Reviewer: Matt Giles
Metal can be one of those all or nothing genres, either really good or really bad, and unless you do something with the fundamentals of your songs you’re setting a course for the latter. Nix start off well in this regard: their sound is nice and thick with a very satisfying bite given by sound engineer Roland Lim, former guitarist in Seraphim, another Perth metal band, and their rhythms are just creative enough to avoid the stamp of “rote”.
Melodically they do the same, only just clearing the bar, but clearing it all the same. They use a number of nice touches like acoustic guitar and a knack for harmonies that bring to mind, of all bands, the Fergusons. They throw in an atmospheric musical interlude after the first title track, which, by the way, is the least muscular of the four songs present on this EP.
So, musically, Nix show promise. It’s the singing that could use a bit of work. Guitarist Mark McEwen’s vocals are like Maynard Keenan in non-growl mode, except a lot less troubled, a lot cleaner, just generally less dramatic. It could use more passion, maybe a touch of a howl or scream, something to catch the ear a bit.
The song subjects could also use a little more drama. The climax of final track Fragile is a great opera of noise, but it’s let down by the flimsy subject matter (something vague about propaganda without a clear point) and clichéd almost-rhymes: “Nothing feels safe anymore / We try to be so much more.” If you had Mastodon’s Troy Sanders on there singing about mountain monsters or tree spirits in his hell-channeling cry that you can barely understand it’d be fantastic, but Nix don’t quite do themselves justice.
Their ideas are good but half-baked, making them sound like an expensively-recorded high school metal band. However, if they keep up the work and endeavour to challenge themselves they should produce something worth noticing in due time.
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Drawn Like Spires
Radarmaker’s master of the screwdriver-on-six-string,
melancholic guitar-haze (and the occasional angst-shedding,
tonsil-shredding primal scream), Adam Trainer, has
long since disowned the “post-rock” tag
when itcomes to describing his own band’s sound.
Anyone who’s followed thishugely-talented Perth
outfit’s growth as a
liveact will understand why,and Drawn Like Spires
is a debut album that foregrounds a love of “indie-rock” song-form; while also boasting
one of the most hauntingly beautiful, exquisitely
textured, and largely instrumental (ie: “
post-rock-ish”) soundscapes you’re ever
likely to hear.
The 13-track set opens with an urgent snare-roll
and the rush of distorted guitars, before “Balthazaar” shifts
gears to reveal a lovely pop-shuffle and Wendi Graham’s
melodic/angelic vocal lines (which recall those of
The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler at times). Foreboding
guitar-clouds then begin to roll in, and it isn’t
long before Radarmaker’s
three-guitar tag-team are finding release in a squall
of glorious abrasion and feedback overload – evoking
Sonic Youth in the process, and cleansing the sonic
palette for the spiky sing-along that is live favourite “Shallow
Socialites (Battle The Axe)”.
Also a stand-out in recorded form, there’s
a delicious combination of sweetness and menace in
the track’s memorable
vocal hooks (‘hey man’, ‘got you
running all over the place’), and in its
insistent, rise-and-fall rhythm and structure. There’s
even a post grunge guitar blast at just the right
moment, making “Shallow Socialites…” the
album’s most immediate “
indie/alt-rock” radio cut and/or single – with
the tender ache and bruised anguish of “Squibbon”,
and the sweet-and-swaggering (Wendi and Adam) double-act
that is “Whoop Tuffet”,
also confirming the band’s accomplished songsmithery.
Elsewhere, the influence of local legends The Tigers
looms a little too large on “Gary Oldman”,
Being A Wanker” obviously takes its cues from
aforementioned global-legends Sonic Youth. A number
of short interludes more effectively demonstrate
the musical diversity that is Radarmaker’s
strength (check the 50-second snapshot of Icelandic, “
post-rock” beauty that is “Clodhopper”,
or the subtle processing that creates the lovely,
looping textures of “Metabo
Elektrowerkzeuge”); although it’s harder
to recommend the combination of harmonica and crowd-noise
that’s the basis of the album’s
penultimate track, the rather forgettable “Ogden’s
Of course, at the centre of Drawn Like Spires – and
undoubtedly the recording’s centrepiece – is “Sashegyi”,
the aforementioned “
post-rock-ish” soundscape, and the track that’s
often completed the band’s live set in glorious,
goose-bumping style. This absorbing sonic journey
begins with Adam’s simmering screwdriver-caress,
and slowly builds in intensity as layers of crystalline,
chordal, reverb-drenched and, then, totally distorted
guitar are added, with meticulous attention-to-detail,
across five minutes. Then, after taking a few moments
catch its collective breath, the band turns “Sashegyi” towards
the heavens; and it’s hard to imagine how those
soaring guitars and utterly gorgeous harmony vocals
could fail to evoke an emotional response.
For this writer, every nine-minute listen stirs a
melancholic ache, AND an invigorating, energising
sense of wellbeing, connection and hope. And goose
bumps. Promising instrumental closer “Trees
Of Greenland” – which was initially a “Sashegyi” jam
tangent, apparently – can only hint at such
rare sonic turf in its over-too-soon two minutes-and-seven-seconds.
