The Church Factory Theatre, Sydney 6th December 2012 The most remarkable thing about The Church, and there are many remarkable things about this enduring Australia band, is how better they get with age. Memories seep past of watching them just down the road, in what seemed for all intent and purpose their final show with guitarist
Chromatics Heaven, London November 6, 2012 On a night when everyone is locked in an US election day trance, American synth-noir act Chromatics were the alternative for those choosing pop over politics. As a band who've existed in various forms since 2001, their recent mainstream crossover was aided by the success of the film "Drive"
Savages Electrowerkz, London October 11, 2012 Does anyone remember the post-punk explosion of 2005 when every second band seemed to be cribbing off each other's influences sheets, and labels with derivative names like Angular and Artrocker appeared, encouraging this rising monochrome wave? It was probably the first serious resurgence of post-punk since the '80s, but
Echo Lake + Evans The Death The Lexington, London October 1, 2012 To say that 2012 hasn't been the easiest of years for Echo Lake would be a sad understatement. The tragic loss of their drummer Pete Hayes coinciding with the release of their debut album was a crushing setback for this wonderful London band-in-ascendant.
Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny Kings College, London September 26, 2012 A little face paint and a rummage through the fancy dress chest has the potential to turn even the dreariest of live performances into something oddly comical and surreal, yet this is something Beth Jeans Houghton and her Hooves of Destiny
HTRK The Garage, London October 24, 2011 HTRK have always been a difficult band to love. Once you got used to their narco-minimalism and faceless anonymity that pervaded their artwork, you realised they weren't a band seeking attention, merely like-minded souls to tumble down their rabbit hole. They weren't looking for you, you were looking
A couple of songs into Lydia Loveless’s evening set, and it’s difficult to tell where Lydia the singer ends and Lydia the person begins. It’s simply hard to imagine a woman like this, barely in her twenties, and standing a little over five foot tall in her boots, could be so worldly and explosive. And yet, there she is, muttering a string of f-bombs during a song break because she can’t get her guitar tuned quite right. The attitude, the weathered, sarcastic smile. The edge. That’s pretty damn tough to fake.
On the surface, it’s a normal, sold-out show on a Friday night just north of downtown Cleveland. The fans stretch around the corner from the front door; ticket holders excited for the They Might Be Giants concert they’re about to see, and those without tickets hoping to catch a break when they get to the box office. But this is not a normal show, and this is not a normal audience. These are the geeks. The nerds. Die hard rock fans of a different shade of crazy, waiting for their musical heroes to serenade them with catchy pop songs tinged with dark humor and insightful counter-culture references.
Having changed careers mid-stream from a piano-based singer-songwriter with a touch of the Regina Spectors to a Nico-esque bleach-blonde gothic siren, in Austra Katie Stelmanis has found the form to match the function. With a handful of impressive singles released either side of their Kate Bush meets Nine Inch Nails debut album Feel It Break, Stelmanis may have found her creative niche but she still has much to prove. On record, Austra cloak themselves in a throbbing monochrome blanket, but on stage their live show is more telling, more vibrant and commanding, as Stelmanis, flanked by a pair of interpretive dancers/backing vocalists, add any absent colour.
Quietly, unassumingly, Truck Festival has become an annual celebration of all that is so very right about music. When the Bennett brothers witnessed the exploitative attitude of industrial sized events they didn’t just get mad they got even. Truck Festival was their baby and now in its fourteenth year it has blossomed into a rather lovely adolescent. Webcuts birthday boy Don Blandford was at Truck all weekend to report on the action, featuring appearances by: Graham Coxon, Lanterns On The Lake, Cashier No.9, Sarah Cracknell, Johnny Flynn, Edwyn Collins, Caitlin Rose, Mechanical Bride and Sea Of Bees.
