Category: Reviews

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Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval

As album reviewing goes, this latest album from The Kaiser Chiefs creates a little bit of a headache. They’ve chosen an unconventional method of release in where they’ve released twenty tracks and given the chance for fans to choose their own tracklisting and the chance to make a little money on the side (Below is my suggested tracklisting; you can have that one for free). The Future is Medieval’s release plan has caused significant outcry, from ‘Devo did it first’, to ‘It’s a way to have your album not be panned’ and ‘Why on earth would I download it twice?’ Regardless, the collection of tracks is better than their previous efforts and provides a little bit more of an interesting listen than last time around.

The truly more interesting thing about this release is how exactly do you track an album like this? The Kaiser Chiefs new material has a rich hedonism about being British to it, clearly inspired by classic Pulp and Oasis. However, the best tracks on it don’t actually sound anything like the rest of them. ‘Starts with Nothing’, ‘Cousin in the Bronx’ and ‘Things Change’ all sound like bands other than Kaiser Chiefs and it provides a reinvigorating freshness to the album. The Chiefs have not disappeared under their new influences. Single ‘Little Shocks’ and ‘Child of the Jago’ both display the Chiefs ability to write stomping anthems for the live arena, both immediately more satisfying than anything they’ve written post Employment. Other than those tracks, everything else in the collection of twenty is pretty standard for the band. ‘Fly On The Wall’, ‘Man On Mars’ and ‘Back in December’ are all adequately catchy and ‘If You Will Have Me’ is the only acoustic moment in the twenty tracks.

Kudos to the five-piece for being one of the few big bands who aren’t Radiohead trying to make an interesting album release for the general public. All of the tracks in the 20-pack are solid and it does create a discussion point for people to work out which tracks they enjoy. Overall, A stomping return, setting them up for the incoming Splendour in the Grass tour and an improvement on The Angry Mob and Off With Their Heads.

My suggested tracklisting:
1. Cousin In The Bronx
2. Child Of The Jago
3. Things Change
4. Fly On The Wall
5. Back In December
6. I Dare You
7. Out Of Focus
8. If You Will Have Me
9. Starts With Nothing
10. Little Shocks

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Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way

(June 10th, Dew Process)

On a fateful night down in Sydney’s Annandale Hotel, Dananananaykroyd drummer-slash-vocalist, John Bailie Jnr, tried to crowd-surf and brutally snapped his arm in three places. After emergency surgery, he realised that he’d not be able to play the drums as hard as their 2009 debut Hey Everyone! required him to.

When it seemed like a situation only a lot of hard liquor could fix, JBJ dropped the drums and took up vocals full time. This was the start of something a lot better; their second album, There Is A Way.

For what Danananaykroyd lost in noise from having two drum-kits, they lost none of their energy and punk aggression. Rather, they gained restraint and even more melody. There Is A Way finds them working with Ross Robinson, whose influence (The man produced Relationship of Command for crying out loud) has polished the hardcore-like intensity to a point of possible cross-over material.

‘Reboot’ opens the album, calling forth the more recent efforts of …Trail Of Dead and setting a standard of boisterousness for all songs to follow, which they do. ‘All Us Authors’ and ‘Glee Cells Trade’ find John Bailie Jnr. and the other lead singer Calum Gunn bouncing off each other vocally, reaching almost hysteria set to art-punk guitars. ‘Muscle Memory’ and ‘Think and Feel’ sound like a dancier and punker Les Savy Fav, both being catchier than Malaria in a third-world country. The latter ‘Da-na-na-na-na-na-na’ hook is likely to burrow into your head. ‘Make A Fist’ and ‘Seven Days Late’ are just incredibly epic, the latter of which is not just the best track on the album, but one of the best of this year.

On the list of worst band names ever, Dananananaykroyd would have to rate fairly high. It’s a clear given. However, don’t dismiss them because of the name, as they’ve also become one of the best punk bands around with the release of There Is A Way. The crazy Scots have taken the relentless aggression and melody from their debut and channelled it into a fiercely precise dance-punk record. It’s precise and loose, aggressive and melodic, anarchic and restrained and above all, just really fun. If there’s a fault with this album, it’s not blatantly obvious. Other rock bands, are you even trying?

