to record and perform music based on a sound that we created decades ago when we were teenagers, it would be pretty hard to say no.

5. The “I like their old stuff better” guy

Such a cliché that Regurgitator turned it into a song, and then emulated it with their career. We get it. Most people’s earlier stuff is better. Doesn’t mean it’s always true though, does it Mr Cash? ^

6. Nickelback defenders

This is very similar to the argument over climate change. Those that deny that the Canadian cliff rockers are the biggest threat to the planet are simply wrong, while the rest of us are Al Gore banging our heads against a wall.*


7. The “Who programs this stuff?” guy

One we get all the time at MAX. The process for how we come up with our lists is actually quite complicated. A team of 7,000 programmers are funnelled into an aeroplane hanger and given piles and piles of spreadsheets covered with the names of every song ever written. These programmers collate information based off of the release date, sales figures, chart placement, and continuing popularity of songs and then determine and divide the lists of songs into two playlists. Then, we sticky tape each list on the back of a sumo wrestler, let them throw down, and whoever reigns supreme is the list we go with.


Obviously that’s bullshit. But we do have a small team of programmers whose job it is to pick out songs and shows for us to play 24 hours a day. No, we don’t have sumos battle it out, nor do we push ‘Enter’ and have a computer algorithm come up with perfect lists. Just a couple of programmers filling out days and days of countdowns and specials. Do we occasionally let a two hit wonder slip into the One Hit Wonders countdown? Barely. What you call a “second hit” the majority of music fans don’t remember anyway. You can save that info for the next time you’re the crown participant on RocKwiz. But the fact that we make 24 hours of music tv, seven days a week is pretty bloody impressive, if we say so ourselves.


8. The “This just sounds like (insert name here)” guy

Seriously?! No shit! One musician sounds like another – what are the odds? Bloody high actually. When you look at the breakdown of popular music, it pretty much runs in cycles – as versions or hybrids of previous versions overtake each other in popularity. Rock and roll grew from the blues. Punk rock grew from rock and roll. Grunge grew from punk, etc, etc. The lineage of almost every form of music can be traced back to one premium account on So yes, it probably does sound like something you’ve heard before. Try listening to this updated version, or the old one – just don’t leave your useless comment.


9. The “Play more (insert artist un-related to the topic of conversation)” guy

As much as pro music comments made with enthusiasm are warranted and encouraged, there’s a time and a place. For instance, after preparing a lengthy and in-depth analysis of the influence of Cold Chisel’s song writing on the Australian musical landscape – posting it – and then having the first comment be, “Play the new video by Altiyan Childs,” essentially feels like finishing washing your car and then having a pelican spray bird diarrhoea on it. If we were going to play the Altiyan Childs video (which we will never do), then we would have played it already.

^ Yes, this is a NIN cover – but what a cover! Perfectly articulates the worth of older artists.

* We’re fully aware that this counters several arguments on this list. But this point, like people’s love of Nickelback, is beyond reason.

Originally published on

Bruce Springsteen is not equipped for the apocalypse


There are a lot of things Bruce Springsteen does well.

Playing three-hour concerts.

Reminding us that there’s a lot of hard-working people out there doing it tough.


But from what we can gather from his latest short film/video ‘Hunter Of Invisible Game’, Bruce Springsteen is not equipped for the apocalypse.

The film follows The Boss as he roams through the wilderness and dilapidated buildings in theaftermath of some horrible disaster that’s wiped out civilisation and left Earth looking like a giant Rivers commercial.


From the outset, it’s clear he doesn’t quite have his priorities straight. Rather than collecting food or water, The Boss has instead opted to salvageas many vintage items as possible, hoping that once civilisation makes a comeback, he can resurrect Urban Outfitters.




Bruce remembers images of his late family, and tries to forget the gruesomeness of when he was forced to eat the entire E Street Band.


Despite his emotional torment, he battles on, and survives heart-racing confrontations with deadly piles of sticks.


And whatever it was that just made that sound in the dark.


We all know that surviving the great stick/night invasion of 2016 led to a vast shortage of bath time, so when our hero finally comes across a stream and gets to clean-up, there’s only time for shirts off, Levis on.



