Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sinead O'Connor: How About I Be Me & You Be You (review)

Sinead O'Connor -
"How About I Be Me and You Be You"
(One Little Indian/Shock)

Sinead O’Connor came out fighting on her 1987 debut, The Lion & The Cobra, and 25 years on, she still sounds like that girl with fire in her soul and a foot looking for an arse to kick on How About I Be Me And You Be You. Yes, anger has continually infiltrated her work, be it directed at her parents, the opposite sex or the Catholic church, but during the last 25 years, we have also come to know Sinead as a highly contrary artist. One thing that is a constant however, is her dissatisfaction with the status quo. Confusing and confounding fans and critics alike, in the last decade Sinead came out as a lesbian before being ordained as a priest and later rejected both lifestyles when she become engaged to Australian musician, Steve Cooney. No sooner had she announced she would be ‘settling down’, news came through of a quick divorce from Cooney and a further marriage to a man she met online followed. It’s these recent developments in Sinead’s life that forms the basis of How I About I Be Me
The album’s title – a re-writing of the traditional marriage vows - and its content deals directly with O’Connor’s brushes with matrimony – her recent wedding to Barry Herridge lasted only 17 days – and the institution itself. As far as wedding albums go, there is little romantic merit in O’Connor’s words, as to be expected, but rather she challenges the suitor to forget the fairytale (and the Catholic church) idea of marriage. On the first single The Wolf Is Getting Married, Sinead owns the public’s image of her as an unstable - even lamentable - woman of contradictions.  Firstly, she decides marriage will bring her unending happiness and keep away the ‘wolves’ – an animal, in literary terms, sometimes associated with depressive syndromes. The question that the song raises however, is how serious is she? At any given moment the listener could expect to be slapped in the face with a renouncement of all this new-found comfort.

The track 4th and Vine further reinforces O’Connor’s belief that matrimony holds the key to her satisfaction, and is nothing short of a re-telling of The Dixie Cups’ saccharine 1964 hit, Chapel Of Love, yet considering the singer’s recent past, a sarcastic subtext can’t be ignored.  The album takes a sudden and more familiar turn on Take Off Your Shoes, where Sinead is all ‘blood of Jesus’ and ‘hallowed ground’, while V.I.P. is good old fashioned theology in verse. Musically, her later releases veered into reggae which is reprised here. The mostly mid-tempo pace and acoustic instrumentation allows the narrative to take the lead, keeping with Sinead’s folk singer styling and the tradition of reggae’s ‘songs of rebellion’. The album overall is a fantastic observation and summary of O’Connor’s often difficult to relate to personal life and favourite subject matter. She offers an even sharper perspective than on many former revelatory releases, and is still one of the most brutally honest song-writers around - “I was always crazy”; she growls on If I Had A Baby. O’Connor is at her best when she flaunts what most of us would be happy to deny. How About I Be Me And You Be You is a purposeful blurring of the singer’s wishful thinking and the stark reality of her inability to settle down and play house. Perhaps she feels such a compromise would be mean disconnecting from her muse, and so within the safety of music, she has dared to go where she just can’t seem to in life.



 "The Wolf Is Getting Married" official video.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Pogues: live in Melbourne, 2012 (review)

Venue: Festival Hall
Date: 04/04

If there’s one holiday Australian’s truly get behind with gusto, it’s the celebration of St Patrick’s Day, and so having Celtic punk legends The Pogues in town was excuse enough for a mini-reprise of the festivities. Oversized green leprechaun hats, Irish sport shirts, endless shamrocks and the guff of whiskey breath fills Festival hall, along with the general rowdiness of your local watering hole near closing time.

Being a Pogues gig – their first in Australia for 22 years – mass alcohol consumption is a given. The only question yet to be answered is who will be the most pissed; the fans or the band’s renowned lead singer, Shane MacGowan. Pogues concerts have never adopted the official warning; ‘show may conclude early depending on Shane’s ability to remain standing’, yet it is a real possibility as their touring history will support. Tonight we are treated firstly to the original eight-piece line-up who take to the stage as the sound of The Clash’s Straight To Hell fades over the PA, and finally an unhurried, slightly wobbly MacGowan, who emerges to a welcoming roar.

Before a note of music is even played, the man who has done nothing to remove the stereotype of the Irish drunk, is shouting erratically into his mic. “I can’t fuckin’ believe ish been twenny two fuckin’ yearsh, Melbourne….” He says, followed by some indecipherable mumbling, and finally, “Sorry about all the fuckin’ swearing.” He takes a defiant drag from a cigarette and grins broadly, revealing what little remains of his front teeth as the band burst into life with Streams Of Whiskey. In those 22 years, The Pogues have gone through many changes before arriving here on what is their retirement tour. MacGowan was booted out for his out-of-control behavior, and the band recorded one album without him - which remains their last studio set – before going into hibernation. No new music means of course tonight is all golden-era Pogues anthems, pulled mainly from Rum, Sodomy & The Lash and If I Should Fall From Grace With God.

Despite the ever popular Dirty Old Town and the rousing Fiesta, Australian fans are clearly in favour of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, and begin calling for it not three songs into the set. Shane introduces the boozy sing-a-long classic, but nobody seems sure what he’s actually saying in regards to it, and nor do we care. The chance to link arms with total strangers and sway to its waltzy tempo, shouting the refrain is all that matters now. If you’re not among the great heaving all-in sway, then you’re one of the brave bastards at the front, dodging crowd surfers and angrily moshing, or avoiding the projectile spit drops leaping from MacGowan’s ravaged mouth. The momentum changes dramatically though as Shane suddenly leaves the stage, hurling the microphone onto the floor, leaving more than a few of us wondering, ‘is that it?’.

To be fair to MacGowan, he seems to be working hard on stage tonight and is as coherent as can be expected, but a brief exchange between himself and tin-whistle player (and one-time lead-singer) Spider Stacey, ends abruptly. The fray, it turns out was all bluff, yet the show reaches a turning point here. Spider Stacey reprises his one-time role as band leader for Tuesday Morning – the best non-MacGowan Pogues song – and the crowd, perhaps still wondering if Shane’s done a bunk, respond with folded arms. Personally, I love Tuesday Morning, and being the only person shouting his approval and pogoing around - I suddenly feel quite lonely in the packed venue. Thankfully, for the sake of recapturing the all-in atmosphere, MacGowan re-emerges - only this time he’s packing booze. Swigging from a bottle of red – most of which goes down his shirt, on the floor - and on the front row - he receives a bigger applause than his first appearance. It’s as though he’s suddenly complete in people’s eyes. The dribbling and shouting Shane is here at last but it’s hard to ignore the whole pantomime element to the sight. I guess some things are just too intertwined; Iggy Pop wouldn’t dare go on stage in a shirt, just as Pogues fans expect to see a certain amount of drunkenness for their dollar.

