December 23, 2013

top list

Top Albums of 2013 (not comprehensive and in no particular order):

-Two Favourites: ‘Push The Sky Away’ by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and ‘The First Five’ by Heisenberg

‘Standards’ - Lloyd Cole
‘Spare Parts’ - John Davis (ex Folk Implosion)
‘mbv’ - My Bloody Valentine
‘Everything, All At Once, Always’ - Corpus
‘Ghost In The Shell’ - Celiac
‘Defend Yourself’ - Sebadoh
‘Spatial Proximity/Rebirth’ - The World At A Glance
‘The World Is Fucked’ - Primitive Calculators

and all of the live stuff I recorded at the Tote (WAAG, Vowel Movement and The Primary, in that order - not yet released)

September 9, 2013

The World At A Glance - ‘Spatial Proximity - Rebirth’

Astronaut ref: http://worldataglance.bandcamp.com/releases

*n.b. this is my first review in a while - I used to publish them on an alternate blog but I’ve forgotten the password to it after two years. Sorry if it reads a little academic/wordy… that’s what two years of a science degree will do to you -A*

References to glitch art, Neon Genesis Evangelion, the audio-visual work of Ryoji Ikeda and At The Drive-In are rife within WAAG’s body of work, culminating in the brief but weighty Spatial Proximity – Rebirth.

Purporting to explore the breakdown of the mind-body connection, the work is a 15 minute film incorporating kaleidoscopic patterns, mixed language title cards, establishing shots and short domestic vignettes. Providing a backdrop to the film is a melange of softer instrumental tracks and the swirling post-hardcore that WAAG is more typically known for. The soundtrack syncs up almost perfectly with the diverse range of visuals featured, often lending a deeper more engaging significance to the songs included.

Some of the music is gorgeous, some of it nears the sheer surge of energy that typified At The Drive-In’s greatest moments (‘Cloud Gate’). Opener ‘Eye Blinking’ (the naming of which will become clear when you watch the film) is reminiscent of U2’s ‘One Minute Warning’ featured on the soundtrack to Ghost In The Shell, to make another anime comparison. For a relatively young band, their ability to integrate such disparate styles into a cohesive soundtrack is particularly impressive.

White-on-black title cards, interposed with each segment, feature introspective Japanese and English text, seemingly inspired by Hideaki Anno’s post-modern inclusions in the latter days of Evangelion. Taken in sequence, they reveal a loose inner narrative of disconnection, release and mental panic that is sure to resonate with anyone who’s every felt totally drained emotionally or physically. Indeed, the concluding track ‘West Tipping Its Hat To The East’ (with the disconcertingly appropriate caption ‘Please take your seats…’) is the perfect embodiment of feeling absolutely exhausted and the blinding relief that comes with succumbing to the collapse - ‘Then, the nightmares stopped…’

Lead vocalist Scott McLatchie has a voice that may take a little getting used to, but I can’t imaging substituting anyone else. Reece Prain (drums) and Harry Trotman (bass) supply an engaging rhythm section that reliably reinforces the urgencies of the songs. The World At A Glance live is something to behold – anyone who likes (or doesn’t like) their recorded material will be rewarded, as much of it is best experienced in a live context.

It’s important that I explain the release history of the DVD/soundtrack. The three more ‘typical’ WAAG songs (‘Re-Birth’, ‘Cloud Gate’ and ‘West Tipping Its Hat To The East’) were released as the Spatial Proximity EP for free online. This was followed by the DVD itself, which includes additional instrumental tracks. The music on the DVD, including the punk songs and the interludes, are included as a free MP3 download with the DVD itself. Confounding element: the DVD and MP3 soundtrack are sequenced differently. So, each gives a slightly different story.

October 9, 2011   1 note

Rattlesnakes: A Lloyd Cole Primer

Lloyd - photo from his website

You may not have heard of Lloyd Cole. Indeed, he has had few solid hits, and nearly all of them were in the eighties. His reputation amongst the rock cognescenti is, however, that of an overlooked genius or an underappreciated songster. Lloyd’s experienced a bit of a renaissance recently, after touring Australia in 2009 and earlier this year, releasing a 4-Disc B-side box set and a new (fan funded!) album. Could his music be experiencing a renewal of the hipster interest not seen since his indie-pop heyday? With actual, real-live modern hipsters?

