LIVE REVIEW: Augie March @ The Lansdowne, Sydney

Augie March, Ro @ The Lansdowne, Sydney 26th May 2018

Augie March’s recently released Bootikins album has found the group in fine form, balancing the art and the emotion of their music to resounding effect. It shows on stage too  a band in union and musical communion, relaxed and confident and bathing in the warm glow of fandom from the Lansdowne audience.

Earlier in the evening, Sydney singer/songwriter Ro (aka Rowena Wise). Solo with electric guitar, she captivated the swelling crowd with songs that sat between ornate folk and melancholic indie. They inhabit that sweet spot between ambitious writing and the awareness of the power of simple ear-catching melody. The music of Courtney Marie Andrews came to mind when listening to Ro’s impressive set.

IMG_3125Opening with The Hole In Your Roof, Augie March immediately set the sonic tone for the evening. A crystalline sound mix with Glenn Richards’ voice front and centre and the band musically in simpatico with each other. In years gone by, Richards’ live performances have sometimes been frustrating and distracting but tonight he was at the top of his game. His voice has never sounded better, negotiating screes of words and cascading choirboy melodies, and he had a warm, self-deprecating and hilarious line in banter, often with drummer David Williams, between songs. The rest of the band got about their business, whether it was the freight train rhythm and roll of This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers, delicate musical backdrops such as The Slant (featuring Ro on violin) or gentle hymnal sounds of The Night Is A Blackbird. Augmented by a brass trio, they created a huge ocean swell of sound when required, surging choruses that recalled similar aspirations of The Saints. Bootikins material fared exceptionally well with When I Am Old and Bitter Clingerzz particular standouts. Their command of dynamics mean they can transition from a bristling rock sound to sublime intimacy at a moment’s notice.

They know that a show would be incomplete without a couple of songs in particular and they did them justice, inciting audience accompaniment on the iconic One Crowded Hour and the beauty of There Is No Such Place. Each time Augie March reemerge with a new album there are murmurs that it might be the last, but on the strength of the spirit and music on display tonight they would do well to banish any such thoughts and keep bathing in the creative glow they appear to be currently relishing.

Chris Familton

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ALBUM REVIEW: East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Teddywaddy

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There’s something undeniably visceral and raw about everything that East Brunswick All Girls Choir do. Exaltation and exorcism are part of their musical modus operandi, such is their commitment to making music that embraces emotion with an unflinching directness.

Teddywaddy, the followup to the acclaimed Seven Drummers, charts a course through coruscating punk-laden peaks and drifting, desolate valleys where the songs are stripped and stretched, allowing singer Marcus Hobbs voice to take centre stage. Though the dynamics and playing are excellent throughout, Hobbs’ voice is the deal breaker here. ‘Exile Spree’ is the centrepiece of the album with his voice going further and further after each breath of air. From a wavering wail to a throat-stripping howl he conveys a bucket load of emotion. It makes the languid, wandering country-folk sound of ‘Never/Never’ that follows even more effective. 

Their ability to use contrast in their songs is never overplayed, a testament to the songwriting and arrangements. Freedom of expression and restraint are both key aspects of why this album works so well, whether it be the pummelling post-punk dirge of ‘Cicada Chirps The Chicane’, the soulful gospel-tinged lament of ‘Old Phil’ that indirectly channels The Drones, or the widescreen warmth of the closing title track, the same wistful spirit runs through all these songs, making for an intense and cathartic listening experience.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Kyle Craft

Kyle Craft

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​.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Johnny Marr – Call The Comet

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Johnny Marr has proven himself time and time again. Whether it’s the legacy of The Smiths, his collaborative work with Electronic, The The, Modest Mouse and countless other projects, a fascinating autobiography or just his commitment to always moving forward. He’s now three albums deep into his solo career and Call The Comet finds him settling into his most natural and cohesive sound to date, embracing the best of his past and present. 

The least satisfactory moments on his previous two albums were when he used strident sloganeering and a lack of texture in the music. Call The Comet corrects that wonderfully with trademark lush and chiming guitars that resonate across synths, strings and heavily rhythmic landscapes. ‘Hi Hello’ may be the closest he’s veered towards that iconic Smiths sound, the ghosts of some of their most famous songs such as ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, drifting through Marr’s minor chords. It’s the finest solo song he’s released. That band isn’t the only reference point from that era with opener ‘Rise’ recalling Disintegration-era Cure and ‘The Chasers’ hinting at a Sisters Of Mercy influence just below its surface. Marr has talked about the album having a loose theme of Earth welcoming a different intelligence from the cosmos to save us from our own plight and though there’s plenty of turmoil and wringing of hands over world issues, there is ultimately a sense of optimism that humanity can still rise above the discord and conflict and find it’s way. 

Marr’s strong point still remains his guitar playing and compositional abilities. The way his playing can paint in colours and create mood from simple patterns of notes or layered, dense arrangements. Bug takes in a certain kind of funk as filtered through the baggy Manchester scene while ‘Actor Attractor’ channels both Suicide and early New Order. and though the highlights are many, some judicious pruning of its weaker moments would have made for stronger album. Johnny Marr may have influenced generations of musicians but on Call The Comet he’s in turn paying homage to those contemporaries that have shaped his musical life.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Low Share Three New Songs from ‘Double Negative’.