The playing-up-to-his-image thing is fine, but what surprises me is MacGowan is determined to make the songs sound good and is less concern with getting so smashed, that he sacrifice’s the ability to perform. It’s a big step for the man in my eyes, but maybe a let down for some here who perhaps were looking forward to a good first-hand Shane MacGowan crash and burn story, like what happened in the old days of the band. They’ve all learned a few lessons no doubt, but The Pogues still put on the best rabble at an age where many ‘former-greats’ are cranking out piss-weak covers album or flogging Time Life CD compilations on TV. The sight of a greying accordionist performing a stage-length knee-slide and a banjo being thrashed in the fashion of electric guitar still somehow suits this band of merry makers. It’s as though through playing Celtic-punk, they earn a golden pass to act anyway they please at whatever age. Besides, the encore consisting of Sally MacLennane, Rainy Night In Soho and Fiesta might well be one of the finest ever seen at Festival hall.



Streams Of Whiskey
If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Broad Majestic Shannon
Greenland Whale Fisheries
A Pair Of Brown Eyes
Tuesday Morning
Sunny Side Of The Street
Repeal of the Licensing Laws
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
The Body Of An American
The Boys From County Hell
Thousands Are Sailing
Dirty Old Town
Bottle Of Smoke
Sickbed of Cuchulain
Sally MacLennane
A Rainy Night In Soho
The Irish Rover
Poor Paddy On The Railway

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Johnette Napolitano live at The Famous Spiegeltent (Melbourne): 2012

Venue: Famous Spiegeltent
Date: 15/03

The Famous Spiegeltent, a 1920’s-era tent/saloon bar, complete with its original fittings is one of the last of its kind in the world. Images of Marlene Dietrich seducing a crowd of absinth-drinking bohemians or a thrilling display by trapeze artists come easy to the visitor, but its another ‘last of their kind’ that's pulled a full house tonight. As striking as the venue is to the eye, it’s a real effort to take one’s focus away from Johnette Napolitano even for a moment during her short but engaging show in this iconic setting.

Not a lot of performers take stock of their career highlights with the relish shown by Johnette Napolitano, nor do they display the respect she does for her fans, and importantly, her own material. When the Italian/American singer is on stage, she is guttural, fragile, fascinating and hilarious as she participates in a one woman show as though there were multiple characters/musicians around her and the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’ is forgotten. It is occasionally disarming to feel such a close bond with the artist as she is performing on stage, but Napolitano is a great communicator above all things and for this one-hour session at least, sat in a bar somewhere, each and every one of us feel the warmth and ease of old friends chatting.

Being an actual career retrospective, poetry reading and storytelling set, there’s an added emotional breadth to the show. The fact that the concert is so short is one of the sadder aspects to it when you consider Napolitano’s incredible voice, prolific solo work and the many years fronting Concrete Blonde. Her appeal above many of her American contemporaries though is the fact that unlike them, Napolitano is apparently devoid of any ego and acknowledges that proper hard work is required to maintain any kind of life in the spotlight. She feels no sense of entitlement, but considers fortunate to be able to scrape a living from performing. At this stage, her three-night residency in Melbourne - titled A Self Portrait: 2012 - suggests she has arrived at a point in her life that needed a line drawn under it. Her last visit to Melbourne was for the 20th anniversary of Concrete Blonde’s breakthrough album, Bloodletting in 2010, but these solo acoustic gigs are clearly much more personal affairs for her.

The shows are segmented into music, poetry and significant tales of her life thus far, coinciding with a book she’s written about her song’s back-stories. The ‘songs’ element to the concert range from her first ever written piece at aged twelve – a charming but ultimately sinister conversation between a frog and a fruitfly – to cover versions which have become Johnette standards, and of course plenty of Concrete Blonde material. The poetry is good if not a little hurried as Johnette skips over her hand written notes as though she is concerned she is boring us. (She’s not). And finally, there is the storytelling. “This one’s a drinking song….” She offers at one point. “Oh fuck what am I saying… They’re all drinking songs!” And so begins the tale of Joey, Concrete Blonde’s most famous track. The subject in Joey, Marc Moreland from LA new-wave band Wall Of Voodoo – and former Johnette squeeze - succumbed to his drinking, she recalls, as the show shifts – but doesn’t dwell - into a serious tone. Her recently deceased father also receives a poetic tribute, and it dawns that Napolitano’s energetic, sharp wit hides a good deal of personal sadness.

Further key moments in tonight’s show include a heart-stopping Wedding Theme which Napolitano wrote for the Heath Ledger film Candy. Performing it seems to bring the singer close to tears, yet with Jonette there are always the many laugh-out-loud moments to balance the mood. A spontaneous clap-along of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab during Take Me Home, for example adds a tongue-in-cheek angle to a somber, reflective song on excessive boozing. Also a roar of laughter follows Johnette’s mock anger at how ‘none of her friends drive fucking Porche’s… They’re always begging for lifts’ in an acapella cover of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz. “Any requests?” Johnette asks finally from beneath her gigantic hat which barely hides her copious amount of long black hair. “Wendy!!!” Comes the unified reply from various points around the room. Unsurprising, as Tomorrow Wendy was many Australian’s first taste of Napolitano’s voice and the song’s impact has never abated.

Musician’s biographies usually focus on a few on the road hi-jinx, album sessions and in-band relationships, but often they make the reader feel like they are peeking into a foreign, unreachable world. But within one hour of doing her ‘live biography’, Johnette completely broke down the wall between artist and fan. Her openness itself makes her relatable. Even if most of us don’t live in the Mojave Desert, or front alternative rock bands, Johnette’s driven by the things that connect us all. Her parting words to her audience is a reassurance to everybody present, as well as herself, as though she knows instinctively what draws people to her music in the first place; “The sun will come out tomorrow and things will be better. I promise.”


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Roxette: live in Melbourne, 2012

Venue: Rod Laver Arena
Date: 18/02/2012

Swedish duo Roxette have endured as a pretty successful band for around 25 years, both here and around the world. However, somewhere along the line, attention to them waned in Australia, whose love for the band’s edgy pop/rock songs was unrelenting early on, evidenced by a string of top 40 hits between 1989 and 1993. The latest album, Charm School was released last year but with little local fanfare - just as the bulk of contemporary Roxette albums - so a ‘90s-heavy setlist is in order for the Swede’s first Aussie show in 17 years.