The understated “Domovoi” also deserves
special mention for successfully combining ethereal
song-form and a jazzy, instrumental workout; and
for creating a rather unique, and very loveable ‘mongrel’ in
the process. Ultimately, then, Drawn Like Spires
demonstrates that Radarmaker – despite taking
its moniker from a track on Mogwai’s
Young Team album – has long-since dispensed
with the generic conventions of “post-rock”.
Fond memories of quiet, slowly evolving instrumental
sets at the Hydey aside, this much-loved four-piece
is finding its own sound amongst a range of musical
passions; and, at its best, is VERY good indeed.
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|| FIGHTING FOR ALASKA
Fighting For Alaska
Pop music has always been the bullied child in the music world. Female
fronted bands, in particular are often seen as an easy target. The
classical kids pick on pop for it's simplicity, the rock kids pick
on it for it's lack of "balls" and even the art-rockers criticise
pop for trying to be everyone's friend. But it takes restraint and
discipline to create something that is simple without being empty,
courage to produce music that wears it's vulnerability like a badge
of honour and insight and compassion to write songs that will touch
people from all walks of life. Creating the right pop mix ,that has
neither too much saccharine sweetness or a bitter after-taste, is like
striking gold. Just as cola giants Coke and Pepsi, whose priceless
formulas are better guarded than the crown jewels.
Perth seems to be particularly fertile soil for cultivating a plethora
of pop bands who are willing to fight the good fight and stand up for
the virtues of the genre. The aptly-titled Fighting For Alaska are
one of the new breed of local prize fighters. In 2004 the four-piece
released their charming debut EP "The Long Way Home" which
caught several people off-guard with it's class, depth and character.
Their latest self-titled EP consolidates that success with one swift,
sharp king hit. Fighting with their heads as well as their hearts,
the band have a knack for writing clever and emotive pop tunes. The
strengths lie in their catchy pop hooks, exquisite harmonies and smart
phrasing. Meike Scantlebury is possibly the most charming female singer
in Perth. Her voice can break your heart with it's vulnerability before
surprising you with it's strength. Sweet one minute, dark and husky
the next, Scantlebury certainly knows how to sell a song. On the harmonies
Daniel Brandis's deep baritone is the perfect accompaniment to Scantlebury's
vocals. Never over done, the harmonies are an absolute joy and nowhere
more so than on "Sleep In Weather". Exquisitely crafted,
the song is one of richest, most satisfying pieces of local pop you're
likely to hear.
For their second EP the band have wisely selected five tracks that
not only showcase their strengths and talents, but also their versatility.
Opener "This Passing Phase" kick-starts the EP with a shot
of energetic indie pop. "If You Have To" is murkier, atmospheric
affair with a plodding bass line and plenty of distortion. Few bands
have the option of letting other members take on the role of lead vocalist,
but in Brandis, Fighting For Alaska have a powerful secret weapon that
adds diversity to their sound and helps differentiate them from other
bands. Taking the lead in the rocky "Shock Me", Brandis proves
himself to be a capable frontman with the depth of Something For Kate's
Paul Dempsey, minus the dullness.
With this EP Fighting For Alaska have made the perfect strategic step
up. It will floor you for a little while, but it's not the knock-out
punch. That is still to come.
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By Jay Hanna, STM Music Editor
DAVE & THE DOODADDIES
Part Of Town
Double Diamond Records
Something of a Perth blues legend, ‘Diamond’ Dave Billing has
been playing around the traps since the late 80’s as part of The
Mighty Mudcats. A versatile and capable blues harp player/vocalist, Billing
has mastered both the acoustic and amplified styles of the harp (or chromatic
harmonica for the more technical).
More recently Dave has formed the DooDaddies along with the talented Dave
Brewer on guitar; Brewer, another veteran of the scene, has been playing
since the 70’s, in such bands as The Elks, The Dynamic Hypnotics
and The Mighty Reapers. Over the years the boys have supported many of
their heroes including BB King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Screaming Jay Hawkins
and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
On this, their second release, the DooDaddies have put together a solid
set of 15 tracks, which were selected out of 23 songs recorded in a live
jam session holed up in the studio one Sunday in winter. Most songs were
recorded in single takes to retain authenticity and spontaneity.
There’s an electric vibe to the playing; the boys know their licks
and really have fun with the songs, most of which are classic blues numbers,
old favourites, dusted off and given a West Coast workout. There are also
a couple original DooDaddy tunes, Much Too Much and Lonely Part of Town,
included which sit comfortably alongside the great. The rendition’s
are faithfully and lovingly accurate, a reminder of how far reaching the
roots of the blues are, with the spirit of the song being transported through
across space and time.
While declaring themselves a “Chicago style blues band”, the
DooDaddies traverse a range of sounds, mixing slow and mid tempo number,
with upbeat modern blues and older more traditional classics that you probably
wont recognise, but will sound familiar at the same time and have you singing
along after two listens.
Billing’s style is unique and well studied, influenced by the usual
list of harp greats, "Little" Walter Jacobs, "Big" Walter
Horton, Charlie Musselwhite and Paul Butterfield, he leads the way with
his mighty blowing and smooth vocals. While he might not have the greatest
voice around, he sings with conviction, delivering such classic lines as “Put
on your red wig baby, were going up to Sugar Hill, c’mon c’mon, ‘cause
if you don’t your sister will” in Willie Schofield’s
Good Time Charlie, without sounding trite. But the instrumentation is what
it’s all about, and when the DooDaddies hit full swing they really
get rolling like a steam train.
