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Review – The Rolling Stones, Sydney Allphones Arena 12/11/14

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If this were any other band, this review would have been jaded as all hell.

I’d paid $200 for my ticket and I was sitting in the second back row of the stadium (look at the above picture for scale). I was in fact so far away from the stage that there was a stall renting binoculars for $10 next to the gate I had to go through to get to my seat. Not that they would have helped, seeing as the woman in her mid-50s in front of me stood the whole way through the concert, wobbling her bum and flapping and clapping her arms in the air with all the rhythm of shoes in a tumble drier. Minus the context, if you’d have told me I was going to spend $200 to watch a woman dance all night, Sheryl, the primary school teacher from Corrimal, wouldn’t exactly have been what I had in mind.

But from the opening roar of Keith Richards’ perfectly toned Telecaster as the band ripped into ‘Jumping Jack Flash,’ through to the tinnitus ringing in my ears as I lay down to sleep, still singing ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ nothing was going to detract from the experience of seeing the world’s greatest rock band performing in all their glory.

Simply put, the Rolling Stones are an anomaly. Comparing them to any other band would be like comparing LeBron James to my lazy, fat arse because we’re both humans. It’s just not the same thing and makes no sense when you try.

Sure, it ‘s easy to make fun of their age, but if I’m even able to mow my lawn with some capability in my 70s, I’ll be stoked. To see Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie move and shake and bend and groove with such un-wavering swagger and attitude, is nothing short of a modern marvel. Mick Jagger alone was like a perpetual motion machine, shimmying round and round the stage for what must have accumulated to kilometres in distance.

That’s not to say it was explosions from the start. A slightly soft opening greeted the adoring crowd, surely the result of Mick returning from well-publicised throat issues. But as the performance rolled on the band seemed to feed off the crowd’s energy like it was a complicated form of applause photosynthesis, growing stronger and stronger through the night.

A particular highlight was Keith taking the lead vocals for a three song stint of ‘You Got The Silver,’ ‘Before They Make Me Run,’ and ‘Happy.’ He’d been given “extra duties” to compensate for Mick’s health it would seem. But that extra time between us and Keith was extra time we’ll cherish for a lifetime. “It’s all rock and roll,” Keith quipped – a cliché line for anyone else in the world – and words you feel like you should run out and get tattooed on your forehead when you hear Keith say them.

It was one of those sets that you felt like screaming, “I can die a happy man now!” after every single song. I’m usually bashful when it comes to singing along with the music when in a seated position at a concert, but I was “wooing” my heart out to ‘Miss You,’ screaming “Pleased to meet you!” to ‘Sympathy For The Devil,’ and pointing at the stage like an idiot at ‘Start Me Up’ (I don’t even really like that song). For fuck’s sake, I even high-fived Sheryl.

An encore of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ featuring the Sydney Philharmonia choir was so spine tingling my teeth chattered like I was hypothermic. And finishing with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ was the perfect definition of irony, as they couldn’t have played anything more satisfying from their entire catalogue.

This will probably be the Rolling Stones last ever Australian tour, and seeing as they’ve been making their way to our shores for more than 50 years, this concert felt like the perfect final lick from that drooling iconic tongue.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones have left the building.

Here’s the night’s set-list:

‘Jumping Jack Flash’ (single, 1968)

‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)’ (It’s Only Rock N Roll, 1974)

‘Respectable’ (Some Girls, 1978)

‘Tumbling Dice’ (Exile On Main Street, 1972)

‘Sweet Virginia’ (Exile On Main Street, 1972) (crowd request)

‘Bitch’ (Sticky Fingers, 1971)

‘Paint It Black’ (Aftermath, 1968)

‘Honky Tonk Women’ (single, 1968)

‘You Got The Silver’ (Let It Bleed, 1969)

‘Before They Make Me Run’ (Some Girls, 1978)

‘Happy’ (Exile On Main Street, 1972)

‘Midnight Rambler’ (featuring Mick Taylor on guitar, Let It Bleed, 1969)

‘Miss You’ (Some Girls, 1978)

‘Gimme Shelter’ (Let It Bleed, 1969)

‘Start Me Up’ (Tattoo You, 1981)

‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Beggars Banquet, 1968)

‘Brown Sugar’ (Sticky Fingers, 1971)

ENCORE

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Let It Bleed, 1969)

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Out Of Our Heads, 1965)
Originally published on maxtv.com.au

Review – The Weekender 2014

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Standing in an unkempt and uneven backyard somewhere in Carlton under a freakishly cloudless August sky, I was surrounded by 30-odd similarly hungover people. A longneck nestled in one hand, a ciggy dangling in the other – we all smirked and swigged as a bunch of blokes dressed in silly hats, afro wigs and uncomfortably tight shirts played a shed-storming set of Oz rock covers – from Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb Things’ through to the Divinyls’ ‘Boys In Town’. The band was called TNNL CNTS (pronounced tunnel-… you get the rest), and I drunkenly captioned an Instagram video of them performing the Screaming Jets’ ‘Better’ with, “Saturdays in Melbourne.” It was a brief acknowledgment of the joy I’d been experiencing the previous three days / all the words I had the capacity to type at the time. Someone pointed out to me that the guitarist dressed as an Essendon Bomber wasn’t wearing “footy shorts” as it might have appeared, but had instead pulled his legs through a pair of cut-off cricket pants. It hurt to laugh as hard as I did at this pure slice of Australiana, but it was a pain happily earned from the previous days’ festivities. And standing here, with a group of people that were mostly strangers, in a place I’d never been before, I felt totally at home.