First, a little of a biographical introduction. Cole was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, in the upper midlands of England. The reason he’s geographically grouped with Scottish groups like Orange Juice and The Blue Nile is because he went to Uni in Glasgow. There, he formed the band that would take him to the top of the pops and back. The Commotions were an ably talented bunch of musicians who turned Cole’s coffee-shop crooning into suave indie-pop.

With a band in tow and a head full of contemporary literature, Cole set about recording his debut album in 1984, Rattlesnakes. I’ll make my point right now, so you don’t miss it. If you run out and buy a Lloyd Cole album after reading this little subjective analysis, you must buy this album. Actually get rid of that wankery at the start of that sentence; you must buy this album.

As you must’ve now guessed, Rattlesnakes is a dear personal treasure to me. One of the few albums that my parents both liked, it got a fair few plays in my dad’s house. He was the one that told me that the first track was brilliant, the second was very good, and the third the best pop song ever written.

Rattlesnakes is a striking album, but not in the most immediate way. Its cover is a photograph of a door. Yes, a door, but not just any door – the grimy, musky looking door that can only belong to a run-down Glaswegian student bedsit. To tell the truth, that’s what I thought Uni was going to be like (thanks to Blackboard and Uni Bureaucratics, there was a sharp learning curve ahead).

If you were to demark a gimmick of Cole, you’d probably pick his lyrics. Dropping names like Leonard Cohen, Norman Mailer, Turman Capote and referencing Joan Didion, you can kind of guess that Lloyd was an Arts student. Far from being a cheesy lyrical technique, he carries it off very well, with a tongue-in-cheek cleverness that would be hard to reproduce in modern rock and pop.

The songs are a little like R.E.M if they were more insecure and less vague (we’re talking their first 4 albums here). Key example – ‘Speedboat’. A marvellous trip through what it is to be unpopular, to live in the slow lane of youth and ‘take notes, trusting in prudence’. That’s me to a tee in highschool. Uncle Lloyd was, inevitably, a dear friend who didn’t mind me quietly writing instead of being Corey Worthington.

‘Perfect Skin’ is an ode to that mythical indie girl, a woman who, with the glamour of Greta Garbo, will take your hand and show you the livelier side of life (without letting go). It also has my mum’s favourite lyric in it – ‘She’s got cheekbones like geometry/and eyes like sin’.

I’d like to draw your attention to the title track. ‘Rattlesnakes’ has everything that a song needs: simple chords, pining lyrics and one of the finest string arrangements that has ever graced a pop song (‘Unfinished Sympathy’ notwithstanding). Look it up on youtube if you’d like an inroad to Cole’s works.

Sadly, however, most people stop at the brilliance of Rattlesnakes. Go to any JB-HiFi or other record store and, more often than not, it’s the only trace of Lloyd Cole in stock. Truth is, Cole has released two more albums with the Commotions and nine as a solo artist (not counting compilations or live albums). They’re all very good, and well worth checking out. Over the years he’s ventured into folk, electronica, country and even ambient music (Plastic Wood). A writer of quality music and highly literary lyrics, Lloyd Cole deserves as much praise as can be garnered for the greats.

[written near rare books reading room this morning]

October 9, 2011

Gotye at the Forum Theatre

We’ve just caught up outside the Forum. It’s my first time at this lovely Flinders Street relic. I walk within its plush interior and I know it’s going to be a special night. I’ve been aware of Gotye since ‘Hearts A Mess’ was in constant rotation on Triple J, but hadn’t ventured to buy any of his albums. When the opportunity to see him with a friend arose, I accepted on a whim. I drove out to Narre Warren and picked up his CDs from her place, and listened intently for the next two days. As you do.

Gotye

Gotye, in case you’re a little lost, is the performing identity of one Wally De Backer, drummer for The Basics and sample-meister extraordinaire. His music has slowly graduated from amateur Massive Attack/Portishead-esque electronica (as on his debut, 2003’s Boardface) to extremely good pop music (current chart-topper Making Mirrors). Wally entered the world of sampling after growing disillusioned with the limitations that come with being a rock drummer, inspired by a friend whose digital audio setup he essentially copied for his own. Almost a decade later, years of hard work and self promotion seem to have paid off, winning him an Aria award and the number one single and album spots on the ARIA charts – simultaneously.

