Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding review

Liam Gallagher strikes the first blow in the post-Oasis round of sibling rivalry that saw chief songwriter and guitarist, Noel Gallagher, quit the band he and his brother steered to superstardom. With Liam's new band, Beady Eye,  he jumps in the Delorean and floors it to 88 miles per hour to the mid-70s to pilfer the music of his influences. Despite being up to the same old tricks, Beady Eye isn't exactly the Oasis v2.0 everyone was expecting.

Let's get one thing clear, regardless of what you think of Oasis or the Gallagher brothers, Liam has one of the best rock 'n roll voices in history.  His scruffy, nasally croon is one of the most memorable voices I've ever heard, and is one of things that made Oasis instantly recognizable.  On Beady Eye's debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, Liam sounds great, showcasing one of his best vocal performances in years.  The rest of the band performs with an enthusiasm that is normally reserved for bands half their age, and the big arrangements carry simple melodies to impressive heights.

Beady Eye, much like Oasis, is stuck in a time warp.  This isn't a bad thing, as each song carries with it a robust vigor with a splash of nostalgia.  Oasis didn't have any qualms about ripping off their heroes, and neither does Beady Eye.  As far as the songs themselves are concerned, the lyrics leave something to be desired, as many of the tracks deal with themes of the aging rock star, reflections of life on the road, money, rocking out, you get the idea.  That being said, I'm not exactly listening to Oasis or Beady Eye to uncover some sort of profound revelation, and I doubt that many people do.

Despite the fact that most thought that the album would be abysmally bad (myself included), Different Gear, Still Speeding manages to deliver the goods in a number of ways.  It doesn't pretend to be anything than more than a rock n' roll record.  Vicious, pounding drums, heart pumping basslines and huge guitar riffs rip through the entire album.  Songs build earnestly and swell into epic proportions, incorporating virtually every stylistic indulgence of the 60s and 70s ("The Morning Son", "Bring The Light").  When the album is good, it's good, and no matter how hokey or contrived the lyrics are, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone that isn't tapping his foot.

Despite Liam and company's best effort, Different Gear, Still Speeding does have its dull moments.  A few of the ballads plod along with a yawn ("The Beat Goes On", "Kill For A Dream"), and some of the rockers are unevenly paced with some truly laughable lyrics ("Wind Up Dream").  Despite these shortcomings, Beady Eye's debut has proved itself to be a fun and rather enjoyable listen, completely defying most peoples preconceived opinion, especially if you are a fan of Oasis and classic rock from the 60s and 70s.  I don't think anyone could have accurately predicted just how solid the album is, except for maybe Liam himself.

The ball is in your court, Noel.

Beady Eye Different Gear, Still Speeding

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Radiohead - The King of Limbs review

As you all probably know already, Radiohead kind of dropped a bomb a few days ago when they announced that their eighth studio album, The King of Limbs, would be released digitally on February 18th.  It's been a few days, and I feel as though I've had the proper amount of time and opportunity to pour over their latest offering.  Before I get into a track by track review, let me highlight some things about the album:
  • The pay-what-you-want scheme of In Rainbows has been done away with.
  • The album's name comes from a very old, kind-of-scary looking oak tree.
  • You can download the album via MP3 or WAV format from
  • A physical release of the album is coming March 28th.
  • A special "newspaper" edition of the album is going to be released on May 9th, which is going to be comprised of two 10" LPs, a CD copy, and tons of artwork.
In 2009, Thom Yorke commented on the future of Radiohead releases by saying: "None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again. Not straight off. I mean, it's just become a real drag. It worked with In Rainbows because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we've all said that we can’t possibly dive into that again. It’ll kill us."  At thirty-seven minutes and a meager eight tracks, The King of Limbs is Radiohead's shortest album to date.

In the time between In Rainbows and The King of Limbs, Radiohead released the tracks "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" and "These Are My Twisted Words", leaving the world speculative at best concerning what direction the band would take for future releases.  The King of Limbs proves to be a sort of amalgamation of the styles present in almost all of their previous studio albums.

The album's opener, "Bloom", begins with a skittering piano riff that dissolves into an erratic polyrhythmic drumming pattern, coupled with swells of ambient electronic bleepy bloops and industrial dissonance before introducing Yorke's voice.  Strings and horns accompany birds tweeting and singing as the sonic landscape is thrown into upheaval around them.  "Bloom" has a very organic feel to it, almost as if the world is slowly being deconstructed, but with careful precision.