In the history of modern music festivals, few line-ups could compare with the distinctly 70's flavoured action offered at the Hop Farm Festival last weekend. While The Eagles were wheeled out of retirement as headliners on the first night, the purportedly Morrissey-curated second day included such rock pantheon artists as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Patti Smith. All in all, it's a jaw-dropping stroke of genius, with Morrissey having the hardest of acts to follow the swathe these three so cleanly cut through the Kent countryside. Oh, and did we forget to mention Prince was there too?
How strange to be more than fifteen years into a career and to finally achieve growing, and now glowing, recognition for the music you make. Bands today, the inverse applies, they learn to walk before they can crawl, record a debut they'll never repeat and disappear as if they never existed. Real artists will maintain and nurture their craft regardless of an audience, which more or less, is the story of Dan Bejar. Better known as the wild-card songwriter in Canadian power-pop supergroup The New Pornographers, Bejar's work as Destroyer is like mainlining into Bejar's psyche, which prior to you only got the briefest taste of.
It’s a little known piece of Webcuts folklore that Noah And The Whale once played in my living room. Gladly, it was before my time, otherwise a compulsion to head downstairs and have words would‘ve been hard to resist. A sell-out show at the Camden Roundhouse is not to be sneered at, but if commercial success or the ability to fill a room is the barometer in which all great music is measured, we’re on (and have been for decades) very shaky ground, and when superlative-inducing American folk-rock act Okkervil River are playing across town, clearly in the wrong place.
Why hello, Wendy James. It’s been a while. Almost 20 years since I saw Transvision Vamp play at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. A mostly unremarkable show except for the amount of intimidating drunks in attendance and the fact they played their current ‘hit‘ twice. Australia loved Transvision Vamp, almost in the same way it loved Blondie, decades before. Stick a blonde wig on a mop, put it in front of a bunch of guys in leather jackets and you're set. Transvision Vamp at that time were in their career descent with Little Magnets Versus The Bubble of Babble (my head still shudders at the idiocy of this title) and this was their last roll of the dice.
Having to write a live review on the fly, almost two weeks after it happened, from notes hastily scribbled, while packing to go to a festival will show us this is not the way to be. There's no time to go into great detail, to labour the point, to draw comparisons between George Lewis Jr's physical appearance (a little bit Prince, a little bit Morrissey), or the sound (a little bit Prince, a little bit Morrissey, albeit on a synth-sprung landscape). Twin Shadow, at least from this writer's perspective, has adequately filled the gap that LCD Soundsystem left by their absence, in making music that moves and is moving, that is confident without being arrogant, and is just too perfect for words.
It's easy to love Ramona, even though everything about them is so flawless and en pointe, unheard for a scruffy bunch of Brighton by-way-of-New-York rockers. Picks in hand, they transform a handful of chords into polished punk perfection, fronted by the coquettish bleach-blonde tomboy Karen Anne, a second generation Edie and Debbie who knows how to hang from a mic stand like she was hanging from your shoulder. Absent from the stage this year so far, they cycle through their set in a brisk half hour, including encore, and you're crying out for a flubbed note, an unrehearsed run through a song they just wrote in the van, or general indifference to whether anybody is listening.
In a long black leather jacket and hoodie and stacked heels, Cold Cave's Wes Eisold looks like any other kid you see in Camden on a Friday night, except that he's not and it isn't and before he even opens his mouth, you're thinking "wow, that leather jacket really is the shit" and it is. It's also a special day for 80's synth-obsessives Cold Cave, as Eisold curtly informs the assembled at Rough Trade Records - "Welcome to our album birthing day". Their second album, the strangely positive sounding Cherish The Light Years showing a marked change from the same Cold Cave that played London back in May 2010.
With each successive show played in London growing in size from venue to venue, it’s a clear indication of the steady rise of this beloved Atlanta four-piece, and with Shepherd’s Bush Empire being sold out, it's their largest capacity UK headline show to date. For the ardent, precious fan, Deerhunter aren't your band anymore. The era of slipping into town for a small club tour is over, but from the staid, somewhat bemused crowd, Deerhunter's roaming psychedelic-shoegaze and mutant folk-pop are still an acquired taste, one that’s seemingly unlikely to assail the upper reaches of the charts like label-mates, The National.
