Yves Klein Blue - ‘Polka’
I had never heard of this band in my life until I got stuck with them for a double bill at Candy’s Apartment one quiet Thursday night last year. These boys (I think they might have hit the 18 mark by the time of writing) played to a practically empty house and, god bless their cotton socks, they rocked out with the conviction of stage veterans. A couple of months later Brisbane act YKB are signed to the awesome Dew Process, home to two of my fave artists, The Grates and Sarah Blasko.
They’ve re-recorded their debut EP Yves Klein Blue Draw Attention To Themselves, and from what I can hear, invited every session player they know into the sessions to have a blast. There’s pianos, trumpet fanfares, Latin percussion and a whole lot of other crazy shit that definitely wasn’t there on the hand-scrawled disc they hurriedly gave me last November.
Word is they’re getting a lot of FBi love, which is understandable, as they’re kind of our answer to Belle and Sebastian-meets-Franz Ferdinand, with light pop tunes and edgy rockers all comandeered by that powerfully unique voice in the front. There’s no pretension here, just four kids from Brisvegas playing the kind of music that everyone else wants to hear. Trust me, you want to hear this.
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From the trainwreck that was the abominable MTV Australia Awards 2008 – perhaps the most irrelevant awards ceremony ever to be held on these shores – comes The Vines with a woeful performance of their dreary new tune, ‘He’s A Rocker’.
In a light show that would arouse Tiesto and bring down epileptics everywhere, The Vines limp through this weak post-grunge number with lukewarm stage presence and off-key backing vocals. Perhaps the Vines are the new Jet – a band who the industry thinks is “hip” and “cool”, but in reality no one really gives a crap about them.
But that was indicative of the entire MTVAA, held at the awesome but ill-fitting CarriageWorks in Sydney, with a cold VIP area and a cattle-pen for the rest of the punters. Does anyone care about acts like Eve and Wyclef Jean? They haven’t had a hit in, what… 8 years or something?
I also received an email from an irate attendee who is furious at MTV and General Pants (who you had to purchase expensive jeans from in order to secure a ticket) for being promised a 50 Cent performance, but the man (with entourage in tow) failed to say more than a few introductory words on the night. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
Sorry to hark on about it, but I seriously can’t get over the lasers in the chorus! What the hell were they thinking? Makes me laugh every time I watch it… and I’m sure that’s not the desired response.
P.S. I don’t mean to MTV-bash, because the 2007 awards was one of the best nights of my life! Nicole Richie… priceless. It’s just they just got it horribly, horribly wrong this year.
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Michael Peter – ‘Paper Planes’ (mp3)
Built around a simple, circular 6/8 acoustic riff, Michael Peter has constructed a serene folk/pop song, ornamenting it with beautiful backing vocals from Sarah Humphreys and electric guitar licks.
A song about questioning the path you’re taking, the bare instrumentation brings Michael’s voice to the fore and the lyrics become the focus of attention during the song. The lulling vocals and rolling guitars gives this song a tidal, ebb-and-flow nature which rocks you to placidity, but consequently means there’s nothing overly exciting about ‘Paper Planes’, no electric spark. Having said that, Michael evidently knows melody, and ‘Paper Planes’ is a great example of his ability to weave a charming acoustic tune.
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Lovers Electric - ‘Honey’
This is one of those bands that you see live and you just know that they’re going to be mega in a couple of months. Lovers Electric are made up of childhood friends David Turley and Eden Boucher, who have toured extensively overseas in recent years spreading their wares to New Yorkers, Berliners and all kinds of crazy foreigners.But for now, they’re back in Australia having recently inked a deal with SonyBMG which probably locks them in for the next twenty five years. I saw these guys playing at Will and Toby’s in Darlinghurst last week and what attracted me instantly was how well these two command the stage, usually with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Eden has an ethereal voice that is at once mysterious but also immediately Aussie, kind of like Missy Higgins but with about 10% less ‘ocker’.
The band sings pretty little pop songs with the kind of harmonies that make you want to hug the nearest person in the room. For some songs they’re also joined by an ’80s Casio keyboard, which spits out cutesy synthesized drumbeats in lieu of an actual band. Recorded however, Lovers Electric are an entirely different animal. Gone are the live tricks as they are supplemented for big studio gloss, real drums, bouncing pianos and distorted (just a bit!) guitars. It kind of ruins the illusion for me, but then i suppose they couldn’t go in an record an entire album with a piece of shit keyboard and an acoustic guitar.
My problem is that sometimes the vocals take the backseat to the session band and this is one group where the melodies should be front row centre. That being said, the songs are still sweet little pop gems and worth checking out.
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CHAINGANG- ‘Cut Here’
CHAINGANG (written as loud as their music, suitable really) have kindly offered us something new from their demo sessions. ‘Cut Here’ is less acerbic than their debut offering, ‘Get Off My Stage’, and focuses more on melody and a post-punk rhythmic aesthetic. The thick, dirty bass is still there, rumbling along and driving ‘Cut Here’ forward. It’s more instantly catchy than ‘Get Off My Stage’ and harbours a more overt upbeat exterior. If you’re in Sydney this Friday, you can go nuts to this song when CHAINGANG support two Who the Hell faves, Catcall and Lions at your Door, at Q Bar.