The second track, "Morning Mr. Magpie", evokes a similar feel to that of "These Are My Twisted Words", albeit it lacks the unnerving sense of dread that accompanied the stand alone release.  Yorke sings, "You got some nerve/ coming here", and the jerky guitar play perfectly highlights a sensation of agitation.  The song continues this trend, however it never escalates, failing to demand my attention, before ultimately petering out into hazy feedback.

"Little by Little" is a rollicking display of tension building within the structure of song.  The intense percussive layers seem to be battling the slowly plucked guitar notes, almost as if the instruments are battling for dominance, and the listeners attention, which creates a perfectly balanced sense of chaos.

"Feral", is a largely instrumental track, as Yorke's voice is more or less used as another instrument, and it easily could have been on James Blake's latest EP.  As the title suggests, "Feral" is like a wild animal stricken with rabies, violently plodding along without any real sense of direction or purpose.  It runs around in circles nonsensically and needs to be put down.

"Lotus Flower" is the album's "sexy" track.  A neo-noir nightclub number that is romantic, yet dangerous.  A deadly auditory femme-fatale that entrances you and leaves you lulled into a euphoric coma.

"Codex" is a heart-wrenching piano ballad that ushers in Yorke's subtle and subdued vocals and propels them to dramatic heights without straining them.  It is an introspective piece, a haunting song that delivers its melancholic brew right down to the last drop.

"Give Up The Ghost" is an acoustically driven song that sees Yorke's vocals layered on top of each other.  It is a slow burning song that, sounds more like an album closer than any other song on the album.  It doesn't necessarily deliver the goods sonically, but it swirls and sweeps with just the right amount of enthusiasm.

The album's closer, "Separator" is a mellow song that creates a yawning atmosphere that allows the listener to get lost in the reverberating swells that inflate, distend and bulge throughout the song, carrying it to the albums close.

Overall, The King of Limbs is a bit of a mixed bag.  It is very low key, and encompasses virtually every stylistic nuance of Radiohead's long and illustrious career.  The first half of the album is jittery, with the instrumentation and arrangements bouncing around chaotically, whereas the second half of the album is withdrawn and somber.  Radiohead won't win any new fans with this album, but most will find it to be a rewarding listen as each track is dense and complex, lending itself to auditory exploration, especially if you have a good set of headphones.  That being said, I highly doubt that The King of Limbs will be considered this decades Kid A, but at the very least it works on several levels.  It is an album that will require patience and attention to be appreciated, something that many people simply don't have the time to do anymore.

Listen to the album, in it's entirety here.

Friendly Fires live @ The Gov 17/02/11

Friendly Fires played a sold out show at The Gov on the 17th of February that I was lucky enough to attend. The band was energetic to say the least, with each band member bouncing around on stage like a Mexican jumping bean.  The set consisted of fan favorites off of their self-titled debut album like "White Diamonds", "Jump In The Pool" and "Paris", as well as some new songs that had the crowd twisting their bodies and bopping their heads. 

Overall the show was fun, although it was a little on the short side, with Friendly Fires performing for just a little over an hour.  The new songs that I heard didn't impress me immediately, as they showed off the bands penchant for flair and hooks, however I just felt as though the new songs were trying a little too hard.  The band was straining for the hooks to really catch on with the audience with varying degrees of success. 

Friendly Fires' new album Pala, is set to drop sometime this year, and even though I will definitely be investing in a copy, the show left me wondering if their sophomore album will be as instantaneously infectious as their first.  I suppose only time will tell.  In the meantime, if you ever have the chance of seeing Friendly Fires live, I highly suggest you doing so.  It is a fun, raucous, dynamic experience that will delight your ear drums and have you tapping your feet  and flailing your arms wildly in anticipation.

Friendly Fires - Lovesick

Special thanks to Adelaide photographer Michael Selge @ Craftypics photography & Neon Gold Records

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. Jerome's Laneway Festival

So I went to the Laneway Festival in Adelaide this past Friday and it was a blast.  A great lineup (much better than Big Day Out) and phenomenal sets by bands big and small made the day very memorable.  My only complaint was that the venue was tiny.  It was literally held in an alleyway behind a nightclub.  This generally wasn't a problem, however there were instances of people being pushed, stepped on, spilled on, burnt with lit cigarettes, and on occasion, hit in the head with flying Asahi beer bottles (don't fret, they were plastic).  The above picture kind of sums it all up, although it was even more crowded when some of the bigger name bands came on later in the evening (Two Door Cinema Club was almost unwatchable due to the mass pandemonium that set in when they took the stage).  In total there were three stages, the main stage (pictured above), a medium sized one tucked into a corner, and the smallest stage actually being inside of the nightclub.  Overall it was an enjoyable experience and all of the bands that I managed to catch had some really great sets including the following:

