Posts By Madeleine Laing

HOT TAKE: Alex Cameron’s ‘Forced Witness’ is good

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Alex Cameron

Junkee is a media company that exists to get clicks, sometimes they post good stuff sometimes they post shit, it’s whatever. But that article about Alex Cameron, Kirin J Callinan and Client Liason being apologist for toxic masculinity kind of seems indicative of the media’s obsession with slowly stamping out of nuance in all kinds of art.

It seems purposely obtuse for anyone to say that by representing a bad man Cameron is benefiting Australia’s problem with toxic masculinity. Firstly, from the very start it’s clear his character doesn’t have power, he’s a loser. He’s a pathetic, creepy guy, and that we can know that and still want to listen to a whole record about him is testament to Cameron’s song writing. But there’s also no Australian references at all really – from Cameron’s upward and outward trajectory you’d guess this was targeted at his new American audience – he’s lived in the states for years.

There’s no leaving your kids in the car at the RSL here, it’s all motels and superclubs and getting shat on by eagles. If you follow Cameron or his sax player Roy Molloy on facebook or twitter, yeah sure there’s plenty of Aussie as stuff, but from the record alone there’s no reason to think the character is Australian. He’s a faded vegas grifter, the kind of guy who buys nunchucks, watery eyes, too rough handshake. We’ve seen it in movies, always the character who gets killed off in a funny way. It always feel like we’re laughing at that kind of guy with Cameron, his lame faded party fantasies in ‘Hacienda’, the Vaseline-lensed portraits of twisted sheets and fucking raw. It’s like porn, funny and gross and you feel guilty for liking it but almost everyone does.

But, for sure, I won’t tell gay people how to feel about the F word. If someone hears ‘Marlon Brando’ and it makes them feel degraded, regardless of context, that fucking sucks and Cameron should have found some other way to make the character seem even viler then he already is.

I guess the main confusion in that article was that the writer obviously likes at least some of these bands, some of these songs. They call them ‘clever’, ‘well-intentioned’, even ‘jaw-dropping’. They’re constantly second guessing themselves through the whole thing. Maybe they feel weird about liking songs where a guy sings about waiting to fuck his 17 year old girlfriend until her 18th birthday. But that’s what it’s like sometimes, the world’s fucked, got a lot of fucked people in it, and sometimes artists wanna represent those characters and also make really, really good pop songs.

Cuz Forced Witness sounds slick and sexy and cool – and cheesy and bombastic and cringey, it’s all part of the world Cameron invites us into. When you rub off a bit of the grease, ‘In my dreams I miss you / and I wake up to reality’s bliss’, is a fucking romantic line. His gift is one that allows you to dance along to ‘The Chihuahua’ even if it reminds you a bit of your ex who used to always try and touch your vagina in public, and even laugh at that guy while you do it. ‘The Chihuahua’ is full of great lines ‘Chasing pussy online cuz the dog’s feeling fine and he needs it’ – hilarious, ‘love’s a diabetic sweetness, love’s a fistful of bronze jewelry’ – great stuff. There’s also that kinda dance hall feel, the fizz and swing of brass and percussion that makes this song sound light as air while the lyrics stay mucky. It’s a bummer that people think they’re not allowed to enjoy such a fun song cuz the dude says ‘pussy’ a lot in it.

Of course people like Cameron and Callinan and all the dudes in Client Liason have benefited from white male privilege. Every white man has. To put limits on the way they can comment on this privilege seems backwards and pointless. I have benefited from straight white female privilege. You’ve probably got some privilege that you benefit from. From that point we start out, then we decide what to do from there. And what Cameron’s done is a lot better than pretending to be the sad guy who never gets the girl cuz she only chases sleazebags (the kind of cliché that ‘Marlon Brando’ so perfectly skewers), or a right-on warrior for equality getting limbered up for all the dick sucking he’s about to receive.

It’s cool that somewhere with money is publishing long form music journalism with a point. But if you think about it for more than one second, there’s a lot more going on in Forced Witness than fits into this article’s opinion of what art is allowed to say. And boy, it’s GOOD.

