Tag Archives: rock

The Bawdies (with The Happy Endings): East Brunswick Club, 5 December 2008

The BawdiesI promised to start blogging again after the end of exams, but it hasn’t really worked out, has it? I mean, I’ve written three posts since then. Hopefully, the blogging lethargy will wear off soon, and to that end here is another post.

Last Friday, I went with some friends, who had just returned from the Queenscliff Music Festival, to the East Brunswick Club. We went to see The Bawdies, a Japanese rock band they had seen at the festival. The band was co-touring with The Basics and supported by The Happy Endings, both local acts. 

Firstly, The Happy Endings were very good. I always appreciate decent support acts because I never go to gigs expecting much from or knowing much about them, so when they are good, it comes as a pleasant bonus. I also picked up that some of their songs sounded very similar to other artists, among them Foo Fighters, The Killers and Jet— although whether the band was influenced by these artists or if it were just coincidence or over-analysis on my part is debatable (not that anybody would really care to debate it…).

The Bawdies were absolutely fantastic. Their music was unpretentious, simple, old school rock’n’roll. They looked like a Japanese version of The Beatles and their enthusiasm and joy gushed out of them (as did a fair amount of perspiration, given the fact they were clad in suits and ties). Although their music was not groundbreaking (many of their songs were 12 bar blues or followed progressions such as 1-6-2-5), they certainly did not lack instrumental skill (evidenced in Jim’s brilliant guitar playing) and delivered greatly as performers, entertaining the audience and really getting them pumped.

dsc01065Definitely my favourite of The Bawdies (and not to imply that the other members weren’t great!) was Jim, whose massive toothy grin and childlike, ecstatic manner was very entertaining; as was his showmanship, which included energetic guitar solos combined with the appropriate “rock god” posturing or kneeling into the adoring crowd, his floppy hair flapping around. 

All in all, they were very enjoyable to listen to and although I would recommend checking out their songs on last.fm and their Myspace page, the entire power of their performance only comes across live. Before seeing them, I had listened to some of their songs online and liked them, but it was only when I saw them live that I was blown away.

They were also very fun to talk to after the show, as I talked to them while I obtained their autographs on my souvenir poster. It turned out that most of them knew about as much English as I did Japanese, which made for an amusing exchange of what little I remember of that language– gems such as “どうぞよろしく” (“pleased to meet you”), “子の音楽はとても楽しいです” (“This music is very fun!”) and “ボーヂーズが大すきいです” (“I love The Bawdies”). However, they were very friendly and only too happy to oblige when asked for a photograph (which I will upload when Cheryl puts them on!!!)

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay to see The Basics but was informed they were nothing special. Apologies to that band if they in fact were, however it was a very fun night indeed.  I will be sure to see The Bawdies again next time they’re in Melbourne (barring a death in the family, namely my own). 4.5 stars.

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Siren

Easily my favourite Roxy Music album, Siren contains so many fantastic songs. There are other albums that I love to bits yet are not so consistent. Yet with Siren, all but very few songs are excellent. With the possible exception of End of the Line, I never skip its songs if they come up on Shuffle.

Although, being a member of the iTunes generation, I rarely listen to albums straight and always play tracks on Shuffle from a large (1000 tracks or more) playlist, I really enjoy listening to Siren straight. Take Shuffle off, play Love is the Drug and don’t stop until Just Another High (well, unless there’s something really pressing!). The album just works so well as a coherent and continuing whole (although I am often tempted to repeat tracks).

Definitely my favourite song on the album would be She Sells. There are not many songs that I know of that grab the listener in the first picosecond and actually continue into a song (rather than a jingle). For me, the piano intro is just the best thing there is and the short bursts of syncopation in the verse is powerfully driving. The double-time towards the end also works, although the fade-out at the end of the song is a tad unsatisfying considering its powerful beginning.

The next favourite is Sentimental Fool, which begins a bit like something by The Mars Volta. A lengthy (about two and a half minutes!) introduction leads into silky smooth, almost dreamy vocals. The middle of the song is nice but nothing fantastic; however, the last bit (from spooky piano bit on) is hypnotic, mesmerizing. The ending is a bit of a suprise and terminates while you’re waiting for a bit more. But hey! That’s what the next song, Whirlwind is for (provided you are listening to the album– one of the main reasons this is more satisfying than Shuffle).

I could go on about every song, but I’d rather not, because then I’d never get to sleep (and only a masochist would read it all anyway). Readers please note just because I haven’t detailed each song on the album, it doesn’t mean they’re not as good. I just don’t feel I could say as much about them. It suffices to say that Siren is a very good album (have I said that before?). In short, Bryan Ferry‘s voice and music is fantastic, all the songs on the album are favourites of mine (apart from End of the Line, which I consider nothing special)– they are both interesting musically and have a good feel. I think that’s important; because you can have music that is “interesting” from a theoretical viewpoint, but they don’t “feel good”. Ferry hits the note (literally and figuratively) with the songs on Siren. 5 Stars.

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Viva La Vida

I find it hard to form an opinion on Viva La Vida, Coldplay‘s fourth album. On the one hand, some of the songs were catchy and it was good enough to listen to; but it somehow felt unsatisfying, forgettable almost. It is certainly a step up from X&Y (their third album), but not as good or memorable as A Rush of Blood to the Head (their second album). 

I feel that Coldplay‘s desire to make music that will reach more people: the review from Spin commends Viva La Vida as “an album meant to connect with the masses”. But then again, they gave the album four and a half stars, where as Rolling Stone gave it three and a half: an assessment I’m more inclined to agree with.

