The Scare – photo by Ami Barwell
Is screamo a one word joke nowadays? Not for these guys, they are having lots of fun and going places with their music. Alright, they’re not really a screamo band, but the vocalist’s stylings remind me a lot of the Blood Brothers’ twin pronged screaming attacks. Not as frantic, but punchier. The Scare are originally from Brisbane but moved over to Birmingham, UK this year. Doing well for themselves, they’ve shared the stage with Pretty Girl Makes Graves, Les Savy Fav and Alexisonfire. Recently their Vacuum Irony EP came out in the UK and got good reviews and modest airplay on the BBC, and now they’re on another national tour with Finland’s Disco Ensemble. Check out the single below.
The Scare – ‘If I’m Choking, Make A Scene’ (mp3)
I’ve been told that the electro-clash movement peaked two years ago. What about the electro-punk movement then, did I miss it altogether or did it not happen at all? Because that’s what I think of when I’m trying to describe Group Seizure’s music. It’s electronic music written in punk structures. Or maybe, a punk song written with sequencers and looping stations. Dance-punk? Does it matter?
Aside from the very cool band name, Group Seizure are three hyperactive Melbourne kids who play music with two guitars, a keyboard and a drum machine. They recorded and mixed their 5 track debut EP in one day last year and got some good reviews in the music street press, but nothing much happened. Most people outside Melbourne wouldn’t have heard of these guys, and I’m not sure if this type of music will ever get big, probably not in Australia. I like it though.
Group Seizure – ‘Love Recovery’
Sparkadia – photo by boudist.com
Time for more pop, courtesy of Sydney three piece Sparkadia. I first heard of this band on Sydney radio FBi 94.5fm, about two years ago. The singer Alex seems to have a gift for melody and catchy hooks. So I went to their next show, a free new music night called Jager Uprising. This was my first time going to one of these and by the time the band came on it was jam-packed. The band has invited all their friends to impress industry types. Tick.
Next, I heard Sparkadia played a few warehouse shows in the city and around Annandale, pulling up to two hundred people in tiny spaces. Creating more buzz to get everyone talking about it. Another Tick. Soon enough they signed to a booking agent and started scoring international supports, and the last time I saw them they were main support for Canadian cuties Tegan and Sara. Triple Tick on the list.
I wasn’t there but when they recently played at Rebel Rebel in Sydney, everyone crammed into the tiny 100 capacity room and sang their hearts out to this tune that you can listen to right here. Tick.
Sparkadia – ‘Up In The Air’
My Sister The Cop
My Sister The Cop are bad ass. OK I’ve never actually seen them but from the reviews that I’ve heard, comparisons to Test Icicles and Atari Teenage Riot fly frequently and that gets me excited. From the listening to the two tracks they have up on MySpace I know I would love their dance-punk repertoire if I just get the chance to see them. Alas, the drummer who recently became a dad decided that he won’t go for gigs outside their home state of South Australia. Now I know that’s a beautiful thing, putting his new baby priority above all else. But I wish I could still see them. Being in Adelaide is tough for a band.
My Sister The Cop – ‘Sorry We’re Not All Wolves’ (mp3)
I should precede this blog with the following: despite the fact that I like Bertie Blackman, I do find her hit and miss. Her songs are either fantastic, or they’re far from it. I’ve been a big fan of Bertie’s voice ever since I heard her single ‘Favourite Jeans’ on the radio. Even the singles she’s released following ‘Favourite Jeans’ I’ve enjoyed.
But there are times when Bertie writes songs that are difficult to like. For example, she often has songs where it’s just her and an electric guitar and aside from the fact that the guitar playing is pretty messy, it just comes out boring. But then she’ll have a backing band for another song and it will sound fantastic. I really think she should either have a full band, or if she’s going to play solo, pick up an acoustic guitar rather than have a song that sounds like a dodgy b-side from a crappy 90’s riot-grrl band.
What Bertie Blackman manages to do well is differentiate herself from the myriad of singer-songwriters that flood the music market. Her performance supporting Jeff Martin was engaging albeit hit and miss – she had a wonderful backing guitarist playing U2-like melodies and it sat wonderfully with her music, and why she doesn’t encorporate the delay/reverb backing guitar more often is beyond me. Bertie Blackman is a talented songstress, and she needs to learn how to hone her skills – I think once she does that, she’ll take off. So sit back and enjoy one of her great tunes, ‘Television’.
Bertie Blackman – ‘Television’ (mp3)
Melbourne based Moscow Schoolboy is fronted by singer and main songwriter Jess Cornelius, who has previously played solo (or was it with a backing band?) in a different incarnation called Jess Cornelius Experiment. That outift won Jess a songwriting competition and she went to South By Southwest in 2005. Fast forward to early 2006 and Jess with her Schoolboys has crafted a pop gem in ‘Use Me Back’.
Opening with catchy synth riffs the song explore the very basic subject of sex and seduction set in anonymous smoky bars and rock gigs. The low PJ Harvey-like vocal stylings suggest that Jess knows exactly what she wants out of the unnamed prey and what she is going to do with him. She maintains full of control throughout the song until the last sixty seconds where she begins to lose it and eventually goes completely nuts before those same synths fade the song, leaving the impression that the whole experience should have been longer. Kinda like orgasm sort of.
Moscow Schoolboy – ‘Use Me Back’
If I lived in Western Australia I’d be like a proud stage mum watching all the great acts that have emerged over the years; The Panda Band and The Sleepy Jackson to name but a few. In fact I would probably feel about as smug as I did upon on hearing that Perth 4-piece Snowman are the latest signing to ace Melbourne label Dot Dash, home to other respectable acts such as Wolf & Cub. Because I liked them ages ago, of course.
Snowman has an intriguingly scarce bio. Instead, their website offers a satisfying list of adjectives to pre-empt the verbose music reviewer (don’t look at me), my favourite of which is “swampy”. This approach to self-marketing also applies to their refreshing refusal to brand themselves with one distinct sound– their sound is sound itself. The elements of their 2004 debut album read like a checklist for meandering, indulgent sound-art: fuzzy AM radio samples, handclaps, droning choral numbers, theremin, percussion, and although I’m loath to say it…. ‘dreamy soundscapes’. But as far as I’m concerned; the creepy, melodic guitars, consistently killer vocals, and oh-so casual hook or two gives them a license to be as playful as they like. A new album is slated for release later this year, so stay tuned (to the fuzzy AM radio if you feel so inclined).
Snowman – ‘Lost In The Woods’