So, somewhat boned up on the Gotye thing (after largely neglecting his newest album), I was ready to enjoy myself that little more. The support acts come on, the able Husky playing a half-hour set. I’d new nothing about them beyond the fact that they were a contemporary indie band, and that hence I probably wouldn’t like them that much. After a couple of songs, I knew I’d jumped to conclusions. Their considerable musicianship and ability to gel with the crowd won marks from me.

Another lengthy wait incurs a struggle for bench space (our legs were getting tired). We sit and admire the décor. The stage begins to bustle and the audience starts to cheer, so two of us make our way down to the standing area.

            The stage is flanked by two projector screens, Wally takes to the stage shrouded in darkness against a blue backdrop. Uh oh, there are more people here than expected – do I count nine on stage? I’d orginally thought he’d have only minimal backup, largely relying on a sampler, but no – he’s taken the Talking Heads approach. This will be interesting. The cheers rise to greet a lone string sample – the opening of Making Mirror’s self-titled introduction. His back turned to the audience, Wally’s strikingly dynamic voice begins a soft croon. Then, as the introduction draws to a close, enter the band.

            Gotye’s music unequivocally benefits from having a mini-orchestra behind it (or at least a talented horn section). ‘Eyes Wide Open’, famous for having a sampled fence on the recording, sets the major mood for the evening. It’s loud, but hi-fi, the best kind of mix. With three percussionists (Wally himself included), a keyboardist, electronics handled by Tim Shiel, three brass players, guitar and bass ably handled by long-term Gotye pal Lucas Taranto, you can really feel the whole wall-of-sound thing going on.

            The enviable drumming of Wally is showcased on next track ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, a haunting percussion-based slice of orchestral hits and reggae bass. It’s worth mentioning that visuals play a prominent part in Gotye’s live act – the animations and abstract patterns projected against the backdrop (and horn players, in many cases) aren’t the least bit gimmicky. That said, the following track ‘State of The Art’ turns out to be a highlight. This is Gotye’s reggae/dub ode to the Lowrey Cotillion, a fancy electronic organ of the seventies once bestowed to him by his parents. His voice bizarrely modulated, the effect on stage is all the more sweetly disturbing – especially when the horns play the incredibly loud breakdown riff.

            More tracks from Making Mirrors follow, including ‘Easy Way Out’, the second-most-uplifting-track-on-the-album ‘I Feel Better’, the audience singalong ‘Save Me’ and the extremely stark ‘Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You’. Of course, the ubiquitous hits must make an appearance at this point. ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ receives a solid rendition, with the part of backing vocalist Kimbra played by the audience. Something must be said about Gotye’s stage presence before continuing – Wally looks a little shy, a little goofy, but entirely confident and and not at all over-serious. He looks like he’s having a good time because he wants you to have a good time. In a way, he looks like an overgrown kid humbled by the fact that he’s leading a band. That’s the kind of frontman you want.

            The set is occasionally punctuated by Grand-Final jokes (this being the first of October gig) and gradual introduction of tonight’s players. The body of the gig enters its last stages, as Gotye staple ‘Hearts A Mess’ gets an obligatory run-through. The grandeur of the track is somewhat marred in this performance, and I’m not sure why. Something was lacking, though nonetheless enjoyable, and was really the only misstep of the entire night. Perhaps it was something in the air.

            To audience cries, Wally introduces the following ‘Bronte’ as the last song of the night. A melancholy-but-tender ode to the titular dog, who died during the recording of the album, the song is perfect lullaby material. The band bids goodnight to the audience and leaves the stage. ‘One more song!’ shout the foot-stomping fans, and the band returns for the encore. Promising to end the night on a more upbeat note, Wally leads the band into the unbelievably happy ‘In Your Light’. Our hearts are brightened, but will they play that final song? Drums and ceaseless handclaps continue into a resounding ‘yes’. ‘Learnalilgivinandlovin’, Gotye’s flawless homage to Motown, gets the crowd jumping and bopping and turning into the hipster equivalent of a moshpit. The night is complete.