 

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The Antlers – Burst Apart

(Frenchkiss Records, May 10th)

The Antlers were always going to have to do something different with this album. Hospice was not only one of the most recent masterpieces for a long time, but for a lot of people, the saddest album they’d ever heard. To follow up a concept album about dealing with cancer and death would’ve probably destroyed Peter Silbermann in a way akin to Rivers Cuomo post-Pinkerton. So they’ve taken a significantly happier angle on Burst Apart, similar to In Rainbows after Kid A.

Just because the tone is significantly happier, doesn’t mean this is not another stunning album from The Antlers. Burst Apart is an accomplished set of tracks, brimming with falsetto and light. In fact, one of the early tracks that dropped, ‘Parenthesis’ drew early comparisons to Radiohead’s ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Reckoner’. Whilst not unwarranted, to sell Burst Apart as just as an imitation of Radiohead is understating a very accomplished set of tracks from one of the most talented bands in the independent music scene.

Openers ‘I Don’t Want Love’ and ‘French Exit’ are gorgeous love songs, shimmering with synths and Silbermann’s resonant falsetto. ‘Parenthesis’ is, as mentioned previously, a Radiohead influenced single, sounding inbetween ‘Bloom’ and ‘Reckoner’. ‘No Windows’ echoes more of the luscious earlier Portishead, whilst ‘Rolled Together’ is a lush building track; perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. ‘Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out’ is the most straight pop number they’ve ever done, whilst ‘Hounds’ and ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep’ are vehicles for Silbermann’s vocals. This is in no way a bad thing, given the expressive nature of his voice.

This album is not as good as Hospice, but then it never was going to be. As a collection of songs, Burst Apart would always struggle to have the ebb and flow and heart-wrenching beauty of their previous release. However, had The Antlers tried to write Hospice 2.0, a lot of people would’ve been disappointed. As such, Burst Apart stands alone as another brilliant album from one of the most talented bands in music today.

 

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Yo Gabba Gabba Live!

The Palais Theatre, St Kilda VIC, June 11.

Modern music-going culture is something we usually attribute to the darkness of night; late nights spent drunkenly pounding the floor at The Corner or stomping the streets and alleyways of Fitzroy or Collingwood, cast under the vague smell of urine and the vague threat of drug addicts, in the attempt to realise some sort of aural nirvana supplied by some obscure musical prospect. As such, it was to my surprise to find myself venturing out into the oppressive morning light to catch the latest thing in music at The Palais… a kid’s stage show? Yep, DJ Lance Rock and the rest of the Yo Gabba Gabba gang were once again bringing simple musical joys to the kiddies of Australia with Yo Gabba Gabba Live!, a stage show based on the popular kid’s TV show, leading me to drag myself to the event with coffee in one hand (coffee being the strongest inebriate available at that time of day) and a borrowed (stolen?) toddler in the other.

It’s easy to see why Yo Gabba Gabba can be so popular with small children, parents and slightly stoned Arts students alike. The colourfully-suited crew alone are enough to engage even the most discerning of toddler, but to consider that aspect alone as a basis of merit would simply be far too shallow. While DJ Lance Rock has the hosting style of a seasoned theatre veteran after a stroke, his energy and ability to engage is undeniable. It was evident that the kids truly love him, and he was truly comfortable as he joined the audience during one musical number for high fives and brief hellos.

The musical numbers themselves are a genuine treat of upbeat but not overly-infectious songs that actually contain some lyrical merit beyond what the kids in the audience would understand. While some songs simply spruiked the joys of dancing, others encouraged love and acceptance of others who are ‘different’, and another of eating your vegetables. One song, while addressing one of the characters’ fear of the dark (Don’t be afraid / Don’t be afraid / I am right here, and I am with you / Don’t be afraid), actually goes some way to expressing the human condition; who can honestly say that they haven’t at one time just wanted someone to be there for them?

Like the TV programme, the live show was filled with special guests. Legendary beatboxer Biz Markie reprised his role from TV, leading some audience participation beatboxing and choosing a select few adorably-bad tots to beatbox one-on-one with him, an exclusive opportunity that will probably be cited on those kid’s resumes in fifteen years’ time once they recognise their brush with hip-hop royalty. Unexpected humour was provided by comedian Dave “Hughesy” Hughes, who awkwardly stumbled through the course of teaching the audience a brand new dance, and some inoffensive musical good times and indie cred was provided by Melbourne band Little Red, who engaged the youngsters and parents with last years’ hit, “Rock It”.

