ALBUM REVIEW: Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines

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Rating8At the forefront of the loose scene of guitar adventurists that include Cian Nugent, Ryley Walker and Chris Forsyth, Steve Gunn is another who has figured out how to expand his sound to a full band and incorporate his lazy psych-rock vocals. The touchstones of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine (Television) are obvious in the sparkling, spiralling guitar phrasings while on tracks such as Nature Driver Gunn finds an organic seam that echoes rural England more than downtown New York. Those divergent paths make for a rewardingly immersive and freewheeling guitar rock record that continues to reveal itself on repeated listens.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Matt Malone – S .I. X

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Rating7Victorian songwriter Matt Malone deals in dark, heavy and sombre music on his debut album. The pace is leaden, his voice a gothic, stentorian and preacher-like baritone. There are obvious touchstones like Nick Cave, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Johnny Cash who he absorbs into his death blues soundtrack of rattling strings, ghostly sounds and strummed wasteland ballads. “Now I caress your throat with the lips of a traitor’s embrace” is typical of the doomed poetry and murder ballad sensibility across the album and though it is devoid of light relief and the gloomy pallor rarely lifts from the songs, Malone has created an often captivating and stylistically hypnotic debut album.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Mercury Rev @ OAF

MERCURY REV, JAMES DELA CRUZ (DJ SET) @ Oxford Art Factory, 07 December 2015

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Eschewing the usual opening band, the warm-up honours went to James Dela Cruz (The Avalanches) who played an eclectic hour long DJ set that stretched from Neil Young to warm techno flows and some fine turntablism skills.

FEPX1684Mercury Rev hold a fairly unique position in music with their fantastical, dramatic sound that hits both the extremes of shoegaze and the fragile beauty of Catskill Mountains Americana. This was quite possibly the smallest venue the band have played in Australia so it was a chance for fans to experience them in full flight in relatively intimate surrounds. From a sea of dry ice pierced by dreamy washes of blue light emerged Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and their bassist, drummer and keyboardist/flautist. What followed was the full Mercury Rev experience that was in no way downsized or compromised for the club venue. Their recently released album The Light In You got a fair showing in the setlist but they know that their audience peaked with the seminal Deserters Songs album. Early fans were treated to Frittering from Yerself Is Steam (1991) but it was tracks from the aforementioned album that drew the biggest cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Holes, Goddess On A Hiway and Opus 40 were exquisite in their delivery with Donahue commanding the centre of the stage with conductor flourishes and grand gestures like a magician conjuring up some dramatic illusion. Opus 40 rounded out the main set with an extended and accelerated surge into sheets of distortion with a sonic dizziness that seemed to spin the room on its axis.

Mercury Rev were art rock in dazzling glory, almost too grandiose for the small setting but they never overcooked it. The mystery in their music had the audience immersing themselves in its dark romance while at the same time trying to figure out just how they create such an ornate and wonderful sound from their standard rock band format.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Tweedy – Sukierae

fe457d61-2Rating7It’s quite surprising that this is Jeff Tweedy’s first solo album given the extent of his career as frontman and principle songwriter with Wilco. Most would have expected him to develop a solo career on the side. He’s always shown an openness to collaborate (Loose Fur, Neil Finn) and he’s played plenty of solo shows yet this is his first foray under his own name (excluding the Sunken Treasure live DVD) and even now he has framed it as a duo project with son Spencer on drums.

The other surprise with Sukierae is its twenty song double-album format at a time when records seem to be trending toward shorter run-times. Reportedly there was a wealth of material to draw from so Tweedy the elder has been able to take a broad sonic brush mixing power pop with gospel, alt-country with art-rock and much more. The two constants are Jeff’s voice which melds melancholy and melody into endlessly attractive shapes and Spencer’s drumming which is in turns virtuosic in complexity and simplicity, both complementing and adding crucial varying dimensions to the music like Levon Helm jamming with James Brown.

‘Wait For Love’ is Sukierae’s first sweet, lilting Beatles-esque highlight complete with whistling and it is quickly matched by ‘Low Key’ – the closest the record gets to Wilco territory –  ‘Flowering Lane’, ‘Summer Noon’ and ‘New Moon’. Across so many tracks there are many moments of greatness buried in the detail. Subtly applied effects and textures like the honeyed swell of gospel voices that grace ‘Nobody Ever Knows’ and Jeff’s exploratory guitar wig-outs that recall Nels Cline, Split Enz and Television.

It is always hard to sustain an album’s high points and invariably there are lulls here. No clunkers by any means, just a handful of songs that drift by innocuously between the sweet spots. Overwhelmingly, Sukierae confirms Jeff Tweedy’s standing as a songwriter and musician with a mesmerising ability to imbue his songs with understated emotion and free-spirited musicality.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on FasterLouder

 

NEWS: Jep and Dep announce debut album, tour and new single

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Sydney duo Jep and Dep have had quite the year beginning with an opening slot before Johnny Marr before going on to play shows with Matt Walker, Mia Dyson, Hatz Fitz and Cara, Kristen Hersh, Raised by Eagles, Tracey McNeil Band and Lindi Ortega as well as their own headline gigs across nearly every reputable venue in Sydney and other parts of the country.