But I’m way, way ahead of myself here.

Although I’m a proud Sydneysider, I’ve always had a soft spot for Melbourne. The coffee, the beer, the art, the culture, the footy, the souvlaki – if they cancel tram fares at the next state election, I might pack my fucking bags. But there’s one reason why Melbourne stands head and shoulders above the majority of our other fine capital cities in my power rankings – its music scene.

Melbourne in recent years has carved itself a deeper and deeper reputation as one of the most thriving punk and rock melting pots on the planet. If Philadelphia has the most exciting punk rock scene in the US, Melbourne is its Australian counterpart. From the Smith Street Band, to The Bennies, Harmony and Clowns – the city is burning a brilliant flame for alternative music in this country and nowhere is that more on display than The Weekender.

For the uninitiated, The Weekender is a festival hosted by Poison City and Resist Records – the former being the small Fitzroy skateboard/record shop and record label that not only stages the festival, but is also home to a majority of the bands on the event’s line-up. Hosted in multiple venues across the city, it’s become a celebration of the music of the local scene, as well as the venues and the community of music lovers that support it and have helped it earn an international reputation – a reputation that was leading me to make the pilgrimage to the event for the first time.

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It was a bizarrely mild winter night for Melbourne when my flight arrived late on a Thursday. I met my friend Anastasia at Tullamarine and we caught a cab together into the city – our excited conversation discussing the days ahead of music in direct opposition to the eerily quiet night outside. As we drove across the Westgate Bridge and past those giant, Duplo-like statues, the streets seemed deserted, as if the entire city was battening down the hatches in preparation for what was to come. Even as we arrived at The Reverence Hotel, the joint looked dead from the outside. But we entered to find a raucous, buzzing mass of bodies, clasping pints and comparing Violent Soho t-shirts. The Weekender was in full swing.

Tonight was deemed the Pre-kender, a way to get your ears and your liver ready for the onslaught that was about to happen. We arrived just in time for the final band of the night, US visitors Knapsack. Their melodic and passionate emotive rock struck a chord with me instantly. “Their music makes you feel happy and sad at the same time!” Anastasia yelled in my ear. “That’s called ‘nostalgia!'” I smart-arsedly replied/shouted, not sure if she could hear me through her protective earplugs. Everyone wears earplugs in Melbourne. Not only do they have better taste than the rest of us, but they’re also more health conscious.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDCAqdmEZ8w?rel=0]

We shuffled into the pub’s courtyard for a few late night brews and I was introduced to several people as being from Sydney; each time greeted with mixed levels of surprise and excitement that I’d made the journey down south. It was an indicative snapshot of this community and the fact that this scene has largely built itself independently from mainstream and widespread media support / radio play that it might be afforded in other countries – and how it humbly appreciates any outside recognition. In the meantime I was constantly distracted by familiar faces flying through the crowd, shaking hands and grappling hugs. Members of The Bennies, Smith Street Band, Luca Brasi – all engaged in conversations and laughs with friends. As someone who’d been longing to come to this event year after year, as my record shelves filled with albums from each of these bands, it was surreally satisfying that it was pretty much everything I’d imagined it to be.

The next day, I popped my head into Poison City’s Fitzroy store and as I ran up my credit card debt with t-shirt and record purchases, I spoke with Andy Hayden, the owner/founder of Poison City Records, retail clerk at his own store, and from what I gathered from our brief interaction, helluva nice dude. I thanked him for granting me a press pass to cover the festival and he seemed equally stoked anyone from Channel [V] was interested enough to come down and give the shows some love. I then walked down the street to meet Bec from Deathproof PR at their Fitzroy offices. A major part of the reason I was down here was Bec and her business partner Em [with assistance from the aforementioned Anastasia], who run an amazing little firm that promotes the best the local and international punk, hard rock and hardcore scenes have to offer. It’s been through them that I’ve already had the chance to interview a lot of the acts on the bill in recent years – thus flaming the fires of my passion for it. Bec, myself and my mate Nick ascended a local bar’s rooftop and drank day beers in the blazing sunlight, trying to think of reasons I shouldn’t move to Melbourne. After we watched the sun set, we knew it was time to prep for the first official Weekender evening.

The night’s festivities were held at The Corner in Richmond. Inside, the venue is quite an awkward, bendy one, with giant, annoying load-bearing pillars sticking up in the middle of the dance floor. At the start of the night I was frustrated at the lack of visibility because of them – by the end I was thanking the heavens they were there, holding the roof up amongst the chaos and calamity in what would be the rowdiest of nights at The Weekender. With The Bennies smoking six foot bongs on stage, Clowns frontman, Stevie, hanging off roof fixtures like they were designed for gymnastics, and Tassie imports Luca Brasi whipping the room into a frenzy – legs, arms and shoes flew around the pit like tumbleweed threaded with human bodies.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKcUOnqiJ7I?rel=0]

Knapsack headlined the night – but unfortunately I missed them this time ’round as I was much busier having an arm-in-arm sing-along to Blink 182’s ‘Josie’ with some girl I’d met in the beer line who was similarly overcome with a need to spontaneously karaoke. The sense of comradery was so palpable, it felt like everyone in the room would be happy to give you the last smoke in their packet, without even mentioning it.

