ALBUM REVIEW: Chain & The Gang – Best Of Crime Rock

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With bands such as Nation Of Ulysses, Weird War and The Make-Up, Ian Sevonious has been a underground garage rock provocateur for nearly 30 years. As Chain And The Gang, he’s distilled the essence of what does, right down to it’s bare rhythmic essentials – drums, bass, guitar and vocals.

They’re a highly economical and effective combo, stripped to simple gang chants, sparse riffs and grooves that snake and pulse with vaguely sleazy appeal. The remit of the band is a kind of rock ’n’ roll reverse psychology – Devitalize, Why Not, I See Progress and others embracing deconstruction with a playful approach to ultimate nihilism.

This is primal garage rock with infectious, minimal R&B rhythms and they nail it with tongue-in-cheek attitude, strut and swagger.

Chris Familton

 

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French Disco Boogie Sounds (1975-1984)

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For total indulgence and unabated dance floor pleasure you can’t go past this compilation of French soul, pop, funk and disco tracks from 1975-1984. Selected by Charles Maurice, the album was released last year on the Favorite label. Hit the Bandcamp link below to stream and/or buy the album on 2LP, CD and digital formats.

In their words:

Helped by a close connoisseur friend, DJ and collector Charles Maurice presents a fine selection of what he thinks represent best the amazing energy of this specific movement and period. With 10 rare titles, all produced between 1975 and 1984, he shows a perfect picture of what you could find in French record stores at that time.

On one hand, tracks by Overdrive, Marché Noir, Didier Makaga or France-Lise, were produced by underground artists and labels from the French Caribbean and African community and also filled with the raw spirit of this Tropical stamping. On the other hand, tracks by Beckie Bell, Kelly, Le Club, or Bernard Guyvan, were released by major labels such as Trëma, Carrere, Disques Vogue, or Pathé Marconi, thanks to confirmed independent producers, acting not only in France, but also in Canada and the US. 

Today, Favorite Recordings and Charles Maurice are very proud to shed some light again on these gems, and hopefully offer them a new life on your turntable.

LIVE REVIEW: Donny Benét, You Beauty @ Brighton Up Bar, Sydney (10/10/14)

 

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IMG_9673You Beauty released their rugby league-themed album Jersey Flegg earlier this year and it slowly but surely garnered attention leading to its imminent vinyl pressing. Their opening set showed they can nail the sound of the album in a live context with chorused guitar picking out lazy hooks and the rhythm section hitting a ‘Strokes and The Cure on the dancefloor’ sweet spot. Frontman Wil Farrier spent more time off the stage, pulling moves, prowling and climbing the PA speakers. It was a superb set that hit the perfect balance between humour, energy and melancholy.

Donny Benét has stepped up his live show considerably since the days of indie friends making up his band or doing solo shows with loops and drum machines. On the back of the new album Weekend At Donny’s he’s assembled a full band of what look like professional session musicians including keyboards, guitar, bass and saxophone. It takes the live Benét experience to a new level with the songs now sounding like fully fledged 80s electro/pop/funk tracks – alive and kicking in suits and grins. Three guest vocalists also brought a shift to the live dynamic, all of them adding their own stamp of style/pastiche. Geoffrey O’Connor was an icy starlet on Charlotte’s Web, Jack Ladder brought the louche sleaze singing about the last tourist on the sex bus and the sex-machine SPOD brought the street party attitude on Fantasies. Benét looked to be having a ball gazing out across the sold-out room, slapping and popping bass strings with a look on his face that was part disbelief but mostly pleasure. Sure there is an element of tongue-in-cheek with what he does but on the back of extremely well-written songs and experienced live with a room full of bodies in motion the Benét experience makes complete sense.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

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Dr. John, Aaron Neville @ State Theatre, Sydney (24/04/14)

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They are both heavyweights of soul, jazz, funk and blues-rooted American music but it was still a surprise to see Dr. John open a show on which he was billed the headliner. He kicked things off with one of his signature songs in Iko Iko, a New Orleans classic, before giving the audience a trip through his back catalogue. Looking somewhat more frail than the voodoo styled Mardi Gras Indian of many of his album covers he occasionally shuffled/sauntered across the stage to play impressive guitar solos but for the most part it was his piano playing that commanded proceedings through Mess Around, Let The Good Times Roll and the highlight of the set in I Walk on Gilded Splinters. His band were accomplished players but it meant we got a fairly sanitised version of Dr. John’s music. It the lacked bayou spookiness of his Gris Gris persona and had a whiff of going-through-the-motions much of the time.

Aaron Neville’s band showed off their impressive musical chops before the singer entered the fray looking a few decades younger than the man who preceded him (they are both 73). His was also a greatest hits set that swung from the sublime to the saccharine with the adult contemporary sound of Don’t Know Much, Everybody Plays the Fool and the medley of soul classics like Stand By Me and Chain Gang a tad staid against devastatingly good renditions of Tell It Like It Is, Summertime and Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. Brother Charles Neville was on hand providing sublime saxophone solos throughout, showing that melodic control and sensitivity runs in the family. There was no Hercules, no doubt a big disappointment for many but Neville showed what a magical voice he still has and how effectively he can apply it to a range of timeless classic songs.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: Bombino @ The Spiegeltent, Sydney (09/01/14)

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The Sydney Festival always provides the perfect opportunity for open-minded music fans to discover new and diverse acts and styles of music. Listening to a few conversations in the queue before the doors opened it appeared there were a quite a number of attendees with little or no knowledge of the music of Omara Moctar, otherwise known as Bombino. What they witnessed over the ensuing hour no doubt converted them as his newest fans.