There really is something enthralling about watching a band not just perform music but energetically project themselves into it. It's akin to standing against a gale who's presence is to overpower you and anything in its way. That would in part, sum up the appeal of Exlovers -- they cut a forceful, harmony-fuelled rug. The other part is they're the most attractive bunch of tattooed scruffs that you'll ever encounter. Put all this in the context of their latest single "Blowing Kisses", a song that transcends simple indie guitar music and that gale hits like a perfumed fist that still makes you want to stand up and take more.
When you add up the years, you realise Ian Astbury and Billy Dully have been making music as The Cult for a long-ass time. Sitting in the rafters of the Hammersmith Apollo ("Hammersmith Odeon", Astbury demurs, referring to the venue's previous appellation), the debt paid to the excesses of rock n’ roll have more-or-less treated both kindly. Astbury, the once flower-child/wolf-child looks a little rough round the edges, but when you style yourself on Jim Morrisson and then suddenly become him, what can you expect. Duffy on the other hand, is ageless, looking more like David Beckham‘s older brother than a well-tooled guitar god.
In complete contrast to a month ago when it was "precipitation nation" Brisbane’s fourth St. Jerome’s Laneway festival could've been subtitled "Boiling Brisvegas". Unlike many festivals Laneway 2011 had a remarkably consistent quality throughout the entire day, so regardless of the weather it was always destined to be a scorcher. We braved the extreme ultra violet index to report on Australia's Rat Vs Possum, Cloud Control and Cut Copy. While sampling UK's Foals and America's best of the best with Beach House, The Antlers, Warpaint, Blonde Redhead, Ariel Pink, Holy Fuck. Oh and LES SAVY FAV!.
Photos of Mr. Maps' launch for Wire Empire their debut (and so far only) album. Brisbane, February 12, 2011.
This was to be the debut and sole performance of Outsider Music, Luke Haines' most successful solo album to date. An album of some notoriety in that it was individually recorded 50 times and released last September for £75 a throw. An artistic experiment and a gamble of sorts, it was an undeniable success for Haines, the old adage about fools and their money standing true -- all 50 volumes of Outsider Music disappearing quicker than anticipated. With each volume a unique item on its own, buyers have been reticent on sharing and as of yet, no copies have surfaced. So Haines - 1, Rich Fans - 1, Poor Fans - go eat a shit sandwich.
For the third Sunset Sounds festival it rained, it poured, it pelted down. Water came down in sheets, hell it came down in slabs. Even those who came with waterproof clothing were completely soaked not just to the bone but to the very marrow. Sunset Sounds became Sunless Sounds, Soggy Sounds and Mudset Sounds. It brought out the worst in some people and the best in others. Still the show went on and so we report on Sleigh Bells, Cold War Kids, Ladyhawke, Pubic Enemy, The National and Interpol on day one. While for the second day we braved the wet again to deliver reports on The Soft Pack, Peaches, Junip, The Morning Benders, Washington and Paul Kelly.
There’s been a noticeable shift slash longing backward glance in music trends towards all things 80’s. It seems that the product of that era now want to know everything about where they came from and the music that was made. For synth pop acts like Summer Camp and Twin Shadow, the 80’s are a nostalgia/inspirational goldmine, but with the rise of Zola Jesus, Salem, oOoOO, etc, it was inevitable that Goth music and its mutated electro/dark wave offspring would get discovered by the black clad suburban misfits of today. Enter, Austra from Toronto, Canada.
