ALBUM REVIEW: Earthless – Black Heaven

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The trio, renowned for their epic psych rock and metal instrumentals that can reach the 20 minute mark, are back with a new album that turns that reputation on its head by way of shorter songs and most noticeably, the addition of vocals.

Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell steps up the mic on Black Heaven and it’s a move that shifts the dynamic of the band. His singing gives those songs shape and structure that previously was subsumed by Earthless’ improvisational approach. Once you acclimatise to the change it makes sense and feels like a refresh of the band’s sound. It’s them trying something different and for the most part it works well.

Opener Gifted By The Wind is a dead ringer for Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil with Mitchell’s voice sitting somewhere between the howl of Ozzy and Comet’s On Fire’s Ethan Miller. Electric Flame settles into an insistent Blue Cheer chug – metal boogie of the most contagious kind. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba and Mike Eginton nail their Krautrock meets 70s rock precision and groove, anchoring the songs with gravitas yet also pushing and pulling them in constantly inventive directions. The title track sends a not-too-subtle nod to Led Zeppelin albeit in overdrive with spiralling riffs barely hanging on as the song accelerates into the stratosphere. In contrast, Sudden End goes for an epic lumber and sway with long, held notes. This is Earthless going out on a limb and impressively incorporating new sounds without abandoning their cosmic interstellar roots. 

Chris Familton

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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

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….

NEWS: Dylan Carlson (Earth) Announces Solo LP

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Dylan Carlson, he of the slow motion, distorted, drag and drone guitar soundscapes, has announced a new solo album, his first under his own name. Apart from a now quarter century of Earth albums he has also recorded under the drcarlsonalbion, releasing the soundtrack for the film Gold and a smattering of other projects.

Conquistador will be released on the Sargent House label on April 27th.

PREORDER

LIVE REVIEW: Pissed Jeans @ OAF, Sydney 2017

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Pissed Jeans, BB & The Blips, L.A Suffocated @ Oxford Art Factory 6th Dec 2017

After the unfortunate dropout of the original support acts, relative unknowns La Suffocated and BB& The Blips stepped in to warm the crowd and set the scene for Pissed Jeans’ first show on Australian soil.

IMG_1177L.A Suffocated only played a handful of songs, with a low-key vibe from behind their table of electronic devices. The duo displayed a nice blend of modern rhythmic drive and nostalgia 80s synth sounds, brushed with a rough-edged and slightly industrial atmosphere. Vocals appeared on a couple of songs and showed potential to drag their instrumentals into fully fledged songs.

BB & The Blips took us into prime punk territory with a full band and one gear (fast) approach. The guitars were thin and nervy sounding around their drummer who was the binding glue for the band. Front-person BB was a dynamic and commanding presence, prowling, bouncing and shimmying front of stage. Her vocals provided the colour and spirit to the songs – all yelps, screams and exuberant sweet/sour melodies. Fun punk rock with a conscience.

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The enigma that is Pissed Jeans – are they serious or taking the piss, are they post-punk/metal/sludge rock? – sauntered on stage and kicked off an hour of wholly entertaining, brutal and hip-swinging heavy music. The answer to the aforementioned question is obviously ‘all of the above’. From their name to their lyrics and stage performance they both honour and deconstruct the myth and cliches of rock and hardcore music. As the band laid down malevolent riffs and tumbling, mangled and constantly shapeshifting rhythms, front-person Matt Korvette played the role of the rock star and anti-rock star, both posturing and showing disdain for convention. He tore -t-shirts, humped mic stands, used the stage curtain as a towel and feigned tears as they staggered and vicariously stumbled through their back catalogue, with a particular focus on their recent album Why Love Now. Moshing ensued, a stage invader ate concrete as he launched himself back into the parting audience and the band laid waste to a cover of Guns n Roses It’s So Easy that was more reverential than one might expect. That’s the glorious dichotomy of Pissed Jeans.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now

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Humour in heavy rock music requires just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek irreverence to avoid it tipping over into slapstick and immaturity. Bands such as Revolting Cocks, TAD and Killdozer all found that balance between savage guitars, a pummelling rhythm section and cutting, sarcastic lyrics, and in these modern times the masters of wit and riffs are Pissed Jeans.

Why Love Now finds them further refining their grinding punk rock and sludgy grunge sound – finding that sweet spot between sonic brutality and catchy hooks. ‘The Bar Is Low’ digs in with a dirty and distorted bass groove, like if AC/DC had come from the Pacific Northwest, before blossoming into a Stooges meets QOTSA galloping chorus. It’s that dynamic interplay that makes the album so damn appealing. It rocks hard but it’s not one dimensional gonzo rock.