For anyone with even basic survival skills, they know that 90% of post-apocalypse deaths are caused by getting denim wet. Chafe is almost always terminal, even for 64-year-old rock gods with washboard abs. He succumbs to the damp, but is eventually rescued by one of his younger fans.


The boy takes Bruce back to meet with his people, who like anyone that gets to meet their favourite rockstar, celebrate the occasion by ordering a round of shots and forcing him to drink. Bruce, always a man of the people, obliges their hospitality.


It’s here we see The Boss make yet another fatal mistake, deciding rather than party on with his new found group of bros, he’d rather saddle up his faithful steed and suit up his $4,000 leather bomber jacket and take off solo, ignoring the old adage of safety in numbers. He throws the boy his cane, in a symbolic gesture of giving up.


Finally, he rides off into the sunset/certain death.


Watch the whole, sad tale over at Springsteen’s website,

Or you can remember when Bruce Springsteen film clips were just him playing live and were totally awesome by watching ‘The River’ below:

Originally published on

15 Must-hear Kings of Leon songs


In just over a decade, Kings of Leon have crafted a rock career that will likely land them in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

From indie club rockers to stadium mega stars, they’ve evolved as musicians, performers and artists in a way that few bands have ever achieved or could ever dream of replicating.

From incredibly humble beginnings in America’s deep south, they’ve transcended modern music internationally, reuniting rock and country with their own signature style and re-popularising traditional instrumentation amongst audiences saturated with synthetic and electronic bullshit that is usually passed as “music” in the modern era.

This Monday the band will perform a special show on Sydney Harbour in conjunction with our sister channel Channel [V], Triple M and Sony Music – an event that will be a landmark event for both parties – so to celebrate the occasion, we pieced together our favourite 15 Kings Of Leon hits.

Here’s hoping they play them all Monday!

Molly’s Chambers

The song that announced the arrival of indie rock’s band of Tennessee brothers (and cousin), ‘Molly’s Chambers’ arrived in the golden resurgence of rock music in the early 2000s, led by The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Vines. Their southern drawl, pulsating licks and a blistering chorus sent girls swooning and boys to the mirror to focus on growing their moustaches.


Red Morning Light 

This is Kings of Leon at their rollicking, drinking, smoking, arse-kicking best. A balls and all rock song that pulls up just under three minutes, leaving you breathless, sweaty and fully satisfied.


Trani (Live at T In The Park) 

The band finished their live sets with this song for a long time and with good reason. It builds to an awesome, throat-shredding finale that was the perfect crescendo for Caleb to slam his microphone to the ground and walk off stage for one of the most bad-ass exits in rock music (you can kind of catch a glimpse of him doing the mic throw in this vid).


King Of The Rodeo

It’s never easy to follow up a smash debut album, unless you’re Kings Of Leon and you surpass it. Many still hold Aha Shake Heartbreak up as the band’s greatest record and with songs like this, it’s easy to understand why.


Taper Jean Girl (Live On Letterman) 

This song really highlights the true dynamics of the band. From Caleb’s distinctive, unique vocals, Jared’s grooving bass lines, Matthew’s explosive solos and Nathan’s metronome beats, there have been few bands as in sync as KoL. Might have to do with something with the shared DNA.


The Bucket 

As intricate the timing on their songs, so much of the Kings’ appeal is the breathless simplicity of their songs. It’s like they take the barest bones of country and rock and make the perfect cocktail using just the right ingredients. ‘The Bucket’ shows that you don’t need a million guitar peddles, synths, mega drum kits, or falsetto to craft a perfect rock song.


On Call 

The band’s third record posed somewhat of a surprise for fans, as they began to shift towards a much larger, stadium rock sound. From the synthetic opening notes of ‘On Call’ we knew that they were aiming for something huge. Reverbed vocals, gigantic guitar lines and thundering drums and bass signalled their diversion onto a path that would make them one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.



One of the groups heaviest songs, it pulses with an intencity not felt on many other KoL songs. There’s really not a lot to this song but there doesn’t need to be. It just rocks.


Fans (Live) 

If there ever were an unfairly and often overlooked song in the KoL catalogue, it’s probably ‘Fans’. It’s easily one of the most fun, most rollicking, let’s-have-a-few-beers-and-hit-the-dance-floor vibes of any of their material to date.


