LIVE REVIEW: Cosmic Psychos @ Bald Faced Stag

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Cosmic Psychos, Birdcloud, The Chats @ Bald Faced Stag, Sydney, April 6th 2018

Who said rock n roll is dead?

The top echelon may be uninspiring but down at ground level guitar rock is still brimming with passion, humour and free-spirited energy A sold out venue and mosh-pit ready crowd greeted young upstarts The Chats. Joining the Cosmic Psychos tour from the Sunshine Coast they were like a mini version of the headliners. The same relentless, urgent, pummel and strum that is part AC/DC, Cosmics and Straight Arrows complete with mullet, wraparound shades, a bucket hat and goofy facial expressions. There’s a cartoonish quality to their sound but the simple, unfettered documentation of their lives, the impression that they don’t take things too seriously and their energetic delivery made for an entertaining set. They call themselves shed rock; more like larrikin rock.

IMG_2532Birdcloud hail from Nashville TN and if anyone had concerns that two girls with a ukulele and acoustic guitar would struggle between two slabs of hard rock then they were quickly proven wrong. Jasmine Kaset and Makenzie Green came with sass and attitude, calling out the sound person for a shitty mix at the start of their set. Once they got rolling they showcased their Singles album with songs like Fuck You Cop, Vodkasodaburg and Washin’ My Big Ol’ Pussy. Things descended into hilarious chaos with The Chats joining them for a song, a flashed nipple, and the removal of pants for a strap-on harmonica solo. Part cabaret, 100% rock ’n’ roll.

Cosmic Psychos were onstage, ready to kick into things before the roadies had even finished soundchecking, such is their casual approach. Starting with the none-too-subtle double shot of Pub and Nice Day To Go To The Pub, the kids, young and old, set about creating a mosh-pit of careening bodies, cascading sweat and alcoholic grins. Sure there’s colloquial humour aplenty but the Cosmics have a well-honed sound with Ross Knight’s strangled bark and yell and his buzzsaw bass, Dean Muller’s precise and inventive drumming that looks way simpler than it is, and the well-rounded specimen that is John McKeering and his spiralling wah guitar solos and slashing chords. It’s simple music but delivered with primal muscle and a deft touch. A masterful blend of  The Stooges, Ramones and Motorhead. Dead Roo, Fuckwit City, Bitter Not Better, Lost Cause and Feeling Average were all standouts before the support acts stormed the stage and brought it all home with the glorious sing-along of David Lee Roth. After 34 years Cosmic Psychos are an undeniable rite of passage for Australian youth at the crossroads of punk, metal and hard rock. 

CHRIS FAMILTON

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NEW MUSIC: Wax Chattels – Career

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Wax Chattels from Auckland, NZ have released the first single from their self-titled debut LP, set for release on May 18th via Flying Nun Records and Captured Tracks.

‘Career’ is a dark and ominous slow building track that conjures up images of fried circuit boards and ghostly monks in a post-punk landscape where sonic stabs pierce the gloom and deadpan vocals are the calm before the storm of swirling dissonant noise.

Album preorders available HERE. If you head to Bandcamp you can also hear the tracks ‘In My Mouth’ and ‘Disappointed’.

Wax Chattels are:

Peter Ruddell (keyboards/vocals), Amanda Cheng (bass/vocals) and Tom Leggett (drums).

DOUBTFUL SOUNDS – Spotify Mix Series

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We’ve got a new series of mixes happening over on Spotify. As is our want, these are all over the show. One minute you’re in downtown LA in the 80s, next you’re off to New Orleans in the 20s before a quick jaunt to Auckland in the 1990s. Dub, post-punk, glam metal, ambient, pop, country and jazz. Anything goes.

Catch up with the first three mixes below….

NEW MUSIC: Harmony – Fatal Flaw

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Melbourne band Harmony have been hibernating for the past few years but now they’ve re-emerged and they’re sounding quite sublime on this first new single ‘Fatal Flaw’, their first since 2014’s sprawling and dramatic Carpetbombing LP.

They’ve also got their first headline show in over two years, launching ‘Fatal Flaw’ at Howler on Friday April 13, with Cable Ties, Bitumen and The Blinds.

REISSUE NEWS: Nocturnal Projections (2018)

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Nocturnal Projections were one of the finest post-punk bands in New Zealand in the early 1980s and now Dais Records have worked with them to reissue all of their recorded work across two releases.