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Gabriella Cilmi – ‘Einstein’
I greatly underestimated the boom in popularity Melbourne youngster Gabriella Cilmi would have. If I had the gift of foresight, or a really sweet crystal ball, I wouldn’t have written such a rambling, droll post on her song ‘Sweet About Me’. The tune is now commercial radio fodder, an earworm if there ever was one. It’s undeniably catchy, but I fear it’s one of those songs that may grate on you the more you hear it. The chorus has a smooth, buttery vocal melody, where the song really opens up, but the verses meander along with a Ronettes-style shuffle that feels withdrawn and hesitant.
Thanks to a Lauren St John piece for the Times in the UK, our (to adopt an Aussie media fave whenever a homegrown hero gets some international attention) Gabriella is now being compared to the similarly husky toned Amy Winehouse. I mentioned it too in my original blog, and you can hear the similarities in the voice, but the comparisons should probably end there. Gabriella leans far more to the contemporary pop side of songwriting, with songs like ‘Don’t Go To Bed Now’ taking on an almost ABBA-style vocal melody and ‘Save the Lies’ sounding something like a Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and The Veronicas threesome. Hmmm, the imagery is disturbing.
Plus, Gab’s far more attractive than coke-edged Winehouse. So she’s 16. whatever. She’s a hottie. Strike me down.
It’s a shame that her debut record Lessons to be Learned had to venture into some bland pop territory, because she’s evidently more comfortable singing music rooted in the jazz aesthetic. ‘Sanctuary’ is one such tune, a downbeat song where Gabriella can let her voice ride the sampled shaker and chorused keys, and ‘Einstein’ injects some deep emotion into her music, featuring Morcheeba-esque guitar lines. To me, this song is the best thing Gabriella has recorded. Her debut is such a mixed affair, presumably because the label’s not 100% sure which market to push Gabriella towards, so it’ll be interesting to see how Australian audiences and critics react to it when it’s dropped May 10.
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Who would ever have thought that not one, but two Australian/New Zealand acts would scamper up the ranks of cool in London to headline the April edition of VICE Live? A very prestigious party to be playing at, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to secure a door spot through the publications I write for (as neither of them are VICE) so I tried my luck at messaging The Deathset personally. A long shot my anyone’s standard but I was surprised to see that my humble request was met with an enthusiastic, immediate and no-strings reply of “Sure, no problems!” from Johnny Siera of the Baltimore based two piece. No other gesture affirms The Deathset as an act wholly dedicated to their fans than that, though perhaps consciously ignoring the stage in the venue and opting to play at audience level where we could jump and get rough with both Johnny and Peter O’Connell brands this also.
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Where’s Jerome - ‘Rescue’
Finally, it’s back! Last year we discovered a little-known Sydney outfit, Where’s Jerome, the project of Jeremy Smith, one-time frontman for indie outfit Altona. Soon after we posted about them, they were picked up by a small indie digital label called Rish Records and we were kindly asked to remove the MP3 (which was a demo of a song called ‘Rescue’), but promised that when the EP was released, we could post it again.
And true to their word, ‘Rescue’ returns to Whothehell.net! I had the whole band – Jeremy, Alex and Todd – on my radio show on Wednesday night, and they’re truly insane. But truckloads of fun. Their EP Dreamboat is a wonderful collection of electroacoustic pop tunes, refusing to stay put in one definable genre throughout the disc. They’re launching it this Saturday at Sydney’s Spectrum on Oxford St. If they’re anything like they are in a radio interview, it should be one crazy gig.
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Dead Farmers - ‘The Suns of Thunder’
You know, with all this electro going down in Australia, I say it’s high time we shed our bright pink jeans and got back into our rock roots. Dead Farmers, with their unique brand of scuzz-punk madness are just the men to brink us back from the brink of fluoro madness.
Their tracks are non-stop blasts of distortion, with drums that sound like they’ve been recorded in the back of somebody’s truck and a whole lotta screaming. Remember when you used to jump around to Nirvana and yell like an angry chimpanzee in heat? Well I do (I was approximately fourteen and a half) and this kind of ‘who-gives-a-fuck?’ garage music takes me back to the days when ‘indie’ didn’t automatically mean The Strokes. Lead singer/guitarist David Akerman is on a one man mission to make as much noise as possible come out of an amp without blowing the thing up. If you haven’t seen these guys live, I highly recommend it. It might rip your eardrums in half, but hell, the point of being young is to screw up your hearing so you can pretend not to hear your own kids’ offensive music when you grow up!
Dead Farmers have supported The Black Lips on their Vice Party tour in January and are fixtures at a number of house parties and clubs across Sydney and Melbourne. They’ve got a debut 7″ EP out now (if there are any left!) and are currently recording an album. Listening to this stuff is the equivalent of drinking a glass of Tabasco Sauce. You have been warned…
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Birds of Tokyo - ‘Silhouettic’ (mp3)
It only took me about 20 seconds to realise this is the best thing Birds of Tokyo have ever done. Their first release, Day One, was a solid pop-rock album but something about ‘Silhouettic’ (which, by the way, isn’t in my dictionary Mr Kenny) pushes all the right buttons.
When you dissect it though, there’s not a lot going on, but the power of a well-written song is that you don’t need bells, whistles and fluff. Ian Kenny’s vocals are second to none, and the reason why he’s considered king amongst men in the alt rock scene in Oz. He carries this song that plain rocks, and doesn’t do much else. It’s just 3:25 of pure rock goodness, and why would you want anything else? Production is a step-up from the first album, enveloping the listener in sound. Check it out in your headphones!
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