Sex On Fire 

Doesn’t need a write up.


Use Somebody 

Probably piggy backed on the success of ‘Sex On Fire’ to be their second most successful single in Australia, but is still a great song in its own right.



It would be unrealistic to expect the band to follow up an album like Only By The Night that would be as successful as its predecessor, and Come Around Sundown largely went under the radar for many of the new fans the band had won over two years earlier. But the record still contained some absolute pearlers, including ‘Pyro’, which fed off the the same slow-burner vibes as ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Sex On Fire’.



Where we hailed the band’s simplicity earlier, ‘Radioactive’ is a great example of how KoL can utilise the complex too. With fiddly guitar lines, warping basslines and tornado drumming, the song highlights how the boys had evolved as musicians over the previous decade of non-stop playing to be true masters of their craft.


Back Down South 

The Kings Of Leon ties to their southern upbringing has always been undeniable. Their music is as much influenced by country and gospel as it is by rock, and ‘Back Down South’ is somewhat of a love song to their heritage and the music that helped them write their own signature.


Super Soaker 

When ‘Super Soaker’ dropped many fans and critics said it was a sonic move back to the rough and ready roots that made us fall in love all those years ago, and it’s hard to deny the song has that let’s-get-drunk-and-smoke-and-party shivers generated by their earlier music.


Originally published on

What a beautiful dream


For some of you, you’ve been waiting since 1998 for this day. For others it may have only been a couple of years; even just a couple of months. Either way, a lot of us have been waiting. And with good reason.

When Neutral Milk Hotel dissolved in 1999, they were one of the last true cult bands. They’d released two albums, only one of which gained minor traction. The Internet wasn’t yet in full flight, so unless Triple J played it (they didn’t) or your local Sanity stocked it (they didn’t) it was unlikely you would have heard of them. Not only that, but they played a style of music that had not yet been mimicked or popularised by the next generation of artists — so much of whom pointed us in the NMH direction — so we may not have even loved them, if we had heard them.

But whenever we did finally track down a copy of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea sometime in the last 15 years, from the opening buzzy guitar chords of King Of Carrot Flowers Pt 1, that beautiful piece of art instantly pitched a quaint, slightly off-kilter tent in the middle of our hearts, where it’s remained, unmoved, ever since.

When whispers started a few years ago that Jeff Mangum had finally come to terms with his legacy and was out performing NMH songs again, it was kind of like finding out Santa Claus was real, after years of dismissing it as bullshit. But those whispers turned into conversations and those conversations turned into excited celebrations, until finally, we find ourselves here today, about to experience Neutral Milk Hotel in Sydney for the very first time.

It’s unnerving to imagine what Mangum’s warbling, awkward notes will sound like weaving their way through the rafters of the Enmore Theatre tonight, after all we’re so used to years of hearing it via speakers or headphones. What is thrilling, however, is the thought that those notes will collide mid-air with a thousand mirrored responses, as a theatre full of Sydney-siders, like in theatres and festivals around the world, will sing those stunningly strange words back at Mangum uncontrollably, with joyous tears burning their eyes and smiles torn across their faces.

So, in celebration of Neutral Milk Day in Sydney, we take a moment to remember and reflect on why this band means so much to us and our collective, music-loving being. See/hug you tonight.


Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Remembering Elliot Smith: A Mixtape


It would have been Elliott Smith’s 44th birthday today.

Ten years ago, the singer-songwriter’s life ended in a way that resembled both the cold cruelty and warm romanticism often displayed in his music, with a knife right to the heart.

I remember the wet October morning I first heard of his death. I was getting ready for school when a Triple J newsreader made the announcement. Smith had been one of my favourite musicians throughout my teens and as those words, “Singer Elliott Smith has died from a suspected suicide,” rang from my bedside radio I was shocked, heartbroken, and most depressingly of all, not entirely surprised.


There was such melancholy entwined in Smith’s music that his death seemed inevitable. He’d struggled with addiction for years; a battle that he fought as much privately in rehab, as he had publicly in the lyrics of his songs. These addictions took a toll on many of his final performances between 2000-2002, with shows being spoiled by forgotten lyrics or mixed-up arrangements and even alleged episodes of him falling asleep mid-song. One reviewer at the time went as far as to say, “It would not surprise me at all if Elliott Smith ends up dead within a year.”