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LISTEN: Mere Women – Big Skies LP

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mere women

If there was any justice in the world Mere Women would be like, as huge as Smith Street Band but with the critical respect of like, Total Control. I reckon they could have been The Jezabels three years ago if your average Triple J listener liked things that are good instead of things that are bad. I reckon they’re so amazing.

It’s hard to overstate how important Mere Women’s  last record Your Town was to me in 2014 as a hyper-dramatic, desperate 21 year old. To hear something with so much fire and fury and power in its naked desire. Made me feel more and more terrifically crazy at the same time. Three years later and there’s another Mere Women album. And it sounds a bit different. And for one second I felt that knee jerk reaction to whine ‘oh but I liked it befooooore’. But just for one second, because Big Skies delivers something broader in scope and sound, that still crackles with the same intense dis-ease as the best of anything they’ve done before.

There’s less of those catch-in-your-throat, defiant guitar melodies that cut all other post-punk aping guitar bands into ribbons. But you already knew they could do that. Did you know they could write huge-sounding rock songs with depth and texture that still sound whip-sharp and lean? Or two in a row, like they’ve given us in ‘Birthday’ and ‘Big Skies’?

The three elements that have always made up the base of their sound remain unchanged; the interplay between strident, aching vocals, white-hot guitar and powerful, eccentrically technical drumming. There’s just more and more sound filling up the space, rounding everything out and making it something less easy to categorise.

‘Drive’, with it’s ‘I give up I give up / pick me up pick me up’ crazed muttering repetition brings some of their old recklessness and desperation. The vocals, roll over each other, the changes in pace and melody building to tense frantic verses into choruses that almost give the closure of a huge release but hold something just back. There’s a lot of disparate, busy and fast-moving parts across this record that could have made a mess out of lesser songwriters. Instead it all sounds – not easy, there’s nothing really easy about the sound of this record – but natural. They even made an echoing piano ballad like ‘Curse’ fit in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned in.

It feels weird to say that this is a darker album than Your Town, because that was some heavy shit. But I think Big Skiesencompasses more than the kind of obsessive love and desire that drove the older record. They’ve combined personal and political into a generalise feeling of discontent, anger and fear. That all this darkness never drags just shows how fucking good these guys are at writing songs – they move with pace and purpose, beautiful and terrible.

You can purchase Big Skies from Poison City Records right NOW

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Mere Women are playing some shows supporting this record with some real hot shit supports:

CANBERRA Thursday June 22 w/Wives & Little Lunch at The Transit Bar

SYDNEYFriday June 23 w/ Marcus Whale & TAFEWRM at The Red Rattler

SYDNEYSunday June 25 w/ Oslow & Carb on Carb & White Dog & The Kirks at Urge Records

MELBOURNEFriday June 30 w/Terrible Truths & Spit at The Curtain

BRISBANESaturday July 8 w/100% & Ultra Material

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LISTEN: Leafy Suburbs – Honda Jazz

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Leafy suburbs

When you work in retail and get to play your own music, you’re always looking for the holy grail: stuff that won’t piss of customers but also won’t make you want to attempt in vain to suffocate yourself with a paper gift bag. I thought this record from Leafy Suburbs was gonna be something like this – interesting enough but ambient enough to fade into the background. It isn’t really that. It’s a strange, surreal thing that I’m sure is making me a little weird to customers for the forty or so minutes of it’s run time.

There’s elements of a ‘nice’ kind of ambient jazziness, but it always gives in to it’s electro heart. Like the way the stuttering piano of (my favourite) ‘Useless Loop’ makes way rhythms that start muted but soon take center stage, or the clattering, droning build of ‘Trumpet Interchange’ (…yeah, I don’t know why I thought this was gonna be easy-listening).