Lyrically Matt Corvette continues his fascination with the minutiae of modern living. Lives lived through small screens, webcam fetishes and male sexual obsessions. Office equipment gets a seedy, sexual treatment courtesy of a spoken word piece (‘I’m A Man’) by author Lindsay Hunter (Ugly Girls) over an industrial track that sounds as gloriously warped as the aforementioned Revolting Cocks. It’s the marriage of Corvette’s strangled howl and  Brad Fry’s guitars that best defines Pissed Jeans’ sound. They are familiar in their 90’s alt-rock phrasing and delivery but they never allow themselves to get pegged down as revivalists due to the way they can stagger from the loose chaos of Jesus Lizard to the proto-metal riffing of Soundgarden. You get a sense that they’re passionately obsessed with their musical heroes yet they’re constantly seeking to mutate and evolve their sounds, musically and lyrically.

As the album comes to a close they leave us with the one-two punch of  the slow and sleazy Nirvana-like ‘Activia’ and the jerky metallic slabs of Not Even Married. Two different styles but perfect examples of why Pissed Jeans are seriously fun.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains

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The fascinating evolution of Joshua Homme continues on this, the band’s seventh album. He’s spoken of not wanting them to become a parody of their own original sound and if you rewind back to Regular John, the opening track on their self-titled debut it sounds positively primitive and a million miles away from how they sound now. Back then he was peddling Kyuss mark II but it didn’t take long for the cogs of creativity to start spinning forward, gaining momentum with each new album.

Villains comes at the point where Homme has a fanbase who have grown with him and accept and delight in his darker moodier excursions, equally as much as they pine for the heavy stoner fuzz rock of lore. For the most part Villains eschews the slow and shadowy songs and goes straight for the hips with a kind of glam boogie, rock sound. With Mark Ronson producing, they’ve clearly focused on rhythm and groove, pulling in funk elements and colouring them with effect-laden guitars, handclaps and Homme less in croon mode and embracing his inner pop strut. That isn’t to say it doesn’t rock. The last minute of The Evil Has Landed is prime QOTSA riffage, a straightening of their sound that jolts the listener back to an almost nostalgic place. The way the band have arranged the songs is testament to their ability to add detail in the music. Counter melodies constantly splinter off and collide with one another as the rhythm section tumbles on like a musical robot gone AWOL.

This is bereft of the couple of top-shelf songs it would need to be up there with their best albums but Villains is for the most part a fascinating and dizzying prog rock collision of Devo, ZZ Top and Bowie.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Boris – Dear

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Boris are now 25 years into a career that has stretched from the barren expanse of doom to hazy dream pop renderings and onto avant garde soundscapes and blistering, psychedelic punk rock. They hone in on a style and explore it to its logical extreme. On Dear they again hit the heavy button but this time they go deep into the detail, exploring both heaviosity and spaciousness.

There is usually a reactionary element to the way Boris approach a new album and given that their last release, Noise (2014), blended space rock, grunge and prog it was to be expected they’d retreat into the shadows again and dispense with traditional rock song structures. Dear is post-metal deconstructed and amplified. The drums sound like they were recorded in a cavernous tomb, the guitars are distorted to the point where they sound like sonic locusts and the bass rumbles with tectonic gravitas.

Boris haven’t abandoned their rockets tendencies altogether though. ‘Absolutego’ lumbers and crashes with both punk and metal ferocity, ‘Biotope’ is weighty shoegaze not dissimilar to Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Dystopia (Vanishing Point)’ sounds like J Mascis shredding over Pink Floyd and ‘Beyond’ pushes the limits of quiet/loud dynamics. Boris are at their best in these kinds of songs, where they find that sweet spot between noise and melody and where those contrasting elements blend and overlap, combining to produce emotional and physical music.

The rest of the album is much more introspective and indulgent, albeit in a fascinating way from the perspective of sonic architecture and sound design. Thunderous and screaming chords hang in the air, crashing drums enter and exit at seemingly random moments and Wata’s lead guitar is gloriously alien in the way it is played and processed. The ideal way to experience these songs would be standing directly in front of the band’s amplifiers, all on 11, feeling the sound as much as hearing it. ‘Karego’ threatens to melt speaker cones with the density and drone of the guitars while ‘The Power’ sounds like an attempt at inter-dimensional communication with everything in the red, bristling and pushing at its digital fabric.

The human voices in closer ‘Dear’ are guttural and exultant. A primitive greeting card and the most organic moment on the record. It sounds like Boris laid bare, a monumental encapsulation of their music and given that initially Dear was intended as a possible farewell record, it’s an open-ended way to finish the album and leaves both Boris and their fans asking where the trio will go next.

Chris Familton