Archive for the ‘Criticism’ Category

Finds

May 12, 2018

I’ve been trying. Like, for real this time, and slowly but surely one might say I am truly starting to “get the hang of things.”

I’m talking about finding and listening to new music, of course.

Here are a few that I have stumbled across, mostly by accident, which makes them that much better. My writer friend Nathan Jolly (of whom I am insanely jealous) wrote an article “on the unexpected joy of random Spotify discoveries“, and he is most definitely right. He’s also just released his second novel, so fuck that productive ambitious guy, amiright?  definitely give him a read. He’s also very prolific within the pages of Australia’s better music press, so there is a decent chance you already have.

This all started with Guided By Voices, as I was on the hunt trying to unearth more of those very special & amazing (to me) tracks that leave me stunned. Thanks to the internet, rabbit holes are now easier than ever to dive into, so it was almost immediately hit by this gem from Robert Pollard’s side project, Boston Spaceships.

It kind of swaggers like cock rock but has the shuffling nonchalance of my favourite kinds of shambolic indie, so of course I’m going to like it.  Since Spotify is like an A.I. Forrest Gump, it keeps on playing things in the same (kinda) vein, which is how I stumbled on this:

First up…how the hell had I never heard Archers Of Loaf? I mean, I heard the name years ago back in the states, but I think I must have just brushed them off because the moniker reminded me of a bastard child of Meatloaf and Captain Beefheart. Just the name, mind you, I mean….fuck it: I missed this one bad. Wait….THEY HAVE BOWLING IN THEIR VIDEO?!?!?

I could stop now and say, “that’s it I’m done”, then storm off and do something useful like take up smoking, but I feel compelled to bring this to your attention:

Yeah. That’s my kind of jam right there.

Stumbling onwards, I came across Superdrag for the first time

I have no idea where to place this in time. Is this an also-ran from the post-Nirvana label feeding frenzy? I had no idea what they looked like or how they dressed, so this video gave also gave me the idea that they were a byproduct of the pop-punk wave and missed it by a country mile. I dunno, but he goes “Yeeaaahhhh” in a way that doesn’t suck, so I kinda like it.

Also: another video from a band of white slackers featuring white folks dancing badly. This is a thing and has been for some time, but no one knows why.

Here is my personal fav from this little excursion, and another regrettable late first listen:

Everyone who knew about this song and didn’t tell me is guilty of some kind of fireable offense, because this is too good and so effortlessly cool that I am all kinds of jealous and awestruck. Further reading on the band revealed that Robyn Hitchcock was a founding member, so “What the hell music universe?!??!”

I don’t know if the rest of their stuff is any good, but it doesn’t matter: this one song is good enough for a career in my eyes.

I listened to the new Arctic Monkeys LP yesterday, called [insert overly long & pretentious LP title here], and it rather sucked. In reading some other reviews about it, mostly regurgitated and forced positive PR spin by folks who should know better, I was reminded that Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville was recently given a deluxe re-issue.

Now, I’ll be honest: I have only heard one Liz Phair song in my entire life, and that was from a mixtape that a former partner gave me many many moons ago. So, let me apologize now for missing out on this. Beyond the Guyville LP, I am listening to the expansive Girly-Sounds demo cassettes that would form the basis for the “proper” album as well as subsequent releases. My music library is definitely a sexist cesspool of overwrought male geniuses basking in the pitiful glory of their abundant verbiage, so I am doing my best to make amends.

I will always have a thing for just an acoustic guitar & voice recorded on a 4 track, and this is great not only as a curious artifact of pop music history, but because the songs are genuinely…wait for it….good.

Verdict: old Liz Phair demos > Arctic Monkeys latest

This came to our attention via a press release last week. I remember playing a few shows with these lads many years ago, and they have just announced that they are leaving Oz and resettling in LA at the request of their new manager/filmmaker/friend, which is cool but kinda sad coz all the bands we used to know are either broken up or kinda gone from the scene in one way or another. This came with the helpful title of , “If you like The Strokes then listen to this…”, which is an honest and concise way of putting it. A lovely melody here, and top notch production, if that’s your thing. Good luck gentlemen, we hope LA treats you well.

We’ll sign off with a glorious indulgence in nepotism. If you’ve been around or known Royal Chant prior to 2015 then you would have known our lovely James Carthew on guitar, and while he is on perpetual shore leave building robots of the future in San Fransisco he is still very much a part of Royal Chant.

He is also very much doing his own things, including his band Drunk On A Bike. That was “Hugs” off their second EP, helpfully titled Oakland One, because their first EP was titled Oakland Zero, and they have just released their third EP Oakland Eleventeen Two.

It has been a real first-world struggle to get out of my musical rut and get my ears around some new music, but it’s a new habit I am trying to form and I’ll keep plodding along as always. Send me your recommendations if you’re so inclined, because I have started to take these personal suggestions much more seriously these days instead of brushing them off and then annoyingly finally listening to it 6 months later and loving just like you said I would.