The tight rhythm section of Yugon Chobanoff on drums, and Bob Thomson on
bass, give a solid foundation for Brewer and Billing to work on. Brewer’s
guitar work is certiainly impressive and dynamic – the boy can play!
Sometimes he’s content to just sit in the background providing a
solid melodic base with his chunky chords, while at other times (as on
Good Time Charlie) he rips up the fretboard with blistering riffs, as well
as some truly creative, freeform, blues style guitar that’s all fancy
little flourishes and wobbly whammy bar action.
Brewer also takes on vocal duties for the up-tempo shuffle of Clyde Otis
and Brook Benton’s Kiddio and the title track, the melancholic Lonely
Part of Town, which his own composition.
At times the subject matter of some tracks may not translate so well to
our fortunate and relaxed life in Perth, such as US legend Kim Wilson’s
tale about growing up on the hard streets of Chicago, Learn to Treat Me
Right, but the themes of the blues are universal (and seem to have a lot
to do with being led astray by no good, golddiggin’ harlots).
Lonely Part of Town is a quality local blues recording worthy of a place
in any blues aficionado’s collection, and Diamond Dave and the Doodaddies
are indeed a hidden gem well worth checking out live.
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|| HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMP
As part of a select group of respected and close-knit Perth heavy musicians,
Heavy Weight Champ’s debut was always going to be a stunningly worthy
release, easily expandable to a national audience. Wrapped in a tidy and
aesthetic little package, Lo-Fi Funeral is all this and much more When
some of your best friends are members of Karnivool, The Butterfly Effect
and Cog, you’re in influential company to push a musical boundary
or two and Heavy Weight Champ has been pushing hard for a fair few years
now. So much so, that the arrival of Lo-Fi Funeral was an exercise in patience
for fans and probably the band alike. But it’s paid off as the trio
broach an exciting alt rock heaviness far removed from metal or its exaggerated ‘nu’ variant
that it’s not even worth mentioning, if not for peoples trouble with
labels. The upshot effect is an accessibly heavy album, which looses none
of the grunt and sophistication of earlier HWC material, but representing
an evolved, logical extension of a band not yet at their peak. There are
the acoustic renderings of the reworked ‘A Darker Shade Of Grey’ and ‘The
Drama’ to compliment the brilliant driving energy of ‘Worth
Your Weight In Gold’, pop tinged standout ‘Part 2: The Effect’,
followed closely by the massive ‘Olympiad’, and opener ‘This
Revolution’. ‘The Ancient Art Of Being Pushed Away’ is
a monster ballad of sorts, complete with full string arrangements (partly
collaborated on with Karnivool’s Drew Goddard) and epic wind up.
Front man McCulloch possesses a uniquely powerful vocal style, part emotion,
part aggression, but always intensely believable. ‘Blood Red Designs’ is
a great example of this. ‘Final track ‘Twentythree Degrees’ employs
vocal additions by Ian Kenny (Karnivool) and Clint Boge (TBE), creating
a twisted little ride and a killer outro reminiscent of Foo Fighters- I
kid you not. And the best bit is even after twenty listens a surprise or
two still rears its head.
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By Brett Ladhams
Get up, get down and get funky Perth, there’s a funk
moon arising and it’s lending the perfect light to
get your boogie shoes laced and your technicolour coat refitted
for some joyously uninhibited dance floor action. All poor
puns aside, there certainly has been a surge of funkaliciously
(sorry) fine embraces of the old school in our city over
the last few years, with the Funk Club leading the charge
and reinspiring many to pay some serious respect and love
to the true roots of present day ‘dance’. Lysistrata
provide their first recorded testament to this rekindled
relationship in the form of this self-titled four tracker.
Lysistrata’s name comes from the same named lady who,
according to Greek mythology, lead the women of Athens to
refuse sexual favours to the men until they ended a war that
had been going for 21 years. Of course, this idea had the
kind of results Bush could only dream of; success. So it
seems Lysistrata (the Perth six piece band) is rather aptly
named. Not only do the band succeed in making a positive
impression on the army of punters and players whenever they
play, their songs also ooze stories of love. Not necessarily
in the lyrics, but stories of people listening to Lysistrata
playing and converting their music to downright boogie love
on the dancefloor. There’s few bands in Perth that
have succeeded with such aplomb at putting on performances
you just can’t help smiling at, making you wiggle in
ways that would seem totally out of place at most clubs in
Perth, but make perfectly enjoyable sense when seeing this
band with like-minded individuals.
So how does the Lysistrata live experience translate to CD?
Pretty darn good. The Randy Watson styled instrumentation
of the first track ‘Hold’n Strong’ immediately
raises the funk-savvy listener’s radar. Then as Rhanda
K’s vocals kick in and the fabulously (Jimmy) Lipped
trumpet blares, one realises this CD is just as feel good
and ‘real’ as their live performances. Although
recorded at Couch, Lysistrata appear to have made a deliberate
effort not to over-produce it, preferring to retain some
of their raw edge. With added ‘live’ touches,
like clapping, cowbells and the numerous singers/shouters
in the background, playing this EP is perfect for rekindling
last night’s funkified memories.