            I’ll get a little personal now. I wasn’t feeling that great whilst standing in front of the stage, watching Husky. I had this terrible sense of anxiety that sometimes hits. When Gotye got into it, all of that was gone. I haven’t been to a performance like that since U2 last year. It takes a certain kind of dedication and skill to produce music that can do that, let alone perform it with a full band. I’ll sum it up in a simple phrase: Gotye – impressive on every level. Buy his albums. Now.

October 9, 2011

Sebadoh at the Corner Hotel

jason and bob -sebadoh

Sebadoh are a little foreign to most. Casually known as Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow’s ‘other band’, many relegate the band to a footnote in the annals of nineties indie rock amidst contemporaries such as Pavement and Nirvana. After fifteen years and yet another change in drummers, Jason Loewenstein and Lou made it out to Australia to honour/promote their recently re-released 1994 album Bakesale. Not going to pass up such a rare opportunity to make the most of a good situation, I scheduled an interview with them. My first interview.

The September 18th show at the Corner Hotel sold out completely, the only date on their Australian tour to do so. Following the warm reception of frontman Lou Barlow’s Missing Link live cassette (see Lot’s Wife Edition 5/6), its not surprising to see such a crowd of Aussie Sebadoh fans turn out for this scarce occasion.

Not wishing to miss my interview time, we turned up two hours early and sat around in the bar. The venue… what can I say? It’s the Corner. It was my first time there, but it was easy to settle in and is obviously as much a part of Melbourne’s musical culture as that other bastion of Rock, the Espy. Perhaps a little tidier than the Espy though, but still comfortable surrounds. I was driving that night, so didn’t take note of the drink prices.

After some negotiations with the front-of-house and tour managers, we’re in. Wandering into the band room when there’s no crowd to speak of is a little disconcerting – everything fully lit, surly roadies lurching across the floor, and the band members casually walking around the stage. Finally, we greet Lou, welcomes us into the band’s tiny ‘dressing room’ and offers me a can of Solo. Read the results of that interview [elsewhere in this issue].

After leaving the live room post-interview, we make our way back to the bar. There is a sign above stating that the headline act will not appear until ten o’clock – so much for arriving at six. The doors soon open and we’re in the arena, opener Laura Imbruglia and her band on the b-stage. I like her music, her grungy looks, her lack of affectation and the fact that she always looks very nervous but sings confidently nonetheless. Her music could be described as power-pop. She enjoys a warm reception.

After some considerable delay, second opener Adarm Harding & Friends takes to the main stage. If the barrage of guitar noise and feedback doesn’t get your attention, the strobe lights and the lead singer suspended from the ceiling in a straitjacket will. I’ve seen one reviewer describe their set as ‘sludge… grunge without the songs’. While this may be a little harsh, I tired of their pieces quickly despite their careful use of feedback – even a little pop hook would have been nice. Plus, even Sebadoh at their noisiest (Dino J even?) had some semblance of melody. It’s all in the family though – Lou is good friends with Adam, and their friendship is likely a useful antipodean/Sebadoh connection.

jason onstage

One more set from Laura et al and we’re onto the real deal. No hanging strait jackets, just the band fumbling around on stage. A band renowned for their on-stage shambles, the seem to make threats of a disorganised, half-baked performance that belies their collective talents. Does this happen? The band burst into a rousing, slightly distorted rendition of Harmacy opener ‘On Fire’ that dispels all allegations of sloppiness. After another couple of Lou tracks, favourites ‘Skull’ and ‘Too Pure’, Lou’s delicious banter with the audience begins. ‘It’s been 11 years since we were last here…’ he says. A voice in the crowd ‘Actually, I think it was 15’ and another slacker-infused tone from the pit ‘Oh shut up’. Laughter. The band’s connection with the audience and all-welcoming interaction is definitely one of their strengths.

lou onstage 2

After another two of Lou’s, it’s Jason’s turn. The two swap their instruments. I’d previously not thought much of Jason’s songs, appreciating where they were coming from but preferring Lou’s melodic compositions. My opinion was dynamically changed that evening. The real strengths of Jason’s songs can easily be appreciated live – they include the energy often diminished by polished recordings (not something that Sebadoh are known for anyway, other than on Harmacy). Plus, when he starts playing, he really looks like a teenager instead of a thirty or forty-something. It’s only now that I realise that Lou and Jason are killer bassists.