Just ask James if you don’t believe me xoxo

Advertisements

Coming soon: Support Our Troops, a new series of live music reviews

January 16, 2018

Music Journalism is in a weird place these days.

For starters, many would be forgiven for immediately responding with, “Music Journalism? Why hello Old Boy, I thought you were dead”, or, more likely: “Music what?!?”

It’s OK. It’s been a rough 10-20 years (by some estimations), but feel free to place the “death of music journalism” tombstone wherever you like in your own personal or global timeline. There’s probably a dearth of great music journalism out there now [editor’s note: yes, there is heaps of good music journalism out there], but I can’t be bothered to google it right now  because there’s nothing I particularly want to read about at the moment. Sometimes all you want to do is listen to the music, other times you want to know everything else about it.

Although there are a myriad of reasons that have collided to produce the modern state of the music industry (the internet, Pokemon Go!, Nickleback, etc etc), what no one really talks about is that there’s no money in the game these days In it’s glory days (eh…), at the top of it all sat the record labels, selling their overpriced wares to a public largely held  hostage. Labels essentially functioned like banks who specialized in making high-interest speculative loans in the music industry, with “artists” functioning like tech stocks. So many to choose from, all with so much potential, yet most ultimately doomed to failure and perhaps even suffer the further ignominy of having their ideas co-opted by inferior products.

So…labels would place as many bets as they could, and hopefully a few would pay off big time. These big labels and their rare big winners wound up essentially funding the entire industry, because what no one tells you when you’ve got rock & roll dreams is that boring things like advertising dollars and bottom lines actually matter. You can run a cool ‘zine for a few months, maybe even years, on nothing more than passion and raiding your parents inkjet supplies, but eventually that shit gets old.  Not only that, many of your favourite underground bands who managed to sign on major labels were able to add some coveted artistic cred to the label roster and allowed to run at a loss, but only because theyhad a Britney Spears to make sure the cheques cleared. I would hate Fleetwood Mac with a passion if I wasn’t so apathetic, but even I have to tip my hat to the number of careers their platinum-selling albums helped fuel.

As far as my own experience, I started noticing the change a few years ago, when publications that we would normally be grateful to get a gig mention or album blurb from starting calling us to see if we wanted to buy advertising space. Us? Um….we’re broke. At no point in our lives have we had spare dollars to throw around for that sort of thing, and trust us when we say that it is not cheap. They’re pitching these packages to us and surely they must know that there’s not a chance in hell we can say yes to anything, yet here we are.

What happened?

The money dried up.

With advertising revenues way down, it wound up having a trickle down effect on the music and music journalism. For better or worse, much of what you read is a form of “pay-to-play”, meaning that if you want coverage you’re gonna have to pay for it. Now, we are not opposed to this necessarily, but we did notice that live reviews and album reviews were focusing more and more on those acts that really don’t need it. At all. Why were they getting it? Because just like the ever-increasing income gap, there were fewer and fewer acts that could actually afford to grease the wheels, either through purchasing advertising space or else through direct purchase of coverage.

And that right there is what we simply cannot abide. No one needs to read a live review of a Jimmy Barnes show. Everyone knows what they’re getting with at another show with Barnsey, so can we please donate some verbiage to the acts who actually need it? Honest, unscripted press devoted to the unknowns of Australia’s live music scene has taken a hit in recent years, so we’re going to try and do our part to pick up the slack.

So that’s where this new series/endeavor comes in. “Support Our Troops” (an idea I stole from Atlanta’s Stomp & Stammer), will be my own live reviews of bands we tour with, because let’s face it: if I’m not actually playing I’m not likely to be there. I actually started writing a few of these in the middle of last year, but of course I gave up because that’s what I learned from my suburban-white-bread upbringing. When the going gets tough, fuck it.

So….if all goes as planned, I should have my first installment up tomorrow, covering a show which, truth be told, doesn’t need any more coverage.  But, since I’m going to at least try and follow a few basic ground rules, I’ll give it a go. I may also get it together enough to dust off some of my few false starts from last year, so don’t be surprised if you wind up reading a live review for a gig that happened 6-12 months ago.

That’s all from here, more verbs to come soon enough xoxo

 

4 minutes of forever

May 21, 2013

I’m still doing lots of trips back and forth to Sydney, so not much has changed much over these past few years.  That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.  Sometimes it’s not so much, and other times it seems like I’ve got the details of the F1 highway memorized down to the last white line and the shape of every roadside pebble.  Time is, of course, slipping, but taking a tattered page from Dylan Thomas I am doing my best to rage against the eventual and keep up my trips to the library, poking amongst the books and CDs in hopes of finding something new to help me battle brain fade and ennui, to delay that slow descent into jaded middle age and cynical detachment.  Basically just trying to keep up the spirits, if you will.