My one major criticism is the choice of The Palais as venue, as it pretty much rendered the opportunity to dance along impossible, but ultimately the Yo Gabba Gabba live show was an all-around enjoyable concert experience. If you have found this review on the Radio Monash website, then there is a good chance that you don’t have a child yourself, but I’d encourage you to forget your age and instead involve yourself with the beautiful simplicity of the show and the music that the Yo Gabba Gabba crew create. Essentially, that is what every fan is pursuing; the simple pleasure of enjoying music. And the odour of faeces here was still considerably less than that encountered during the average visit to The Tote.

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Snowman – Absence

(Dot-Dash Recordings, 22nd April)

Ever have the feeling where you’re dreaming but you’re not quite sure if this is a dream? There’s a certain unease to it, nothing within it is tangible. This feeling is like listening to the fourth and final album from Perth band Snowman, Absence, a breathy mix of post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze, post-rock and prog-rock. Where their 2008 masterpiece The Horse, The Rat and The Swan was a psychobilly post-punk nightmare, Absence is a dream.

‘Snakes and Ladders’ is the slinky, sexy opening to the dream, like the siren calling you to the fall. The single ‘Hyena’, bears a mystical tribal sense of it, chants of ‘Hyeeeeeeeena! Hyena!’ bringing intensity behind the repetition when surrounded by the synths and guitars. ‘White Wall’ is a romantic waltz through the created dreamland, driven again by the strong drum patterns and Joe McKee’s stunning falsetto.

‘Séance’ brings with it more unease and the ghostly chanting ‘Where is my baby/Where is he hiding/Down in the valley of the deep blue sea’ bringing sinister feelings to dreamer, hinting at the lurking darkness underneath the surface. Then the feelings are washed away in a sea of noise and synths only to return on ‘Δ’, a post-rock track, warping and creating a building, looped atmosphere of sounds that crescendos then wastes away to nothing. The use of vocals as merely another instrument is particularly noticeable here, breathy intonations add more noise to the intricately layered sounds.

The final act then begins. In ‘Memory Lost’ and ‘A Vanishing Act’ serve to build the noise, looping the intonations, the synths, the percussion and the guitars looping to crescendo the album to its final track, ‘Absence’ where it begins like the lullaby you’d hoped for and ends out drowning the album in a blaze of percussion, synths, strings and noise. It finishes with 1:13 of silence. You can rest now. It’s over.

Absence is a fitting title for an album delivered by a departed band. It truly is a shame for that these songs will not be played live. Snowman’s departure leaves an absence not filled easily, for they had truly proven what they were capable of. At least they left us with the Australian album of the year.

 

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“Rock of Ages” Review

Even if you didn’t live through them yourself, who doesn’t love the enduring music of the eighties? High energy, big hair, Lycra spandex, girlie shows, property developers, tree-huggers, music dreams and LA. “Rock of Ages” is the show that has it all.

Music from the electrifying eighties blares through the theatre from the moment you arrive. The open set is styled as The Bourbon Room, a famous live music venue on the Sunset Strip. It has the look and feel of the birthplace of rock ‘n roll that it claims to be. From the moment you enter the auditorium you are in the decade of dreams.

The Bourbon Room is about to preside over the last gig of its most famous product, glam rock band Arsenal, whose lead singer is Stacee Jaxx. Stacee Jaxx is a star and stars are undeniable – like herpes. Ladies love him, guys want to be him. But his band hates him.

Drew, who likes to go by his stage name, Wolfgang von Colt, is a bar hand at The Bourbon Room. His dream is to make it big as a rock ’n roll star in his own right. But does he want it badly enough? Drew’s rock star dreams become confused when he meets and falls for Sherrie, an ambitious young actress who is truly F.O.K.T (Fresh off the Kansas Train).