The songs selected for their current tour offered both an interesting peek into Roxette’s idea of what would best appease their Australian audiences, and what they themselves feel works best live. These two notions work to varying degrees of success in what is a tremendously fun, yet occasionally flawed concert. Considerable time is given to 1991 album, Joyride for example, which errs on the side of ‘too much’, while breakthrough set, Look Sharp is under-represented in a way. Later releases, Have A Nice Day and Room Service are all but forgotten, but the general polite applause offered to anything post 1994 possibly scared the band out of getting too clever with the set list. After all, the last time Roxette moved mass units here, it was in the form of cassingles sales – so naturally they drew a full crowd of fans who see them as more a nostalgia act. Energetic guitarist/songwriter, Per Gessle – looking in exquisite shape for his age – accepts this fact; “We’re going to play a few songs off our new album Charm School…. (muted response) but mostly we’re gonna be playing all your favourite Roxette classics!” (thunderous applause.) 

Perhaps Roxette are a nostalgia act in terms of ‘when they had hits’, but you can hardly call their later material a weak by comparison. 2011 single, She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio) is pure pop heaven, showing only the tiniest shift to what we might call an ‘updated sound’ for a band who never really change what they do, and hey why would they… the formula works. Aside from the songs, the band is also highly functional – most are the original touring line-up from the early days - and it shows in their polished precision. For many here tonight though, it’s all about that platinum blonde chick with the incredible voice that so many mistakenly referred to as Roxette herself; Marie Fredriksson. In concert Marie, is all about poise and delivery. She can do intimate, she can do subtle, she can soar and she can even roar, when required. Even still, the plucky white-funk of Dressed For Success, proves to be a bastard to sing. Marie is at an age where her vocal range is gradually lowering therefore, the songs she sang as a 20 year-old are not going to be resplendent with the all up-and-down-the-scale glory.

These changes to familiar songs are at first jarring but over the course of the show, that slightly rougher vocal style becomes enchanting. Several times, as if to highlight Fredricksson’s deeper register, the band bow out and allow her to sing accapella for a few bars and it never fails to impress. A run of back-to-back power ballads gives Marie further chance to shine but Roxette are always a greater option when she and Gessle duet. How Do You Do!, Joyride and Dangerous lift the roof with the power of their combined voices and you wonder why they don’t just make ‘em all like that. Marie’s own It Must Have Been Love - which gets a wordy introduction as the song that ‘paved their way to Hollywood’ – suddenly makes perfect sense in an arena-proportioned building. Then just as the pleasant, uplifting vibrations seem to be in unending quantities, the pre-encore exodus is upon us - and I do mean exodus. For a hundred or so fans, the best bits have already been and gone, so either they’ve never been to a concert before or the babysitter’s about to start earning overtime. Us left behind are dealt an almost wonderful Listen To Your Heart, which sadly never quite gets off the ground and a bizarre Church Of Your Heart, which just sounds a bit too Sunday school sing-a-long church-y weirdness. Still, it feels wrong picking fault with Roxette, especially after a barn-storming, The Look which concluded the main set. Basically, we were witness to one of the finest bands in their field, especially when you consider many of the subsequent rubbish acts representing the Europop scene. Even if their time is past, Roxette remind us of a really a fantastic time in pop music which is worth remembering, revisiting and even relishing.



Dressed For Success
Sleeping In My Car
The Big L
I Wish I Could Fly
Only When I Dream
She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio)
Perfect Day
Things Will Never Be The Same
It Must Have Been Love
Fading Like A Flower
Crash! Boom! Bang!

How Do You Do
Watercolours In The Rain
Spending My Time
The Look
Listen To Your Heart
Church Of Your Heart

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nile Rodgers in-store Q&A at Polyester Records

Legendary dance producer, songwriter and now story-teller wows an intimate audience at inner city Melbourne record shop.

Whenever the subject is music, and no matter how banal it might seem to the eve’s-dropper, you’ll always find me tingling in a nerdy haze as the speaker proffers some tidbit or insight that might be new to me. You see, I think about it all the time (as George Michael once confessed, although regarding an entirely different subject), and can usually hold my own in a frothing discussion about anyone from XTC to Right Said Fred. However, us music trivia tragic’s sometimes encounter a golden egg-laying goose of such magnitude, we can do nothing but mentally drop to our knees and bow, chanting, “We’re not worthy… We’re not worthy!” In the last three or so years alone, I’ve had insights into some of music’s most intriguing characters during interviews, but an encounter with one Nile Rodgers at an in-store Q&A session would instantly overshadow even the most tingle-inducing sound-bite.

Rodgers’ was in town to promote two things; His career retrospective in concert along with Chic – the band he was best known for – and his new autobiography. The addition of a music shop meet and greet session allowed fans to ask the man himself the stories behind the ridiculous amount of hit songs he helped create as a writer/producer, as his discography will contest. Although the most remarkable story Nile shared with the hundred or so fans piled into Polyester Records tiny city store, was not of his involvement with music at all, but of pure survival against some pretty heavy odds. At just 13 years of age, his mother – a New York native living in near-poverty – became pregnant during her first sexual experience. Nile recalls interviewing her for his bio with grace and wit, but the reality was quite shocking. A failed backyard abortion resulted in Nile’s unwanted birth, and as everyone held their breath for the stories conclusion, he hits us further with tales of a childhood spent in foster care and criminal activity.

The one beacon of hope in Nile’s young life was music, and a pure imagination which he described as vivid beyond most of our comprehension. “I sound-tracked life in my head.” He claims, “I would be out playing with the other kids and I would hear music in my head every single moment of the day.” Over the course of his eventually charmed life, Nile seemingly was in the right place at the right time with unnerving regularity. Following his nightclub debut with The Big Apple Band – who became Chic, once the BAB name was ‘borrowed’ by a more well established act – Nile got his big break. The Chic song, Everybody Dance became a massive club hit, earning Rodger’s the respected title of the “Everybody Dance guy” for a time. “People would come up to me, all smiles, and be like; “Hey brother man, I can’t believe I’m meeting the Everybody Dance guy!”

Nile is sat with his guitar at the ready, and his talk is punctuated by bursts of whatever song he’s in discussion about. “Diana Ross made this one famous”. He smiles, as I’m Coming Out leaps from the amp. Rodger’s in his best Diana Ross falsetto sings; “I’m coming out, I want the world to know, got to let it show…” Recalling the moment of inspiration for this song, Nile is side-splittingly hilarious. “I was in a gay club, and it was just after a show with Chic – I’d say it was early 1980 – I went to the bathroom and while I was there, I noticed three drag queens - all dressed as Diana Ross - standing next to me peeing!” The image is so outrageous, laughter suddenly fills the air. “I thought to myself, I gotta write a song for Diana Ross, she must be huge!” The single was written and to this day Ross begins every show with it, Nile tells us. One fan asks about the hidden meaning, in some of Nile’s songs, to which he replies, “The meaning of I’m Coming Out… That was the only song I ever lied to the artist about! Diana Ross asked me was it a gay song, and she was worried what that might do to her career, can you believe it?” He laughs, “All I said was, it’s like you’re ‘intro song’… When you ‘come out’ on stage, this is the song you come out playing – it’s like ‘I have arrived’!” He enthuses. “The record company thought a ‘gay song’ would be career suicide, so I kept quiet about that, but you know what Diana Ross’s biggest record is to this day…?” Rodgers smiles the smile of a man who subverted the clueless record label honchos and is met with more cheering and applause.