The first quarter of the performance was a gentle introduction to the quartet’s sound with Bombino playing acoustic guitar and two of the band members playing percussion. The gentle, trance-like nature of the music was the perfect medium to allow the audience to sink into the music of the Niger-based Tuareg musician. The show really stepped up a notch when Moctar swapped his acoustic for an electric guitar and the drummer moved to a full drum-kit. This was when the songs that make up most of his recent Nomad album took flight with extended African highlife and disco-flavoured rock grooves making it near impossible for the crowd to remain stationary. Bombino either closed his eyes and titled his head back or gazed out with a beaming smile around The Spiegeltent as his fingers darted about the fretboard of his guitar, firing stop-start licks that twisted and droned hypnotically. There was just the right mix of funk, rock and though few if any knew the meaning of Moctar’s lyrics there was an innate soulfulness to his singing that transcended translation. Bombino struck the perfect balance of African and Western musical forms, visually complemented by their brightly coloured robes and scarves that made the performance a mesmerising, kinetic and thoroughly absorbing experience.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

ALBUM REVIEW: The Ape | The Ape

Rating7square-600-2Tex Perkins sure knows how to draw a gang of musicians together for each new band and project he convenes. From Beasts of Bourbon to The Cruel Sea, Tex, Don and Charlie to TNT, Perkins has always surrounded by some of the best players on the Australian rock scene and here, as The Ape, he’s joined forces with Raul Sanchez (Magic Dirt), Pat Bourke (Dallas Crane) and Gus Agars (The Dark Horses) with impressive results.

The Ape for the most part keep things primal with a strong emphasis on groove and rhythm. From the brutal riffs and barked vocals of album opener Man On A Mission to the slithering, pulsing dark funk of All The Same, they sound like a band built on the sum of their parts and relatively fat free at that. The economy of the music gives it a fresh and raw feel and something of a stylistic middle ground for Perkins’ music where you can hear the strains of The Cruel Sea and the distant swaggering echo of Beasts of Bourbon in equal doses.

Some of the best moments come when the quartet drop the bravado and the tempos and mess with their sound a bit. The instrumental Monkey in the Kitchen gets all psychedelic snake charmer over tripping, tumbling drums, while closer Can’t Feel A Thing is a Lanegan-esque slow-burner that gently swells into a wonderful miasma of intertwined instruments before ending way too soon. All of Us is another that eschews the ballsy rock vibe and finds Perkins singing a touching pop melody, stripped off his prowling rock-isms.

The Ape is a bone fide album with plenty of rock shapes but also some tantalising diversions into the shadows where the band are clearly stretching themselves to see where the music might take them. For the most part those instincts are on the money, setting up The Ape up as a collaborative unit with the songs, sound and nous to more than justify their continued existence.

Chris Familton

this review was first publish on FasterLouder

http://rd.io/x/QUN9AiJpb1Q/

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Paul McCartney | New

square-600-7Rating7After more than half a century Paul McCartney is still pushing his songwriter’s pen, seemingly with a desire to prove his worth in each successive generation. The last few decades haven’t been his strongest yet New, surprisingly, is something of a return to the essence of the ex-Beatle in terms of strong, melodic, pop songs. Not everything works, particularly on the lyrical front where he too often settles for simplistic wordplay yet there are many quite superb moments. The infectious groove of I Can Bet, the glorious Beatles-esque single New and the tripped-out beats of Appreciate are just some making a strong case for McCartney’s continued musical relevance.

by Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

http://rd.io/x/QUN9AiJpbEw/

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Fat Freddy’s Drop | Blackbird

by Chris Familton

Rating8square-600Fat Freddy’s Drop don’t rush things with this only their third full length album in 14 years (excluding a pair of live albums). That steady approach is also one of the defining aspects of their sound and their propensity for slowly evolving electronic, soul, dub and funk workouts that equally nurture listener’s limbs and ears. Blackbird is without doubt their most cohesive and rewarding work to date.

The general mood of Blackbird is a darker one. On the surface all the elements of what makes them so unique are present and utilised but they’ve managed to economise the ebb and flow of the new songs and create a sprawling yet finely tuned record. Opener Blackbird uses its near 10 minutes to blend funk inflected soul with a swinging dub bass line and reverb drenched horn section, sounding very similar to compatriots The Black Seeds and taking them closer to the dance floor than they have for a while. They also approach a pop format in the first official single Clean the House which captures a pulsing, vaguely Motown groove allowing the other instruments, in particular the guitar, to paint some wonderful melodic stabs and phrasings. Bones lightens the album considerably with its breezy Spearhead-ish vibe and feels comparatively inconsequential before the squelchy electronica of Soldier heads back to darker dub territory. The last three tracks all exceed seven minutes with Never Moving in particular mixing up a swirling electro-funk quick-step that finds them stretching out further into EDM.

Blackbird is a defining example of rhythm-based musical cross pollination that sounds perfectly natural in the hands of Fat Freddy’s Drop; furthering their exploration of structure, nuance and sonic texture with glorious futuristic results.

this review was first published on The Music and in Drum Media