If Betty Harris, Patti Drew, Donna Hathaway or The Blackbyrds
are names that have any meaning to you, proudly add Lysistrata’s
debut EP to your funk collection. Sheez, there’s a
lot of clichéd uses and reconstructions of the word ‘funk’ have
been used in this review. What else can you do though, except
dance to it and proclaim that funk will never die? Lysistrata’s
EP is a groovy testament of proof to this.
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+ Keepin' On
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By Aarom Wilson
Ambiguity has never been a part of Subtruck’s mission statement. If you
think about a band like AC/DC, as much as they are a band they are also an ideology.
They are an idea. Everything about them is linear in the sense that there is
no indecisiveness, there is no ‘I never saw that coming’, and there
is no straying from the ideology. From the music, to the working method, to the
very aesthetic that bundles it all together, it is clearly and irrefutable defined
as of itself. Subtruck share such an unflinching adherence to their own identity.
While AC/DC’s identity is about the altruistic end of what rock ‘n’ means
to those philosophically interested in music culture, Subtruck’s identity
is about starkness, about boldness, and about succinctness.
Before even listening to a single note, the map is laid out: One-word band name
that gets straight to the point, and connotes the strangest of anomalies - a ‘muscular’ machine;
three-piece rock ensemble of drums, bass, and guitar – the absolute basics;
one-word song titles that perform the same service to the songs as the band name
does the band, and more than anything else; the members – those who devised
this idea – are straight shooters in every conceivable artistic sense.
All this considered, it’s of little surprise to find that the music Subtruck
make is as blunt as the package itself. It’s minimalistic in a survivalist
sense – anything unnecessary to basic functionality is removed. Weeded
out. This may seem like an easy thing to do, because it appears as though only
the bare minimum is left intact, but the reality of songwriting is that Subtruck’s
approach is actually very difficult to master, and rarely executed well.
Why? Because if your approach is to strip everything down to a naked state, then
you’d better make sure that what you decide to leave is of the most extreme
potency. Without having the added distraction of meandering musical twists and
turns, if you are going to succeed as a minimalist songwriter, your minimum still
needs to contain the maximum impact. The rudiments are just that; so impressing
comes only from mastery… because anyone can churn out the basics.
Metaphorically or euphemistically describing Subtruck’s music brings one
dangerously close to that place where the aural is described further in terms
of the corporeal by the oft-used idea that the music is like ‘a punch in
the face’, but herein lies the answer to the riddle itself. A punch in
the face is a basic gesture – anyone can do it. The difference between
Subtruck’s use of simplicity, and an amateur’s reliance on, is the
same as with boxing. Anyone can throw wild punches when in a fight, some of which
may luckily connect, but only a professional can premeditate and deliver a single
crushing blow. Its target is devised, its path envisioned, and its execution
the perfect combination of skill and practise. Amateur bands use simplicity because
that is the extent of their skill, but Subtruck use it because their skill is
in making simplicity precise.
Pig Iron doesn’t follow on from where Subtruck may or may not have left
off, because it is one more compounding definition in this idea of what Subtruck
is. It is not the next step in the band’s career, because the band are
not existing in serial moments. It is Subtruck. It is an extension of the ideology
that shapes the band, and cyclically is shaped by the band. Rather than being
a further development and progression of new ideas, it is an extrapolation of
condensation of those on which the band exists. It is another step towards perfecting
The opening statement, Detroit, is as defining a song as any Subtruck have produced.
It is the idea of ‘Subtruck’ in song. Bluntness, succinctness, impact… these
are all Subtruck songs are comprised of, just in very complex ways. The fact
that the band recorded Pig Iron live sums up the band even more than the songs
do; Subtruck are an idea. The band played as one because they think as one, and
the results of this thought are singular and direct. There is no member of this
band that overshadows any other because the sound is singular, and the ideology
shared. Every basic element combines into one. There are fewer notes in a Subtruck
song than there are in a nursery rhyme, there are fewer words than in a crass
television jingle, yet the message is as clear.
Joking, the second track, erects itself on one particular sentiment – ‘you
must be joking’. Nothing else really needs to be said, or played, because
the point is made. Singer Phil Bradley doesn’t mince words on or off the
stage, and his ability to make a clear point in next to no words is as artistically
gifted as it is frightening. He means what he says to such a degree that there
is no confusion, and no need for further explanation. When Axl Rose first arrived
in Los Angeles the story goes that his first encounter with a native was him
being told ‘do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby… you’re
gonna die’. The now-famous line from Welcome To The Jungle says everything.
It understands who it is directed at as much as it is self-aware. Its lack of
words is terrifying, because it is without any promise of negotiation. It is
a threat veiled in an observation of the facts. This is how Subtruck work also.
There is no long-winded lyrical or music explanation of the concept; just a punch-line.
When the punch-line is not a happy one, the effect is staggering.