The next morning (afternoon) with a throbbing noggin and a big brekky + three lattes under my belt, Nick, Bec and myself grabbed a couple of armfuls of beers and started the long (short – felt long) walk to a suburban house in Carlton North where we would attend the unofficial Weekender Backyarder recovery BBQ.

The aforementioned TNNL CNTS were phenomenal, but almost as good was the opening act, whose name I was too “tired” to recall. They played a set that may as well have been lifted from my 17-year-old self’s CD wallet – RATM’s ‘Bulls On Parade,’ the President of the United States of America’s ‘Lump’, and Andrew W.K.’s ‘Party Hard’ to name but a few of the hits. I felt like my hair was dyed purple and my shorts were cargo all over again.

An afternoon power nap later, we made our way to the John Curtin, named after Australia’s most hardcore Prime Minister. Sloppily anthemic indie rockers Freak Wave proved to be a great opener, but Infinite Void were simply hypnotic from the moment they took the stage and were definitely one of my biggest personal discoveries of the weekend – their music like a throwback to the grimy punk rock of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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Hardcore outfit High Tension were always going to be a highlight, and like a footy team playing in front of their home crowd they rose to the occasion, playing a blistering, meaty set. It was almost unfortunate they performed so well, as they capped off a round of local acts that almost outshone the night’s headliners, Pity Sex, who had again made the long journey to cross the Pacific ditch and perform for us. Hopefully they’ll go home with stories of our excellence.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lFRmd79GrM?rel=0]

Sunday rolled around and things by this stage were shady, to say the least. Livers hurt. Brains swelled. Sleep was needed. A day of napping and sipping Gatorade while watching the footy was the only activity I could muster myself to achieve ahead of the push for the final night of the festival. But again, the last evening felt more like a celebration than a gig.

Arguably the strongest line-up of the weekend came together once again at The Rev. Hoodlum Shouts were raw and intimidating. Harmony were simultaneously brutal and ethereal, as always. But it was always a night that was going to belong to Wil Wagner. If there is an unofficial leader of this Melbourne movement, it’s Wagner. The Smith Street Band frontman, whether he intends to or not, walks around the room with a truckload of charisma, and his solo, acoustic performance was evidence of why that is. Leading teary-eyed, multi-person-hug sing-alongs to ‘Young Drunk’, and ‘Ducks Fly Together’, he, more than anyone, has the ability to concisely sum up the emotions and mateship that is so essential to the fabric of this movement – the same spirit I’d been getting drunk on all weekend. When you listen to Wagner or any other band on The Weekender line-up, you know they’re singing to you, for you, about you, and most importantly with you.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBh547s1mNg?rel=0]

And finally, Lincoln le Fevre served as the ideal closer to the weekend, like a camp counselor bringing the kids together for one last campfire ‘Kumbaya My Lord’, before our parents would be there to pick us up and take us home in the morning.

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Sitting there, in my fresh, new Poison City Records T-shirt, eating a disgusting breakfast sausage wrap thing at the airport Hungry Jacks and waiting for my Jetstar flight to stop being delayed, I pondered the weekend that had just fallen. In an Australia where pop, EDM and Aussie hip-hop seem to have an ever-increasing stranglehold on the airwaves, it was exhilarating to witness the rock resistance first hand. Maybe I was still slightly sick with the nostalgia from watching Knapsack, all those bands ago – maybe it was the horrible sausage wrap – but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just tapped into the same feelings I’d had as a teenager over a decade ago, during the final glory days of rock in this country, when you’d turn on the radio or TV and it wasn’t a surprise to hear or see Magic Dirt, Bodyjar, Jebediah, Frenzal Rhomb or Grinspoon. The Weekender showed me that although those glory days maybe well and truly dead, the spirit of them is alive and well.

In just over an hour I would return to being a Sydneysider, but it was comforting to know I’ll always be part of a Melbourne music community.


Originally published on vmusic.com.au

Album Review – Tony Molina, Dissed and Dismissed

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Prologue: seeing as all the songs on this record hover around 1.30min, I thought I’d take a slice of inspiration from Tony Molina’s creative output and write this review in a minute and a half, give or take an hour for spelling/punctuation corrections. So the following is all I could squeeze out in 90 seconds.

Like the underside of an ice cream container or licking the beaters from a cake mix, some times the best part comes in very small doses.

On Tony Molina’s new album Dissed And Dismissed the songs only run a minute and a half on average, meaning there’s usually only time for one chorus and one guitar solo, but everything is wrapped up in a pretty little bow and it tastes, sounds, smells, looks delicious.

There are obvious Weezer and Dino Jr points of reference, and there’s an innocence angle that never quite escapes twee, making this sweet piece of pie a little sickly.

But at the end you’ll feel more satisfied than you feel guilty.

Epilogue: apologies for all the food/taste references. The record’s sugary appeal found it’s way in as a metaphor right at the start, and then kind of didn’t go away for the rest of the review. I guess the ‘train of thought’ doesn’t stop at many stations in a minute and a half.