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“Complete Studio Recordings” comprises the band’s three original highly sought-after vinyl releases on one record fully remastered.

Formed in Stratford, near New Plymouth, New Zealand in 1981, Nocturnal Projections was the explosive project of legendary and prolific brothers Graeme and Peter Jefferies (who would later form This Kind of Punishment before launching their solo careers), who along with friends Brett Jones and Gordon Rutherford, created some of the most energetic and influential avant-garde punk rock to emerge from the country.

Largely ignored during their tenure (but revered and referenced in the years after their breakup) and often compared to UK contemporaries like Joy Division, Comsat Angels, The Fall, or Wire, Nocturnal Projections stood well apart – never enjoying the luxuries of unlimited studio time, music videos or international fame, the NPs possessed a driven, rough-hewn serrated edge that cut through the lot comparisons to the UK post-punk exports of the era. They were ahead of their time, completely singular, and for those that had the benefit of seeing Nocturnal Projections play live – formative, with a dedicated cult following to this day.

As residents of New Plymouth’s Lion Tavern during their first year as a band, they perfected their soaring, impactful live set locally (often as the only band, without an opener and 3 hours to fill!) before heading off to Auckland in January of 1982, performing with bands like The Fall, John Cooper Clarke, and New Order at venues like The Mainstreet Cabaret, The Rumba Bar and Reverb Room. *The band recorded three EPs at Stebbing Studios in Auckland: The self-titled and self-released 7” single released April 1st of 1982, with the “Another Year” 12” EP following later that year. Their self-titled three song 12” was recorded in 1983, and released by the band posthumously that June, after the band called it quits.

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Inmates In Images pulls the best of the best from board recordings of live sets between 1981 and 1983, including the never-before-released tracks: “Blank Faces” and “Late Night”, along with unheard versions of previously released songs – and includes Peter and Graeme’s song “Walk In A Straight Line”, written in October of 1980 and originally intended for their earlier band The Plastic Bags.

LIVE REVIEW: Protomartyr @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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PROTOMARTYR – photo by Chris Familton

Protomartyr, Mere Women, Angie @ Oxford At Factory, Sydney Australia. February 16th, 2018

The best gigs are the ones where the creative quality and intensity builds evenly, seemingly at a symbiotic pace with the gathering audience. Angie set the scene with a low key and hypnotic opening set. This was another iteration of her solo incarnation, now fleshed out with drummer and acoustic guitarist. Previously she’s played on her own (Steve Gunn support) and with a full band (Chain & The Gang support). This configuration felt the most suited to her drone infused piano compositions and haunting vocal intonements.

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ANGIE – photo by Chris Familton

Mere Women mixed a brand new song with tracks from last year’s Big Skies album and a glance back to their 2012 album with Amends. Intense and dramatic sum up the band, with each member locked into their own musical corner, sculpting their own personality and sound. Guitarist Flyn Mckinnirey cut physical shapes with his playing, coaxing out nagging riffs and coruscating wasteland distortion while Amy Wilson pleaded, remonstrated and chanted dark, gothic sounding lyrics over his guitar and the inventive rhythm section.

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MERE WOMEN – photo by Chris Familton

With tongue in cheek, Protomartyr had said in their interview with The Music that if they didn’t make it to Australia soon that’d be it for the band. With their future now thankfully intact they made sure the audience were well and truly satiated with a set of 18 songs, mostly taken from their last three albums.

Singer Joe Casey is an enigma on stage, looking like a dowdy small-town insurance salesman and sipping from cans of Coors beer he was the perfect irascible foil for the remarkably tight band around him. Drummer Alex Leonard studiously beat out a tapestry of inventive rhythms, Bassist Scott Davidson was in constant motion, bouncing on his toes while flurried fingers urged post-punk and dance grooves from his fretboard. Guitarist Greg Ahee, much like McKinnirey from Mere Women was masterly at shifting between catchy melancholic riffs and scorched-earth punk screes.

Back to Casey though, the star of the show in sound and vision, the perfect balance of belligerent ambivalence and intellectual dissertation. Barking out free-form wordplay one minute, nailing down repeated phrases like “Never gonna lose it” in the encore’s Why Does It Shake? He channelled the ghost of Mark E. Smith and the glorious disdain of David Yow but he’s uniquely his own poet and performer. For those that like their post-punk laced with danceability, wit and wisdom this was an impeccable example of just that.