Pig Iron rolls with this idea like a tank. It never remits on the war it has
already waged, nor does it allow for one to get out of its path. ‘You’re
in the jungle baby… you’re gonna die’ didn’t come with ‘unless
you be careful’ tacked on to the end. You’re gonna die… there’s
no two ways about it. If you look at Pig Iron in terms of how much acceptance
it looks for, then there is none. The music doesn’t require you to like
it or not, because it’s not about providing you with options; it’s
about providing you with Subtruck. This is the AC/DC method again. If you want
variety, you’d better choose another band, because AC/DC only offer AC/DC.
If you don’t like it, you’d best get the fuck out of the way. If
you want anything other than Subtruck-as-they-see-fit-to-deliver, then there
is no point in even looking at the artwork to Pig Iron, because you will be disappointed.
If you want to know how some bands seem to command a following that is freakishly
loyal and cult-like then examine what binds it all together. Even the least observant
person will notice there is a sense of authority in place. Subtruck utilise this
well. The way in which the three instruments blend into one is not only musically
complimentary, it creates a sense of absolute oneness. A band’s aim is
most often to create a sense of musical unity that is unflinching in its common
goal. Think about it, why else would a group of people refer to themselves as
a collective, if not to be represented by it? A band’s name, in this sense,
represents the shared idea of its members. The most extreme version of this is
Subtruck, because the individuals in the band cease to exist in many ways, allowing
only the collective – the idea – to remain. This is impossible to
fake, and reflects the closeness (if only musical) of the people within the band.
On first listen, the first three tracks on Pig Iron sound unnecessarily similar,
but that’s only if you miss the point of the band. The recording sounds
unlike what has become the ghastly sense of ‘normal’ these days,
and sits with an almost perfectly level equality of instruments. The guitars
don’t bellow out above the bass, and the vocals don’t sit three feet
in front of your speakers. Everything sits together. A less basic band would
suffer because of this, as the more fiddly the music the more fiddly the production
needs to be. With everyone in Subtruck bouncing on the same beat there is no
need for razor-sharp separation, because that would deflate the power.
Power, as a musical concept, doesn’t necessarily require heaviness or ferocity,
and Pig Iron may have those things, but its power comes from its singularity.
Singularity within itself; where individuality disappears in favour of unanimity,
and singularity within the world: where Subtruck just don’t sound like
anyone else. Perhaps this could be described as uniqueness, or originality, but
neither are actually correct. Is Subtruck a truly original band? Not even close.
Being a three piece rock band – of bass, drums, and guitar – instantly
makes you a cliché, and Subtruck’s musical techniques have been
used thousands of times before them… so how is it they don’t sound
like anyone else? Because of their singularity. Because they are not just drums,
bass, and guitar combining in song… they are Subtruck. They are one solid
wall of self-defined authority. You can pick apart the musical method all day
and compare it to predecessors and contemporaries, but that is the mathematics
of music. Twelve notes, mass-produced equipment… rock sounds a certain
way. Subtruck sound like Subtruck. Not because they break new musical ground,
or because they have an unheard sound, but because (like AC/DC, the most ‘common’ sounding
band of all time) they stand for something. Even if the band had made a point
of trying to sound different, Pig Iron would have come out exactly as it did,
because what it stands for is more than how it is played… what it stands
for is where it has come from.
||Bank Holidays/ Institut
Bird/ City Walls & Empires (Split Single)
Love is My Velocity
Clocking in at a smidge over two and a half minutes - a pop purist ideal
- the Bank Holidays have taken their retro pursuits even further than usual
with Bird, crafting a song that feels like it could be at home on a Gidget
For long-time devotees of the band, this will hardly be a surprise, but
while Bird presses all the right buttons, it seems to just miss the mark
somehow. For all its pop purism, Bird seems to miss that link to the present
that has made The Bank Holidays such a deservedly high-rotation act in
Currently preparing for a new album with Machine Translations' J. Walker,
the Bankies probably wanted this track to be an entrée for a larger
meal, but as it stands, they've delivered a competent and tasty morsel.
The flipside of this 7" split single, Institut Polaire's offering
City Walls & Empires certainly bridges that gap between retro and now.
The Institut has a slightly less polished approach to production that adds
immediacy to their jaunty and edgy pop, with the sounds of horns and strings
broadening the mix naturally rather than a wash of psychedelic post-effects.
Crisp and simple guitar hooks pull the listeners throughout the verses
to a catchy bridge and chorus combo that is full of promise for Institut
Polaire's debut recorded offering.
Perhaps it's the inherent danger of a split single that the listener will
make comparisons between what's on offer, but this time around, the newcomers
have pipped the veterans at the post.
Twice the Man (EP)
The release of Schvendes’ 2nd EP Twice the Man is perfectly timed
to coincide with their almost surprising dominance of this year’s
WAMi award nominations. For a band that were relatively unknown a year
and a half ago, Schvendes now find themselves in the industry-buzzed spotlight
that’s lit the way for recent Perth successes. And for such a dark
band, boy do they shine. Actually, make that “girl”…
Rachael Dease fronts Schvendes with a bass guitar and a faint smile that
somehow hints at what’s behind those pursed lips; a voice that constantly
lulls and seduces listeners to the dark alley outside Amplifier, where
upon they happily volunteer for her to chew their heads off and spit them
in the gutter. Yes, like a well-corsetted vampire, Schvendes’ sound
floats sexily, wearing a dress threaded with mystery, beauty, elegance
and temptation. You know you should be cautious, but you just can’t
help the attraction growing. Then, when you think you’re about to
get lucky, Rachael Dease reveals her sinister teeth, while the rest of
the band overpowers you through their transition from melancholic beauty
to horror soundtracks of rock crescendos.
