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Live Review – The Decemberists

decemberists

The Decemberists @ The Virgin Mobile Metro Theatre
19/01/2010

I rocked up to The Decemberists’ Virgin Mobile (shudder) Metro gig, just in time to catch the end of Bridezilla’s support slot. They seemed to have the audience in rapture with tracks from their tops new record, The First Dance. I caught a sweet sounding Heart You Hold, before they awkwardly maneuvered from the stage.

Thirty minutes and $13 for two cans of VB (FARK!) later, The Decemberists made their way on stage, lead by a bearded Colin Meloy. Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of their 2009 album, Hazards Of Love, and was a bit apprehensive that their Virgin Mobile (shudder) Metro gig’s set list would be dominated by it. But to my surprise the band opened with the two opening tracks from their phenomenal 2006 album, The Crane Wife – The Crane Wife 3 and The Island: Come And See, The Landlord’s Daughter, You’ll Not Feel the Drowning.

For the rest of the night, the band waltzed their way through a ‘best of’ set list that featured tracks from The Crane Wife and 2005’s Picaresque. In fact the only song they busted out from Hazards Of Love was a ball tearing rendition of The Rake’s Song, clearly the standout piece of the night.

However, the most intriguing element of the evening was the sheer list of instruments the band went through, including:

a lute
an acoustic guitar
a 12 string acoustic
a hurdy gerdy
a banjo
a mandolin
2 keyboards
4 electric guitars
a 12 string electric guitar
a piano accordion
2 xylophones
a melodica
drums
2 extra floor toms (apparently everyone’s fucking doing it these days)
a bass
a double bass
a tambourine
shakers
I have to say though, changing electric guitars two or three times during a song is fucking excessive. Jog on guys.

Despite this wankiness, Colin Meloy kept the audience of indie kids, Josh Pyke fans and dudes that had been dragged there by their hippy girlfriends happy with jokes and witty banter.

To finish off the night, the band played a polite, but unrehearsed rendition of the Go Betweens’ Bye, Bye Pride, before sending us onto the streets of ol’ Sydney town with a singalong of Sons And Daughters.

All in all it had been a fun night. But seriously… $13. Fuck off.

Album Review – The Mess Hall, For the Birds

mess hall

Burke Reid poos gold and jizzes rainbows. I’m not sure what his sexual preference is, but I can tell you this much – the guy’s a fuckin genius at fiddling with knobs.

Not only did he produce what is arguably the greatest Australian album of the last decade (The Drones’ Havilah), as well as a number of other great local releases in recent years, he’s now whipped out his magic wand and gone *POOF* all over The Mess Hall’s latest LP, For The Birds.

I’ve never really been into The Mess Hall. I just thought they were part of the whole ‘blues rules/bass blows’ crowd. But I had a throbbing rager goin’ when I heard that Optimus Reid had produced their latest effort. That coupled with my first listen to the lead single, Bell, clued me onto the fact that The Mess Hall had made a major sonic shift since their previous recordings.

Like a couple of notable American two pieces before them, The Mess Hall have decided to move on from their simplistic guitar and drum set up, and to incorporate moody keys and organs to alter their sound.

And what a fucking amazing sound it is. The whole album is a deep, dark and twisted groove session. Delta blues, funk, soul, swamp rock and every other badass, swaggering kind of sub genre of music you can think of has been rolled up, beaten over the head with a 2×4, run over, soaked in bourbon and set alight – all to produce a sound that has been done so many times before, but for some reason still sounds totally fresh here.

This is where Burke Reid’s influence kicks in. There always seems to be twelve instruments playing at once, but none of them ever take the limelight over the others. The album’s also been mixed in a way so that when you sit there with phones on, it sounds like shit is being thrown at you from all side of the room. And that shit sounds rad.

Fuzzed out guitar; percussion that sounds like it’s been chewed up and spat out; haunting backing vocals; throbs of organ; reverbed hand claps; tickles of piano; all serve to reinforce Jed Kurzel’s slacker vocals. He never bothers to try and show off his singing skills, because he doesn’t need to. Just the tone of his voice is enough to make you think he’s packin’ a 12 inch wang.

My only critique is the two slowed down and stripped back numbers Marlene and Swing Low. I can understand that they were going for a change of pace with both, but I think the album would’ve have been much tighter and ‘complete’ without them.

In the end I could go through each song on this record and tell you how fuckin’ good it is and come up with a bunch of shitty metaphors and similes to try and describe them to you. But quite frankly, that’d just be wasting time that you should actually be listening to this album.

So just drop whatever you’re doing, go out and get it. NOW!

Note: You may also want to purchase some towels and a mop or something to clean up the mess you’ll make after you blow your load over how good it is.

Originally published on Polaroids of Androids

Album Review – Spoon, Transference

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It’s pretty obvious that Britt Daniel got an extra dollop of charisma when they were buttering the cool cunt sandwiches. The man may as well be Arthur Fonzarelli jumping a tank of sharks on a motorcycle.

I once saw him stare down and pick up the only hot chick ever to have visited Canberra, mid performance. She was already tonsils deep on his utensil before he’d even left the stage. And ever since Girls Can Tell, this extreme level of being fucking awesome has translated through to his band Spoon’s albums.

That’s no different for their latest effort, Transference. The lead single Written In Reverse was released just before Christmas and had all the band’s fans frothing on what the new album would have in stall for them in the new year – myself included.

So when I finally got my hands on a copy a few days ago, I imported it to my trusty Pod, fingered repeat, and let her go. And in the days since, where I’ve literally listened to nothing but Spoon, I have to admit… it’s disappointingly predictable.

Like I said, the cool is still there. As is the sparse, driving rhythms; thumping keys; chaotically exploding guitar licks; and gravel torn vocals that posses more soul than most white boys can dream of – all of which combine into that sound that is so identifiably Spoon.

But the hooks, those incredible pop hooks that shook you like an infant on Way We Get By, I Summon You and Don’t Make Me A Target, just aren’t there.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some kick ass spinners. Written In Reverse makes you wanna stomp a hole in the dance floor with your dirty Texan heels. The Mystery Zone has one of those unidentifiable elements that makes you love it more and more every time you hear it. And Got Nuffin, towards the end of the LP, pounds like a Catholic school girl when her parents are out.

But there are no surprises, no twists or turns. I remember catching I Turn My Camera On for the first time and thinking “What a shit song.” But as I heard it over and over again, it clawed and wrenched its way through me until I grasped the unbelievable appeal of that disco hook – the same hook that pervades so many amazing Spoon songs, no matter how much they break it down, or swell it up.

But on Transference, Britt, despite his ability to fix jukeboxes with a well timed punch, seems to have bent the Spoon too far.

Originally published on Polaroids Of Androids