The majority of the songs in the setlist were culled from Harmacy and Bakesale, though ‘Forced Love’, ‘Soul and Fire’ and ‘The Freed Pig’ made an appearance. The set closed with a – dare I say it – empowering ‘Brand New Love’, before an encore of [a song from Bakesale that I’ve forgotten]. Despite their shambolic appearance, Sebadoh, with the addition of new drummer Bob D’Amico, pull off an incredibly powerful live set.

October 6, 2011   1 note

An Interview with Lou Barlow

lou onstage

Regular readers of this year’s Lot’s Wife may have noticed that I have a thing for Lou Barlow. I’ll admit that he’s something of an idol for me. For those not aware of him, Lou’s a pretty prolific songwriter and member of bands such as The Folk Implosion, Sebadoh and (most famously) Dinosaur Jr. He got booted out of that last band sometime last century, but has been playing with the reformed version since earlier this century. Inspired by his vast body of work, his lo-fi approach to his early music and just his all-round coolness, I sought out an interview with him when Sebadoh came to town this September (see elsewhere for the gig review). Amazingly, I managed to hunt him down during soundcheck.

On touring Australia for the first time in fifteen (or so) years, Lou’s opinion of our sunburnt country was pretty favourable. Partly out of fascination and partly out of nervousness, I asked him what he thought of the country. “I like Australia. To be completely general, it’s kind of like a cross between U.K. and California. Anything crossed with California is a really good thing, ‘cause that’s where I live.” A Massachusetts resident for many years, he now extolls the virtues of L.A. I remind him of the gig in Missing Link records gig last year; “You do look familiar, actually!” he laughs, reminding me of my fanboyish fawning.

Pleasantries now aside. Sebadoh’s albums Bakesale (1994) and Harmacy (1996) are arguably their best known. Bakesale saw a reissue earlier this year, prompting the aforementioned tour. I asked about the making of those albums. “Bakesale was very ‘off the cuff’ and we did it very quickly… there were no particular expectations. Eric Gaffney had just quit the band. Unfortunately, dealing with with Eric up to that point he made everything extremely difficult… very talented guy, very cool ideas but he really has a hard time letting go of things and getting on with it, the business of making music. When he left, he sort of took his little black cloud with him and the sun came out. We made this record really quickly and we included the four songs that we did with Eric before he left the band. [It was] just this very quick, kind of cathartic process.”

And onto the oft-cited difficulties making Harmacy; “[Bakesale] was pretty successful and I had some success with the Folk Implosion, so when we started doing Harmacy, there were a lot of expectations. We also ran into the limitation of having our good friend Bob Fay play drums. One of the main reasons that Bob was in the band was because he was fun to hang out with. He wasn’t a particularly dynamic drummer. We were faced with this expectation of going into the studio and they’re saying that these songs are good, but could be so much better if you had someone who could really play drums. So we were faced with that dilemma immediately - of course we didn’t fire our friend, and we made a record that then effectively bankrupted the record label that put it out. I don’t think we were solely responsible for that! Bad decsions… Anyway, we were sort of blamed for ruining the label because the record didn’t sell a million copies. It was all sort of hearbreaking.”

Bakesale and Harmacy might seem rough-sounding by today’s standards, but they are the most polished in the Sebadoh catalogue. Earlier releases by Gaffney and Barlow were recorded on 4-track tape or even on boomboxes. Their songs were dubbed down onto ‘RadioShack low-noise cassettes’, replete with noise and audio collages. After a couple of albums, they had begun to flirt with more refined studio recordings. Barlow wonders how it would be if they’d continued the 4-track tack: “I was writing some pretty good songs back then. Looking back on it, if we’d approached it like Guided By Voices and did the whole thing on a four track it would probably be a classic record. People would go ‘Whoa, incredible!’. But we sort of found ourselves caught up in the game of going into studios and working with people with opinions. We may have been better off left with our own opinions and could have made a record that was more… we could have made a noisier, more lo-fi record and that probably would have had a bit more charm to it, I think. But we didn’t do that.”