And it’s not as if the band is “stagnating” or anything. They have moved in another musical direction (and certainly a positive one from X&Y!), which may be interesting theoretically; but what does that matter when the music doesn’t excite you? I’m almost inclined to compare it to the direction Muse took with Black Holes and Revelations, in that both albums were intended to reach a wider (some may say more main-stream audience); but that would be unfair to Muse in that Black Holes was a pretty good album and unfair to Coldplay in that they did move in a positive direction.

Probably the most catchy song on the album is Violet Hill (which was the first single released), but the song is by no means an excellent song destined to be considered a classic down the track. Its simple chord structure and driving rhythms make it something you’ll get stuck in your head and certainly a song that would be good live; but certainly not a song to make you go “wow”.

Other good songs on the album are 42, which is reminiscent of A Rush of Blood with its soft piano, ostinato chords and simple elegance; moving to a fuller sound and then effectively returning; as well as Yes, which has a quite interesting Middle Eastern sound and works well as a song as a whole (unlike several other songs on this album).

On the other hand, most of the other songs don’t really work for me. Cemetaries of London sounds a bit like something by Eskimo Joe and Lost! makes me think of Arcade Fire (keep in mind, both of those bands bore me to tears). Lovers in Japan sounds like something from a Sony ad but otherwise not terribly exciting; Strawberry Swing and Death and All His Friends don’t do it at all for me: completely forgettable, non-songs. 

On the whole, Viva La Vida is not a bad album. If I heard one of its songs on the radio, I wouldn’t change the station. While certainly better than than the tedium of X&Y, it doesn’t quite reach A Rush of Blood to the Head and is certainly not an album that I listen to a lot or would recommend to friends. While the Internet joke “Coldplay? I thought all their fans died years ago!” is a tad unfair, I wasn’t altogether pleased with the album as a whole. Luckily, the few songs I do like salvage the album to a respectable degree and with it, my opinion of Coldplay. 3 Stars.

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Dig Lazarus Dig!!

Dig Lazarus Dig!!!, the fourteenth studio album by the incredibly cool Nick Cave and his band The Bad Seeds, is a welcome change to some of his more depressed (not necessarily depressing!), piano-heavy music (i.e. The Boatman’s Call).

Don’t get me wrong… I love most of his stuff. But this is that sort of music that defines Cave as “cool”, rather than your run-o’-the-mill talented musician. Cave has stated that this album is similar in sound to his side project Griderman; a more “garage rock”-type sound.

The music on this album tends to have a repetitive feel with lots of noise happening and a driving, cool beat. It also has an epic feel to it, thanks to the use of instruments such as the organ. It seems most similar in musical style to Let Love In. Vocally, Cave takes on a sneering, Bowie-like quality.

Like pretty much all of Cave’s music, the lyrics are fantastic and a welcome departure from the flaccidity of much Western contemporary lyrics. In the great importance of lyrics to the overall feel of its songs, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! is similar to the Bad Seeds’ previous studio (double) album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, in which Cave’s inventive lyrics could conceivably function as stand-alone poetry.

However, in my opinion, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! takes a step further. Its as if Cave has written a book and decided to read it along with some musical backing- often putting way more syllables in a line than we are used to with Western music. This has a similar feel to the operatic tradition of recitative: a focus on lyrics, with a sparse basso continuo accompaniment, to tell a story in between the arias. This makes the choruses even more effective, such as in We Call Upon The Author, where the recurring and driving chorus is especially dramatic compared to Cave’s recitative.

A very cool album that was well worth downloading again when the first copy was a dud. 4 stars.

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Barons of Tang (with Sex on Toast): Bar Open, 22 August 2008

Here’s another review. I was thinking about what to review: a book, an album, a movie? Then I decided to add a slightly local feel to the blog by reviewing a gig I went to a few weeks ago at a place called Bar Open in Brunswick Street.

I might actually start by talking about the place itself. It’s an interesting joint: a bar with strange artwork on the walls (see left) with a small bit out the back and an upstairs room with a bunch of couches which is where the music is. It has a good atmosphere and best of all, entry is free! So we got to hear two bands for the price of none!

The Barons of Tang are described on the Bar Open website as:

the pioneers of what has been dubbed gypsy “deathcore” which is a crazy mash up traditional Eastern European, Latin, rockabilly and tango sounds, outrageously bastardized by hard hitting guitar riffs, double kick blast beats and massive horn arrangements

 

The music was really good and drew an interesting crowd. Mixing gypsy melodies with dancable beats drew out the very best of Melbourne’s hidden creatures: black-clad figures doing interpretive dance, some interesting hair colours and a man with a massive pirate hat (who also danced). Somebody (can’t remember who) recently told me that the saxophone has no place in a gypsy band, but if they’d seen Barons of Tang, they would have been forced to eat their words! In fact, the harshness of the saxophone went very well with the fast rhythms and hard beats. Visit their myspace to check out their songs, especially my favourite, Tango For Billy.

They were supported by a band of lanky teenagers who called themselves Sex on Toast (see left; photo from gig). These fellows played an interesting variety of music, always fun. I ever so slightly envied the keyboardist, who had a tshirt that said “*picture of keyboard* ADDICT”. It was good music, suitably fast and noisy- the sound of people having a good time and using their music for fun, not boredom (in contrast, to, say: “All right people, we’re taking the second movement again slowly! Strings: watch the conductor!”). They describe their music as “combining cartoonish screaming and jump cuts, free improvisation and killer metal riffs, fused with the finest doo-wop harmonies… fun, often whimsical”.

The two bands were a good combination for a good night out and a great way to celebrate my birthday. I definitely recommend the venue as it often has great bands playing (for free!) as well as cult movie nights, etc… Also, if you ever see either Barons of Tang or Sex on Toast around, you would be well advised to give them a shot. Easily the best entertainment-to-cost ratio I’ve ever had the good fortune to… (what verb would go here?). 4 Stars.

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