CHRIS FAMILTON

ALBUM REVIEW: Jamie Hutchings – Bedsit

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It’s been seven years since the last solo album from Jamie Hutchings. In the interim he’s busied himself with 2 noisy rock records with Infinity Broke and the wonderful Down The Unmarked Road, the result of his collaboration with Peter Fenton of Crow. Now he returns to the solitude of the self with the intimate, graceful and poetic Bedsit.

This is a sparser and more delicate set of songs than those on his previous solo album Avalon Cassettes. They feel weightless, unconcerned with time and the restraints of conventional song structures. There is a fragmentary and fragile quality to the music with guitars pulling in and out of focus, with gentle augmentation from strings, harmonica and the emotive piano of sister Sophie Hutchings on Above The Rain and Shadow On The Lung. For the most part this is Hutchings and his vignettes and song poems. Opener Second Winter details a dream of waking up with blocks of ice as feet and the resulting surreal happenings. A highlight is December Park, propelled by light flurries of guitar strings, upright bass and Hutchings’ voice sounding weary like a hazy, late-night afterthought.

References to dreams, seasons and nature abound, framing existential questions and the foibles of human relationships. Centennial Park and Marrickville get name checked and it feels very much like a Sydney album, albeit a reflective, introspective and intensely personal one from the melancholic side of town.

CHRIS FAMILTON

ALBUM REVIEW: The Breeders – All Nerve

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Some bands hit the pop culture sweet spot just at the right time, igniting and reflecting the spirit of a generation before burning out and fading away. Others hang around, soldiering on with diminishing returns, a loyal fanbase in tow, cushioning their middle-aged bank accounts. There are also those acts who have that moment in the spotlight, vacate the pedestal but then re-emerge years down the track, with the essence of their creativity still intact. Bands like Afghan Whigs, Sleater-Kinney and Dinosaur Jr.

Kim Deal of course tasted the rewards of that with the resurrected Pixies but the scale and dynamics of that band clearly didn’t suit her. There were new and fairly well received Breeders albums in the interim years (Title TK, 2002 and Mountain Battles, 2008) but after reconvening the line-up from their seminal 1993 album Last Splash (Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson) for its 20th anniversary celebrations, it became clear that there was still a spark and desire to write and record new material.

All Nerve could just as easily have been titled All Verve, for it’s an album that captures the some of the joie de vivre of Last Splash, tempers it with the perspective of age and is filled with sardonic swagger, obtuse wordplay and a musical dynamism that rarely becomes anything other than pure Breeders.

The first single Wait In The Car throws a sly nod to the drum rimshots at the start of their most famous song Cannonball before being overrun with cascading guitar distortion and downstrokes. Deal sings of embracing inspiration and intuition and screw the consequences. That continues in the title track as she sings “I won’t stop, I will run you down, I’m older”, alluding to both determination and obsessive personality traits. Metagoth shifts musical gears into a world of Joy Division and Bauhaus with its brooding and foreboding rhythm section. It’s the least ‘Breeders’ song on the album but they suit it, especially given there’s always been an element of post-punk deconstruction running through their music.

The Breeders always show an ability to balance the punkish rush with prettier, more meditative moments. The verses of Spacewoman do just that with a delicacy and spaciousness that makes the crunch and stomp of the chorus even more rewarding. There are shades of Courtney Barnett’s sound on Walking With A Killer as the song meanders along, decorated with a quasi-psychedelia similar to early Smashing Pumpkins.

Archangel’s Thunderbird is a rare misfire, lacking direction and seemingly built on a drum pattern but never building on it. Relief comes in the form of Dawn: Making An Effort with its billowing, gauzy, shoegaze guitars. It’s like a lost 50’s pop song, filtered and reimagined via a ghostly transmission. Their trademark blend of heavy and raw guitars and spectral, almost naive melodies return on the monstrous sounding Skinhead #2 before Blues At The Acropolis finds Deal referencing false hero worship and perhaps bemoaning the watering down and dissipation of artistic worth.

Thankfully, quarter of a century after crafting Last Splash, The Breeders have the nerve and the creative impulse to again inject some life and imagination into rock music.

Chris Familton