I was given a four-track Yamaha MT-120 recorder years ago, but it’s not since discovering Lou’s work that I’ve regained my interest in the recordings I made when I was fifteen. I asked him what he thought about using tape when you can easily buy a digital audio setup for a couple of hundred bucks…

“Sure,  I think anyone can make music on anything right now.” Was it financially motivated back in the day? It must have been the least expensive gear you could get your hands on… “It seemed expensive back then, I tell you my friend. My first four track was $500 and I felt it was really expensive. But no, the other thing with recording yourself is that you have control. When you go into situations where you are using people who can afford to have this fantastic equipment that make legitimate records, you also have to contend with their opinions. I felt that recording on something like a four track was definitely not financial – first and foremost I really liked the way it sounded. But also, it was the only way I could be by myself and record without having to filter my ideas through other people.”

All this talk of filtering ideas gets me thinking about being in a band. I’ve always wanted to be in a band, and I’ve been in a few. At least in my experience, it’s difficult to get your ideas going in a group without everyone on board – animosity is a more powerful binder than enthusiasm. Being in so many bands, what does Lou think?

“[Easy,] I’m not in bands with people other than… I mean J Mascis has no opinions at all. It’s a little hard to motivate those guys to do anything, the Dinosaur Jr. guys, ‘cause their not very creatively motivated. There’s a very workmanlike, dispassionate way that Dinosaur Jr. goes about their business. If I’m in the right place and have the right amount of energy, I can totally roll through it and it can be awesome. And Sebadoh certainly, I mean, the band was set up like… one of the basic ideas was ‘If you think it’s good, we’re behind you buddy!’ If Jason brings up a song, it’s ‘Great. I’m here for it.’ I don’t pick, I don’t critique his work, I do my best to help him realise his ideas when we make records. But, it’s been ages since we’ve done that.

And with that, my Sebadoh-sense starts tingling. Their last record was released in 1999. Since then, Lou’s been chiefly occupied with the Dinosaur Jr. touring noise machine. He’s also put out two solo records, continuing the spirit of his long-established solo project Sentridoh. The burning question is, however, will this reunion tour of sorts result in an all-new piece of Sebadoh? After a lot of confusing semantics regarding the words ‘ruling’ and ‘rolling’, Lou shed some light on the subject; “We would like to do another [Sebadoh record]. That would be good, and I think it would be smart.” The main issue is mainly geographical – Jason Loewnstein and Lou live in different parts of the States. No reason they couldn’t email each other tracks, Byrne and Eno style…

lou & me & alexis

And now, all the important stuff that a flailing/budding songwriter wants to extract from his idol – how does he write his songs? Thankfully my questions weren’t quite that general. For instance, I asked where he gets his inpiration from <sigh>. A lot of his songs are rather touchy-feely…so, maybe he invents his tales of confusion and yearning?

“I’m really bad at inventing scenarios. I wish I could. The times that I do invent, I think I’m inventing scenarios, I finish the song and realise it’s exactly about something and think ‘Oh God!’ Being clever is really not my thing… To me it feels really arrogant. It’s not that I necessarily dislike it when other people do it, ‘cause I don’t. I like a lot of music that takes artistic licence and weaves tales about other people. For myself, I don’t have that sort of imagination, or, if I do, when I kick into it I just feel so full of shit  <laughs> I can’t stand it. I feel like I really have to start singing about something that’s really bothering me or something that’s on the top of my head. Plus, I find it really difficult to remember the words if I’m not writing about myself.”

What about writing about the less happy things in life?

“Of course not!”

Here’s the question that’s been keeping me from writing my own songs; do you ever worry that what you write about in your songs might… affect your actual life?

“Oh, that stuff. I have to say I did that for a long time. I actually wrote a song, didn’t think twice about it, but then had a friend who, during the course of an acid trip, divulged to me that he thought pretty much every song that I wrote was about him. That was just awful. Then, when I sort of got successful and people started wondering what I was writing about, it created a really weird energy. I felt like I couldn’t really be honest without it directly affecting my life. It affected people around me, so that really affected me. But now, the cool thing is that nobody really listens to my music! <laughs> No one close to me really listens to my music – my wife doesn’t care, she just like ‘Whatever it takes –if you’ve got to write a harsh song, you know, whatever.’ It doesn’t matter. Even that becomes a part of my music; she understands… the philosophy, I guess, behind music. It’s hard to be honest in songs then actually meet the people you’re writing about!”