‘Oh Marlon’ is the perfect example of this. The tale of a lover who
has an unhealthy penchant for killing his neighbours, the haunting strings of
Tristan Parr’s cello wrap themselves around the vocals in a way that disguise
the darkness of the unfolding narrative, and then bursts with energy and passion
as soon as you are lulled into a false sense of safety.
The EP’s title track, ‘Twice the Man’, is one that’s
been taking up a lot of time on radio stations such as RTRfm and Triple
J, due to its dangerously catchy nature. A guitar riff that sticks like
honey and passionately snarled accusations of manhood ride this track to
gloriously delightful choruses; “I’m half the girl you see
before me, but I’m twice the man that you’ll ever be,” this
line demonstrating both the power Rachael Dease’s voice has, and
the lyrical intelligence of the songs. The band is also no different live,
as is captured wonderfully on the EP with two of Schvendes’ best
songs, ‘Turn Out Your Lights’ and ‘Glorious Heart’,
recorded live at Ampo’s last July. Very impressive.
The Twice the Man release is a mixed piece of blood-soaked beauty that
shows just how far Schvendes have quickly come, and hints at just how far
they might go. Probably the largest danger at the moment is their sound
is so distinctive that they can sound a little same-same when comparing
tracks. Yet you get that excited feeling that sending out a warning to
other femme fatale rock stars might not be out of the question. So, move
over Magic Dirt, stop your whingeing Cat Power and start outfitting your
wardrobe with more black PJ Harvey, because Schvendes are on the ascent
and they could just eat you on their way…
Reviewed by aarom wilson
||The Bank Holidays
Good Looks To Camera (EP)
Lost & Lonesome Recording Co.
Firmly entrenched in the realm of ‘60s pop, without any of that caustic
tongue-in-cheek bitterness that sometimes afflicts revivalists, The Bank Holidays
deliver a gem of a debut.
Opening with Tread Easy, the Bank Holidays seem to favour the Beach Boys over
The Beatles, layered harmonies forming the foundation of their sound, with an
emphasis on beautiful rather than clever psychedelia.
Folded In Half is a little different; it doesn’t pounce on the listener
in quite the same way as the single, but it’s purist pop construction,
bittersweet melody and lyrics may make it the EPs biggest ‘creeper’… given
time, it’ll probably grow all over you.
The City Is Too Small is somewhere in the middle, exhibiting the vocal harmonies
and dry ‘60s guitars that sort of jangle their way uptempo while easing
you along the midway track Along With The Sun, featuring a very laidback, indie
vocal from guitarist Bekk Reczek.
Sonically, The Greatest Game is probably the lushest, and the vocal call and
response duet is pretty dreamy, especially when they combine into more of those
Overall, The Bank Holidays are sort of strolling out the gate with a debut that
is self-assured, breezy and very, very catchy. Despite being a little too indie
for those of the rawk persuasion, consistent rotation should wear those boundaries
down like a smile melting a bad mood.
||For a little over a week each year, “the
WAMis” provide an increasing multitude of tempting arguments
as to why you should NOT attend those first week uni lectures,
why getting up early on any day during the festival is a bad
move, why detoxes should be banned for the duration of the
festival, why detoxes should definitely be taken up shortly
after the WAMi Festival’s end, and of course why you
should go and get up to date with all those supposedly-fine
bands that you’ve been dieing to see, but just haven’t
had the chance. That’s one long and over-grammatically
complicated sentence, but one that sums up “the WAMis”;
there’s a LONG list of Perth’s finest musical acts
of all varieties and this makes for just over one f*#$ing difficult
week of deciding which gigs to jump along to, and which to
sacrifice. Damn those “access all gigs” season
passes WAM sells, because it’s always more painful when
you choose not to accept your ‘free’ invitation
to an event, only to find out it rocked. So here’s an
attempt to fill in some gaps in the 2006 WAMi Festival, caused
by non-attendance, social adventures or consumption abuse…
WAMi AWARDS NIGHT
Tuesday February 21
Schvendes, The Fuzz, Snowman, John Butler, The Panics
Reviewed by aarom wilson
With many still nursing some nasty post-Good Vibrations (or
general weekend) hangovers this early into the week, why one
earth were there many hundreds of people boisterously assembled
on a Tuesday at the Verandah? Because it was the “night
of nights” in the Perth music industry. The night where
cake is usually thrown, stumbles are numerous, memories in
the following morning are scarce, and when Perth’s most
successful musicians and industry bods (minus THE Bods) [aka
Paul Bodlovich – ed] are rewarded for their contributions
to the music scene in Perth.
Instead of putting on an open bar for the early arriving industry
attendees, this year WAM chose to give each person three complimentary
drink tokens to spread the freebie love more evenly. So it
was a considerably more sober affair one found themselves entering.