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Album Review – Harmony, Carpetbombing

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I’ve been sitting on this review for weeks, trying to figure out what to write.

It’s easy to say I love Carpetbombing, because I do. The sludgy guitars, grumbled/howled vocals, angelic choir refrains, hundred tonne bass lines, percussion that collapses like spuds rolling off a shelf in the pantry — it all falls into a cacophonous orchestra and delivers something angular and awkward, yet simultaneously graceful and choreographed. It’s like two middle weight boxing champions in a drunken bar fight – there’s form, elegance and intent, but everything’s a bit blurry and loses balance just when you think it’s going to hold up.

However, every time I tried to analyse Carpetbombing as a straight-forward rock record, it didn’t feel right. It was too hard to convey the haunting impact of the choir, or to highlight the Frankenstein lumber set by the menacing rhythm section. Even just trying to articulate the effect of Tom Lyngcoln’s leaf-blower voice as the ideal companion to his astounding and unique guitar playing style served impossible to effectively recreate in words. I tried going from song to song waffling on with bullshit, but I just couldn’t express the album as a whole in a way I felt satisfied.

Then, late last night, at about two minutes into my 50th listen of Unknown Hunter, it hit me. The reason I’ve had so much trouble trying to review this record as an album is because I haven’t been listening to it as an album — I’ve been experiencing it as a musical.

There have always been complete albums I’ve enjoyed and have listened to many times over in full. But with those, I’ve still managed to pull out pieces and parts and remix and apply their playing order depending on my mood. But with Carpetbombing I find it impossible to not listen to the entire thing from start to finish like it’s an ambitious, singular piece of art.

From Don Walker’s Richard III-esque opening monologue of The Closing Of The Day straight into Lyngcoln’s “Days…” at the start of Water Runs Cold, I’m completely seized and carried from song to song, like I’m being dragged deep into a masterful Bell-Shakespeare performance. Each scene is perfectly weighted and ebbs into and out of the previous, varying in lyrical content, but sharing the same melancholy tone and pulsating with the murderous energy of an executioner’s swinging axe.

Songs are never left to sit on their own either. Their all strung together with little scenes between songs that add to the overall weight and depth of the story. The intro to Big Ivan for example, feels like a montage in the dark, as a bevy of dancers float across a darkened stage, rather than simply a connector between tracks. Seriously, go and listen for yourself and imagine a group of witches prancing between craggy trees like a scene from MacBeth. Even the immediate-sounding recording style used by Lyngcoln makes me feel like I’m sitting in a dimly lit theatre and experiencing the entire show organically.

Then again, maybe I’m just digging too far into my own psyche to find a hook for a review I have to get in before a deadline. Either way it’s made me hope that Lyngcoln and crew will team up with a playwright and expand the record into some kind of epic, theatrical experience.

Until then, I’m going to sit in this little playhouse in my mind and experience the whole show in my own weird way.

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Review – Soundwave, Sydney, 2014

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If you’d been in a coma for the last 10 years and woken up to see the line-up for Soundwave 2014, you could be forgiven for thinking only a week had passed. This year ‘s festival was thick and fast with veteran acts and that is in no way a criticism. Soundwave always manages to pull together line-ups that, to an outsider or casual music fan, would make no sense. But for those of us making the tedious trek out to Homebush (seriously, can we stop holding events out there?!) every year, we know exactly why this line-up exists. It’s because these are the bands we love. These are the bands we worship. These are the bands we trawl the net for, spend all our money on merch for and donate the little of what’s remaining of our hearing to. Some people would dismiss Soundwave goers as music nerds. Little do they know that we’re the true music lovers. That we’ve got a connection with the music more than anyone could imagine or understand. That’s why Soundwave is like home for us. It’s where we can let our “freak” flag fly and worship those musicians that give us so much joy – even if our favourite album of theirs came out in 2003, right before that coma.

So here, once again, is our review of Sydney Soundwave 2014.

The Porkers

The Porkers are one of those bands that always seem to have been part of the Australian punk rock consciousness and with good reason – they’re a fucking good time band. They’ve been thrashing guitars and blasting horns for almost 30 years now and they can still get a bloody impressive circle pit spinning at 11am on a Sunday, so you know they’re doing something right. They lit up Stage 1 from the outset and played with the same ferocity as they would if they were playing to a packed stadium, instead of the couple hundred that had trickled in early. The shirtless mascot/boofhead they had dancing on stage had a bit too much fun though, falling off the stage and axing himself but it was all part of the rollicking good time and the perfect way to kick off the day.

Stand out songs: ‘Too Big For Ya Boots’, ‘Alcohol’.

Biffy Clyro

It’s no wonder people that searched for Biffy Clyro on Google also searched for Foo Fighters and Muse. Some music is just meant to swirl around a stadium. You could feel the mega light poles shake as the Scotsmen unleashed their anthemic power rock in unrelenting wave after wave upon the crowd. They deserved a much later set in the day but they didn’t hold back to the punters they had in their grasp, encouraging them to holler along to each “Woah-oh-oh-oh,” like they were left over from the Bruce Springsteen gig at Homebush earlier this week. Shirtless and glam panted, they raged through their set and clearly fed off of the crowd’s hyper energy.

