ALBUM REVIEW: Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meat Space

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Gareth Liddiard has been the most important Australian songwriter of the last 15 years, certainly within the world of chart-swerving guitar music. His strengths lie in literary lyrical astuteness, willingness to explore the sprawl and corners of his songs and the raw, unhinged and visceral quality of his performances. The Drones always seemed like the cross between Neil Young, Dirty Three and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds but by the time they hit Feelin Kinda Free (2016) their restless inventiveness had branched out into new experimental territory, the precursor to Tropical Fuck Storm.

With new members around Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, Tropical Fuck Storm have thrown away any rule book they may have had and taken an ‘anything goes’ approach, embracing dark electronic undercurrents, heavy funk and a wider palette of voices. Liddiard is verbose and incoherently eloquent as ever, this time railing against popular culture, the rise of intelligent machines, the despair of modern politics and the fear and paranoia of modern living with an apocalyptic backdrop. 

‘You Let My Tyres Down’ is pure Drones with it’s quiet/loud dynamic and beautifully weary chorus. ‘Shellfsh Toxin’ is an instrumental comprised of queasy unease, the title track is optimism short-lived, ‘Two Afternoons’ is a coruscating death disco and ‘Rubber Bullies’ suggests Liddiard has been immersing himself in Saharan desert rock. Tropical Fuck Storm are a glorious detour into deconstructed rock music, reflective of societal malaise and unafraid to tell it like it is. Qualities desperately needed in the current musical climate.

Chris Familton

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ALBUM REVIEW: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders – Blue Poles

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The sense of Jack Ladder’s career to date is that he’s constantly been searching for his lost soul sound. The early bluesy rock n roll to the introspective troubadour, the gothic synth sounds of Hurtsville to the brighter colours of Playmates. Blue Poles is named after the Jackson Pollock painting and yes it does draw on all manner of styles but this time around he pulls them together into a cohesive set of nine songs. It’s also the first record he’s self-produced, another clue as to why this feels like the album that is most uniquely and naturally his own sound and vision.

‘Can’t Stay’ is the first introduction and transports the listener back to the junction where post punk met pop art, immediately reminiscent of peak-era Thompson Twins with their twinkling synths and fascinating rhythms wrapped up in pop music. ‘Dates’ takes that scene setter and turns it on its head with a repetitive glam stomp, like prime Roxy Music with Ladder shapeshifting between Eno and Ferry. It’s infectious stuff, enough to induce self-indulgent lounge room strutting. Another song, another colour added to the canvas. ‘Susan’ is all dark and shadowy hues, Cohen circa ‘Everybody Knows’, but Ladder gets pleasingly perverse with a tale of a car accident fatality and and husband calling his wife to join him in the afterlife.

Bowie is never far from Ladder’s orbit and ‘I.N.M.’ is unabashed funk of the Thin White Duke variety, complete with skewed scattershot guitar courtesy of one Mr Kirin J Callinan. ‘Tell It Like It Is’ is of the same ilk, Ladder getting louche and mysterious, dropping great lines such as “Our love is like a door with no handles, you kick it down…”

‘Blue Mirror’ is an exceptional song. The mood it conjures, the nod to ‘Moon River’, the languid swirl and solemn pulse of the music that recalls David Sylvian, the crown prince of austere pop. Ladder finds the perfect backing for his soft bellow of a baritone. Sometimes it has sounded too knowing or a touch too sardonic in other settings. Here it meshes seamlessly. First single ‘White Flag’ is another melancholic highpoint of Blue Poles. Built on little more than a breakbeat and simple tremolo-laced guitar notes Ladder sings ‘I surrender, surrender to be free, in your chains is where I’m gonna be’, conjuring a mood of giving in rather giving up.

‘Feel Brand New’ feels like a respite from the blue mood of much that precedes it. It’s a good old fashioned rock n roll tune with guitars ringing high in the mix, throwing out unabashed and catchy hooks with the kind of optimism you get on a new morning that promises possibilities instead of weariness. Ladder leaves us with ‘Merciful Reply’. An Orbison-styled, solemn yet grand gesture. It harkens back to the lachrymose ballads of yesteryear, yet in Ladder’s hands it rings true and artfully heartfelt.

Blue Poles draws on a sense of romanticism, one steeped in melancholy yet ultimately not fatalism. There is dark humour at play and some fine wordplay on display and it sounds exceptional. This is Ladder’s finest record to date, his maudlin opus par excellence.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Essendon 1986

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It’s great to read today that East Brunswick All Girls Choir are back with a new album called Teddywaddy, set for release on June 29th, 2018. Their last album Seven Drummers came out back in 2014 and was a real favourite at DS.

Check out the first single, ‘Essendon 1986’, a tumbling, dissonant, howling stagger and clang of a song.