But it was not drugs or booze that killed Elliott Smith. He was reportedly finally in a healthy, sober space and at the tail end of recording what would be his final album when he died. Instead, he received two stab wounds to the chest in what is generally accepted to be an extremely violent, self-mutilating suicide — although speculation still abounds that his girlfriend at the time was in some way implicated in his death.

However it happened, Elliott was gone. His solo career only spanned nine years and six albums but the impact of his music was immense, so much so that it continues to leave its ‘XO’-shaped fingerprints all over some of the most celebrated music of today.

When you look at the musicians that have capitalized on the groundwork laid by Smith — Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Iron and Wine, The Decemberists, The Shins — it’s difficult not to speculate that if he’d survived just a few more years, the internet would have carried his career even further than the impressive distance it had already travelled, and that he might have sat alongside the likes of Wilco and The Flaming Lips as the godfathers of modern indie rock.

But that’s all speculation, and all we have now is the incredible body of music Smith created while he was alive. Here are ten essential Elliott Smith songs that celebrate his equally triumphant and tragic tale and still resonate deeply ten years on from his death.

‘Needle In The Hay’ – Elliott Smith (1995)


After a career that initially began as a co-member of the indie rock outfit Heatmiser, Smith stepped out on his own and began making songs on borrowed four-track recorders in the room under the stairs of his rainy Portland house (fun fact: James Mercer of The Shins now lives in the same house). With two guitar tracks and two vocal tracks, Smith was able to create simple yet intricately woven sonic tapestries that would become his first two records: Roman Candleand Elliott Smith. ‘Needle In The Hay’ captures the intimacy of those first lo-fi recordings, and still sounds like you’re locked under the stairs with him when you listen to it today.

‘Say Yes’ – Elliott Smith (1995)


If the line “I’m in love with the world / through the eyes of a girl / who’s still around the morning after” were sung by any other artist, it might have been dismissed as twee. But there is so much emotional weight in Smith’s voice, the sense that he did finally find someone who he could trust and enjoy the world with… Well, it’s easier to just listen to the song than to express it in words.

‘No Name #3’ – Roman Candle (1994)


When a Portland-based film director decided to put some of his favourite local singer-songwriter’s music in his new film, no one could have predicted the magnitude of attention that it would generate for Smith. Gus Van Sant used cuts from Roman CandleElliott Smithand Either/Or on the soundtrack to Good Will Hunting, as well as asking Elliott to write a song specifically for the film in ‘Miss Misery’, moving Smith into a blinding new spotlight in the process. “How you like them apples?!”, indeed.

‘Miss Misery’, live from the 1998 Oscars – Good Will Hunting OST (1997)


It’s still surreal looking back all these years later at Smith walking out into the middle of that giant Oscars set — his crumpled white suit and greasy hair standing in stark contrast to the preen and polish of the world’s most watched awards ceremony. But the guy you could have seen playing for a couple of bucks at your local coffee shop just a year earlier didn’t let the gravity of the event get to him: he played a careful rendition of ‘Miss Misery’, with the song given even more emotional strength by the swelling strings of the Oscars house orchestra.

‘Sweet Adeline’ – XO (1998)


Following the Oscar nomination, Smith signed to a big label in DreamWorks and had a much larger audience hanging on his every word, but he didn’t fail to deliver with his next album, XO. Opener ‘Sweet Adeline’ commenced with the same lonely guitar-and-voice combo we were so accustomed to, but a minute-and-a-half into the track, the collapsing guitar notes were suddenly crushed by a wall of sound, as a full studio band takes over the mix, ushering in a new period for Elliott as a composer.

‘Between The Bars’ – Either/Or (1997)


Despite his new success and sound, it was only a year earlier that Smith had released what is probably his starkest song about his long love affair with booze. Delicate and tender, it highlights the sad relationship he experienced at his peak between substance abuse and creativity, and despite his growing prowess, his demons still remained.