Over at our Americana blog Post To Wire we said of the pair:

They’re a dark, folk-noir Johnny and June with a sound that might cast them serenading a saloon in a David Lynch directed spaghetti western.

Their first single was the mesmerising ‘Babe Come Down’ and now, ahead of the release of their debut LP Word Got Out on October 23rd, they’ve released the clip for new single ‘Granted’. The song is another gem, building swirling  romantic tension akin to Cave and Minogue before rich widescreen strings and cymbals swoon into view with grand elegance.

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NEW MUSIC: 2nd single from The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project: Axels & Sockets

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Glitterhouse Records are about to release the third volume of The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project where incomplete or unrecorded Pierce songs have been finished with a superb cast of singers including Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Deborah Harry, Thurston Moore, Mick Harvey and many others. Axels & Sockets is out May 2nd in USA/Europe and locally in Australia shortly after May 5th.

‘Constant Limbo (Constant Rain)’ is the second single from the new album performed by Cypress Grove and Crippled Black Phoenix with a deep and dusky call and response section between Mark Lanegan, Bertrand Cantat, and Suzie Stapleton (Melbourne, VIC) who we’ve featured previously on DS.

“It all came about because Cypress Grove was invited by a friend of a friend to my show at London’s 12 Bar Club where I’d been squished onto the beginning of a metal line-up. My previously booked show had fallen through so it was better than not playing London at all. Pretty lucky I guess – particularly as Mark Lanegan has been a prime influence on my music. Though all the musicians involved are incredible – it’s a real honour to be a part of the project” – Suzie Stapleton

01 Nobody’s City – Iggy Pop with Nick Cave (feat. Thurston Moore) 
02 Kisses For My President – The Amber Lights with Debbie Harry 
03 Mexican Love – Black Moth
04 Weird Kid Blues – Julie Christensen
05 Ain’t My Problem Baby – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
06 Constant Limbo (Constant Rain) – Crippled Black Phoenix and Cypress Grove (feat. Mark Lanegan, Bertrand Cantat & Suzie Stapleton) 
07 Into The Fire – Nick Cave And Debbie Harry 
08 Thunderhead – Kris Needs Presents…Honey 
09 Desire By Blue River – Mark Lanegan and Bertrand Cantat 
10 Kitty In The Moonlight – The Amber Lights with Xanthe Waite
11 Secret Fires – Ruby Throat
12 Kisses For My President – Andrea Schroeder 
13 Body And Soul – James Johnston 
14 Goodbye Johnny (Andrew Weatherall’s Nyabinghi Noir Mix) – Primal Scream 
15 Break ‘Em Down – Hugo Race 
16 My Cadillac – Cypress Grove
17 The Journey Is Long – Lydia Lunch and Jeffrey Lee Pierce
18 Shame And Pain – Mark Stewart And Jeffrey Lee Pierce (feat. Thurston Moore)

 

LIVE REVIEW: Johnny Marr, Jep & Dep @ OAF, Sydney (07/01/14)

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Jep & Dep were a curious choice as opening act, their alt-country/folk sound quite different to that of the headliner but it worked extremely well. Dep (Darren Cross, ex-Gerling) and Jep (Jessica Cassar) displayed wonderfully balanced vocal harmonies with Cross’ moodier, outlaw country delivery complementing Cassar’s folkier, more ethereal voice. They played their Cave/Kylie take on the latter’s Confide In Me and their originals showed they have real songwriting nous in a genre that often trades in self-parody.

As the OAF curtains parted, the packed venue cheered in expectation as the diminutive and perfectly styled Johnny Marr strode on-stage before launching into his solo album’s opening track. Immediately the songs from The Messenger sounded a step up from their recorded versions with Marr’s voice in particular bristling with confidence. Most of the album was aired with the pop bounce of The Crack Up, the moody title track and the most Smiths sounding song New Town Velocity being particular highlights. Of course the crowd responded most fervently to the half dozen Smiths songs, placed perfectly through the set. Panic had the audience in full voice early on and it felt surreal hearing those opening chords to How Soon Is Now? played by the man who wrote them. Tonight was the last show of a tour that began in February 2012 and Marr looked both visibly sad and overjoyed, thanking band and crew with genuine emotion and vowing that 2014 was the year of living in the moment before bringing the show to a euphoric end with a cover of I Fought the Law, Electronic’s Getting Away With It and a moving There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, the perfect end to the show and tour. This was a man honouring his legacy while still creating in the present. As the t-shirts at the merchandise desk defiantly proclaimed… Johnny Fuckin Marr.

Chris Familton

this review first appeared in The Music