Good for reviewing/remembering the bands, not so good for reviewing
the silly antics that were unfortunately in less abundance
this year. Compensatory pre-drinks meant this reviewer unfortunately
missed Schvendes. I was there by the time The Fuzz jumped on
stage, as Abbey May busted out her attitude in a most raucously
delicious offering of aural punch. The rest of the members
were so stylishly rocking out you couldn’t help but think
they were trying to impress some of the industry big wigs that
were sharking the event for talent. Yet they were also having
such a ball doing it, that their stage theatrics, guitar yoga,
and all-round fine musicianship couldn’t help but knock
the sweaty socks clean off Perth punters and eastern-staters
This lead to my first taste of the award presentations, which
seemed to beg the question from many; “Why was Triple
J’s Robbie Buck hosting the awards night, again?” Well…possibly
something to do with the fact he was indeed rather funny, whether
intentional or just plain old fucking up. Yes, artists’ names
were mispronounced, confusion was created through mistaken
readings of at least one award, and his ego seemed laughably
excessive at times. Yet all these things just added to what
was generally a genuinely (and mostly intentionally) humorous
and entertaining effort as the awards’ host. But who
cares about the host, this night was all about the winners
and the performers. So back to the later…
After a smattering of cakes and acceptance speeches that swung
between smart-arsed and arse-kissing, Snowman were up next.
Apologies; I should have just written, “the irrepressible
Snowman”. Some new-ish material hinting at their continually
diversifying sound, as well as some sterling performances of
old-ish faves, sparked the most dancers for the night. Simply,
but hopefully not to the expense of clichéd literary
simplicity, Snowman fucking rock. Making love to the stage,
to their instruments, and to the often-forgotten musical element
of uniqueness, the Snow demonstrated to everyone just why they
still should be marked in everyone’s minds as Perth’s
most exciting musical prospect. There’s just no one else
like them…in Perth, in Australia, or the world. With
a full length album not too distant from sight, now is the
time to get a few autographed pairs of their undies so you
can sell them on eBay in a few years. They’ll be worth
their weight in dirty gold.
With some mysterious planning, WAM then revealed a special
surprise; John Butler, here to show a different crowd than
his usual exactly why he’s charging so much for gigs
these days. Initial negative remarks like “I wonder what
song he’ll play, they all sound the same” quickly
fell away as the audience slowed their drinking rate and increased
their attentiveness. For this was a beautifully intimate and
amazingly humble set that made many hark back to the days when
Mr Butler was still busking in Fremantle and wowing small passer
bys. Yet there were no leavers, as he forced the enthralled
audience to remember that time when they first witnessed the
talents he truly does have. The roaring response was testament
to how much this artist actually does deserve the credit he
gets, and which is often forgotten by many in the “alternative” or “indie” scenes,
or those arguing that Australians do not suffer a ‘tall
Last on was The Panics; brilliant music, superb lyrics, exceptionally
fine looking lads…but shit they’re boring. Their
music’s so good they deserve huge riders every time they
play. So, for fucks sake, can’t they request a bottle
of bourbon each and just damn well ‘get on it’,
instead of just ‘on with it’?! Seriously, they’re
pitch perfect every time, they do have a certain intensity
to their performances, and they practically always bring a
smile to witnesses of their live performances. Yet it just
doesn’t seem enough. It’s a warm smile rather than
a wowed grin. It’s tough because their music doesn’t
give them much potential for stage theatrics and the like.
Really, they’d look silly. So what else do you do? Answer:
Clap, buy another copy of their CD’s, and then go get
them rat-faced before their next gig. It’s got to be
a good thing…
Speaking of getting blotted, it was becoming apparent that
by ONLY giving three free drink tokens to each attendee, WAM
had probably made a decision that was to save a few lives.
Yet it was also enough to help encourage people to take matters
into their own hands, and to dip them deeply into their own
pockets. This resulted in numerous memorable moments during
the presentations. Maximum ‘props up’ to The Panda
Band who, in accepting the “Best Indie / Pop Act” award,
simultaneously won the “Most Offensive Speech” and
the “Most Humorous Speech” awards for the night,
at least in these books. Also, congratulations and thanks to
Eskimo Joe, who decided they are actually more Rock than “Commercial
Pop” stars, and threw their award cake into the crowd.
Funnily enough I happened to find it in my fridge the next
day. Can’t quite remember how it got there, but I’ll
be selling that, together with a signed pair of all Snowman’s
undies, on eBay sometime in Perth’s extremely well-showcased
and bright-looking musical future…
For full details on the award winners, jump here.
||WAMi Fest ’06 Gig Diary
Friday February 24th
Club Capitol/Amplifier Bar
I walked into Capitol as The Bank Holidays were finishing up their set
to a rather rowdy crowd. It was a bustling space, hot but not too uncomfortable
with plenty of room to move at this stage of the night. Walking on through
to the Amplifier Bar and it was a different story. The room was chaotic,
packed for The Silents impending set as well as hosting a constant stream
of people moving between the beer garden and Capitol.
