Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who's up for a quickie then?

I don't know which bit of the world you're reading this in, but in my bit, Melbourne, it's been a very lovely weekend. A couple of weeks ago Winter came crashing into the back of our cooling Summer with so much force it's amazing we didn't all get nose bleeds. (Just you then Kate).

But today it was the sort of Autumn day that other lesser Autumn days aspire to being. It lifted spirits and had me out and about and not inside writing the blogs i said i'd write.

So with that in mind i figured ya'll won't mind of we do a bit of a quick one this time.

And if we're keeping it simple, lets go pop, it is after all where the blog started.

Chew Lips are a London electro-pop three piece, formed in 2008 and in January this year released their first album "Unicorn". Like fellow electro poptarts La Roux, The XX or Magic Wands, the same 80's influences are all there, that feeling that you've heard it all before but also that involuntary reaction to toe tap along with the annoying familiarity of it all. They say their aim is to make "music that sounds so dated it doesn't date", and that they certainly do.

There have been a couple of singles so far, but none are as good as this track. "Seven" is another bit of perfect pop, simple catchy riff, easy to remember chorus and great vocal. Like La Roux before her lead singer Tigs can really knock out a tune. I'm not looking for any deep meaning in there, it's not art, but as UK magazine The Fly said "Chew Lips make electronic pop that will get wedged in your brain from first listen".

Couldn't have said it better myself, so i won't try. But enough chat, have a listen.

And if you want to see how these kids do it, check this lounge room version out, it's sweet just for its simplicity.

Personally i think they're worth a proper listen, i'm ordering the album this week.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Twinkle twinkle.

Ha! I don't have a single melodramatic tragic-comedic story about my life to share today, in fact life in Daveyland is thankfully incident free, i'm just getting on with getting on. But that doesn't mean i'm not listening to well told stories of other peoples lives fucking up, no siree, i mean, a boy's gotta get his giggles somewhere. Actually that's a bit of bollocks, i don't really laugh at the sad songs i love so much, rather i just marvel at how these songwriters can be so lucid at a time of emotional duress. As is the case with the much under rated Tom McRae.

Sometimes you can only wonder why some really talented musicians aren't huge stars. In a world where "Talent" and "Idol" TV shows showcase many a young hopeful, who with all the best intent is neither that talented and frankly too fat to be an idol - unless the idol is Buddha, obviously. (See what i did there? I got a fat joke in and i wasn't even trying.)

Anyway back to the music. What can you say about an artist who when he appeared in 2000 was the darling of the British music critics and whose debut album was deemed worthy of a Mercury Award nomination, yet who ten years on isn't a household name?

I first saw him back then, and he was so charming and so self-effacing and his music so wonderful i was convinced he was going to be huge. Instead i found myself find buying his CD's, going to his gigs and playing his music to any of my friends willing to listen to me bang on about him yet again, while his star never really rose.

You have to wonder, why isn't Tom McRae as well known as Susan fucking Boyle?

His new album "The Alphabet of Hurricanes", his fifth, sticks very much to the formula that brought him the early critical acclaim: soft, personal open lyrics, aching, yearning vocals, acoustic accompaniment, add some strings, a banjo, perhaps a mandolin and drums, mix it up a bit and there you have it. It sounds simple and sometimes it is, but most times it works, and when it works really well it's magic. And while some critics seem to be expecting something different from an artist just turned 41, it's worth remembering he's not Madonna, he didn't put out his first record until he was 31, and it's clear listening to "The Alphabet of Hurricanes" his music has matured even if it's not mutated. He does what he does, and he does it well.

My pick of the album is "Summer of John Wayne". Vulnerable, open and as always, beautiful. A song that feels musically in two parts, fitting really as it's inspired by simultaneously watching John Wayne grow old and his relationship go bad. It gets a bit messy with layer upon layer of overlapping instruments in the middle, but even that can't take away from the writing. I find something very personally touching in the lines "But I know you say nothing good lasts forever. Some things burn bright, but burn themselves out to embers." Simply because i don't agree with it, and i guess in the song neither does he.

It's easy to compare what McRae does with David Ford or the better known David Gray, but there just seems something wrong that he's not as well known as them. I certainly think enough of the new album for it to replace Martha Wainwright on repeat play in the car. That's easier said than done let me tell you.

If you don't know him, it would be a mistake to let him pass by you this time.

So here for your listening pleasure i give you "Summer of John Wayne", there's no video, so you'll have to make do with a dodgy live fan recording. The camera work is questionable, but the sound is good.

And if you liked that, also from the new album, and also containing some killer lyric is "Can't Find You". It's the closest of the new work to the wonderful sparse material on his debut album.