‘Waltz #2’ – XO (1998)


This was the first song I ever taught myself to play on guitar, which I think lays bare the simple genius of Smith’s songwriting skills. ‘Waltz #2’ is simple drum patterns, basic guitar notes and carefully chosen piano keys, all brought together by a man with a natural sense of melody, who could casually craft a song that was much more than the sum of its parts.

‘Son Of Sam’ – Figure 8 (2000)


‘Son Of Sam’ was the first of Smith’s songs that I actually remember getting regular airplay in Australia. Figure 8’s cover art has also become synonymous with Elliott’s enduring image, the singer-songwriter standing awkwardly in front of the swirling red, blue and white lines on the front of Solutions Audio-Video Repair on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard. The site has since become a shrine to his memory.

‘Memory Lane’ – From A Basement On The Hill (2004)


Like many Elliott Smith fans, I was both equally excited and terrified at the prospect of Smith’s final posthumous release. Was it going to be another Jeff Buckley situation, with everything he ever cut to tape on a whim being released as yet another limited edition item to capitalize on his legacy?

Thankfully, From A Basement stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any of Smith’s other great works, its songs still flooded with that signature Elliott sound, but with a haunting production quality that made songs like ‘Memory Lane’ truly feel like the final celebration of his entire career.

‘Fond Farewell’ – From A Basement On The Hill (2004)


Whether it was intended as a goodbye letter or not, for many ‘Fond Farewell’ holds up as Smith’s final testament to the world. The lyrics — “The cold comfort of the in-between / a little less than a human being / a little less than a happy high / a little less than a suicide…” — almost perfectly encapsulate his uncomfortable stance in the spotlight in the last few years of his life, as well as eerily predicting his ultimate demise.

The song still packs a walloping emotional uppercut almost a decade after its release, so much so that I still struggle to listen to it at times. Like the rest of From A Basement On The Hill, it’s a heartbreaking reminder of the potential he had to make so much more.

Originally published on Junkee

The 10 Best Indie Songs of the 1980s


1980s indie rock seems to be popping up everywhere lately.

The Replacements announced their first shows in 22 years last week. Kim Deal announced she was quitting the reformed Pixies.

It’s a genre of music that seems to gain greater and greater attention from new generations of music fans year after year. As the kids that were born and raised in the 80s reach the age where they are the major pop stars of the world, the 80s indie scene’s themes, sounds and influence seems to bubble to the surface of modern music time and again.

So with this era buzzing high on the cultural radar, we thought we’d celebrate some of the greatest songs of the period with this top 10 mix tape. It’s a not-so teenage riot!

10.  Galaxie 500 – ‘Strange’

Probably the least known and most under-appreciated indie rock band of the 1980s, Boston’s Galaxie 500 practically invented dream pop. Fronted by New Zealand ex-pat Dean Wareham, along with husband and wife duo Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, the three-piece wrote beautifully simple three-chord songs that boasted gorgeous melodies, shimmering drums, warm bass lines and gentle guitar solos. Their 1989 sophomore record, On Fire, was retroactively reviewed by indie taste-making empire Pitchfork and given a perfect 10. ‘Strange’ took the blandness of waiting in line at a chemist to buy a coke and transformed it into an indie anthem.


9. Talking Heads – ‘Once In A Lifetime’

Some would argue Talking Heads were the greatest and most consistent band of the 80s. Their eclectic collage of sounds and imagery incorporated a lot of the song writing and musical technology influences of the decade, but somehow managed to make their songs sound timeless. ‘Once In A Life Time’ still sounds just as at home on a dance floor today as it did in 1980.


8. Echo And The Bunnymen – ‘The Killing Moon’

At a concert in Australia a few years back as part of the Laneway festival, Echo and the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch described ‘The Killing Moon’ as “the greatest song ever written.” We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s pretty bloody good. Haunting and mysterious, the song is a rare example of a cold pop song. It also features some of the loveliest vocal melodies of any song from the era. The song and the band also found an eager new audience after ‘The Killing Moon”s inclusion in the cult classic film, Donnie Darko.