New Years Eve’s are traditionally unplanned, last minute events, involving clubs or house parties especially in laissez-faire Brisbane. This year was different. An independent music festival at the Powerhouse, brazenly named No Years! offered a tempting program. 21 bands in total: 14 local, 5 interstate and 2 international acts, over eleven hours at lovely New Farm location. We cast our NYE net on Australia's Bleeding Knees Club, Parades, Love Connection, Jonathan Boulet, The John Steel Singers and Oh Ye Denver Birds. And see who ranks best out of America Neon Indian and Sweden Shout Out Louds.
These are confusing times we live in. The past and the present have merged into one. Bands come back from the dead, sounding better than ever (The Primitives), artists who are clearly dead keep on making dreadful albums from beyond the grave (do we need name names?), and bands will play their best album in full and it becomes ‘an event’ (The Wedding Present). There are few albums in the history of music that deserve to be played in full (though tell that to Echo & The Bunnymen...), there's always at least one track (or more) of filler, or one completely misjudged stinker, but nostalgia has a price and it pays handsomely, so hey, on with the show!
It's been a long time time between drinks for The Charlatans and Australia. Fresh from playing their Some Friendly 20th Anniversary shows around the UK The Charlatans were down under recently with a more conventional touring schedule. It's certainly not the fan fest that they are used to back home but a rapturous welcome still greets the band. With a set drawn mostly from their very early material honed through recent tours, and the obligatory new songs that every band pulls out, it's a different set to what fans might expect but shows the depth of quality over their long career.
Long before he cleared the air/dished the dirt (whichever way you look at it), on his band mates in his autobiography Black Postcards, it was widely known there would never be a proper Galaxie 500 reunion. In the intervening years since their disbandment in 1991, both Dean Wareham and the unit known as Damon and Naomi have gone their separate musical ways to moderate degrees of success. With Wareham’s post G500 outfit Luna winding up in 2005, he’d now put to pasture two bands presumably allowing him time to reflect on past glories with a renewed desire to not let that youth go to waste.
Latching hold of our ears earlier in the year with their double EP release Colour Your Life/Vampires With Dreaming Kids, Long Island’s Twin Sister had secured a place on our date card long before their they announced their first UK tour. Sneaking across the pond in October, we’d caught the band supporting rising stars, The Morning Benders at the Music Box in Los Angeles (apologies boys, I owe you one live review) and were suitably impressed. Jaded beyond jaded as the years drag on and the revolving floorshow of new bands yawn in our faces with old ideas, it was refreshing to witness a band breathe colour and life into their music.
Jonneine Zapata's Cast the Demons Out came out of nowhere and managed to do what it said on the tin. And all indications were that live was where she excelled. Comparisons were bandied around from PJ Harvey and Patti Smith for there strong vocal ranges to Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger for their bold sexual stage presence. Apart from the smoldering mic stand gripping, her onstage persona also alternates between standing still with an ice cold stare, holding her arms aloft swaying like an eagle, and my favourite, lurching around the stage like a drunken marionette. Unsettling? Maybe but never boring.
You know you've had a good day when you wake up in a resort in Palm Springs and end up almost 24 hours later face down, literally face down, in a plate of tacos in downtown LA, head throbbing and ears ringing. There’s no way to rationalise it, nor the fact that between such decadent highs and lows, Webcuts was in attendance to witness the second night of Arcade Fire’s two night stand at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. On a night where the streets (well, one street) were filled with yellow NYC cabs and fake snow, Arcade Fire required no illusory set-dressing to impress Tinseltown.
Blake, McGinley & Love doesn’t have the same ring as Crosby, Stills & Nash, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be held in the same breath or as widely known. These three Scotsman and the outfit they've steered for the last 20+ years have consistently made albums that rich in harmonies and heart-on-sleeve emotions. If Teenage Fanclub had a spiritual home, it would be a tie between Nashville or Los Angeles, or perhaps started in Los Angeles and ended up in Nashville (as found on their most recent album Shadows).