A current of sweetness and optimism runs through this record – starting a couple of tracks in with more opening pop track ‘Complete’. This feeling sets Leafy Suburbs apart from a lot of what’s happening in local electronic music lately. Maybe it’s cuz they’re originally from Perth – who knows what the hell is going on over there. A few years ago we could have happily plonked it into the ‘glitchy’ category to waste away with all the other bedroom producers. But there’s definitely more dancefloor influence here – you get the feeling it was made by someone who’s been out of their house in the last few months. The jazz elements are central to the sound and never gimmicky; saxophone provides a melancholy wondering kind of melody behind the sharp drum machine of ‘Battery Acid’ – the album’s danciest track.

Honda Jazz is out now with a limited run of tapes through Moontown Records. Moontown is a label that releases music they like infrequently, and without to much shallow self-promotion. That’s a vibe we can get behind, especially when it gives us odd little gems like this one

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Listen: Sewers – ‘Invisible Hand’

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Sewers

Photo by Glen Shenau at Mount ARI in Brisbane

‘Invisible Hand’ is the first single off Sewers’ last ever album. They’re breaking up, moving on, moving up, moving away.

I can’t write about ‘Invisible Hand’ as if I haven’t heard the rest of Sewers’ as-yet-unreleased final record. I have and it’s great – seems cruel to say cuz at this point there’s no guarantee when it’s gonna come out or in what form, or if it will at all, but that’s the truth.

To say that this is the most pop album Sewers have ever done would be wrong. It sounds like they might be bowing to some external pressure (that’s never been there), or giving up some kind of authenticity (that doesn’t exist). ‘Invisible Hand’ shows that that’s not at all the case. It’s more like what Sewers have always done, shaved down to a point, made more direct and urgent.

What it really sounds like is a really good three-minute rock song. It sounds like cutting the fat and getting to the meat of the real shit. Hoisted was hard and heavy, crusted over with muck, Weight dealt with punch-a-wall masculine self-pity. Both good records, but for their final outing Sewers seem to know a bit more about who their enemies are and are striking with purpose. Maybe it’s cuz of the lineup changes, maybe it’s cuz they’ve grown up, maybe it’s cuz they knew this was gonna be their last strangled shout, but they didn’t piss away their chance to make something meaningful.

For someone as obsessed with masculinity in music as me, a band like Sewers will always be interesting because they write music that mocks aggression and toughness by being aggressive and tough – which is a hard line to tread. I always come up against the question how much self-awareness can you have without any self-improvement, until you become as bad as dudes who aren’t self-aware at all?

It’s a dangerous thing when people start telling you that being fucked-up and dark is what makes you interesting or good. It makes people nasty. It makes people sneer and posture about not giving a fuck about anything. Sewers seem to have fucked all that off with this song and this record, and given us something honest and cutting that sounds good as hell. This record is as un-posturing as rock music can be, I hope you get to hear it soon.

Anyway I asked Shan Corrigan who sings in the band if he had anything to say about the track and he sent me something much more interesting than most of the ‘this song’s about a picture of a horse I once saw’ stuff that you usually get, so I’ll just put it all up here.

‘This is the song that kept me doing the band. We’d just finished-up touring USA and I came back feeling pretty worn-out with the band. I’d written a few riffs beforehand and one of those I’d called ‘Invisible Hand’. I was taking this to the band for a rehearsal when one of the guys quit the band. I guess that meant we had to replace him and during the search for someone else, I started writing again.

Simultaneously some personal shit was going down and I was there, right in the dumps with it. I didn’t feel like I knew who I was and I was pretending to be something I wasn’t. I was beginning to question my grip on reality – I certainly lacked perspective and this song was me grappling with that – those inner contradicting ideas.

When you suspend your value base for so long for some sort-of self-aggrandising “art” experiment things can get a little hairy. It was a luxury to be able to just piss in the wind; moan and mope about existence. But I realised I was deluding myself by believing that others were responsible for how I felt about the world. I had worn the “poor me, why am I such an asshole, when I’m actually really sensitive and caring guy” straight-jacket for too long. Just plain ignorant and short-sighted. When in reality I’m not even a drop in the bucket and I’m lucky to be here – doing what I am. Most people don’t get a choice and that’s what/who this song is about. Yeah this is long-winded dribble but the band isn’t called what it is for nothing.