7. The Replacements – ‘I Will Dare’

These Minnesota post punks were really just a drunk bunch of kids. They messed around on stage; they messed around in the studio and, like a group of lost boys, just didn’t want to grow up. But when they did put their mind to it, they proved to be one of the most exhilarating acts of the 80s and some of the most creative songwriters the decade had to offer. ‘I Will Dare,’ the opening song from their seminal record Let It Be, won them a legion of fans from the moment the needle dropped into that first vinyl groove. Their influence is still heavily felt today, with great excitement over the announcement that they’ll play their first shows in 22 years later in 2013.


6. The Triffids – ‘Wide Open Road’

Perth in the 1980s must have felt like a world all to its own. For a touring band like the Triffids, they had the opportunity to travel the country and the globe and explore other realms of culture and society. But ‘Wide Open Road’ is a song that perfectly captures that isolation of a city surrounded by desert. A song filled with space, both sonically and existentially, it has an undeniable quality about it that is quintessentially Australian and hence has been heralded as one of our greatest ever songs.


5. The Go-Betweens – ‘Cattle and Cane’

Grant McLennan and Robert Forster will deservedly be long-regarded as one of our greatest ever song writing duos. Their time in the Go-Betweens captured a feeling and a sound that had not been heard before in this country but has heavily influenced much of the music since. The opening riff of ‘Cattle and Cane’ stands along some of the greats by AC/DC or the Easy Beats, while the song’s lyrics capture Australian life in a beautiful snapshot of youth and innocence.


4. Pixies – ‘Here Comes Your Man’

The Pixies exploded from nowhere when they emerged from Boston in the late 80s. Even members of the local Boston music scene agreed that the band sounded nothing like anything else going on in the area. Whatever it was about their quirky pop and rock songs, it found a massive audience, particularly in the UK and Europe, and has gone on to influence many of the big name acts that emerged in the decade to follow, from PJ Harvey to Radiohead. ‘Here Comes Your Man’ was one of their more radio-friendly ditties, but is also an example of their incredible song writing skills – making the very hard sound very simple.


3. Joy Division – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

For a band that were largely unknown during their existence, the death of their lead singer, Ian Curtis, has somehow ensured that their legacy grows and grows as the years go on. The power and the sadness of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is almost Curtis’ suicide note to the world, a statement about the alienation and loneliness of his life trapped in a loveless marriage and a disease (epilepsy) that could seize control of his life from him at any time. Wrapped in beautiful melodies it has become an indie anthem for generations to come; generations sadly that often miss the heaviness and the darkness of the song’s lyrics.


2. The Smiths – ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’

Few bands commanded as much passion from their followers as these Manchurian lads. Morrissey’s ambiguous lyricism and Marr’s experimental musical direction helped the duo craft some of the most fascinating pop songs of the last 50 years. They burned brightly for just a few years and when the fire burned out many thought it was too soon, but the legacy of music they left behind is arguably the highest quality of any act of the decade.


1. Sonic Youth – ‘Teenage Riot’

If there is one band that exemplified the 1980s indie rock sound, lifestyle, culture and influence, it is Sonic Youth. Not only were they song writing giants throughout the decade, they were curators of taste and exposed the world to many, many more significant artists, often by simply mentioning their names in interviews (they were early champions of everyone from Galaxie 500 to Nirvana). The crazy-tuned guitars; the chaotic percussion pacing; the sprawling nature of their songs’ structures; a mix smeared in sludge – they were a truly unique act that have never come close to being mimicked since. ‘Teenage Riot’ show’s their ability to write music that is as equally rooted in pop as it is rock, punk, progressive and whatever else it was they were listening to in those long, delirious van tours from coast to coast of the US and throughout Europe. It is the musical thumb print of the decade and everything that the 1980s had to offer.


Originally published on

MAX’s Fleetwood Mac Mixtape

With the announcement that Fleetwood Mac were returning to Oz, the MAX officce thought it would be fitting to piece together our favourite 10 Fleetwood Mac songs to celebrate.

Ok, to be honest, we just wanted an excuse to listen to Fleetwood Mac all day.

How could you not? Casting your eyes over the never-ending stream of hits this amazing band has crafted in their time, it is simply staggering. 

From the genius of Rumours, the craziness of Tusk and the, well, 80s-ness of Tango In The Night,  they’ve gone from strength to strength for four decades, sealing a musical legacy that will last for eternity.