Although we could have happily stayed and listened to Nile freestyle about making deals with gangsters to secure artist contracts, surviving cancer or dropping acid in central park – “every step I took, the buildings and trees took a step with me” – but his tight schedule cut in to what was nothing short of a feast for the ears. “One last question,” He says, irritating his tour manager. A fan asks about David Bowie and Nile’s involvement on Let’s Dance. “You all know this one, right?” Cue Nile and one hundred joyous music nerds crooning Bowie at the top of our voices, as bemused onlookers flocked to the window of the shop to see what all the racket’s about. Nile ends his visit by personally meeting with and signing stuff for everybody who came to share in a little bit of his story, yet it was the camp-fire sing-a-long conclusion of Let’s Dance, that trumped just about everything. It was quite simply one of the most remarkable live music moments I’ve had here in Melbourne despite all the cramming in of gigs after gigs. Nile shared some of his life’s most amazing moments, but more than that, he gave every one who turned up to see him an amazing memory of their own to take away.



Chic - Everybody Dance
Chic - Le Freak
Diana Ross - Upside Down
Diana Ross - I'm Coming Out
Sister Sledge - Love Somebody Today
Deborah Harry - Koo Koo
David Bowie - Let's Dance

David Bowie - Black Tie, White Noise
Madonna - Like A Virgin
Duran Duran - Reflex
Duran Duran - Notorious
Thompson Twins - Here's To Future Days
Laurie Anderson - Home Of The Brave
The B-52s - Cosmic Thing
The B-52s - Good Stuff
INXS - Original Sin
Grace Jones - Inside Story

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Order: live in Melbourne, 2012 (review)

Venue: Festival Hall
Date: 01/03/2012

Increasingly desperate shouts of “C’mon!” punctuates each chorus of Love Will Tear Us Apart, as New Order reach the end of their first Australian concert in 11 years. Front man, Bernard Sumner wants us to show him exactly how much we love the song and how much we’ve missed his band. His enthusiastic cry is stunning and muscular, as it may well be. After all, Joy Division’s swan song will forever be a significant marker in New Order’s career. But their set tonight is nothing but continual proof of how much the band achieved subsequently, and is presented as a chance for them to share every mile stone – beautifully framed and hung - with their unwavering supporters.

The framing in this case is the fascinating visual projections accompanying each song. Film producer Michael Shamberg and graphic artist Peter Saville gave New Order’s music a very specific identity and here these songs and images combine to transport us to the heart of the Hacienda dance floor, sometime in the mid-1980s. The band manage the near impossible and deftly shift the atmosphere in Festival Hall like some alien race adapting its environment after a hostile take over. Resistance is not an option worth entertaining either. “Sorry about the weather…” Sumner apologises at one point, ”it feels a lot like home tonight.” As the words leave his mouth, vintage video footage of the band playing an early show in the actual Hacienda suddenly fill the screen, and they launch into a “never played live before” Here To Stay. The film, 24 Hour Party People told the whole story of the Hacienda’s importance to the Manchester scene; but the venue had significance enough for New Order to be immortalized in song. New Order’s true celebration of their past begins at this point - albeit in reverse order - but then there are also those bits of their past they’d rather soon forget.

In all the pre-tour media, as expected the focus was on matters of new band members (bassist Tom Chapman and guitarist Phil Cunningham) and the absence of Peter Hook. Its hardly the elephant in the room, but Sumner addresses it all the same tonight, “Oh look, we’ve got a new base player... How about that?” We cheer and welcome the slightly altered line-up, and if any Hooky die-hards are here tonight, they’re keeping pretty quiet. Chapman (Hook’s stand-in) chugs through the set with all the precision and fat riffs the songs were built on, smashing any worries that ‘it wouldn’t be the same without him’. There are plenty more standard New Order-isms in place to distract from the absent Hook and his famous low-slung bass stance anyway. A recently returned Gillian Gilbert is frozen behind her keyboard, serenely jabbing out those renowned melodies in apparent deep concentration; the very picture of familiarity. Sumner is bopping his head, eyes closed as he sings into a mic held delicately by one hand; as all images of him in concert will support. These details, along with a distinctly retro light show bring so much warmth on this wet, drizzly night.

The set is packed with carefully chosen ‘signature hits’ from start to finish, but the strong start – Elegia, Crystal, Regret – sees only sporadic pockets of dancing from the cross-generational crowd. It’s True Faith at the midway point that finally brings the crowd to full, pulsing life, while Bizarre Love Triangle starts the closest thing to a mosh pit seen all night. It’s during this track I notice members of System Of A Down watching motionless from the side of the stage, casually chewing bubble gum, perhaps even harbouring a little envy after their own lackluster Soundwave sideshow show the night before. New Order, despite being a much older band, never sound tired or careless with the material. Sumner’s never been the most powerful vocalist, but following a fantastic 1963, he gives himself a mental pat on the back for striking ever note. “That was the best one so far tonight, I think.” He grins. The audience might argue that point though – Temptation as with True Faith is a clear favourite, still sounding incredibly fresh at 31 years-old, although it takes a good minute to become familiar. Many of the older tracks have been sharpened up, extended and even remixed with the help of some sweet advances in live electronic music re-creation, but the focus never really drifts too far from the ‘live band’ sound.

They are going to close with you-know-what, but after a brief exodus, New Order return to the stage in silhouette for an encore which is still loaded with expectations. Blue Monday’s juddering beats begin from out of nowhere. The stage is in darkness except for an animated orb roving around the drop screen, and on cue, the audience clap in time. Sumner finally emerges to join the others, just as his vocal part is scheduled to begin and blue light saturates every corner of the hall. For the moment I’m all goose-bumps, and believe me it’s not cold in here. Blue Monday’s in-concert life actually began in Australia on the band’s 1983 tour where it was first ‘road tested’. I can’t help thinking its debut was a huge hit with local crowds even back then, otherwise would we even be chanting its haiku-like verses three decade later? Thanks to things such as, we knew there was no second encore coming, so the final applause seemed unfittingly brief.