On an odd rainy night in downtown Hollywood, weather befit more for their homeland than ours, Belle and Sebastian, Glaswegian art school rockers of yore, played to a sold out crowd of mostly thirty-somethings, brave enough to stand outside...in not just any ordinary venue. Instead, they stylishly bowed and plucked their instruments amongst the mausoleums and graves of some of Los Angeles’ elite. Adding to the macabre setting was the screening of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting that preceded the show. Taking the stage, B&S lead singer Stuart Murdoch asked “Did you see me? I was in the bar scene!”.
California girls. Beach Boys praised them, Katy Perry revived them, but Los Angeles' Dum Dum Girls are the kind of girls that either Brian Wilson or Katy Perry had in mind. Palm trees, bikinis and suntans aren’t their domain, in fact, it would be surprising if daylight ever graced their chalk-white skin, looking as they do Josie and The Pussycats meets Tim Burton. Making a return visit to London in the newly opened (and un-divey) East London venue XOYO, Dum Dum Girls are Dee Dee. The all-girl band she's assembled acts as both an extension of her psyche, and a mirror to how she dresses.
You’d be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu here. Is it 1989? Did The Primitives and The Darling Buds really both play London within a week of each other? Having been absent from the live scene for most of the '90s and all of the past decade, for both bands to surface at the same time is unthinkable. Unthinkable, but pretty damn cool. It brings back memories of a time when the music magazines invented a scene called ‘Blonde’, where bands were lumped together purely based on the colour of the lead singers hair. Which by their way of thinking meant you were either a Blonde, a Goth or in Fairground Attraction.
Webcuts turns its attention to Stockholm’s charming Popaganda festival to lift our post-festival blues. Swedish local acts such as the electro pop Navet, folk sisters First Aid Kit, Stockholm indie stalwarts Shout Out Louds, dance kings Familjen and pop sensation Robyn rub shoulder to shoulder with Scottish indie legends Belle & Sebastian, elegantly dressed UK synth-pop duo Hurts, London indie-soul act The Magic Numbers and reigning electro-geek heroes Hot Chip.
It’s shows like this which give birth to the very nature of rock and roll. The hip-swaying sounds of a band as they rock back and forth, eyes closed, mouths pressed against the microphone with their feet marking the beat. It’s an undeniably sexual thing. This isn't news. It’s why they tried to ban Elvis in the 50’s. He turned young girls on, and it wasn’t so much the man, but the music, the stage, the sweat, the motion -- the rock and roll of it all. Wedged together in this barely ventilated Old Street basement, Los Angeles' Warpaint are presiding over something that had this been the 50's, would've gotten them banned too.
A Brisbane bounty with trippy post-rockers The Hazards of Swimming Naked joined by Lofly math-rock legends Mr. Maps, plus the baroque charms of Lion Island and electronic wunderkind Hunz.
“You’re one of us, or you’re one of them“. Hamilton Leithauser, fist wrapped tight around the microphone as if he's trying to strangle it, is howling those words. The rest of The Walkmen, heads bowed (as they remain throughout most of the set) play complicit and provide the carnival-esque roar to ram Leithauser’s words home. It’s not so much a question or a suggestion but a statement. For better or for worse, for way back when the band were selling their own white label records at the Middle East in Boston in 2001, I’ve been one of "us".
As regular as clockwork, and now for the third year running, Webcuts returned to Slottsskogen in Gothenburg, Sweden for the annual Way Out West Festival. With so much eclectic talent spread across the three days it was impossible to walk away empty-handed. No matter what your taste in music were, all bases were covered. This year, Electro-wizards Chemical Brothers, alterna-rock heroes Pavement, living legends Iggy Pop & The Stooges, hometown boy Håkan Hellström, rap overlords the Wu-Tang Clan, and the mesmerizing M.I.A. were just a few of the acts to thrilled the sell-out audience, and to keep the photographers on their toes...
