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RECORD REVIEW - NIX "Runaway"
 

Nix - "Runaway"Nix
"Runaway"
(Independent)
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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Runaway

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Band: http://www.myspace.com/nixband
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - RADARMAKER "Drawn Like Spires"
  RADARMAKERRadarmaker - "Drawn Like Spires"
Drawn Like Spires
(Independent)

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”, while “Stop 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 Cormorant”.

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 to 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.

Anthony Williams

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Squibbon

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Band: www.myspace.com/radarmaker
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - FIGHTING FOR ALASKA "Fighting For Alaska"
  Fighing For AlaskaFIGHTING FOR ALASKA
Fighting For Alaska
MGM Distribution

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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This Passing Phase

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By Jay Hanna, STM Music Editor
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - DIAMOND DAVE & THE DOODADDIES "Lonely Part Of Town"
  DIAMOND DAVE & THE DOODADDIESDiamond Dave & The Doodaddies "Lonely Part Of Town"
Lonely 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.

_ALFRED GORMAN

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Too Many Drivers
Good Time Charlie
Lonely Part Of Town


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Band: www.doodaddies.com.au
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMP "Lo-Fi Funeral"
  HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPHeavy Weight Champ "Lo Fi Funeral"
Lo-Fi Funeral
Sic Squared Records
MGM Distribution

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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+ This Revolution
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By Brett Ladhams
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - LYSISTRATA EP (Self Titled)
  LysistrataLysistrata
Lysistrata (EP)
Independent

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. Hallelujah!

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
+ Lysistrata's Quest
+ Up to You
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By Aarom Wilson
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - SUBTRUCK "PIG IRON"
  SubtruckSubtruck - "Pig Iron"
Pig Iron
Sic Records

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 simplicity.

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.

MIKE WAFER
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - BANK HOLIDAYS/ INSTITUT POLAIRE (SPLIT SINGLE)
  Bank Holidays/ Institut PolaireBank Holidays/ Institut Polaire - Split Single
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 soundtrack.

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 the past.

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.

SABIAN WILDE.
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - SCHVENDES "TWICE THE MAN"
  SchvendesSchvendes - Twice the Man
Twice the Man (EP)
Reverberation

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
 
 
 
RECORD REVIEW - THE BANK HOLIDAYS "GOOD LOOKS TO CAMERA"
  The Bank HolidaysThe Bank Holidays - "Good Looks To Camera"
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 trademark harmonies.

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.

SABIAN WILDE.
 
 
 
WAMi FESTIVAL 2006 GIG DIARIES - WAMi AWARDS
  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…

The Panics LiveWAMi AWARDS NIGHT
Tuesday February 21
Schvendes, The Fuzz, Snowman, John Butler, The Panics
Beck’s Verandah
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 alike.

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 poppy syndrome’.
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 FESTIVAL 2006 GIG DIARIES - FRIDAY 24TH FEB, CLUB CAPITOL/ AMPLIFIER BAR
  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 there.

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.

Kat Italiano
 
 
 
WAMi FESTIVAL 2006 GIG DIARIES - SATURDAY SPECTACULAR
  WAMi Fest ’06 Gig Diary
WAMi Saturday Spectacular
Rosemount Hotel
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