Having grown up knowing New Order’s later material first, I was still left with the feeling that this was as authentic an experience of a ‘classic New Order show’ as anyone could want. Maybe they’re a few kilos heavier, and they’ve tidied up their sound and lost a member or two, but nothing about this concert spelled desperate last stab at relevance. If anything, the celebration of their musical history was indicative of a bright future at a stage in their career where there is no certainty at all beyond this tour. Here’s hoping the show was as good for them as it was for us and it isn’t long before we get to party with New Order like its 1989 all over again.



Age Of Consent
Here To Stay
Bizarre Love Triangle
True Faith
The Perfect Kiss
Blue Monday
Love Will Tear Us Apart

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gillian Gilbert (New Order) interview: 2012


Gillian Gilbert is at the Macclesfield country home she shares with husband/New Order drummer, Stephen Morris when I phone. She immediately slips into a relaxed chatty mode, happy to discuss New Order’s past, present and future – after all, it’s been a long time since any typical band activities – rehearsals, touring, international press, New Order itself, have encroached on the keyboardist’s life. The 32nd inconsistent year of the iconic band’s existence is upon us, and Gillian, as with each member at some point or other, is a little surprised to be back. “You just never know with us what to expect, really.” She understates. However, New Order’s latest reunion is a very different story to previous times. The silence that followed the band’s last album - 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call - was broken by a statement in 2007 - apparently from within the group’s ranks – that New Order were ‘no more, and never likely to be again’.

New Order, 1980
That announcement made by (now ex) bassist Peter Hook was, it turned out, a false indicator as he was the only one at that particular meeting. Hook’s subsequent plundering of Joy Division’s back catalogue and threats of legal action against the remainder of New Order (for using the name without his involvement) are now matters for the public to cast opinion on, but New Order’s surprise return in late 2011 - excluding Hook - implies a solidarity within the group still exists and is willed to power in the roughest of times. But then their name did always suggest purposeful leadership, with an even vaguely hierarchical connotation, which all seemed very cocky considering they essentially began in 1980 as 'Joy Division minus the popular singer'. As New Order, they chose a new lead singer basically on the flip of a coin, and for a time nobody in their right mind would have bet on a future for the band. Perhaps though, it’s that ‘unlikely rise’ from potential post-Ian Curtis obscurity that formed the catalyst for New Order’s ‘survive anything’ mentality. Few bands after all have endured their level of disharmony from outside and within their own ranks, so it’s not such a surprise, that in the wake of a very public battle with Hook, their passion has again beaten their hate.

Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert and Steven Morris re-united as New Order last year with a new bassist Tom Chapman and second guitarist Phil Cunningham. On the eve of their first Australian visit with the new line-up - and with no new album to promote – Gillian surely speaks for the whole band when she says that this reunion was a more ‘tentative one’ than previous times. “We didn’t really know how it (touring a new line-up) was going be received by the New Order fans, or if the interest would even still be there. But we have come to think of this time as like a new beginning, really.” The first New Order show without Hook was intended as a one-off benefit gig for long-time friend of New Order’s, Michael Shamberg – a film producer responsible for the bulk of New Order’s stylish and surreal music videos - who became terminally ill. It was also the first show to feature Gillian back behind the keyboard following her indefinite departure in 2000 to look after her sick daughter, “I missed just being with everybody.” She recalls, “It took me a long time to get used to not being in New Order.” The line-up was completed by members of Sumner’s other band, Bad Lieutenant but the obvious Hook-shaped hole in the band raised potential problems for the long term.

Performing Blue Monday on TOTP, '83.
“We were quite scared about doing a fully fledged tour with new band members, because we had to of course work out if Tom could cope with such a big part to play.” Gillian offers, “So instead of barging back into the spotlight as it were, and announcing some big ‘come-back‘ tour, we took small steps.” Tom Chapman will inevitably be compared to Hook at every show on the tour but, Gillian notes, it’s wrong to assume he’s merely imitating. “Tom isn’t copying Hooky, he has his own style of playing. Tom wasn’t there when we recorded those songs, and so it stands to reason that he hears them differently to Hooky and has his own take on them.” New member’s aside, the current New Order live show reflects on the band’s past now more than ever, and the visual identity created around New Order’s music. Gilbert explains, “In the past it was always about touring to promote a new album or whatever, but preparing for Michael Shamberg’s benefit concert, forced us to listen to a lot of our older material – some of which we haven’t played live since the ‘80s – and create a set list to go along with a lot of the videos he produced.” Those videos, including Blue Monday’s oddly posed dogs, Bizarre Love Triangle’s falling suited men and True Faith’s mime artists gone feral are images as iconic as the songs themselves, Gillian agrees.

                                                  the classic 'True Faith' video

“I’ve always loved what Michael did with True Faith especially.” The video, which features costumed dancers performing increasingly violent, synchronised routines, thinly hides the band’s most overt drug-referencing in a song.  True Faith – the song and video - was one of the first to drag underground club culture into the mainstream, where it was immediately deemed ‘unsavory’. “I remember Radio One refused to play it unless we changed some of the words.” The original lyric “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re all taking drugs with me” was tamed down to “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re afraid of what they see”. “It was never about promoting, or glamorising anything though,” Gillian adds, “Meanwhile, nearly every song on the radio now it seems, is loaded with drug references, only it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. Is it shock for the sake of shock value? Yes, I think so.” And if any band should know, it’s New Order. 

Keyboardist Gilbert, also

occasionally played guitar in NO.

Madchester, Baggy, Acid House, and a slew of other music/drug-related sub-cultures have all been credited to New Order’s influence on music, but a scene was already in the making, born from a rapid rise in street-level music creation and a potentially destructive new wave of party drugs. New Order simply provided the best possible soundtrack for whether you were going out, or coming down. The scene bloomed within the well documented home of Tony Wilson’s Factory label and Hacienda nightclub, but many of the bands and many more of the drugs ultimately proved bigger than either business. New Order survived Factory, but only just. To recoup some of their lost earnings, the band reconvened in 1990, “for what we thought would be one last time”, to record the official World Cup anthem – World In Motion. In a bittersweet twist, the song hit number one at the same time New Order were broke, disbanded and had little hope of a future. “It was encouraging having a number one single, yeah, but really we did that record as a commercial venture because we were in trouble financially.” Gillian confirms, “Steven (Morris) had the idea to do it, and just because we knew it would be used by all the TV stations broadcasting the World Cup, we all agreed. It was one of the few financially smart things we did as a band.” Its romantic to think the band keep New Order going for ‘love not money’, and although Hooky is the current bug in the band’s ointment, their instability had begun long ago as a result of bad business. It’s often downplayed for the sake of a good mud-slinging story, but Factory crashed during the making of New Order’s then come-back album, 1993’s Republic which ended the band’s tolerance for the industry for many years. Regarding the band's future plans however, Gillian can only offer her personal wishes.