Have a listen, then go and buy his stuff and help me, help him become a star.


Friday, April 9, 2010

I Wish.

Once upon a time i was happy in a wonderful relationship and the best post break-up-missing-her-wishing-we-never-broke-up-song ever came out. And i was so besotted with this song, i thought if this relationship ever goes the shape of a pear, then THIS will be our break-up song.

Of course it didn't pan out anything like i imagined, and we ended up going our separate ways without a song. Like grown-ups do.

Big Wreck were kind of a big deal for a little while in the late 90's, though they only managed two albums before splitting, the first "In Loving Memory Of" gave them international recognition, the second "The Pleasure and the Greed" gave them nothing. So in 2001 they were gone, they may have not made a huge impression on the world of music but they did leave me with "That Song", the story of a man being destroyed by his own past.

I love it, i wish i could have written those lines, i have lyric envy. I figure we all have songs we'd written and this is mine. But it's not just the lines, from the opening riff i just have to air guitar like crazy - when it comes on in the car it can get quite ugly - but beyond that i also love the song structure. Yeah i know loud,loud, quiet, loud is hardly breaking new ground but you have to admit it does work to accent lead singer Ian Thornley's pain.

From the first time i heard it it seemed to be telling my story. Even if i didn't feel that way at the time, i had before and i knew i would again one day. I've mentioned in the past that feeling that when you're feeling down every song is talking directly to you, well this one talks to me no matter what my mood. Perfectly capturing that moment when the memory of the relationship takes over from the actuality of it.

Just listen, that's the sound of a guy tearing himself apart whilst trying to clutch at the straws of a long dead relationship. Pathetic it might be, but there is something noble and romantic in there too.

Songs are milestones in my life, and here is a song celebrating the importance of those songs. Even as i write this i realise i'm not doing justice to how it makes me feel, my own articulation is letting me down. So i'm sharing it with you, these words will either resonate, or they won't, but if they do, you'll know totally what i'm talking about.

"So I always get nostalgic with that song
But in my room it's forced, It has to be in some car across the street.

And I always catch the back of your head in a crowd
Just don't turn around, It's never you and you'll ruin those memories.

And those photos are great if I catch em with the side of my eye
But if I stare, It just turns into you and me, we're just standin there.

And now it's over, would you hear me,
Scream at the top of my lungs.

And when you hold him, would you hear me
Scream at the top of my lungs

So you crank that song, and it might sound dumb
So just leave the room, while I sit an' stare
Cause this is rare, I really love that tune, man I love that song"

So simple, so matter of fact. Speaking to me with a clarity i myself can't begin to express. The video's not the best quality but in this case, i hardly think it matters.

Man, I love that song.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

The wake-up call.

And then the penny drops. What you thought was one thing was actually another. The dictionary calls it an epiphany.
Epiphany - e·piph·a·ny n. pl. e·piph·a·nies - A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realisation. It's got a nice ring to it huh?

Anyway, I had one on Thursday, I won't go into it, those close to me could probably see it coming, those not so close could take an educated guess, and for the rest of you in the cheap seats it doesn't actually matter. But i will say it resulted in me writing a huge list of the things i loved, taking the roof off the Jeep and having a fucking great time driving round with my music up far too loud on Saturday.

Right, back to the music, a vitriolic, spiteful thing wouldn't be me at this point, that's all behind me now, the sky is somehow bluer, and i'm not. Dig the crazy irony kids.

So there's this Chris Isaak song called "Graduation Day", It's on his 1995 standout album "Forever Blue". It's a great album full of tear jerkers, and i accidentally took it on face value, i kinda assumed it was another heartbreaker about a high school romance gone wrong. But it's not, it's a metaphor.

"Driving slowly, watching the headlights in the rain.
Funny how things change.
Think of the good times wishing you were still with me.
The way it used to be, graduation day."

"Watching the stars fall, a million dreams have all gone bad.
Think of all we had.
I knew all then, thought you loved me I was wrong.
Life goes on, graduation day."

Fuck! he JUST got it, he graduated, he's been schooled, he had finally learned all he was going to learn. He was wrong! And he just woke up to the whole damn thing.

How cool is that? As far as a figure of speech goes, i think it's right up there.

The song is terrific, but listen to it again when you know what it means and it gets so much better.

Like the main man says, learned my lesson, now there's nothing left to say, graduation day.


Saturday, March 27, 2010


I have something of a track record for calling the brothers of talented women 'wankers' and i see no reason to stop that today. Martha Wainwright, as much as i love your quite splendidly titled album "I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too" i do still think your brother is a massive wanker.

But we're not here to call Rufus Wainwright a wanker, even if he is, and he is. We're here to listen to his ever so good little sister.

Martha Wainwright started out as a backing singer for her brother - don't we all - it wasn't until 2005 that she released her self titled debut album, from which we all heard and grew bored quickly with "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole".

Then in 2008 she released "I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too". Not only is it brilliantly titled, it's also a really good album. Really, really good. Much more grown up than her debut, the opening two tracks "Bleeding All Over You" (its chorus providing the album title) and "You Cheated Me" are fabulous growers that get better and better with each listen without getting boring. It's an album that flirts with country and folk, sitting comfortably in that genre spanning acoustic sound, all the time holding its own as heartfelt open record, fresh and new and never laboured. Martha's voice, a fantastic, husky harmonic thing is a thing to behold, able to at times lead the song and sometimes snuggle right on in there and go along fro the ride. I read one review that described it as a record that's both tender and tough, beautiful and brutal. I agree.

In a nutshell, it's a really enjoyable almost faultless album. THAT my friends is a rare thing indeed.

And for me the gem of the whole album is tucked away at the back, but is a beautiful introduction to what Martha Wainwright has become. When the Eurythmics Dave Stewart wrote "Love is a Stranger" he crafted the perfect 80's song, something that would define a decade but also something so well constructed in lyric and melody that it would sound just as fresh 30 years on. Wainwright shows her class by not even bothering to try and deconstruct it, she just tilts it on it's side - turns a square to a diamond as it were - and a synthpop classic becomes an indie folk road-trip foot tapper, it's a bright shiny thing that's been made new again.

Sadly there's no video as such, orphan child of a track that it is but you can still listen. And you should.

If you do want moving pictures then watch this video/interview of "Bleeding all Over You" it shows what an amazing voice she has.

Rufus, you might still be a wanker, but your sister's great.


Friday, March 26, 2010

String theory.

You know, there's a place for string quartets and grand pianos, obviously Elton Johns bathroom, a Guns'n'Roses video or one of those posh gala events i never get invited to spring to mind, either way, there's one place they don't belong and it's in Birds of Tokyo's songs.

This week i've been mostly listening to "Broken Strings", the Perth bands bands filler live album while we await this years new studio album, and well, i don't love it. As a fan i was compelled to buy it, but for the most part, and more importantly to me - on my favourite songs - it's a fail.

Let's be honest here, Birds of Tokyo don't write the best lyrics in the world, but what they lack in lyrical depth they more than make up for in the strength of Ian Kenny's vocals and the structure of the songs themselves. Layers of guitar and drums is nothing new in rock, but Birds of Tokyo deliver them with a raw energy and passion that take those oh so simple lyrics and make them into something memorable.

Live, Birds of Toyko are one of the loudest scariest bands i've ever seen - and i've seen Ministry - so i can see why in a perverse sort of way why they would want to experiment with the whole orchestrated thing, but personally, i found the re-arrangement of a lot of songs took away much and gave back very little. It's interesting from a musical study point of view i guess, but it won't convince anyone new that they are a great band.

Lets take "Broken Bones", in it's unmolested, original guise. It's like a caged animal, full of energy and menace, waiting to get out and fuck some shit up. It's a brooding thing that once released it grows and grows, Kenny's vocals swoop and dive and give the song an urgency that it's been robbed of on the live album. And that's a shame.

So lets hear it as it was first intended, in full flight, loud and proud. From 2008's Universes, the bands second album, and the one that got them noticed by the nation. It's the full 8 minute video, if you like what you hear - and how can you not - then stick around for the follow on track "Silhouettic" and the second half of the rather disturbing video story.

Loud, loud, and louder if you please.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome to my room.

So i'm trying to come up with a reason for playing my favourite Bangles track. And i can't think of a valid one.

They might be something of an 80's afterthought these days, but they had their moments and even I can forgive them that "Eternal Flame" nonsense.

Doing my research for Martha Wainwright's version of "Love Is A Stranger" it struck me that the driving kick drum sound kept reminding me of the into to "In Your Room", but that's probably more to do with them being the same tempo.

That's a bit of a long bow to draw. Even for me.

And then thinking about cover versions, Bangles did a rocking version of "Hazy Shade Of Winter", but that still doesn't give me an excuse to play "In Your Room".

Then i thought fuck it, how good looking was Susanna Hoffs back in the day, I'm playing it.

Admit it, she was a fox in socks.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, since you ask, yes.

Alice Deejay came straight out of Holland in 1999, a time when i was living in London and easily influenced by smiley European dancing girls. Pure Eurotrash they burned brightly for three years (mostly on the back of this track) then burned out, the Euro dance scene moving on to the next new thing faster than Tiger Woods on tour, they were soon just yesterdays news.

Videos that would do a Zumba class proud and lyrics consisting of nothing deeper than repeating the same line a dozen times i really should have know better than to have liked them in the first place. But i didn't know any such thing and i loved this song back in the day.

After all the melodramatic melancholy moments - try saying that three times quickly - we've been having round here lately sometimes you just need to play a bit of Euro-disco to help you get back on your feet again.

So i am.

In some ways Alice Deejay are no different than all the other pop i've played on here, it's all about time and place. A week ago "Better Off Alone" might have not been welcome in these parts. Today no such animosity exists.

Do i think i'm better off alone? Yep.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Forever ever?

Not that i'm asking for requests but one just came my way, my challenge should i wish to accept it was to play something to do with forever. First track i thought of was The Living End's "Nothing Lasts Forever", cheery little fucker aren't I? It's not that i don't have other forever songs - i already played the glove puppet one last month - and a quick scan of the ipod brought up a half a dozen songs with forever in the title. But "Nothing Lasts Forever" feels real to me. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so. Does that make me a cynic? Possibly.

So far this weekend i have spoken to a friend of mine who although in a new relationship, is being fucked around. Or worse, fucked around on. A mate who had to throw out her boyfriend when she found out about his three kids to two different mothers he wasn't paying child support to. (He didn't wanna say anything about them in case he got dumped. At least his intuition was right.) And my little friend Stef who has been been handed revenge by the very slut who took her guy in the first place. That's just the way it rolls in real world.

Ok, that sounded cynical.

Let's put this in perspective, the forever request came from someone who is having the new found love of her life go overseas without her for who knows how long.

How do i turn around and play a song about fluffy bunnies, rainbows and baby deer? That's not for me to do. I'm not in the relationship, i don't know the whys and wherefores i'm out here watching the shit go down, and i'm just calling it as i see it. Which is what i think The Living End did so very well.

It's a song that is a long way from the Psychobilly sound of their early years, but by the fourth album 2006's "State Of Emergency" - from where this song hails - The Living End had become truly radio friendly anyway. Not that that's a bad thing. Though "Nothing Lasts Forever" wasn't the biggest single off the album it was always the best track for my money.

It's a sad song, about a sad story, of a sad situation, in a sad relationship, and the sad commentary on it.

And if you're feeling let down, if you're feeling unloved, under appreciated or just jaded, it's the song for you right now.

But that's not every situation. That's not every relationship. I honestly believe we all have it in us to have forever, and we all have to believe that or it will never ever happen for us.

Forever is out there, just don't expect me to find it for you.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Improved in translation.

Just for the record i want to say how much i adore Julia Stone's voice.

A lot.

I'm not going to bang on about it because I know her warbling lilting voice isn't for everyone but if you're already not a fan, and read her name in the first sentence and then you kept reading, well then quite frankly you deserve what you get. I honestly do believe she could sing the yellow pages and make it sound beautiful - obviously she might struggle with the ads for earth moving equipment and sewage disposal but, you know.

Together with brother Angus they make indie folk as good as anything that's coming out of the UK right now, and they've been doing it since the "Chocolates and Cigarettes" EP in 2006. Now veterans with two full albums under their belts "A Book Like This" in 2007 and the just released "Down the Way". Personally, the songs of Angus & Julia Stone i like the best are the ones where Julia sings, nothing against Angus, i just think she has a husk to her voice that makes it stand out in an ocean of wannabees. And as lovely their brand of beautiful melodic folk pop is, the song of theirs i like most isn't actually theirs anyway.

"Tubthumping" was a huge hit in 1997 for the English band Chumbawamba. Not that the world needed another drunk blokes song, but If ever there was an anthem for going out and getting rat-arsed, here it is. Whenever i hear it i just think of a pub in north London full of largered-up English football fans on a total bender after watching England give Germany a well deserved thrashing. Which to be fair, is reason enough to go on a bender - two world wars and one world cup, do dah, do dah and all that.

However i digress, Angus and Julia have managed to take this most English of pub anthems and don't so much folk it up as sex it up. For serious.

The song is stripped down to its basics and rebuilt using different parts, kind of pimping Chumbawumba, but in a nice way. The use of the trumpet along with Julia's smokey distinctive vocal work almost as a duet, backed by a simple guitar strum and drum beat the song is a lot more about the lyric than the original ever was. The song grows and transforms slowly from what is almost a simple jazz/blues number into a bit of a racket, before dropping into an offer that no right minded Danny Boy could possibly refuse.

Sadly it's a song you won't find on any of their albums though, you'll have to get yourself TripleJ's "Like A Version" Volume 3 or just listen to it here.

Which of course you should.