“The song is about the drudgery lumped upon the working class in order to maintain. It’s about the little things people do in order to feel like they’re not churning the butter, often to feel like they’re not where they really are. I still don’t know who decided we were meant to work 5 days a week between 9-5, what monster came up with this concept?” – Marcus Hobbs

NEWS: The Goon Sax Announce New LP ‘We’re Not Talking’

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Brisbane trio The Goon Sax are back with the followup to their acclaimed debut album Up To Anything. We’re Not Talking is due out on September 14th on Chapter Music via Secretly Canadian/Inertia Music.

CH151 The Goon Sax 1500Here’s the first single, ‘She Knows’, a song that still possesses that urgent acoustic strum but now framed by a bigger, warmer sound and more effects. If the first album was the skeletal introduction to their songwriting then this suggests they now have a clearer and more confident perspective on how they want to present their songs.

‘She Knows’ has become a very fast song, which took us a lot of practise to be able to finally hit and strum our instruments fast enough, with a lot of strings breaking. I hope it makes people energetic and excited to listen to, it’s a song about losing hope, stubbornness and heartache. I’m not sure if it’s our saddest song, but maybe if you lock yourself in your room for a couple of days and only listen to it you might not feel so happy, it is also okay if you feel happy to this song! Even better!!!”- James Harrison

If you’re in Sydney, you can catch the band playing a special one-off show at Golden Age Cinema & Bar next Wednesday May 9th, before they head to the UK, Europe and the US (for their first ever US shows) in May/June.

NEW MUSIC: Wax Chattels – Career

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Wax Chattels from Auckland, NZ have released the first single from their self-titled debut LP, set for release on May 18th via Flying Nun Records and Captured Tracks.

‘Career’ is a dark and ominous slow building track that conjures up images of fried circuit boards and ghostly monks in a post-punk landscape where sonic stabs pierce the gloom and deadpan vocals are the calm before the storm of swirling dissonant noise.

Album preorders available HERE. If you head to Bandcamp you can also hear the tracks ‘In My Mouth’ and ‘Disappointed’.

Wax Chattels are:

Peter Ruddell (keyboards/vocals), Amanda Cheng (bass/vocals) and Tom Leggett (drums).

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….

NEW MUSIC: Harmony – Fatal Flaw

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Melbourne band Harmony have been hibernating for the past few years but now they’ve re-emerged and they’re sounding quite sublime on this first new single ‘Fatal Flaw’, their first since 2014’s sprawling and dramatic Carpetbombing LP.

They’ve also got their first headline show in over two years, launching ‘Fatal Flaw’ at Howler on Friday April 13, with Cable Ties, Bitumen and The Blinds.

REISSUE NEWS: Nocturnal Projections (2018)

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Nocturnal Projections were one of the finest post-punk bands in New Zealand in the early 1980s and now Dais Records have worked with them to reissue all of their recorded work across two releases.

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“Complete Studio Recordings” comprises the band’s three original highly sought-after vinyl releases on one record fully remastered.

Formed in Stratford, near New Plymouth, New Zealand in 1981, Nocturnal Projections was the explosive project of legendary and prolific brothers Graeme and Peter Jefferies (who would later form This Kind of Punishment before launching their solo careers), who along with friends Brett Jones and Gordon Rutherford, created some of the most energetic and influential avant-garde punk rock to emerge from the country.

Largely ignored during their tenure (but revered and referenced in the years after their breakup) and often compared to UK contemporaries like Joy Division, Comsat Angels, The Fall, or Wire, Nocturnal Projections stood well apart – never enjoying the luxuries of unlimited studio time, music videos or international fame, the NPs possessed a driven, rough-hewn serrated edge that cut through the lot comparisons to the UK post-punk exports of the era. They were ahead of their time, completely singular, and for those that had the benefit of seeing Nocturnal Projections play live – formative, with a dedicated cult following to this day.

As residents of New Plymouth’s Lion Tavern during their first year as a band, they perfected their soaring, impactful live set locally (often as the only band, without an opener and 3 hours to fill!) before heading off to Auckland in January of 1982, performing with bands like The Fall, John Cooper Clarke, and New Order at venues like The Mainstreet Cabaret, The Rumba Bar and Reverb Room. *The band recorded three EPs at Stebbing Studios in Auckland: The self-titled and self-released 7” single released April 1st of 1982, with the “Another Year” 12” EP following later that year. Their self-titled three song 12” was recorded in 1983, and released by the band posthumously that June, after the band called it quits.

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Inmates In Images pulls the best of the best from board recordings of live sets between 1981 and 1983, including the never-before-released tracks: “Blank Faces” and “Late Night”, along with unheard versions of previously released songs – and includes Peter and Graeme’s song “Walk In A Straight Line”, written in October of 1980 and originally intended for their earlier band The Plastic Bags.