ALBUM REVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks – Good Citizens 

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On her fourth album, Cash Savage does two things. She takes an unflinching look at Australian society and gives an intimate and evocative insight into love and desire. She does it all with her characteristic swagger and assertive tone, superbly backed by her cohorts, The Last Drinks.

Better Than That is a devastating opener, honing in on the events of last year and the impact of the marriage equality debate in this country. As she sings “Secretly I’d hoped you were better than that”, the band deliver a bittersweet, melancholic sound that feels like the calm after a storm.  Similar subject matter is addressed on the insistent pulse of Human with its frayed nerve, post-punk sound that blossoms into glorious intermittent choruses and the title track where she sings, with the emotional drama of latter day Nick Cave, about the male dominated world she works in. Collapse imagines a society where socio-political structures have fallen and the world is chaos, undone by its own failings. The Last Drinks back her to the hilt with an ominous industrial junkyard blues stomp that perfectly amplifies the song’s apocalyptic leanings. 

The single Pack Animals is a magnificent example of Savage’s ability to build and maintain tension in her more rock-leaning songs. Its Krautrock pulse patiently builds like a slow-moving tsunami, with sonic flares and sparks heading off in all directions like downed psychedelic powerlines. “I keep thinking ahead, to when I don’t have to lose my head” sings Savage, one of many instances across the album where she contemplates the future of the world and whether humans will resolve their multitude of failings.

Elsewhere Savage dials back the intensity and paints a tender picture of the highs and lows of love and devotion. The melancholic longing on Sunday has the feel of the Dirty Three in its staggered rhythm and Kat Mears’ aching violin. February and Found You explore similar territory, the latter taking a big melodically swinging approach with chiming guitars and an agitated dance-floor rhythm section.

For all the stage prowling, piercing stares and stirring sound of Savage’s live performances, Good Citizens possesses a resolute sentimentality about it. She’s speaking out with conviction about societal inequalities and how they manifest and are dealt with in the public realm yet the aforementioned flip side of how to navigate the miniature minefields of personal relationships is what hits the hardest. As she sings “I’ve never been so down, never needed anyone, now all I ever want is you” on February, she captures the essence of love and common experience.

Good Citizens is a bold and astute album that thrives on its balance and range. It pulls on heartstrings as effectively as it raises questions and it thrillingly blends musicality with Savage’s emotionally and intellectually-based commentary. 

Chris Familton

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NEW MUSIC: Silent Feature – Stiffs And The Saints

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A recently released single from Brisbane band Silent Feature. ‘Stiff And The Saints’ careens along on pop’ish hooks and some fine indie rock guitar. They’re a tougher take on the sound of The Shins, echoes of country rock bouncing off their walls… power pop too, particularly 90s glam sound that Redd Kross were mining.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Roadhouses – Roadhouses

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They say that it is harder to play music slowly than it is to play it fast. Things fall apart and momentum is lost. In the case of Sydney trio Roadhouses, sedated rock music is their calling card. They deal in drifting, alt-country-imbued, slowcore torch songs where heartache is just a tear away. If you got Lucinda Williams to front Spain, at the Twin Peaks Roadhouse – you’d have a pretty accurate summation of the sound and aesthetic of this album.

Skirts as short as sin, drinks that don’t touch the side – you get the picture of where Yvonne Moxham takes her songs. Late night bars, heartbreak and yearning populate her songs of burgeoning and fracturing relationships. First you’ll be mesmerised by the band’s haunting, atmospheric sound, then drawn in by Moxham’s lyrics that hang heavy in the air. Drummer Cec Condon (Mess Hall) throws inventive rhythms and accents into the mix, like a slow motion Jim White. 

‘Black Lights’ throws a subtle curveball into proceedings with its melancholic synths and trip hop drumming that brings to mind Everything But The Girl jamming with Cowboy Junkies. Elsewhere, ‘Heartless’ recalls the haunting minimalism of Low and in ‘Drinkin’’ they conjure up a wonderfully lush, swoon and swell of a sound. Sadness, pain and bruised romance never sounded as good as it does on this excellent debut album.