“I would like to finish this tour, take a short break and then see what the future brings. We don’t have plans beyond these shows right now, but that can be an exciting prospect as well." She ads, "I don't think we will be recording a full album again, but I'd like to do an E.P. perhaps. We always had singles that weren't on albums in the past, so I think an E.P. would be a good compromise of those two things." As for the recent history in which ties between New Order's and Hook have seemingly been cut for good, Gillian concludes, "Many things way out of our control have slowed us down over the years, but… I think, in a way, the band is bigger than us as individuals, which makes it easier to carry on in the face of… whatever the universe can throw at us. I think with this group getting back together, we knew there would be battles (Hook) to get through, but in New Order, that’s just how we play."



The 'Low Life' album and tour was unusual in that it was the one and only time the band's images were used in the promotional artwork.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dr Alex Paterson (The ORB) Interview: 2012


UK electro act The Orb, always found themselves lumped in with the narcotic-influenced club music scene emerging in the late ‘80s, while journalists struggled to find a more accurate description; ‘Pink Floyd for the ‘90s rave generation’ and ‘Space-obsessed knob-twiddlers’, are just two of the terms that have been commonly used to describe the duo, and complimentary or not, founding member Dr. Alex Paterson can see no reason to give a shit. “I’m still here 25 years later talking to you, so I think we must be doing something right.” Paterson’s early morning croak assures me his ‘blissed-out drug music’ is a ‘good match’ ahead of the touted double-billing of The Orb with UK sample-monsters, Bomb The Bass. “It’s good; I think we both come from the same school of plagiarism.” The self-appointed/self-medicating doctor laughs.

“As it happens, I used to go out and buy Bomb The Bass’s records for when I was DJing back in the early days.” Paterson recalls, waking himself up a little more. “We’ve both always listened to music with the same ear for working out how you can make something new out of something old, I think.” Paterson’s mention of ‘plagiarism’ is more self-referencing than accusation. In its earliest form, The Orb was an excuse for Paterson and one Jim Cauty to create sampling anarchy. Cauty however fell out with Alex following the debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and went on to raise hell as one-half of The KLF with Bill Drummond, who’s own free-for-all approach to using copy-protected music was as prolific as their lunatic stunts. The Orb continued on with some-time members, Youth (ex-Killing Joke), Kris ‘Thrash” Weston, Tim Bran and various others, before Paterson’s longest term ‘co-Orbist’, German-born Thomas Fehlmann joined in 1995. With the many cohorts under the bridge, I wonder is Alex the archetypal ‘difficult artist’?

“No, I think it’s more that there’s a kind of snobbery among a lot of English DJs, and many of them seemed to be in competition with each other, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.” He adds, “Thomas didn’t behave in that way, which was a new experience for me. We do things for one another, not for self-aggrandising reasons.” The Orb, although linked to the sample revolution born out of hip hop, claimed their own distinct niche as ‘ambient electronic pioneers’; a term which Paterson is immensely proud of. “I was an A & R scout in the early ‘80s, so I always had my ear to ground, wanting to know what was going on in music, and nobody was doing ambient house music before The Orb formed.” Paterson, as a recreational pot-smoker spotted a gap in the dance-oriented club scene for chill-out music that wouldn’t completely kill the listener’s vibe. “A lot of people were putting on stuff like Neil Young or Pink Floyd after a night out clubbing, so we thought we set about changing that by offering an alternative.” The two premiere ambient house chill-out records were The KLF’s Chill Out, and The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, which Paterson now admits was heavily inspired by Brian Eno.

“My day-job back then was working for Roxy Music’s record label in London, and Eno was one of the reasons I got into making music of my own.” He exclaims, but Eno apparently was keen to distance himself as an influence from Paterson’s work. The Orb were indeed gaining exposure for a lot of the ‘wrong reasons’ in the early ‘90s, as sampling on the level employed by them was a major concern for labels wanting to release music with the hassle of lawyers banging at the door. “The sampler made it easy for artists like us to completely alter a sound to use in a recording – so much so, we got away with a lot more than most people know about.” He laughs, “I can say that now, because if a sample isn’t claimed within seven years, forget it, no one’s going to go to the trouble, but it got to stage where our label (Island) wanted us to provide tapes of all the different parts to each of our records on separate tapes, so they could see what we were trying to sneak in there. The funny thing was, the samples were so unrecognisable after we’d finished with them, Island couldn’t even tell what they were anyway!” For the artists who may have griped about their work being sampled on an Orb record, there were as many who proclaimed it a kind of honor, Alex recalls. “When Steve Reich heard his guitar turn up on Little Fluffy Clouds, he got in touch with us and said, ‘I fucking love this, I never thought someone could do this with my music. It’s amazing.’ He wanted to go on record as a supporter of what I was doing. It’s just when publishers and record labels get onto you that it all goes to shit. They’re the only ones really worried about losing money; it’s rarely the artists as far as I can tell.”


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass) interview: 2012


Bristol-based rag-tag collective, The Wild Bunch flourished as outsiders from what was happening in mid-‘80s mainstream music. The DIY approach they took to making music and various other art forms simply wasn’t in a competitive field, as much of their output was consigned to being played in local clubs or on pirate radio. However, the future had in store an unprecedented level of acclaim and acceptance for the micro-scene’s main players. Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry, Tricky and Nellee Hooper among others, all got their first break in the mostly migrant collective. But the scene, long before launching the globally admired stars of trip-hop, was early on having a rather profound impact on a young Scottish-Malaysian lad named Tim Simenon. Simenon, being a Londoner, was an outsider even among the Wild Bunch, “I became friends with a lot of that group through going to Jazzi B’s Soul II Soul club. They ran a local DJ battle night, where anyone could show off their skills or just hang out.” Like them, Tim was driven by the potential of a new music style created utilizing samplers. 

“I was the guy with the records, basically.” He laughs, “I had been collecting since I was about 8 or 9 years old, and when I started mucking about with samplers I had a shit load of music already to work with, which was essential if you were serious about live DJing.” Simenon adopted the title Bomb The Bass to DJ under, and like his mates in Massive Attack, the emphasis was on devastation; specifically the ‘annihilation’ of hundreds of recorded works for use in samples. However, where Massive Attack became known for the somber, subtle approach, Bomb The Bass’s debut single, Beat Dis! hit the listener with a montage of over 50 samples, kicking open the door for a whole new wave of sample-heavy dance 12”s. He’d created a monster, but his actions also shook up the Wild Bunch crew, most of who were yet to release any of their music/mixes. “DJing was still a new thing, and a lot of the artists on that scene wanted to release records, but nobody knew if what we were doing would have any kind of appeal beyond our little club nights. That’s the beauty of what was happening in that scene, we were just friends doing what we enjoyed doing. Nobody thought it would become this massive thing.” 