Lou plays bass and guitar on Sebadoh records. I was curious to find out which one he preferred. Turns out, he’s a fence sitter; “I think I prefer to play a guitar with four strings on it. A fair amount of Sebadoh songs are written on a four string… There’s something about bass that I really do… I guess because I spent the last six years playing bass with Dinosaur. I do love the bass, but I’m not a very good bass player and I’m not very good at guitar. I think I have a style though.”

Just having perused his August newsletter online, the attached video came to mind. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a bizarre home video featuring his attempts at destroying a small electronic circuit and boredom-inspired bricolage. I’d like to live like that someday…

“What, coming home from tour with money that you can shower on a stuffed animal? That was our tiny apartment in Boston. I was spending most of my time on tour during that period. I would come home, and my girlfriend/wife worked a job. She’d leave the house at seven or eight o’clock in the morning and she’d come back home at six, so I’d have the apartment to myself all day, doing whatever I felt like <laughs>. The video was just little snapshots of my life at that time. It did involve a lot of marijuana and alcohol.…’

Which makes me wonder, what’s his favourite drink? Some kind of exotic cocktail perhaps? Nope…

“Right now I like sauvignon blanc, from either South America or New Zealand. Australia as well, they make a really nice sauvignon blanc. That’s my old-guy thing. I have it with ice, so I can hydrate. I mean, I went through periods where I drank a lot of whiskey and things, but that was detrimental to my health, so I had to stop.”

Finally, and rather bewildered, I ask him for his advice to young people.

“You need to ask me a specific question”

Err… how about… love?

“I thought my advice about love would be ‘do what you’re told’, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. In any relationship, I really try to personally understand what someone is feeling. Whenever my first reaction is ‘How can somebody do that!?’ I think ‘Well, stop right there, why would somebody do that.’ Think about where they came from. Why they would say that. Maybe you caused them to say that… just have an honest examination of how you might feel about being wrong. Consider it, you don’t necessarily have to say you’re wrong, just apologise. Just ‘I understand…’ My wife and I have been through this a lot, I mean, in general it’s just ‘I understand what you’re feeling, I’m sorry you feel that way… I don’t know. It’s a lifelong struggle.”

Thus concludes my interview with Lou. He assures my girlfriend and I that there are T-shirts on sale. Jason greets us and shakes our hands on the way out. Nice guys.

September 29, 2011

White Wards - ‘Waste My Time’

cover

Is it a single? Is it an E.P.? Is it a… of course it’s a bloody E.P. Punk is designed around the E.P. Short and (relatively) cheap, it’s the perfect format for a style that boasts some of the briefest pieces of music with a typical song structure and that irrepressible DIY thing going on.

I walked into a prominent Bourke Street record store on a recent trip to the CBD, and asked for something that was new and very loud to review. The shopkeeper’s recommendation was this, the $10 7” White Wards E.P. Wasting My Time. I’d never come across them. I doubt many of you have either. White Wards are a hardcore punk band from Olympia, WA. I believe that this is their first non-demo recording, but I might be wrong. There’s sparse information about them on the internet.

The first thing I noticed is that neither side of the record is marked. There’s no way of telling which is the A-side or the B-side, but given the nature of the songs, this distinction probably isn’t too important. ‘EVERYTHING ENDS IN ROT’ and FAMILY VAN R.I.P.’ are the only markers, carved into the run-out groove. The insert sheet is similarly obscure, looking like a piece of X-Ray film that’s gone through a demented typewriter.

But, the songs… Well, to me they sounded like a less refined version of Black Flag (Early Rollins), with barely intelligible vocals and copious atonal guitar feedback. There are some hints at melody, which I guess is what the casual listener takes pleasure in straining out.  With titles like ‘Tear The Veins Out’ and ‘Fucking A Dead Body’, one can guess at the songs’ subject matter. Of course, once you get your mind in the right place, it’s all good fun.