Never the less the heat wasn’t too bad and the atmosphere was electric,
for want of a less clichéd term. An unadulterated effort on stage
from The Silents held the attention of the full room from the start to
the finish of their set, and then the focus shifted next door to Capitol
again for time-honoured local heroes Red Jezebel. It’s surprising
to hear but apparently this was the Jez’s first time on this large
stage, and they answered the opportunity with their usual zest and tight
set, which included one sample of new material (yay!).
As The Avenues kept the party going back on the Amplifier stage, one could
find some space to catch up with friends in Capitol, more relaxed and less
noisy then the sardine- packed beer garden. The renovated room provides
an awesome space for large-scale music events such as this and it’s
a damn shame there aren’t these kinds of nights going on more often
That is, if the P.A could stand up long enough for more live rock music!
Having blown up again earlier that night, the P.A was turned up to disguise
its newly acquired static hum, and The Panda Band’s sound check was
LOUD, your eardrums could sense impending doom. Yet it was an awesome live
performance from the Pandas, even though the front man was obviously irritated
by the sound (and lighting) situation for the first third of the set. He
warmed up quickly and it didn’t take long for any initial tension
on stage to be dispelled, and the audience surrendered to the band’s
set of eclectic pop gems.
It was good to see a healthy crowd sticking around for the much loved New
Rules for Boats, who had the tough late shift on this night. Another band
to debut some new material on the night (more yays!), they were ever entertaining
and answered any questions as to why they are followed by crazy dedicated
fans (in custom decorated raincoats) with the pure energy of their performance.
The vibe afterwards in Amplifier indicated that the party was bound to
continue all night, but it was home to bed for ringing ears such as mine.
||WAMi Fest ’06 Gig Diary
WAMi Saturday Spectacular
Sat Feb 25
With a spectacularly enormous line up to get through, the WAMi
Saturday Spectacular kicked off in the early afternoon with
three stages going in tandem.
First up for these reviewers were 2005’s National Campus
Bands winners, The Preytells, on the indoor stage. 2 words:
sunglasses inside. No matter how good the band were, they obliterated
all cred with one cheesy stage prop. The songs are good and
the lead singer has a great voice - more focus on developing
the music instead of looking the part would be a good thing.
Ronnie Rae Rivers, apparently the only country band on the
bill (“Has anyone heard of c-o-u-n-t-r-y?” quipped
Ronni) took to the outdoor stage with their easy going brand
of music, perfect accompaniment for drinking beer in the sunshine.
They seemed to be having a fine old time on stage, and that
was fun to watch.
Back indoors, The Fault played a rip roarer of a set, ending
with Kiss My WAMi CD inclusion The Memoirs of Doctor Mafesto.
Last year’s Next Big Thing winners, this eclectic rock
group have got it going on. There’s never a dull moment,
from timing changes all over the place, to well timed back
up squawks and hollers from the keyboardist - every band member
attacks their instrument like they have to kill it by the end
of the set. They could afford to tighten up a bit (they sound
pretty sloppy at times), but other than that, damn good.
Next on the ‘to see’ list was Schvendes. Intriguing – there’s
no doubt to why they’re the ‘IT’ band of
2006 and although seemingly a little tired after a big week,
they pulled off a near faultless and artistically well crafted
performance. Singer Rachael held the outdoor audience captive
with her intense, intricate musings and then broadsided them
with sudden bursts of passion and rage, as she is wont to do.
Of Small Mercies was a set highlight and the band looked fabulous
(kind of burlesque-inspired goth?) as usual.
The Dave Mann Collective followed on the outdoor stage and
played an enjoyable, though not particularly memorable set.
Great musicianship on all parts (the improv was impressive)
and cruisey, smooth vocal delivery on Dave’s part (if
you close your eyes he sounds like the roots version of John
Mayer) made for easy listening, a fitting soundtrack to the
goings on in the moonlight washed beer garden. Not a highlight,
but certainly a good ‘chill out’ act.
They’re baaaaack . . . having been in hibernation for
a year, Rollerskates hit the indoor stage with new material
and the same crazy attitude that always makes their brand of
white-boy electro / hip hop so much damn fun. The front man’s
a nutter, the rest of them play like the devil. They’re
a complete spectacle and seem to like it that way - and judging
from the response of the (booty-shaking) audience, that’s
just how they like it too. One of the faves of the night for
the reviewers (who love, love, LOVED them!).
Despite having had a self-confessed “s**t week”,
Jeff Strong was ever the professional showman, headlining the
corner bar stage with an intimate acoustic show that was peppered
with his trademark humour and the odd raucous sing-a-long.
Jeff’s rambling whisky and cigarettes delivery and lateral
lyrics (“the joggers, fashion joggers are chasing their
bodies away, looking at themselves in car windows . . .”)
are natural and unique - it’s a pleasure being entertained
by him. At times, his diction (or lack of) makes it hard to
tell what a song is about, but the rest of the show’s
so good you really don’t care, as evidenced by the punters
who missed out on tickets (the event was a sell-out) peeking
through the windows to catch a glimpse of the man.
And finally, Gyroscope. By this stage the corner bar was packed
as the band everyone had come to see launched into a bloody
fantastic set. Every aspect of their live show is something
to write home about, from spot on musicianship, to the awesome
lighting, to their tearing around the stage like maniacs. A
spectacular end to a spectacular evening.
Bek Barnett and Minsi Chung