One of the first of the Bristol crew to get a record out was Afro-Swedish MC, Neneh Cherry. She and Tim collaborated on the sweet but sassy, Buffalo Stance in 1988, which became so huge, supposedly it was the prompt for Madonna to write Express Yourself. “I have to say, that was one of the most enjoyable records I ever worked on, primarily because Neneh was such a breeze to work with. I’ll always remember that powerful attitude she brought to everything, I mean Buffalo Stance was her through and through. That was her personality, you know.” From that single, the scene began to grow as more and more names linked to the Wild Bunch turned out records that seemed incapable of failure. Bomb The Bass’s second album, Unknown Territory surfaced around the same time as Massive Attack’s Blue Lines prompting talk of a ‘new movement’ in music, however Tim was a far less stationary act, flirting only briefly with trip-hop. His next release would begin to develop from a collaboration with Russian/American hip hop artist Justin Warfield (who’s album, My Field Trip To Planet 9, Tim was enamored with), but who more importantly, shared Tim’s love of William S. Burroughs

Tim's 3rd album, Clear-ly inspired by Naked Lunch.

“I remember at our first meeting, Justin and I talked a lot about Burroughs, and straight after he went off and wrote these fantastic lyrics based around Naked Lunch.” Simenon’s Bug Powder Dust began as a collection of dialogue samples from the David Cronenberg film adaption, before blossoming into a full collaborative rap. The track - a massive hit - pre-empted 1995’s Clear, and a newly acquired use of live instrumentation. Tim was beginning to scratch the surface of Bomb The Bass’s potential as a live band, but it would take a further 14 years for him to fully realise it. For the remainder of the 1990’s, he retreated into production, while his ideas for Bomb The Bass’s future fermented. Simenon worked his magic on Gavin Friday’s inspired Shag Tobacco, and on the ill-fated Michael Hutchence’s solo album – his final recording, it would turn out - then as the decade neared its end, a production project came his way in the form of Depeche Mode’s album, Ultra. The band’s ninth album equated to their revival following a disastrous self-destructive period, while Simenon on the other hand, completely disappeared from view.

“I hadn’t had a break in over ten years… Not since I started releasing music in fact.” He recalls, “I needed to be inspired again, and so it was vital I take a few years off. The Depeche Mode album was a really dark time for me and them, and so rather than push myself even further, I spent a couple of years in my room in front of the speakers just listening to music instead of working with it.” Simenon’s silence was finally broken ten years on with a dramatic new sound in 2008. With a new collaborator, Paul Conboy, and the notion of Bomb The Bass as a live act finally began to take shape. ”The key to getting back into music was writing the Future Chaos album.” He explains, “That album came together with such momentum that I found I had regained a kind of excitement about making music which had been missing for some time.” Keeping in mind the festival’s title of 'Future Music' that Tim will be in Australia for, aside from his rich back catalogue, fans can expect some fresh new sounds, he confirms. “Paul and I have been writing the follow-up to Future Chaos, so we’ll be premiering about five or six of those songs in Australia.” The new album, he explains, bares little resemblance to the sample-based work he mastered in his formative years.

“On this tour Paul will be singing and playing live bass, and I’ll be making the beats and just playing around with the BPM’s a lot more. It’s exciting for us to have the sort of ‘raw edge’ of a live band, which I’ve been wanting to do for some time, but for the album we will hopefully be getting some guest vocalists in which I haven’t done for ages.” Bomb The Bass’s most successful tracks had always put the credit on guest singers; Loretta Heywood (Winter In July), Justin Warfield (Bug Powder Dust), Jazzi B and Maureen (Say A Little Prayer), yet Tim’s own signature is there in every single piece. “What you’re describing there is ‘The Texture,’” He laughs.” That’s where I come in, I think.” It was Tim’s ‘texture’ that put him in hot demand as a remix artist too. Credited on Bjork’s Play Dead, remixing Massive Attack and Depeche Mode etc.. – everyone, it seems, wanted a sprinkling of the BTB magic, but Tim follows a simple rule when choosing who to mix it with. “All the artists I’ve worked with over the years, I’ve done so because we have shared a connection in some way.” He assures, “It’s important to get along with people I’m working with for me to be able to work. I’m just lucky in a way, that all of the people I have collaborated with have been or become friends. I mean it’s got to be fun, or what’s the point, eh?



Depeche Mode - Ultra (production)
Depeche Mode - Strangelove (remix)
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (remix)
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (remix)
Jamie J. Morgan - Walk On The Wild Side (remix)
Bjork - Play Dead (remix)
Massive Attack - Sly (remix)
Gavin Friday - In The Name Of The Father (remix/production)
Gavin Friday - Shag Tobacco (production)
David Bowie - The Heart's Filthy Lesson (remix)
Curve - Chinese Burn (production/remix)
Curve - Come Clean (production)
Michael Hutchence - self-titled (co-writer/co-production)
Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance (production)
Neneh Cherry - Manchild (production)
Seal - Crazy (remix)
Sinead O'Connor - You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart (production)
Sinead O'Connor - Universal Mother (production)
Tim Booth and Angelo Badalamenti - Booth & The Bad Angel (production)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: live in Melbourne, 2012 (review)

Venue: The Palais
Date: 31/01

Re-emerging only last year with a new band - The High Flying Birds - and whole new set of songs, the elder of OasisGallagher brothers, Noel set himself the unenviable task of starting from scratch. Although most of the songs on the High Flying Birds’ album were written in 2008 while Noel was still in Oasis, his writing more than hinted at a severing of old ties. 2011 single, the no-hold’s barred The Death Of You And Me, heralded Noel’s new life as a solo artist, and showed a promising, more purposeful direction than most latter day Oasis. Of the new tracks, which are spread equally throughout ‘the classics’ tonight at his Melbourne Big Day Out sideshow, none can be written off as mere ‘Oasis-lite’ rehashing. Still, expectations for Noel’s solo gig were pretty moderate for me I confess.

Would the shadow of Oasis hang heavily over proceedings, as a half-full arena of disgruntled fans just mark time until Wonderwall? Well as it turns out, not even close. Gallagher is the very picture of the fabled phoenix from the ashes of his old band. Standing before us drenched in red and blue lights, age defiant was a possibly even more cocky Noel than the one who once celebrated a life of ‘cigarette’s and alcohol’. Tonight, he confidently reminds all who had forgotten how brilliant a performer he actually is, and how many bloody good songs he’s written. In place of the geezer trying to relive the glory days I half expected, was a master showman proving you can’t beat experience - fuck knows, nothing has beaten Noel Gallagher.