That’s the problem for the punk outsider. It requires effort to get your head in the right place to enjoy it. But, is it worth the effort when you could just as easily, and perhaps (paradoxically) less expensively, listen to the aural MSG of The xx, Massive Attack or even U2? All are bands that are steeped in praise in the anonymous world of criticism, but you’re unlikely to meet anyone who will admit they like that last option in the Den…

But, criticisms and ponderings aside, it’s an interesting record. I’d personally spend money on more 80s hardcore, but it’s nice to see that this particular vein of musical heritage is kept alive across the pond.

Oh, and I’d say that the ‘EVERYTHING ENDS IN ROT’ side is slightly better.

http://ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com/product/white-wards-waste-my-time-7


[E.P. review, 18/7/11, reproduced directly from hand on tool]

September 29, 2011

Lou Barlow - Live At Missing Link

Why has the cassette made a comeback? Can someone please give me an answer? Preferably based in modern cultural theory or critical analysis or whatever it is you Arts students do?

Lou Barlow’s acquired quite a status in the annals of alternative rock (specifically the indie strain) – as frontman for Sebadoh and bassist for Dinosaur Jr. (read: J Mascis foil). His solo output is prolific, essentially starting the lo-fi craze in the rather late 80’s and continuing the same work ethic today, with or without a band behind him.

When he came out for Dino Jr’s Golden Plains appearance last year, he also did a little in-store performance at Missing Link records in Bourke Street. Incidentally, I was there (it’s my voice you hear requesting ‘Willing To Wait’) and got to talk to him after his hour-long set. I ran there after school in a raincoat - it was the day before that massive hailstorm levelled Rowville.

Not taking Lou’s appearance as trivial, Missing Link dutifully set up a DAT recorder and, after a year of delayed negotiations, released a cassette to commemorate Record Store Day 2011. 300 copies made there way into the hands of passersby, yourself hopefully included. If not, I’m sure it’ll circulate on the net at some point.

Get to the music! Okay, I do tend to ramble. The set is excellent. Lou plays a few to plug his new record (Goodnight Unknown) and then opens up the requests. Audience participation is requisite, as he essentially constructs his set list in front of them.  A highlight of this tape of the bootlegs floating on the net is that Lou’s always amusing and generally insightful banter is preserved.

Sebadoh favourites ‘Too Pure’, ‘The Freed Pig’, ‘Skull’ and ‘Rebound’ (latter two off the newly remastered Bakesale – just thought I’d mention it…) get a nice work out, as does Lou’s rather ‘sensitive’ version of Foreigner’s ‘Cold As Ice’. A highlight comes at the end of Lou solo piece ‘Love is Stronger’, where he explains why he can’t play (and then recites) Eric Gaffney’s hardcore song ‘Cry Sis’.

Barlow’s playing is exceptional, though he does make some very human mistakes from time to time. Of course his voice, as always, is beautiful. I’d say something like Trent Reznor crossed with a nerdy teddy bear, but that’s just my impression. The trams pass by and the cop cars siren at exactly the right times – it ends up sounding very real.

At $6, it’s excellent value – so good, in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone willing to part with a copy. My recommendation – take it by force (then make a copy and give it back, of course).

[Addendum: If you want a copy, you can email Lou directly at lou@loobiecore.com. He’ll send you a copy for $10 U.S., but he might charge $15 for international delivery. It’s worth it! I also made a digital copy from my tape but I don’t think I can distribute this :( ]

September 29, 2011
U.K. bedroom

U.K. bedroom

September 29, 2011

Welcome to Tastebreaker!

Hi Y’all, and welcome to my new blog!

I’d been putting music reviews on my other blog (which was originally a creative writing outlet), so I decided to make a new one, which will hopefully contain more content.

The ultimate aim of this site is to provide a bit of free publicity for any underground artists, particularly in Melbourne, who wouldn’t mind a bit of exposure. If that sounds like you, I can also provide press services (i.e. press packages/bios) often for little more than sending me one of your CDs or t-shirts.

I write for the Monash University student paper Lot’s Wife as a music editor, so you’ll be getting a fair few of the articles that end up there, as well as others and links to audio and visual content.

Something that I can’t do with paper is offer direct links to free downloads. Hopefully you’ll see some here.

Enjoy, and if you would like to send me something to review or have any questions, just send me an email at the.tastebreaker@gmail.com.