So here are our 10 favourite Fleetwood Mac hits. Let us know your own in the comments section below. And for Fleetwood Mac tour dates, click through to the MAX Tours Page.


‘Landslide’ – Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Written by Stevie Nicks during a period of transmission in her life when she was contemplating leaving music and going back to study in the aftermath of Buckingham Nicks being dropped by Polydor Records, it’s become one of the band’s most beloved tracks, especially after it topped the charts in later years with the release of cover versions by the Smashing Pumpkins in 1994 and the Dixie Chicks in 2002. 


‘Go Your Own Way’ – Rumours (1977)

The lead single from the band’s mega-selling, seminal album Rumours, ‘You Can Go Your Own Way’ is one of the most shiver-inducing, power ballads of all time. It stands as Lindsay Buckingham’s greatest vocal performance. It’s also one of the most obvious statements about the end of Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ relationship, which was a crucial element in the song writing behind Rumours and one of the most enduring behind-the-music rock and roll stories.


‘Dreams’ – Rumours (1977)

Nicks wrote Dreams during the recording sessions for Rumours. “I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me,” she told Blender magazine, “I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes. Right away I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat, because that made it a little unusual for me.”


‘Little Lies’ – Tango In The Night (1987)

Composed by Christine McVie, the song marks the influence the 80s had on Fleetwood Mac’s sound,  with more electronic effects and textures creeping their way in to the recording process – particularly in the drums and the keys. It is one of the band’s most instantly recognisable pop hits and highlights McVie’s talent as a songwriter in her own right.


‘Rhiannon’ – Fleetwood Mac (1975)

“This is a song about an old Welsh witch,” was the line Nicks used to preface the band’s live performance of this moody rocker, that was renowned for being one of the group’s most intense songs to perform live in the 70s. According to Mick Fleetwood, when Nicks would perform the song, it was a transformative moment for her on stage. “Her Rhiannon in those days was like an exorcism.” 


‘Seven Wonders’ – Tango In The Night (1987)

With those six little keyboard notes rang out one of the most iconic song melodies of all time. 


‘Tusk’ – Tusk (1979)

A perfect snapshot of the group’s experimental era, as Lindsay Buckingham began to explore the space in the studio and how that could be used to expand his songs, it shows that Fleetwood Mac weren’t just a pop machine, but that they could produce innovative and confronting material as well. Fun fact, Tusk the album cost $1,000,000 to record – the most expensive album ever made at the time.


‘Sara’ – Tusk (1979)

Almost a doo-wop song at times, its lyrics are yet another example of the brooding darkness that flows through much of Nick’s songwriting, no matter how pretty and polished they sound on the surface.


‘The Chain’ – Rumours (1977)

The only song in their entire catalogue credited to all five of the most recognised members of the band, it rains down with the full force of each musician at the peak of their musical abilities. It also shows the influence of country, bluegrass and roots music on the band’s sound and how they manipulated those influences into a more contemporary rock and pop dynamic.


‘Silver Springs’ – B-Side to ‘Go Your Own Way’ (1977)

How this didn’t make Rumours like it was supposed to is unbelievable. One of the band’s most gorgeous compositions, it is probably their most loved-least known song. The track got a second life when it was added to the 1997 album The Dance and even earned Stevie Nicks a Best Rock Vocal Performance Grammy nomination.


Originally published on

Top 10 Jailhouse Rockers

To celebrate the exciting new SoHo series, Wentworth, MAX has pieced together a list of some of the most infamous arrests in rock history.

Paul McCartney

McCartney was deported from Japan in 1980 after he brought almost half a pound of marijuana into the country at the start was what supposed to be an 11 concert Wings tour. Paul claimed it was for personal use, but the amount was large enough for Japanese authorities to warrant a smuggling charge, which carried a possible seven year sentence. Instead, he was detained for 10 days and the entire tour was cancelled. McCartney disbanded Wings upon his return to England.



Sid Vicious

Sid and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen had been partying in New York and staying at the infamous Hotel Chelsea. On the morning of October 12, 1978, Sid woke up to discover Spungen dead with a stab wound in her abdomen. Police arrested Vicious and charged him with her murder. He told police, “I never stabbed her. I loved her, but she treated me like shit”, but added that he could not remember if he had stabbed her or not.He was sent to Rikers Island jail for 55 days, before he was bailed out. He died that night after overdosing on heroin, heroin that had been given to him by his mother.