Justin Burford, ARIA award winning leader of Perth band The End of Fashion, plays the role of Drew. Man, you just have to get a load of the pipes on this guy. He packs a lot of energy into the role, wins the audience (and Sherrie) over with a smile and rocks out on classic 80’s songs like “Nothin’ But A Good Time”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Cum on Feel the Noise” and “Here I Go Again” mixing it up with ballads like “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “Oh Sherrie”.

Amy Lehpalmer brings her own fantastic voice to Sherrie’s Kansas-girl-lost-in-LA. Working at The Bourbon Room – courtesy of Drew and her own fine arse which impresses Dennis Dupree, owner of the club – and finding friendship (or is it more?) with nice-guy Drew, Sherrie finds herself torn between her own dreams and the harsh LA world outside. An encounter with Stacee Jaxx in the gents at The Bourbon Room results in her being tossed to the wolves.

Lehpalmer struts a very fine figure on the stage and puts her powerful voice to good use in songs like “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, “Any Way You Want It” and “High Enough” and hits the right emotive levels on “Harden My Heart” and “I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You”.

The show is narrated for the audience by Lonny, played with a twinkle in his eye by Brent Hill. Lonny is the wise-cracking side-kick of club owner Dennis and does his best to stir up some mischief beyond the fourth wall with his constant byplay with the audience. Hill holds his own in the singing and dancing stakes, although the talent on this stage is just amazing.

Stacee Jaxx is played with a malevolent grin by Michael Falzon, star of “We Will Rock You” and now a much in demand actor on the London West End. Jaxx is the rock star who just needs a good smack in the mouth. Or will his physical torture involve other parts of his body?

This show is truly an ensemble piece with strong performances from all the cast, many of whom have amazing voices and awesome dance moves of their own. Look out for Joey Primo (Alexander Ellis), Regina (Francine Cain) and Waitress #1 (Samantha Hagen). Newcomer to professional music-theatre, Lincoln Hall plays the dominated son, Franz to David Whitney’s over-bearing father, Hertz. Hit Me With Your Best Shot in lycra leotards? Who would have thought?

Will Drew and Sherrie find each other? Can The Bourbon Club be saved from the clutches of German property developer, Hertz and his son, Franz? And what of the shock break-up of supergroup, Arsenal? The only way to find out is to head along to the classic Comedy Theatre and be there for The Final Countdown to stardom or oblivion.

Rock of Ages is now showing at the Comedy Theatre in Exhibition Street.

So do yourself a favour – take advantage of the newly released Student Special $39 tickets (available from the box office 2 hours prior to the show, cash only, 1 ticket per student ID) to get along for a night packed with fun, laughs and some of the best musical theatre you will see anywhere in the world.

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The Wombats – This Modern Glitch

(14th Floor Records, April 22nd)

Whatever happened to Britpop? The good old days of cheeky British lyricism, awash with dry humour and sexual angst alongside simple guitar rhythms are long gone now. They’ve been replaced by kids with skinny jeans and angular guitars playing music for people who only prefer the first album of a band. For a brief flash, it seemed like the Arctic Monkeys were going to step in and fill the void, but after a brilliant first album, they faded away in a wave of over-produced landfill indie (Don’t hold out hope for Suck It and See. It’s better than Humbug, but then that wasn’t going to be hard). So, now that Alex Turner is too busy doing business with Grizzly Bears to write catchy songs, it’s time for Matthew Murphy, Dan Haggis and Tord Øverland-Knudsen, a.k.a. The Wombats, to step in and fill the hole.

This Modern Glitch not a grower of an album; it’s charm and appeal is apparent from the opening track. It screams, “We want to fill stadiums with people who want to listen to catchy, intelligent songs about relationship angst”. It maintains the wittiness of Tales of Boys and Girls and Marsupials but puts it on a larger scale. Opening with ‘Our Perfect Disease’, Murphy and crew demonstrate the progression from the first album, filling the minds of the listener with danceable rhythms and integrating synths seamlessly into the sounds. ‘Anti-D’ is a cheeky ballad filled with an overblown string section and clever lyricism to drag it above current radio fare and keep the humanity about it (‘Please allow me to be your Anti-depressant/I, too, am prescribed as frequently as any decongestant’). ‘Last Night I Dreamt…’ channels the angst of Jarvis Cocker, not as deep as him, but in a more palatable way.