Stand out songs: ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Mountains’.

Alter Bridge

It would probably be easy to dismiss Alter Bridge as a run of the mill, balls and all cock rock band. Their sound at times broaches on cliff rock and tacky hair metal. But live there’s something very genuine about the band that makes you forget easily made assumptions. They have an unrelenting brutality about their music that calls to the inner hard rock lover. Myles Kennedy’s status as a gun for hire frontman is well earned. His throat has an immense amount of power and dexterity. His guitar playing leaves nothing to be desired too – his fingers often highlighted on the big screens nimbly dancing up the fret board. For a festival line-up that heavily features acts from the ’90s, Alter Bridge play a style of rock that was ultimately at its peak in the mid ’90s and it’s a heart-warming reminder that solid rock still exists. Clearly the crowd agreed, chanting, “Alter Bridge!” from midway through their set.

Stand out songs: ‘Come To Life’ ‘Ghosts Of Days Gone By’ and ‘Black Bird’.

Alkaline Trio

Pop punk stalwarts Alkaline Trio are criminally under appreciated in Australia. Their melody-dipped speed punk songs ring out with intensity and emotion and everything you could ask from a great live band. They don’t move a lot on stage, focusing on getting the audience to sing along at the top of their lungs rather than throw themselves at each other. But what the smaller crowd in attendance lacked in aggression physically, they more than made up for with violent applause. Alkaline Trio are clearly an act that mean a lot to few, rather than a little to many – an element shared by many acts across the Soundwave line-up and the reason the event has such a devoted following.

Stand out song – ‘Radio’.

Mutemath

I’d never heard Mutemath before today but had several people gush buckets of praise on the New Orleans act in the lead up to the festival. However, the first thing that became apparent about the band as they took the stage was that they were the least Soundwave-looking band on the line-up. With a wardrobe cut and pasted out of a H&M catalogue, they looked like they’d gotten lost on the way to Laneway. Their music was intricate and had a solid groove, but stuck out like an indie sore thumb. They simply didn’t have the edge one expects for a Soundwave act, despite having a fucking killer drummer (although he looked like he’d just had his wisdom teeth removed with his headphones strapped to his chin). We’re sure their keytars, multiple dudes playing on a single drum kit and f-holed guitars would be much more comfortable alongside a more horn-rimmed glasses audience.

Stand out song: ‘Electrify’.

Trash Talk

These California hardcore skate punks embody their genre to a tee. In true, punk rock tradition, frontman Lee Spielman was in the crowd and in everyone’s face for the majority of the set – acquiring a “Soundwave Crowd Care” vest, bucket hat and a slurpee through his travels amongst the punters. Each song rattled off like a bullet from a revolver – short, fast, loud and devastating. It left plenty of time for quality banter and crowd interaction for Spielman. One moment, he had us all sitting flat on the ground, the next he had us all running out of the venue midway through the set (literally – he had to call everyone back in as the band had no-one to play to). Hilarious, intense, loud, fun – everything punk rock should be.

Stand out song: ‘Well Of Souls’.

AFI

It’s crazy to think how long these guys have been warping minds and destroying stages. Their melodic hardcore never fails to take the foot off the accelerator. Davey Havok is like a puppeteer the way he works the crowd to follow every gesture he makes and every syllable he shrieks. Their set feels less like a rock show and more like a rock opera. There’s a majesty and pageantry to the whole thing that is totally captivating.

Stand out songs: ‘Love Like Winter’, ’17 Crimes’.

GWAR

When a band come out on stage and the singer ejaculates blood from a giant fake dong on the audience and then beheads a giant rubber Tony Abott, they really can’t be anything short of fucking amazing. But just like their warlords-from-hell outfits, GWAR were devastating musically. Their thrash punk metal was arguably one of the sets of the day. For a gimmick band, they brought a seriously legit sound.

Stand out songs: ‘Genocide’, ‘Bring Back The Bomb’.

Placebo

The glam rock legends were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing for nostalgic reasons and undoubtedly the highlights of their set were old classics. Brian Molko & Co were all business as they drilled through hits from throughout the band’s 20-year career. They ended up being one of the best, straight-up guitar bands of the day. That being said, a few too many newer tracks were lost a little on this reviewer, as they failed to have the same hooks as their late ’90s/early 2000s cream, but that’s on me.

Stand out songs:  ‘Every You Every Me’, ‘Bitter End’, ‘Special K’.

Pennywise

They may have been together for over 25 years, but when Pennywise launch into ‘Same Old Story’ and ‘Bro-hymn’, you could be forgiven for thinking a bunch of 17 year olds had stormed the stage. The California icons can still set a mosh pit to high spin cycle, with legs, arms, sweat and spit flying everywhere. Beers, beards, and “fuck the man” punk rock all go beautifully hand in hand, and will do for the next 25 years.

Stand out song: ‘Same Old Story’.

Baroness

There’s good reason why Baroness have been accepted by the indie rock community as well as the heavy rock and metal crowd. Their driving guitar lines firmly have one toe dipped in the music of Black Sabbath and another in the records of Neil Young. The only thing that really could have made their set better was improved PA as the venue speakers were out and nowhere near loud enough. Their extended stoner rock jams were perfect for the setting sun, giving off a Queens Of The Stone Age desert rock vibe. They also won the prize for prettiest backdrop.