Phil Spector

Legendary music producer Phil Spector, who’s produced everyone from the Beatles to The Ramones and was responsible for creating the “Wall Of Sound” recording style, is now currently serving 19 years in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.Spector was well known for brandishing weapons throughout his life, but took that one step further when he killed Clarkson. The trial over Clarkson’s murder led Spector to become as infamous for the ridiculous wigs he wore to court as much as the crime in question. He will be 88 years old when he is eligible for parole.


Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones pair were arrested in 1967 in the UK on a narcotics charge. Police were tipped off that thje rockers were in possession of drugs and raided the country home of Richards, Each spent a few nights in custody before making bail.


Frank Sinatra

In true Ol’ Blue Eyes fashion , Sinatra was arrested by the Bergen County, New Jersey sheriff in 1938 and charged with the coolest offence one could imagine – carrying on with a married woman. The charge was later changed to adultery, and eventually dismissed.


James Brown

The King Of Soul’s life was peppered with several stints in jail. At 16 he was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for theft. Then in 1978 Brown was arrested again – this time while in concert at the Apollo, for failing to comply with a government order to leave the country during a payola investigation of his radio stations.

Then In 1988, Brown was arrested twice, once for drugs and weapons charges in May, and then again later in September after an alleged high-speed car chase. He was convicted of carrying an unlicensed pistol and assaulting a police officer, along with various drug-related and driving offenses.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released in 1991 after only three years.


Jim Morrison

Like Brown, The Lizzard King had several spats with the law in his short 27 years. His first was in 1963 in Tallahassee, Florida,  when he was arrested for petty larceny for stealing a cop’s helmet and umbrella, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and public drunkenness, all while he was a college student.

In 1967, Jim was backstage before a concert at New Haven, Connecticut, with a girl. A police officer, who didn’t recognize Jim, told the couple to get out of the backstage area and when Jim arrested he was maced. Later, during his performance, Morrison retold the story, belittling the police and saying “the little blue man, in the little blue cap”.   The police got fed up and stopped the concert and arrested Morrison.

Morrison was arrested again in 1968 at the Pussycat a’ Go Go in Las Vegas for public drunkenness, vagrancy, and failure to possess sufficient identification. He had taunted a security guard who had then bashed Morrison with his billy club and the police were then called and he was arrested.

In 1969 in Florida in Miami, The Doors played the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami Florida. Dade County sheriff’s office issued a warrant four days later for Morrison’s arrest for the felony charge of lewd and lascivious behavior and five misdemeanors; two counts of indecent exposure, two of public profanity and one of public drunkenness.  He was found guilty on the misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and profanity. And finally, again in 1969, Morrison was arrested for being drunk and obnoxious aboard a plane while on his way to a Rolling Stone’s concert.


Gary Glitter

The former ‘70s glam icon has been arrested and charged with several offences in relation to distributing child pornography and sexually interfering with minors.  He has served time in the UK and  Vietnam  and was recently arrested and linked to the investigations surrounding the offences of the late British television icon, Jimmy Savile.


George Michael

George Michael ended years of speculation over his sexuality in 1998, when he was arrested for engaging in a lewd act with a man in a public toilet in Beverly Hills.  He was arrested as part of an undercover police sting operation. Michael said about the incident, “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop—I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously—he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick you!”
After pleading “no contest” to the charge, Michael was fined US$810 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. He later made a video for the song ‘Outside’ parodying the incident.


Ozzy Osbourne
The Prince Of Darkness was arrested in 1982 in San Antonio, Texas after he lifted up his dress and urinated on the famous landmark, the Alamo. He regretted his actions and later that year came back to San Antonio to play a concert and donate $10,000 to the Alamo.


There are plenty more muso arrests, including Bon Scott, who was once arrested for stealing 12 gallons of petrol. Can you name some of your favourites?

Wentworth premieres Wednesday, May 1 at 8.30pm on SoHo (Channel 115).

Originally published on