‘Girls/Fast Cars’ is probably the most emphatically British song on the album. It has a simplicity about it lyrically and sonically (‘I like girls/girls and fast cars/you too will feel this shallow when one melts your little heart’). ‘Schumacher the Champagne’ is simultaneously the best and worst song on the album; it could be utterly genius or a total stinker; the jury’s still out. It starts out as a sweet pop song reminiscent of Pretty. Odd. by Panic! At The Disco and then at 2:48 changes into a wailing stomper, reminiscent of certain Queen tracks.

Any of these songs from This Modern Glitch have the potential to break the band mainstream. Already having success with singles ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’ and ‘Jump Into The Fog’, and with upcoming single ‘Techno Fan’ (easily the biggest pop hook all year), The Wombats are set for big things. It’s just good to see the charisma of the British isn’t dead in music.

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TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light

(Interscope Records, April 11th)

Shocking news; TV On The Radio, known for their intensity, have written an album of love songs. Relax; this is not some form of mellowing or selling out. Nine Types of Light is a logical procession from their standout 2008 release Dear Science. It’s a triumphant album about love, joy and despair which conveys life with a certain beauty that could only achieved by TVOTR. It’s business as usual for the band, if ‘business’ is delivering a contender for album-of-the-year .

The art-rock quintet from New York are five albums into their illustrious career and Nine Types of Light is a logical progression in this sequence. Nine Types of Light opens with the defining ‘Second Song’, embracing a heartfelt warmth and joy and embellishing it with a disco beat and the joyous horn section they’d previously used sparingly on other releases. ‘Keep Your Heart’ follows, acting as a vehicle for Tunde Adebimpe’s incredible croon.

From there, the album never drops. ‘You’ is a lament on a lover’s spat which shines luminescent, thanks to Gerard Smith’s bass line. ‘No Future Shock’ is a call to dance while the world falls apart and ‘Killer Crane’, an ode to beauty, continues this trend of combining funk, soul and happiness. The single, ‘Will Do’, is the poppiest track on the album and hints at a futher new direction for TVOTR, while ‘New Cannonball Run’ and ‘Repetition’ inject lifeblood into the second half of the album. ‘Forgotten’ is a understated poignant ballad and ‘Caffeinated Consciousness’ shows that old TVOTR isn’t gone, it’s just mutated into a catchier version.

It can only be wondered if the recent death of Gerard Smith will see some of this darkness creep back into their music. Smith was diagnosed with lung cancer after finishing recording Nine Types of Light and passed away in April. One can only hope it doesn’t, as this happiness sees them at their most accessible. While we wait for album number six, if you’ve never listened to TVOTR before, start here. Now.

For your enjoyment, the band made an accompanying movie for the album.
Here it is below:

TV On The Radio, ‘Nine Types Of Light’

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Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

(XL, May 5th)

Tyler Okonma, (a.k.a. Tyler, the Creator) has just dropped the most hyped album of the year in Goblin. The leader, producer and all around controversy machine behind the California skate rap crew OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) is a cartoonish anti-everything-and-everybody figurehead. Odd Future are uniting the abused, lonely, depressed and scary people only previously banded together by terrible bands such as Insane Clown Posse. To many, the misanthropic, misogynistic, homophobic content of Okonma’s works is reprehensible and should be condemned. Ahead of OF’s first Australian shows later this year, is any of this hype warranted?

Firstly, it’s not horrorcore as some of the perennial ‘haters’ claim. Throughout the album, there are numerous things that shock people with even loose moral standards. ‘Radicals’ hook of “Kill people, Fuck shit, Burn school” and the defining line of ‘Tron Cat’, “Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” seem as though they are intended to shock and enrage the parents of middle white America. They’re not. They merely invoke a counter-culture of the abused and the lonely that the family of the juggalos unite under. It’s no different to the punk and grunge countercultures that were invoked in the 60’s and the 70’s.

Maybe that’s a little hard to buy. Just accept that in Okonma’s mind he lives in a world of hypercolour and violence not dissimilar to A Clockwork Orange. Goblin does have one separating factor between ICP and OFWGKTA. Unlike ICP, there is a sense of humour and talent here.