Following a standing ovation on his arrival, Gallagher kicks off with (It’s Good) To Be Free, and the choice is a master stroke. This old b-side, which has surely taken on new meaning for Gallagher in recent times, gains an immediate reaction from the packed in crowd who seem determined to match Gallagher and his band in volume. Its all the warm up he and his audience need too, as the show’s momentum and crowd response continue to elevate – especially once Gallagher wonders aloud ‘why is everyone sitting down?’ As we all gladly surrender our comfort, the band delivers a run of six tracks from High Flying Birds’ debut, each a triumph of thrilling, edge-of-your-seat rock. If High Flying Birds remind me of Oasis at all, then it’s the best elements of serendipitous sophomore (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and bust-up album, Dig Out Your Soul, which tellingly was recorded at the same time High Flying Birds was taking shape. If I Had A Gun ranks closest to ‘the Oasis sound’, offering a peak into what might have been, and also a ‘last look back’ moment before the brand new as-yet-unreleased, Freaky Teeth.

Midway through, and the electric guitar makes way for an acoustic and Noel’s band depart, leaving only him and keyboardist, Mike Rowe. Tuning up, Noel reads the crowd for a moment and gets a cheer. “Who was Saint Kilda?” He yells, while strumming something familiar. “It’s not in the Bible – I’ve checked.” Out of the laughter, a fan offers; “She was a prostitute!” Noel scoffs in return, “You’re a fucking prostitute, mate.” The laughter soon turns to cheers as Whatever (I’m Free) is suddenly upon us, along with the customary sing-a-long. The already up mood inside the Palais plateaus and Noel draws the moment out with a stunning, stripped back rendition of Supersonic - Oasis’s debut single which although has been ‘re-imagined’ still holds its power as one of the most fun songs Gallagher ever wrote.

We then welcome the rest of the band back on stage for the 'most fun' song High Flying Birds have in their cannon – (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine. Noel’s all about momentum tonight, he’s brought his audience up and is determined to keep us there. The second set seems to fly by, as each carefully chosen song forms a kind of ‘greatest hits’ package. New gems such as Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks meld into unsung classics, Half A World Away and Talk Tonight. The many ex-pat Brits in the audience, hoarse from belting out the words along with Noel, near topple over each other in a bid to shower praise on the man as the triple banger encore comes around. Little By Little, The Importance of Being Idle and closer, Don’t Look Back In Anger made their homes long ago in the hearts of Brit-pop fans at closing time sing-a-longs and blurry-eyed cab rides home. Tonight, Gallagher’s fans share with their idol the fondness each and every one of them hold for these songs. Noel knows to not even bother singing on Don’t Look Back In Anger – the entire audience unite in a roof-raising effort all their own – and Gallagher’s uncharacteristic grin speaks volumes in its own right, as he enjoys a momentous end to a show by one of the classiest come-back's in recent times. Nice one, 'our kid'.



(It's Good) To Be Free
Mucky Fingers
Everybody's On The Run
Dream On
If I Had A Gun
The Good Rebel
The Death Of You And Me
Freaky Teeth

Whatever (I'm Free)

(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine
What A Life!
Talk Tonight
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
Broken Arrow
Half The World Away
The Wrong Beach
Little By Little
The Importance of Being Idle
Don't Look Back In Anger

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The End of Australian Music Content on Commercial radio?

The following is a post I made in a forum regarding the CRA's recent whinge about having to play a small percentage of Australian music in their quota. The subject to me is infuriating to say the least, as it represents yet another change for the worse in terms of the ridiculous level of exposure given to cheap and nasty, mostly American, commercial pop. It seems as if the gap between popular music and product pushing is almost completely closed and to me, this is no trivial matter. Australian music is simply less likely to be affiliated with branding and looks likely to suffer as a result in a world where advertisers hold all the cash. The CRA (or Commercial Radio Australia) have long stopped pretending they give a damn about fostering local talent since realising they can get a bigger slice of pie playing overseas artists on labels linked to ad agencies whose jingles for the newest crap-tastic gadget are also the latest singles from Rhianna/Bieber/Maroon 5 etc...

I'd really like to dig my heels into the CRA and say how awful they are for considering such a proposal, but the reality is, they are reflecting a growing public indifference to not just locally produced music, but to some degree an indifference to anything that isn't totally mono-cultural. Not caring about what happens in mainstream, commercial music isn't enough for me. I can't be switched off to it when nearly every resource I access - by no choice of my own - rings with the sight or sound of the latest 'talented new-comer', who always seems to be either American (specifically LA based) or trying so hard to appear that way, its almost impossible to tell the difference. Then there's the subliminal hatred. I feel bad for hating people who lap up, apparently anything deemed 'hot' by the faceless arseholes who apparently have a lot to gain by you buying the latest shitty autotuned wankery. As far as I'm concerned the CRA are just more faceless arseholes with an agenda. What that is can probably be summed up by the complete flat-lining of any real diversity in heavily promoted music. Why risk losing listeners/money/advertisers on some 'weird local shit by some unknown wannabe' when you can get Timomatic and Reece Mastin to dance on command, look damn pretty doing it, AND sound like a combination of Black Eyed P!nk Marooned Beiber, or whatever the kids (apparently) all slurped up by the tonne last year?

Who's world, exactly?
My question is, are the CRA looking to drop all locally produced music from their playlists or just the stuff that wasn't produced, written and rapped on by some bloke in Hollywood called T-Party? In which case, haven't they already achieved their goal?? Creating a vacuum in which only this miniscule measure of success applies to musicians is so destructive in the long term. The apparent glamour (if you're a bogan maybe?) of US-style overnight stardom on the back of some paper thin soulless dance tune is of course hollow, but why then are so many young Australian artists seeing it as something to strive for? You could argue that the end of anything identifiable as Australian on commercial radio is already upon us, but I predict hard times ahead for people like CRA and other supporters of 'shit made in America's gotta be good, it sells like hot muffins'. They drop all Australian content from commercial radio, and eventually just run one long unchanging advertisement/song on an endless loop that gradually becomes a single droning autotuned note, a flat-line, if you like spelling the (by that time) much welcomed death of those withering arseholes who through the power of commercial media, want nothing more than to dull the wit of all who come in contact with them.

May they suffer as much as I do whenever I chance encounter one of their boil in the bag ready-made suck-cess stories flogging me an iPhone from the saftey of a mega-billboard and draining the life force outta me within seconds of hearing their corporate-endorsed shit.