Thanks to everyone who played in the band, put out our records, recorded us, organised shows, did posters, played with us, came to our shows and/or supported us as collectively or as individuals. Peace out fuckos, all our songs are about love.’

IF YOU’RE IN BRISBANE GO SEE SEWERS PLAY ONE LAST TIME TONIGHT AT THE BEARDED LADY

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WATCH: Multiple Man – Power Fantasy

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multiple man

The new Multiple Man video is a piece of sun-drenched nostalgia that incorporates home video from Chris and Sean Campion’s childhood in Brisbane with grainy footage from Expo ’88. Lol. Nah it’s 5 minutes of weird shit. Disembodied torsos, fish-eye videos of flowers, pulsating 3D shapes, roses, statues and pillars – classic iconography of power and desire. The video was made by Tim Dwyer (Horse Macgyver) who mostly does live visual art work (and is one half of terrific experimental project Half High), and it shows. The pictures are driven by the vibe of the music, rather than any narrative, and would work really well accompanying the track live (which hopefully they’ll do, but you know, projectors are annoying).

Despite Chris moving to New York about two years ago, Multiple Man haven’t lost sight of what makes them good – they’re a party band, made for jerky, sweaty dancing – even the vocals are rhythmic in their monotone and the cheesy edge to the beats makes it all so goddamn fun. They’ve never tried to reinvent the techno wheel, but it’s hard to think of a band in Australia that does what they do better. Welcome back, maniacs.

This song is off Multiple Man’s latest record with the very silly title of New Metal. It’s out in America now on DKA and out soon in Australia on Paradise Daily. Chris is also popping back over to play some shows around the place in June.

‘5 NIGHTS OF FIRM HANDSHAKE ELECTRONIC BODY MUSIC’

June 9 – MELBOURNE at LAZERPIG with MULTIPLE MAN DJs

June 10 – MELBOURNE at YAH YAHS with CUTTING ROOM, NERVE, MILITARY POSITION and BITUMEN
DJs
MOOPIE (Jealous God, Blackest Ever Black, a colourful storm)
JESS SNEDDON

June 15 – CANBERRA at Pickle at POLISH CLUB with HORSE MACGUYVER, KARLI WHITE,
CALIFORNIA GIRLS and PICKLE DJs

June 16 –  SYDNEY at Angels at PORTUGAL MADEIRA CLUB with VARIOUS ASSES,
L.A SUFFOCATED, TRU and SEX HAVERS DJs

June 17 – BRISBANE at WOOLY MAMMOTH with KANGAROO SKULL, REBEL YELL, LEVANA, DJ DANGER DESTINY and DJ SAMMY D’ANGELO

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LISTEN: Angie – ‘Shyness’ LP

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shyness

When I wrote about Angie Garrick’s first solo album Turning in 2013, it was a very different time. You could say you liked ‘garage rock’ without being heavily side-eyed at a house show (and I was writing shit like ‘soul crunching riffs’ seemingly without wincing myself to death). I don’t stand by much of what I said back then, but even that me was smart enough to see the power of that brave and brutal album. Then on Free Agent she went a bit rock dog, putting herself front and centre. Braver still maybe for a woman in Australia.

Shyness is the best thing she’s done by far. It is absolutely grim. It’s crushingly beautiful. Garrick’s monotone vocals resigned; ‘Nothing in Store’s singalong chorus of ‘nothing to count on / nothing in store’, followed by tracks based around rich and heavy sounding piano. Everything echoes for a thousand miles in each direction, like Garrick reaching out – but then it’s so insular as well. How can something with so few parts do so much damage, how can a record that often sounds restless leave you with a feeling of contentment? I don’t know, but Shyness does it.