Stand out songs: ‘Steel That Sleeps The Eye’.

Korn

It’s almost sad to see a band like Korn, who at one stage were one of the biggest acts on the planet, be relegated to a non-main stage. But that didn’t stop the former nu metal kings from annihilating the crowd at Stage 3. Their music is just as eerie, sexy and heavy as ever. Their breakdowns drop like anvils, their choruses smash your face like hammers. Jonathon Davis’s voice remains one of the most unique in rock music.

Stand out song: ‘Falling Away From Me’.

Jimmy Eat World

It’s hard to watch JEW and not be transported to when my heart was broken by my high school girlfriend.Bleed American was such a formative album for so many people in the early 2000s that its songs still ring with all the same emotions here, over a decade later. But that’s not to say that JEW haven’t evolved and developed over that time. Their material from throughout the last decade resonates with the same intense feelings and emotions of their earlier work. But come on, ‘Crimson and Clover’, ‘Bleed American’, ‘The Middle’, ‘The Sweetness’ – all gut-wrenching classics.

Stand outs songs: ‘A Praise Chorus’, ‘Bleed American’, ‘The Middle’, ‘Sweetness’.

Green Day

It’s funny to think that 10 years ago, where a lot of bands on the Soundwave line-up were at their popular peak, Green Day were all but in the wilderness. They’d released International Super Hits a few years earlier and no-one had really heard from them since. Then came American Idiot and they reclaimed their position as one of the biggest bands on the planet. Now here they are, a decade later, maintaining that title like an undefeated heavyweight champion. Over three hours the band worked through hit after hit after hit. Pulling fans from the crowd to sing and play guitar; leading mass sing-alongs; covering Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Johnny O’Keefe; epic build ups, and huge crescendos – it was a master class of stadium festival rock. Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice is more superb than it’s ever been and their stagecraft was impeccable. They were like the Bruce Springsteens of punk rock. With a set full of classics from their 20-year career, including a fair smattering of Dookie songs, they didn’t leave a single fan disappointed. And finishing their set/the day off with ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ – punk rock perfection.

Stand out songs: ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘On Holiday’, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, ‘Basket Case’, ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.

Originally published on vmusic.com.au

Album Review – Sun Kil Moon, Benji

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Mark Kozelek doesn’t use metaphors. He doesn’t need to.

Through the entirety of Benji he manages to weave stunningly depressing stories of death, jealousy, mass shootings, sexual discovery and (strangely) the Postal Service, but never needs to once delve into hyperbole. Who would want to, when not one but two of the songs on the album are about people that died from fires triggered by aerosol explosions.

Benji drips with a rawness and honesty that induces an extreme emotional connection from the listener. You feel you know these characters, can see their faces, can touch their blistering skin. They’re as captivating as the hell he seems to live in throughout the record.

Yet, despite its bleak subjects, this isn’t a cold album. Its sounds are rich and warm and resonate like a brightly burning fireplace between your ears. Okay, burning fires was probably not the best analogy…

Kozelek’s arrangements rarely escape the grips of an acoustic guitar and his mumbling, slightly cracked voice draws you closer and closer like a low-talker in a sports bar — somehow all the more making the whole sensory experience of Benji more intimate.

Mark Kozelek doesn’t use metaphors. He doesn’t need to. He uses life.

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Review – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Allphones Arena Sydney, 19/02/14)

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Sixty-four.

Bruce Springsteen is 64.

That does not make sense.

Firstly, he doesn’t look 64. Late 40s, max.

Secondly, he has the body of a 25-year-old.

Thirdly, he has the energy of a 16-year-old.

But despite not looking, moving or performing like a man that could very easily be a grandfather, it’s more than apparent that every single one of those years of experience is wrapped up into what he brings to the stage for what is very easily the world’s greatest rock and roll show.

His three hour long performances are legendary. His and the E Street Band’s unrelenting enthusiasm and passion would fill metaphorical bucket loads – not the physical bucket of ice water he plunges his head into between songs to prevent from nuclear overheating – such is their effort on stage.

However, for their second visit to Sydney in two years, no-one would really blame Bruce and the E Street Band if that legendary excitement waivered just a little bit. After all, it’s got to be difficult to muster the same level of energy warranted for the first appearance in a city in 10 years like last year’s shows, as opposed to just 12 months break this time round, but from the outset it’s obvious that taking the foot off the pedal would never be on the cards for The Boss and crew. They’re a working class band for the working class man and they’re here to make sure everyone, from the front row to the nose bleeds, gets their money’s worth tonight.

They opened the show by reminding us that as much as this gig is a celebration of our love for The Boss, it was also a celebration for his love for us and Australian music. Previous concerts had seen him rock out Acca Dacca favourites, but tonight our first of many thrilling surprises was a blasting rendition of arguably our greatest ever rock song, The Easybeats’ ‘Friday On My Mind.’

Without missing a beat, the band then swung straight into The River’s ‘Out In The Street,’ essentially a warning shot – you guys can expect anything and everything and us to go everywhere tonight. And by everything and everywhere we’re talking album-hopping, crowd-surfing, aisle running, piano climbing, onstage dancing with audience members , even chugging full beers. If you wanted a band that was going to stick to the confines of their performance platform, you’d suffered through the tedium of a Cityrail trip to Homebush for nothing.