Chris Familton

 

LIVE REVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks @ The Lansdowne, Sydney

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Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Blake Scott, Roadhouses @ The Lansdowne, Sydney – 23rd June, 2018

With a new album Good Citizens on the horizon and a fresh new single out in the world, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks hit Sydney with a fine pair of opening acts in tow. 

Roadhouses also have new music freshly imparted to the universe and they played a typically strong set. Their sound suits the size of the Lansdowne live room with it’s compact stage and always spot-on sound. The trio showcased their new album, slowing heartbeats to the shimmering drowsy tempo of their music. They’re a band who know how to get the most out of well placed instrumentation, leaving notes hanging in the air. When they did get busier it was Cec Condon’s drums and James Bellesini’s bass that added subtle details. It was only the last minute of their set where the tempo increased into a Velvet Underground-esque accelerated strum.

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Blake Scott is travelling the solo route while his band The Peep Tempel are on hiatus. You get the sense he is finding it a therapeutic experience – getting to scratch his musical itch on stage, yet there  are also cracks in his stoicism, particularly in his between-song comments that suggest he’d rather have the full band on stage with him. There’s a real appreciation for his guitar playing that takes it’s own exploratory trip through his songs, independent of, yet also fully complementing his words and melodies. Warmly received by the audience, he’s a hard songwriter to pigeonhole and one gets the sense that’s exactly how he likes it.

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Cash Savage has firmly established herself on the strength of her songwriting and live performances, and with The Last Drinks behind her you’d be hard pressed to find a more exhilarating and heart swelling live band in this country. Their set was perfectly paced, beginning slow and moody, all their power in the restraint of their playing. Slowly, song by song they opened their shoulders and loosened their hips, fully immersing themselves in the cathartic aspect of playing the songs. Savage  possesses one of the most commanding thousand yard stares, her eyes fixed on the back wall of the venue, occasionally scanning and momentarily locking eyes with various punters. The new single Better Than That was resplendent in its warm pulse and glow, referencing the marriage equality events of last year. Other new songs sounded equally impressive but the strength of familiarity meant that crowd favourites such as Rat-A-Tat-Tat, the lurching Let Go and a version of Run With The Dogs that teased and teased before lifting off with sonic gusto. There’s a tension in the music that Savage clearly knows is crucial to protect. The more she holds onto that, the more powerful the effect when it’s released, and as evidenced by the moving mass of bodies and satiated grins, the greater the experience for both band and audience.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Kyle Craft

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THE SURREAL WORLD OF KYLE CRAFT

Like some kind of backcombed bird nest hairdo glam rocker from the surrealist netherworld of a bygone era, Kyle Craft burst onto the scene with his debut album Dolls Of Highland on the Sub Pop label in 2016. With a voice that resembled an over-emotive Bob Dylan or Jeff Buckley if he was raised in a carnival, Craft sounded like he’d arrived fully formed, an extravagant songwriter who had soaked up glam psychedelia, country rock, indie rock and baroque pop music, from Bowie to Nilsson.

“Even if I listen to new stuff and like it, I always tire of it and go back to Dylan, the Stones, John Lennon, Neil Young, Harry Nilsson – I always land back on that stuff. There’s a quality that I relate to in that music. That’s what makes me feel things,” enthuses Craft in his laidback Louisiana drawl. “When I was 15 I heard Bob Dylan for the first time and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I got super into Dylan and then I started writing in the style of Neutral Milk Hotel until everyone started telling me I was totally ripping them off. Then I lost both of those things. Realising that helped me come into my own in a weird way. Acknowledging that I was doing that made me stop and do my own thing,” reflects Craft. “Miles Davis said that the hardest thing to do is find your own voice. I’m getting closer, I don’t think I’m going to be taking any sharp turns, I’m doing the music that I like and enjoy.”