I won’t pretend to know much about the piano or instrumental music in general, but ‘On Being Blue’ is something so special to me. There’s the stunning way the piano chases itself around in circles, pausing hesitant then striding on with confidence. In other places it’s joined by fractured guitar catching up then falling behind, then catching up again, both instruments woven together loosely but with purpose. Even when the music is beautiful, Garrick’s vocals bring a sense of foreboding. She’s living in a world of whispers and shadows, keeping you at arm’s length even when you desperately want to be let in. A lot of musicians will say stuff like ‘I don’t really think about how other people are gonna feel listening to my music when I make it’, which is mostly bullshit, but Angie I’d believe it. Shyness is a graceful, poised record captures the precious weight of isolation.

Angie is on tour later this month. She’s also playing the Repressed Records show at Vivid on June 1. Total Control are playing. See you there.

FRI MAY 26 – 107 PROJECTS, SYDNEY
w/ KNITTED ABYSS, SPIKE VINCENT & TABLE
TICKETS | MORE INFO

SAT MAY 27 – AINSLIE ARTS CENTRE, CANBERRA
w/ THUNDERBOLT CITY + MORE TBA
TICKETS | MORE INFO

SAT JUNE 3 – SOME VELVET MORNING, MELBOURNE
w/ SUPPORTS TBA
TICKETS ON THE DOOR | MORE INFO

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WATCH: Rebel Yell – ‘High Authority’

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rebel yell

I think one of the things that sets Rebel Yell apart from a lot of other one-person electronic bands is Grace Stevenson’s impeccable taste. It’s all over this video, for ‘High Authority’, her first single since last year’s ‘Mother of Millions’ EP. She’s working with director Triana Hernandez, a Melbourne writer and director who’s burst onto the scene with some powerful and beautiful videos (she also made Various Asses’ recent clip for ‘Down Down’ – which so. Fucking. Gooood.). It’s especially in the clothing, from brand new Brisbane fashion designer Ellen Chandler, which Stevenson cites as the clip’s main inspiration.

‘When I first saw the outfits that Ellen had done for her graduate collection I started getting ideas – the video is based highly around the clothes, a fashion film style I guess. Her outfits are amazing and super confusing to get on! They’re all made up of other garments and at one stage I had pant legs coming off my arm! Originally I wanted the film in the desert, with a lizard, but time, money and an actual place to film it made that difficult.’

Instead of heading to the outback and auditioning reptiles, Stevenson settled on one of the scrubby beaches and brown rivers that make up most of South East Queensland’s less-than-postcard-perfect coastline. It’s an area she knows well, growing up around the Sunshine Coast – she scouted locations while visiting her folks.

The video itself revels in a kind of dirty glamour – it’s DIY but never looks cheap or half-arsed. They used a VHS camera and in some scenes, the car headlights as lighting. There’s a grainy road B-movie kind of feel – which lead to a decidedly un-Hollywood moment during the shoot. ‘We had a break at my mum’s house in Eumundi before it got dark, then used my car lights for the lighting out off a dirt road. I, being highly intelligent, turned off the car but left the lights on. So we waited about an hour or so for YOUi Assist [ML:is this a plug? Can we have some money?] to revive my battery. My mum did bring us some dinner in takeaway containers though, so that was nice.’

The song kind of speaks for itself – it’s bombastic, direct and, yup, heaps authoritative. The B-grade movie vibe continues in the sound, but now it’s a space horror – lazers and squelching effects. Like, cat-suited lady aliens biting the heads off human men or something.

Stevenson has a background in dance, and the sharp shapes she makes in the video shout power and control, thanks to the help of local dancer and choreographer Erika Goldsmith. ‘Erika choreographed the dance sequence at the end of the clip’ Stevenson says, ‘I remember she taught me a dance at school when we were both kids, and I’ve been doing her Rhianna dance classes this year, so we’ve known each other for a long time. Erika advised me on things that would look cool to do in the setting with the outfits, but some of it I had to ‘freestyle’ – that was when my car died.’

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If you’re in Sydney you can catch Rebel Yell at Body Promise as part of Vivid on June 10

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