Members of the E Street Band have spoken in recent interviews about how Bruce asks them to learn over a hundred songs in preparation for tours. To someone who’s never experienced Springsteen live, such a feet sounds ridiculous. But when you’re in the presence of the man and he pulls out one of the many placards raised above the mosh pit, flashes it at the band and they all erupt into ‘Cadillac Ranch’, there are few more impressive high wire acts in music. It’s almost superhuman and its effects set the tone for the next three hours.

Next up came two cuts from Bruce’s most recent album, title track ‘High Hopes’ and The Saints ‘Just Like Fire Would’, the latter of which rings out with such natural connection that it seems like it’s always been a Springsteen song.

We then travelled back to ’73 and the now legendary town of Asbury Park N.J. for a spin through ‘Spirit In The Night’… before the second and really big surprise of the night kicked off.

For the very first time, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band played Darkness On The Edge Of Town, from start to finish, in Australia. Every second of it was captivating, mesmerising and magical. ‘Badlands’ soared, ‘Something In The Night’ quaked, ‘Racing In The Street’ pumped our adrenaline levels to red, and ‘Factory’ had us grabbing fistfuls of our neighbours collar as we dragged them in close to sing out at the top of our lungs. It was further proof too that if you’ve seen Springsteen once, you’ve still not come close to really seeing him, as every show is simply part of a never-ending evolution. It’s a train ride to infinity – you just get to ride from one station to the next.

After this epic chapter and the final notes of the album’s title track rang out, we would have forgiven the band an intermission (not that Bruce would ever allow it). Instead they took all of a second to gather their breath and rolled on into Born In The USA’s ‘Darlington County’, Wrecking Ball’s ‘Shackled And Drawn’, and the heart-warming, house lights on, stadium-wide sing-along ‘Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.’

If those houselights stayed on, we could have easily folded the chairs away there. The band had more than earned their right to take their final bow, pack up their gear and head back to their hotel. You wouldn’t have been able to wipe the smile from a single audience member’s face for a week. But the show was not even close to finished.

‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ has been a fan favourite since its release in 1995. But since former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s all-but induction into the E Street Band over the last couple of years, the song has taken on a whole new life. Morello’s electrifying solo in the song has become a highlight in a never-ending reel of highlights – his guitar acting like a lightning rod and shocking us out of our seats into standing applause. It’s easy to see why Morello became a muse to Springsteen for the recording of the High Hopes album – his guitar playing adds an exhilarating element to each song he steps out on. Springsteen’s music has always been iron clad – when performed with Morello it becomes titanium.

If there was a dry eye in the house in the aftermath of ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams’ the song that has essentially become Springsteen’s tribute to late E Street members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, then they weren’t viewable from this writer’s seat. The song still stands with the same emotional weight even now almost three years after Clemons’ death.

But through the tears was another surprise waiting on the other side – as all four guitarists in the group strutted to the front of the stage and drilled into the opening riff of INXS’ ‘Don’t Change.’

‘Born To Run’ and ‘Dancing In The Dark’, almost served as victory laps, at the end of a marathon we’d all ran together, crossing the finish line equal first. Pulling girls from the crowd to dance with the band, knees creaked and swinging chairs banged as the very last of the crowd succumbed to the ecstasy of all that was before them and joined the other 98% already up and dancing.

The joy in the room grew even thicker and more palpable with E Street anthem ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ and then the final Aussie tribute of the night, Jonny O’Keefe’s ‘Shout’. And it was here we bid adieu to the E Street Band.

Bruce, now stripped to a sweaty t-shirt dipped his head into ice one last time, took a swig from a big green container of energy drink and strolled out for a gorgeous, solo acoustic performance of birthday request ‘Surprise, Surprise’. Forget the pin – if a thread had have dropped it would have been deafening in the silence of the stadium, as each dreamlike note floated from the stage.

And finally Bruce sat solo at a foot pump piano, filling the room with the woozy drone of ‘Dream Baby Dream’, before it’s effects looped into the speakers, The Boss rose from his stool and sung solo centre stage; a wash of noise rolling over us all in awe.

With that, he bid us farewell and disappeared from the stage. We were exhilarated and exhausted. We wandered into the night in a daze. A friend of mine exclaimed it’s impossible to compare a Bruce concert to any other concert because they are simply incomparable. It is a level above – a different echelon. I couldn’t have agreed more fervently.

Bruce Springsteen turns 65 this year. At the way he’s travelling, I figure that gives us another 65 years of tours to see. Better get in quick, I don’t want to miss any.

The full set list:

1. Friday On My Mind (Easybeats cover)
2. Out In The Street
3. Cadillac Ranch
4. High Hopes
5. Just Like Fire Would (The Saints cover)
6. Spirit In The Night
7. Badlands
8. Adam Raised Cain
9. Something In The Night
10. Candy’s Room
11. Racing In The Street
12. The Promised Land
13. Factory
14. Streets Of Fire
15. Prove It All Night
16. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
17. Darlington County
18. Shackled And Drawn
19. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
20. The Ghost Of Tom Joad
21. Land Of Hope And Dreams
22. Don’t Change (INXS cover)
23. Born Top Run
24. Dancing In The Dark
25. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
26. Shout (Johnny O’Keefe cover)
27. Surprise, Surprise (acoustic, solo)
28. Dream Baby Dream (solo)

Originally published on maxtv.com.au

Song review – Kevin Drew, Good Sex

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If there is a single word that perfectly encapsulates Kevin Drew’s music, it’s warmth.