Warpaint - not only can they play their instruments, but this all girl band isn't too bad to look at either.
Bear In Heaven - sonically impressive band from Brooklyn (despite the fact that the lead singer looks like the ultimate lax bro).
The Antlers - played some new songs that were so-so, but a good, raw set overall. 
Two Door Cinema Club - fun and energetic, if you've heard their album you've pretty much heard them live.
Yeasayer - the set was a little hit and miss for me, but impressive nonetheless.
Cut Copy - my girlfriend hates Cut Copy but has admitted that they put on a great show, I've seen them twice now and I have to agree.

Check out the full lineup here.  Scroll below for video from the show.


Cloud Control


Cut Copy

Make sure you head over to Spoz's Rant for an incredibly detailed review of the show chock full o' videos pictures and other goodies.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Replacements - Let It Be review

Punk music represents an ideology that embraces individual freedoms and anti-establishment views.  In addition to the fast and raw playing style, the lyrics are often confrontational, frequently commenting on societal and political issues.  Twenty-six years ago American punk band, The Replacements, released their third album, Let It Be, to near universal praise.  Initially starting their career as a hardcore punk rock band, the band soon grew tired of playing hardcore "buzzsaw drone" style music, and in 1983, The Replacements started to perform gigs with their entire sets consisting of covers with the intent to antagonize whoever was in the audience. 

The Replacements' lead singer, Paul Westerberg, explained that the punks who made up their audience thought that they themselves and the music they listened to stood for a 'there are no rules' and 'everyone does what they want' aesthetic, but when The Replacements would take the stage and perform an entire set of 70s pop covers, which was exactly the kind of thing punk was supposed to stand against, a hypocrisy arose and suddenly there "were rules and you couldn't do that, and you had to be fast, and you had to wear black, and you couldn't wear a plaid shirt with flares ... So we'd play the DeFranco Family, that kind of shit, just to piss 'em off."

Thus is the attitude and legacy of The Replacements.  With Let It Be, The Replacements bucked the trend in punk music and started to focus on writing songs driven by melody and Westerberg's "heart-on-his-sleeve" lyrics.  For a genre that was so invested in youth culture and standing for the rights and demands of the younger generation, punk music always appeared to lack the intimacy of the individual.  Punk music in the 70s was so concerned about voicing opinions on what was wrong with society, but it wasn't until 1984 that The Replacements turned the magnifying glass inward and started to explore the turmoil that was present in the individual.  On Let It Be, The Replacements explored the reasons why the punks were rebelling, and uncovered the feelings of alienation and teenage angst.

Let It Be marked The Replacements move towards self-deprecating lyrics that focused on the plights of the youth.  Every song tells a personal tale, yet the themes explored are near universal.  On the piano ballad "Androgynous", Westerberg's lyrics lament the misunderstood artsy types that don't fit in, and on "Sixteen Blue" Westerberg manages to sum up every awkward feeling and trepidation experienced by every teenager ever. 
Let me be clear, this album shreds.  The Replacements were influenced by classic punk acts like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the instrumentation is as hard hitting as any other classic punk record.  Westerberg's sandpaper voice screams and scrawls itself throughout each track, marking both immediacy and a poignancy in every song.
There are some tracks that at first glance, may seem like filler, particularly when you look at the song titles.  Tracks like "Gary's Got a Boner" and "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out", are funny when taken at face value, but when you consider the songs in the context of the rest of the album, you see that the songs aren't filler, they are important and have their place on the record.  Let It Be is a record about being young made by a band who were young.  They understood the traumas and the heartbreaks, the confusion and the frustration.  The Replacements were able to make even the most trivial events seem urgent and utterly crushing.  Take, for example, the last track, "Answering Machine", when Westerberg pleads:

"How do you say I miss you to
an answering machine?
How do you say goodnight to
an answering machine?
How do you say I'm lonely to
an answering machine?"

No matter how old you are, you can feel the pangs of desperation in your heart.  Let It Be is a near perfect record, punk or otherwise.  It is a piece of nostalgia, a piece of youth.  It doesn't let you fantasize about your awkward adolescent stages; instead it forces you to face the reality, and to embrace it.  People grow up and people change, but Let It Be is a time capsule, a dusty teenage diary found in an attic.  The songs are events frozen in time, so that you can look back on them, and never forget the things that made you into the person you are today.
Artist: The Replacements
Album: Let It Be
Release Date: October 2nd 1984