Goblin is the finest garage punk rap you’ll hear all year. The title track opens the as another of Tyler’s bile-purging therapy sessions with one of his characters (Dr. TC). He vents his frustrations in an almost human way about hype, his self-loathing, his disgust for his dead-beat dad and his suicidal impulses. Throughout the album, these therapy sessions with Dr. TC (‘Goblin’, ‘Nightmare’, ‘Golden’, the latter of which is the best track on the album) serve to not only humanise Okonma from the devil he makes himself out to be (‘The Devil doesn’t wear Prada, I’m clearly in a fucking white tee) and make for some of the most engaging lyricism in a long time. ‘She’ (album highlight, because Frank Ocean is the best member of OFWGKTA) and ‘Her’ also level Tyler as human, because of his typical male anxiety around the opposite gender serve as the counterbalance for tracks such as ‘Tron Cat’, an exploration of one of the schizophrenic voices in his head.

Occasionally, when he can be bothered, Tyler will write a single. The massive singles, ‘Yonkers’ (Listen to B.O.B.’s laughable counter to his diss in this track) and ‘Sandwitches’ (Of which the performance on Jimmy Fallon has already gone viral), demonstrate Okonma’s ability to write anthems to unite the rejects. ‘Radicals’ aforementioned refrain echoes the quintessential hook from 19 years ago, ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ whilst providing a similar anti-establishment anthem.

The album’s far from the grammy winning album Okonma believes it to be though. ‘Her’ is boring; same applies for ‘Window’ and ‘Analog’. ‘Bitch Suck Dick’ is too clever for it’s own good, intended to come across as a parody of Waka Flocka Flame, it actually comes across as a terribly clichéd, overly postured track. ‘Transylvania’ is meh, ‘Fish’ doesn’t get good until 3:55. Most of these ideas can traced down to the fact Tyler produces most of the OFWGKTA output himself, and whilst this shows his precocious talents, no-one has the balls to tell him his some of his ideas are bad.

Overall, Tyler’s eponymous label debut sets out a bright future for Odd Future. His production skills are raw, but show incredible promise. Lyrically, anything to shake up the stagnant swamp of generic lyricism hip hop has become should be welcomed with open arms. With Earl set to be of legal age soon, OF are looking good. Watch out White America, the future is wolf.

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Guillemots – Walk The River

(Polydor, April 18)

Hitting music store shelves last month, the third album from British-based indie rockers Guillemots again sees lead singer-pianist Fyfe Dangerfield attempt to eschew the nest of upbeat pop hooks Guillemots established with their 2008 album Red. As with Dangerfield’s solo debut of last year, Fly Yellow Moon, this year’s Walk The River takes a more sedate and thoughtful assault on the indie rock standard.

Walk The River holds a number of audio delights for both the ardent fan and the newcomer alike. It’s possible to get lost in the soundscape of the deceptively long ‘Sometimes I Remember Wrong’ as it meanders and laments through nine minutes, and the pop value of the album’s first single ‘The Basket’ is undeniable as Dangerfield once again busts out the falsetto. Other highlights include the mournful and acoustic ‘Nothing You Feel Is True’ and the desperate yet optimistic ‘I Don’t Feel Amazing Now’ (“Just take my hand and make me feel amazing”).

Despite the plethora of wholesome moments, Walk The River does struggle to find itself. Oftentimes the album swings wildly from those upbeat tracks which helped win the band a Mercury Prize nomination for its debut album Through The Windowpane in 2006. Evidence of this is found in the remarkably upbeat ‘Ice Room’ and the wonderfully intimate ‘Vermillion’ respectively; whilst both wonderful tracks, they simply do not fit with the overall aesthetic of the album. As such, the eclecticism of Walk The River is a detriment; the album just seems directionless when compared with its predecessors, and as it is Fyfe Dangerfield’s influence creating this problem, it is up to him to determine just which way Guillemots should go next.

Whilst Guillemots have jettisoned some of the quirkiness that made their debut album great, there is no doubt that Walk The River possesses a more mature and introspective outlook, which, with a bit of refinement, could bode well for their future releases.