It seems no matter what he does, whether it’s solo or part of the Broken Social Scene, his music always feels like you’re gradually descending into a warm spring and slowly letting all the tensions and stress of the world drift away, filling your pores with love and joy.

He’s not the perfect musician. He often sings about the ridiculous and the crude. His falsetto voice can be a tad jarring at times. But he never floats too far away from that central orb of heat and light that somehow always manages to permeate your skin, swim through your bloodstream, and squeeze your heart right as the crescendo kicks in.

“I’m still breathing with you baby”

Drew’s new solo album, Darlings, is set for release March 18 via Arts & Crafts.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb20wj6GGfI?rel=0]

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Song review – Real Estate, Talking Backwards

Let’s face it — we’re all fucked.

This property “bubble” is never going to burst. Where the fuck else are people going to live in Sydney? The house prices are going to keep going up and up as foreign businessmen by more and more “investment properties” in the suburbs that we helped make “fashionable.”

We’ll keep having to move further and further out. Marrickville. Dulwich Hill. Lakemba. Ashfield. Even there we’ll never have enough savings to buy. Well, we could, but that would mean giving up the morning latte and fuck that. That’s a necessity.

We might as well pack up stumps and move to The Gong. But even there’s expensive. And how much would we even need for a mortgage? Half a mill? It’s already too pricey in the places we really want to live, like Austi and Thirroul. We’d have to settle for Corrimal. Or Fairy Meadow. Or Coniston.

And fuck the commute. Two hours is forever. Not to mention there’s always some derro cunt arguing with his derro missus all the way. Even though this is clearly the designated “quiet car.” You just turn up you ipod louder and hope that he doesn’t bug you. Or worse, they start taking a swing at each other. Fucking derros.

Still, this new Real Estate song’s pretty good. Really helps to drown out the bourbon-fuelled screams.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgsdblVq8wo?rel=0]

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Album Review – Perfect Pussy, I have lost all desire for feeling

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I often worry about my hearing.

Every now and again on certain days, when the music I’m listening to reaches a range of decibels, my right ear gets a weird buzzing in it.

I’ve read somewhere that Stephin Merritt from the Magnetic Fields experiences the same issue and that’s why he doesn’t use that much percussion in his songs. I hope so. I fucking love Stephin Merritt.

I should go get my hearing tested — but I think most hearing tests are bullshit. I remember being a kid and having my hearing tested and pushing the button saying I could hear the tone, even when I couldn’t.

I did, however, try that Youtube hearing test thing a few weeks ago — the one that tells you how old your ears are based on your ability to hear different tones. From what I can gather my ears are between 40 and 50 years old. I’m 28. Shit.

Then again, I’m not really doing anything to combat my hearing loss. I never wear earplugs at shows and when I’m not at a show I’ve usually got my iPod headphones in blasting too loud. I once got asked to turn down my music in a library while I was using in-ear headphones. With my ears narrowing in on retirement age, I’m increasingly ashamed of that little anecdote.

But just when I feel it’s time to take my finger off the ‘Volume Up’ button, and spare myself a few years of late-night tinnitus soundtracks, something like Perfect Pussy comes along and just begs to be cranked louder and louder until I can feel the wax in my head melt.

The first time you listen to I have lost all desire for feeling, you’re going to feel like you’ve ruptured an eardrum. The drum and bass unpredictably explode like nitroglycerine, guitar lines burn under piles of lawn mower distortion, and vocals are shrieked and hurtled around through the chaos, occasionally bobbing up for air before being sucked back down to join in with the destruction. But buried beneath the chaos, calamity and cacophony of this record is a flowing river of melodic hardcore so pure in its expression and its delivery, it’s nothing short of life affirming.

Clocking in at just four tracks in 12 minutes, Ihladff was only ever supposed to be a demo tape but there’s something so raw about it that it stands as an ideal snapshot of the intensity and brutality and beauty that all hardcore bands — and fucking all bands in general — should strive for and aspire to.

A lot of that can be credited to vocalist Meredith Graves. Her yelping almost sounds like a child screaming for help amongst a storm of noise at times. Only she’s not screaming for help, she’s screaming into the storm, tearing it apart with vicious and ferocious delivery of deeply emotional and intricate lyrics. You can’t understand her through the waves of sound crashing into your head, but that doesn’t stop you from believing everything she says — such is the ferocity and fearlessness you feel in her delivery.

In interviews, Graves has described how everyone in the band’s hometown of Syracuse hates them, and yet despite this opposition, they’ve managed to find a huge amount of acclaim especially after a successful run of shows at the 2013 CMJ festival. Seems this ‘demo tape’ has also served its purpose, with the band recently signing with killer label Captured Tracks.

I can only froth at the prospects of what their future music will hold, as it looks like Syracuse’s loss is going to continue to be my hearing’s loss.

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids