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.