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Aa – mAate

(Sensory Projects, April 2011)

Let me introduce you to maximalism, a term and sub-genre entirely appropriate for Brooklyn’s Aa (pronounced ‘Big A little a’). They’ve recently dropped their electrifying album mAate, comprising of tracks off their previous releases, gAame and Glossy EP, as well as two previously unreleased live recordings. The result is a chaotic array of energetic percussion awash with a tangle of experimental synth and samples, topped off with incoherent gang shouts and hollers.

The voice is utilised as an experimental instrument throughout mAate, especially on tracks such as ‘Manshake’, as energetic cries and shouts charge through the intense musical layering of percussion and synth, before dying down to a steady bass and synth beat. Similar elements are evident in ‘Flag Day’, which sees the alien-esque sample and synth intro climax into a manic frenzy of primal screams and tribal percussion. The most coherent vocals are evident midway in ‘Fingers to Fist’, a hypnotic track of tuned percussion and brief chants, accompanied by vocals reminiscent of African tribal works.

The inclusion of the previously unreleased live tracks ‘Mario’ and ‘Away Away’, both recorded at KFJC, outline that Aa are able to pull off their ‘intensely stylized DIY maximalism’ in a live setting, as they have been doing so in the lofts and clubs of New York since 2002.

While I have singled out a few tracks, mAate is best listened to as a whole, allowing the sonic chaos to invade your mind-space.

mAate’s “polyrhythmic post- post-punk digital landscape” will suck you in and surround you as you are lost amongst the vibrancy and intensity created by Aa as they unleash on their respective instruments. Whilst the experimental nature of mAate won’t cater for everyone’s tastes, it will undoubtedly turn heads and have you moving and sweating in no time.

 

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Byron Bay Bluesfest, 2011

Tyagarah NSW, April 21 – 26.

Campbell McNolty and Leigh MacDonald

Byron Bay was swamped by nearly 120,000 music fans of all ages over the six-day festival. The line-up was the most spectacular in Bluesfest’s 22-year history.

ZZ Top played on the first night, and they were still gloriously bearded. It was hard to tell whether they were trying to parody themselves, but they were as entertaining as ever.

The Snowdroppers demonstrated the perfect fusion of balls to the wall rock with a blues and country knack for story telling. The addition of banjo to some otherwise straight up rock tunes not only justified their inclusion on the bill but added a flair which many modern rock bands lack. The front man was in equal parts irritating and incandescent, but his dominating, often maniacal stage presence raised the final song, a cover of ‘Shout’, to fever pitch.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama played to a full house, and were so enthusiastic that they had to be repeatedly sat down by their minders to stop them hurting themselves.

Jackson Firebird’s dirty blues-rock got the crowd excited, but no one was as geared up as Kram, who made a spectacularly drunken guest appearance, dancing on stage before being escorted away for his own safety.

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson provided a master class in keeping young. Unlike many of the older acts on the Bluesfest lineup, the band lived up to the live performance that made them famous. Central to their live show is Anderson’s acrobatics on the flute. Far beyond being a gimmick the addition of the woodwind instrument takes the band far beyond a simple male fronted 70’s era rock band. Over the course of their one-hour set the band played many of their best-known songs, mostly from Aqualung.

On Monday night, Bob Dylan was as disappointing as everyone expected. He played an hour of obscure bluesy arrangements of his less popular songs, and refused to speak to the crowd or have the camera feed displayed on the big screens. Despite playing a nearly identical set list on the Tuesday, he was much more enjoyable if you lowered your expectations the second time around.

Those who could deal with the constant rain and ankle deep mud of the Tuesday were rewarded with a stellar set by Paul Kelly, who played with sisters Vika and Linda Bull and guitarist Ash Naylor.

The draw card act on the final day was George Clinton, an act many may have missed in favour of Bob Dylan’s second set. The timetable clash was unfortunate as Clinton’s P-Funk Allstars delighted the crowd with a slew of Parliament and Funkadelic classics. ‘We Want the Funk’ and ‘Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadooloop’ were favourites for a crowd of diehards that was eager to dance. Perhaps the high point was a rendition on the ten-minute guitar solo track ‘Maggotbrain’ which was remarkably true to the original recording. Having reached the age of seventy Clinton’s extravagant lifestyle has taken its toll and his voice lacks its previous sonority, but his band are intergalactic funk pioneers of the highest order.