Low

Low have a new album called Double Negative coming out via Sub Pop Records on September 14th and today the label has shared a clip featuring videos for three of its songs – ‘Quorum’, ‘Dancing And Blood’ and ‘Fly’.

Working again with producer B.J. Burton, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington returned once again to Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (where they recorded 2015’s Ones and Sixes). Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative co-writers, building the pieces up and breaking them down until their purpose and force felt clear.

Tracklisting:
1. Quorum
2. Dancing and Blood
3. Fly
4. Tempest
5. Always Up
6. Always Trying to Work It Out
7. The Son, The Sun
8. Dancing and Fire
9. Poor Sucker
10. Rome (Always in the Dark)
11. Disarray
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NEWS: Interpol Announce New Album ‘Marauder’

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Interpol are back with their first album in four years. Marauder is set for release on August 24th on Matador Records / Remote Control Records.

“Marauder is a facet of myself. That’s the guy that fucks up friendships and does crazy shit. He taught me a lot, but it’s representative of a persona that’s best left in song. In a way, this album is like giving him a name and putting him to bed”Paul Banks

Today they’ve also shared the first single ‘The Rover’, an insistent and choppy run through a tale of a figure drawn to disarray.

Below you can also watch the Daniel Kessler, Paul Banks, and Sam Fogarino’s full press conference in Mexico City where they discuss the writing and making of the Dave Fridmann-produced Marauder.

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Interpol – Marauder

1. If You Really Love Nothing
2. The Rover
3. Complications
4. Flight of Fancy
5. Stay in Touch
6. Interlude 1
7. Mountain Child
8. NYSMAW
9. Surveillance
10. Number 10
11. Party’s Over
12. Interlude 2
13. It Probably Matters

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’.

INTERVIEW: Augie March

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THE ABSURDITY OF CALIGULA

From his home in Hobart, Glenn Richards has a revealing conversation with Chris Familton about the life and times of Augie March, why he is proud of their new album and the challenge of combining intelligence and humour in songwriting.

Augie March are a band that have had their fair share of ups and downs, lost chances and a hiatus. The latest chapter in their now two decade career is a resurgent return to form. Previously it was a cautious re-emergence with the inconsistent Havens Dumb, a “regrouping” as songwriter Richards calls it. This time around they “got the groundwork done a bit better so it’s a stronger record in that sense, and in the songwriting too.” Richards emphasises that he’s “proud of this one, it has good energy which is often lacking when a band gets on in years. If anything there was an emphasis on not over-cluttering which we were prone to do in the past”

The album in question is Bootikins, the band’s sixth and it holds its own among their finest releases. after the touring cycle for Havens Dumb ended in disappointment. “It just kind of petered out which was a bit disappointing. I got stuck into other stuff – film scores and TV work, which I was quite happy doing. Then I found myself writing specifically to record to four-track and it brought back the fun and excitement for recording in that fashion and led to a couple of little purple patches that sounded like songs I could do with the band.”

As the songs were being written, Richards began to see a concept of sorts emerging, one where “an absurdly exaggerated version of myself was having rein in the lyric writing,” he explains. “I was becoming aware of something thematic, the awfulness of the the narrative in some of the songs, the ridiculousness as well. The apex of that was the song Bootikins – putting myself in the shoes of Albert Camus’ Caligula, not just an awful caricature but an intelligent, sensitive Caligula who is rapidly turning. It was a good excuse to write a ragged, retro rock song and try and convey the menace and absurdity of that character. It neatly tied up lots of the efforts I was making to get that across in some of the other songs. It was also a funny name to call an album!” laughs Richards.

Humour isn’t something that often gets mentioned when discussing Augie March but there’s a strong comedic streak in much of Richards’ writing that deserves greater acknowledgement. “I’ve always had the struggle to convince people that there’s a sense of humour there. I can hear it in my own voice, I just don’t convey it enough in the singing. Maybe because I have something of a choirboy voice. It’s getting rougher, maybe one day I’ll have my Nick Cave moment,” he says wryly.

The band were lucky to work with legendary Australian producer Tony Cohen, prior to his death in 2017. One of his strengths was to get the band in a room and let them play together and feed off each other. “While all of that was happening he was setting up his universe on the 24-channel desk and experimenting with certain kinds of effects on faders. He needed help on a big desk so we all got involved doing things. He essentially memorised stuff and was only satisfied when he got the mix where all the moves happened.”

Casting an eye back over a critically acclaimed career, Richards is circumspect and open about where the band missed opportunities and had others taken away from them. “We always wanted to make actual records and the chances that you get to do that are pretty slim. We were at the tail end of the dinosaur era in terms of big record contracts and it worked against us ultimately because we got stuck on a label that we didn’t really sign to,” he reveals. “To be honest, I don’t think the effort really matched the ambition along the way, we fell short in a number of ways and we had some bad luck too. I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to keep doing it. It’s about the other guys and their personal circumstances. We’ve got one more for now and it seems to be a pretty good one so we’ll see. I’d love to take this music to Europe for the first time. It’s ridiculous we never got over there. I could still do that but I’d probably have to look at taking some different guys over with me because of families and so on.”