Full Circle Nightmare finds Craft expanding the sound of his debut, which he recorded on his own, playing all the instruments. This time around, with band in tow, he went into a studio for the first time and tried to capture the raw and magical sound of a live band. “I love doing it like that, playing with my band. I admire that old school mentality of doing it right and getting it in one take. I really like to stick to one take as much as I can, even when I’m multi-tracking. I just feel like it flows better,” explains Craft.

There’s an impressive array of characters that permeate Craft’s songs – ‘The Rager’, ‘Fever Dream Girl,’ ‘Slick & Delta Queen’ and ‘Fake Magic Angel’. He laughs when I ask how many of the personalities in the songs are drawn from real life. “If I don’t try and keep them slightly vague I might get in trouble. I was more vague on Dolls Of Highland than I am on this album.” That different perspective came from a change in his songwriting approach. “I switched gears on how I wanted to write on Full Circle Nightmare. I wanted to be clearer. Life itself was vey strange at that moment so I didn’t have to be very vague or disguise things at all. Both albums are kind of about the same things but Dolls Of Highland was when I was in it and this one is me being able to look back on it all and see it through different eyes.”

The other project that was released late in 2017 was Girl Crazy, Craft’s cover album of all-female artists. Born out of a sense of fun and studio experimentation, it quickly blossomed into a full album including songs by Patti Smith, Jenny Lewis, Cher, TLC and Blondie. “It was absolutely just for fun. I went into my buddy Kevin’s studio space and started messing around and one day I decided to record Jenny Lewis’ ‘Acid Tongue’ and within a few hours I thought it sounded good. We didn’t have anything else to do so the next day I recorded a Patti Smith song and it sounded good too so we just kept going. I showed them to Sub Pop and they really dug them which was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea they’d want to put them out.”

Chris Familton

Full Circle Nightmare is out now via Sub Pop​ / Inertia Music​.

 

VIDEO PREMIERE: Sunny Flynn Hugo – Walk Down

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Brisbane quartet Sunny Flynn Hugo have been busy recording their self-titled debut LP across SE Queensland over the last two years and the good news is that its release will be celebrated with a launch gig at Junk Bar on Sunday June 10th.

The latest single/video is ‘Walk Down’, a wistfully strummed and gently propulsive slice of windswept Americana/indie rock complete with a wonderfully lazy chorus of oohs before a sweet slip into half time like The Band on downers. The rest of the album is equally rewarding, with melancholic and artful pop shapes colliding across the 11 tracks and jangly chords and catchy guitar lines tracing their way through the songs.

Keep an eye on their Bandcamp page to hear/buy the album and if you head there you can also check out this earlier single ‘City II’.

ALBUM REVIEW: Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed

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The Horizon Just Laughed comes on the back of the loosely thematic trilogy of albums he recorded with producer and musician Andrew Swift. They were psychedelic in nature though still rooted in the folk form. In contrast, this feels like a retreat from the density and experimentation, to a place of reflection and solitude.

Jurado is often lumped in with songwriters like Phosphorescent, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and on Over Rainbows And Rainier he certainly shares a rustic minimalism with the latter. There’s a plaintive mood across most of these songs, a gentle grandeur and a tender sway. The lyrics are introspective, dealing in character observations (six of the eleven song titles are names) and vignettes that reference fires and ghosts, dreams and Charles Schulz – skilfully shifting from literal to impressionistic storytelling and back.

Allocate is the album’s scene-setter, a dreamy, string-enhanced soulful meander that recalls Jurado’s starker early work. It’s followed by Dear Thomas Wolfe which highlights his seemingly endless ability to effortlessly weave beautiful, understated melodies. Marvin Kaplan introduces a sweet Tropicália via Laurel Canyon shuffle that lifts the album’s heart rate and recalls some of the work of Devendra Banhart, while Florence-Jean is catchy Sixties pop and closer Random Fearless adds some of CSN’s looser moments to the mix. Another gem from this consistent and inventive songwriter. 

Chris Familton

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