Touring off the back of their third studio release The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, the Quebec-based The Besnard Lakes returned to London to treat us with some more of their epic Beach Boys meets Spiritualized jams. Given the massive sound present on ...The Roaring Night, there was some anticipation in how the band were going to pull this off as a four piece. With the newer tracks being a lot denser and harder to recreate live without either a 10 piece line up or a maze of effects and loop pedals, assistance came via laptop, which helped embellish the sound and keep true to their recorded material.
Releasing their soundtrack to 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests was an opportune moment for ex-Galaxie 500/Luna star Dean Wareham to fully express his love for Velvet Underground and the stars of Andy Warhol's Factory. The screen tests alone, wavering between the visually arresting and the arrestingly mundane, were elevated into a new realm with the musical accompaniment provided by Wareham and partner Britta Phillips. Bringing the 13 Most Beautiful show to London (having frustratingly been given its UK premiere in Dunfermline last year) was a long-anticipated occasion.
It's Summer festival time in Europe, but over in Australia it's Winter and Webcuts was there to brave the chill and celebrate Splendour in the Grass' tenth birthday with 32,000 others at the new Woodford location in Queensland. Over the three day weekend our reviewers witnessed a phenomenal selection of old and new favourites including -- Ash, Band of Horses, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cloud Control, The Drums, Grizzly Bear, Jonsi, LCD Soundsystem, Paul Kelly, Pixies, School of Seven Bells, Scissor Sisters, The Strokes, Tame Impala, The Vines, Yeasayer, and believe it or not, a whole lot more!!
A few nights before this Pixies warm up concert for Splendour in the Grass, I had a vivid dream. In it I was the tour manager or press officer for the band and they were being put up in a luxury hotel with a huge swimming pool which they were swanning around in and (in)famously not getting along and refusing to do the show. It ended with me giving them a “look all the great rock’n’roll bands are dysfunctional, but when you’re on stage for that hour and a half you come together, that's when you work, that's when you function!” speech. And then I drove them to the Zoo in a black hummer.
“Give me a minute and I’ll blow your minds“. The crowd laughs, so does the man who just uttered those words. The mood, somewhat quiet, respectful, shiftless, is lightened, and Mark Kozelek begins another master-class in tinkling the nylon strings of his Spanish guitar like Liberace would the piano. “I’m old” he breaks the silence again, “I’m fat, I need water, I need lyrics to my songs”. From my pew to the right side of the stage I have to squint to see if it’s not Neil Young sitting there complaining about his arthritis. To Kozelek’s credit, he’s still as ageless as ever, and that gut you were grabbing at? I’m pretty sure you’ve been carrying that for a while now.
It took eleven years, three albums and a European tour for Melbourne space rockers Black Cab to broach Brisbane but they did and yes, it was worth the wait. Even the prospect of a half empty venue, an OCD stricken punter and the one colour Hi-Fi lights were not enough to dissuade Black Cab in performing anything less than a mesmerising set of original material and two stunning encores that paid homage to the whole space/drone/shoegaze rock genre. Able support was provided by Brisbane alt.rock kings Grand Atlantic.
When does standing in the front row give you a direct line to god? Just because your idol, or current object of interest, is able to look you in the eye while they’re singing doesn’t mean that this is your opportunity for some face-to-face "let's get to know each other" time. Really, it doesn’t. And it’s rare that a concert is marred by one asshole that doesn't get the hint and won’t shut up, but shit does happen, and it happened to Kaki King and to the respectful crowd who had to endure this one "fan" and his relentless pursuit in establishing a "connection".
As anticipation mounts for the release of their upcoming third album The Suburbs, Arcade Fire commence on a brief hit-and-run tour of intimate and out-of-the-way places in Europe, somehow finding themselves performing on a moat in the middle of a limestone quarry in Sweden. For a band like Arcade Fire, such inventive and idyllic surrounds seem apt, but it only poses the question -- How hard can a quarry rock?