When it comes to finding joy, I must report that, alas, I did and I didn’t.  I’ll spare you the minutiae of the entire cache I waltzed home with, but on a drive down to Sydney I eagerly cracked open Badly Drawn Boy’s It’s What I’m Thinking (Part One: Photographing Snowflakes).  I had been a fan of his in the past, and although I lost touch with most of his work following Have You Fed The Fish?, that was really because I decided to fall off the earth when it comes to much of music and music journalism.  Badly Drawn Boy doesn’t seem to be spoken of much Down Under, and if he is then it is simply my fault for being oblivious.  It happens.

My hands aren’t exactly shaking as I put the CD in, but darn near close enough, and I was ready for his slightly bored delivery and subtle anti-pop to take me away.  It didn’t.  It was rather underwhelming, with songs that went nowhere and seemed really naff & muddled and I couldn’t find a song or a point or whatever. I was not mad, but I was pretty bummed out.  I gave it about 1 1/2 listens before admitting defeat and moving on.  Radio in Australia is not particularly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  I tuned into amongst the white noise of rural NSW and got on with the drive.

It wasn’t until I returned home that I gave album another try, and this had a slightly different result.  I was still pretty underwhelmed, but from the remembered drear came an ascending melodic line of violins that sprang from my speakers and grabbed me for the better part of two weeks.  For the next 12 days or so I had this song blasting on repeat in the car, lulling me away from the cold sunshine and discontent, my slight aches and complaints, and whatever general unpleasant humanness I generally bring to the party.  It is not a perfect song, but “Too Many Miracles” was perfect, for me.

I am not a massive music sleuth, nor do I make any claims nor have any aims at music journalism.  I’d like to think that I’ve remained as much of a fan of music that being a musician will allow, and I think I’ve largely succeeded, (although not entirely, to be sure.) By the time this song had run its course I still did not really know what exactly he is singing, and rather than bother to look up the lyrics I decided I might as well see if any PR had accompanied the song.  Sure enough, there was the music clip (that’s the sucker above), blessed with sound that was much clearer that what is heard on CD.  Besides smiling at the fact that at least someone or some label was still putting money behind him, I noticed that there was a live clip of him performing at a slightly sparsely attended in-store at Rough Trade records.  I post it here just as way of pulling back the curtain, as it were.  Not to say, “Hey look! He’s just a guy with an acoustic guitar! See?!?!  It’s not that hard!” But rather, to see and hear what a song is like in it’s simplest form, performed in the simplest manner, much like a journeyman in any other occupation.  It’s a glimpse of someone getting along with it as best he can, with quiet dignity and not much pomp and fanfare.

And that is the sound of 3 minutes and 46 seconds that filled my life, seemingly without end.  Happy listening, say hi if it’s been a while.  Is it just me, or are we all seeming just a little bit weary?

To close, I’ll leave you with the rich sound of Dylan Thomas, reading his work as no one else can.  We all rage, in our own way.  Keep it up.

peace & love,

M

Portnoy’s Complaint, pt. I

July 8, 2011

I have been a fan of Philip Roth for over 2 years now, since first opening Sabath’s Theater before moving on to Operation Shylock, his epic American Pastoral, and then Everyman. He has a sizable body of work, but I take what I can get here in Port Macquarie, and it was not until last week that I found a copy of Portnoy’s Complaint. There is much to say about this small novel, and I am going to make a serious effort at doing just that, but for now I would like to post a brief comment on a sentence I found last night.

In describing a scene about his mother (and this whole book is one long Jewish/Freudian double helix), the character says,
…that tragedy, as she calls it, was lurking in the wings. But high herself on the fruit of two whiskey sours….

Maybe it’s just me, but the part about “the fruit of two whiskey sours” struck me as Shakespearian, in the best sense of the word. It both exaggerates and understates, depending on how you take it, which is both difficult to achieve and subtle in it’s effects. You could read it that the “fruit” of the whiskey sours was the alcohol itself, or that the alcohol’s effects are blossoming inside the mother (aka: getting tipsy or wasted). But, if one knows how a proper whiskey sour is made, then they would also know that it is served with an orange slice, in which case the mother, or narrator on behalf of the mother, is essentially claiming to be such a prude that it was the mere fruit of the drink that did the trick. One explanation is metaphorical but less profound, while the other is a concrete description with wry implications. Impressive.

Maybe it’s just because I finished Coriolanus a few hours before that I’m surmising this connection. Shakespeare had a knack for utilizing the vocabulary of various professions that related to his characters, and I’d like to think this is a throwback to that. It works either way, but I did give a smug, knowing smile to myself when I read that. I worked at a bar. I’ve made a few whiskey sours.

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe my analysis is complete rubbish, but then, if you’re trolling the internet for insights into Shakespeare, what did you expect? I’m just saying….

We are leaving for the next leg of our tour….now It might be a while until I write again, but, as always, please stay in touch and let me know what you are all up to.