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

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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….

ALBUM REVIEW: Joan As Police Woman – Damned Devotion

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Joan Wasser is now six albums deep into her solo career and she continues to refine and explore her polymorphous sound that takes in soul, jazz and pop music.

If her last album, The Classic, felt like a slight misstep, Damned Devotion is a return to what Wasser does best – blending mood and atmosphere with classic soul, contemporary R&B and modern technology. There’s an exhilarating sense of both space and intimacy in Wasser’s songs, impressively enhanced by the production of Thomas Bartlett and Parker Kindred. Swelling synths, fractured electronic beats are the backdrop to Valid Jagger, Rely On sounds like a take on the industrial urban soul of Portishead, while Talk About It Later is futuristic Curtis Mayfield with both dark rock and gospel undertones.

“I start to wonder what about my life I can’t settle on” she sings on closer I Don’t Mind. It sums up the questioning nature of many of her lyrics as Wasser explores both the self and the emotional obstacle course of modern life. The highlight comes with the single Tell Me – a heavy yet sweet, neo-soul groove with a perfectly weighted and irresistible hook of a chorus. Damned Devotion is grounded in traditional musical forms yet it blossoms with sonic experimentation and emotional depth.

CHRIS FAMILTON

ALBUM REVIEW: Nic Cester – Sugar Rush

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Eight years since the release of the last Jet album Shaka Rock, frontman Nic Cester has finally stepped out under his own name with his debut solo album.

Sugar Rush isn’t a great stylistic departure from the band’s last record, but it does dial back the rock elements, instead taking a trip into a tantalising stew of soulful psych-pop and Black Keys-flavoured boogie rock grooves. It’s a slinky and rhythmically progressive affair that channels Beck and Tame Impala on the songs ‘Psichebello’ and ‘Who You Think You Are’, where clipped electronic funk collides with technicolour pop production.

There’s no denying Cester has successfully melded modernism and retro soul into a seamless listening experience but its greatest asset is that it doesn’t obfuscate his powerful, bluesy voice, which still possesses the power to elevate a song. ‘God Knows’ in particular finds him hitting stratospheric notes like Charles Bradley on a gospel bender.

The bombast of it all can be overbearing at times and a little more subtlety would’ve gone a long way but this is just as the packaging describes – a heady hit of creative energy in the form of a musical sugar rush.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Neil Finn – Out Of Silence

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Out Of Silence is unique for the fact that it was rehearsed and then recorded live at Finn’s Auckland studio, whilst being streamed live to the world via Facebook and You Tube. It was a fascinating insight into a logistical and creatively adventurous undertaking. Even for those who didn’t see or know about the process, the spirit and communality of the session is imbued in one of Finn’s most intimate and ornate albums.

Written and performed wholly on the piano, Finn takes a baroque pop approach to the songs, draping them in rich and sweeping orchestral figures, minimal guitar and drums and a choir that includes famous New Zealand names such as Tiny Ruins, Don McGlashan, SJD and Lawrence Arabia. As you’d expect, Finn’s voice is the icing on the cake – delicate and fragile at times as he explores the personal and universal mysteries of love (‘Love Is Emotional’), uplifting and melodically expansive on the infectious ‘Second Nature’ and the sweet falsetto soul of ‘Chameleon Days’.

‘Terrorise Me’ is a deeply affecting and resolute repudiation of the terrorism that struck Paris and the simple act of celebrating music. It has a melancholic Ray Davies feel, culminating in a chorus with the line “love is stronger when it hurts”. Finn once again proves his ability to translate both joy and deep emotion into concise and poetic lyrical form. Add in his classic and inventive melodic framework and Out Of Silence is another tour de force from New Zealand’s finest songwriter.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: The Afghan Whigs – In Spades

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Greg Dulli and band return with their second album since reconvening in 2012. That first resurrection was very good but it still felt like they were feeling their way back. This time they’ve found a stronger creative line into the dark heart and soul of what made their music so compelling the first time around.

In Spades is a heady concoction that takes repeat listens to get beneath the swirling sound that draws equally from soul and R&B, filtered through the central tenets of alt-rock. Dulli is in fine form vocally and lyrically – dissecting relationships with his usual hot-blooded intensity, urging the music on and stretching the top of his vocal range. Handclaps, strings and keyboards enhance the band’s trademark rhythm section while the big guitar riffs and chugging chords still do the sonic heavy lifting.

Demon In Profile and Toy Automatic are reassurance alone of of The Afghan Whigs’ continued relevance and creativity.

Chris Familton

 

INTERVIEW: Rickie Lee Jones

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RICKIE’S STILL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC

Rickie Lee Jones, she of the long and diverse career that began back in the late 70s with that single Chuck E’s In Love, is still passionate about music and her achievements, as she explains to Chris Familton.

Beginning at the start of her career in Hollywood, odd jobs, a chance encounter with Tom Waits and her demo tape brought her to the attention of Lenny Waronker, producer and executive at Warner Bros. Records, who beat out other labels to sign her and launch her career.

“It was a dream at the time because before that I was just trying to pay the rent. I had a boyfriend at the time who was in school and he encouraged me to go out and play and make money to pay the rent. That helped me get started. It was hard, I was homeless for a lot of the time and and I had nothing to fall back on. When it happened it happened very quickly. At the time I was 23 I wrote Chuck E’s In Love and The Last Chance Texaco and I was on an unemployment benefit. Then one year later I was in a studio and recording an album. Once I decided in my mind to do it, it took about a year to sixteen months,” recalls Jones. “To be able to devote oneself to it is really helpful in gaining early success,” she says, before adding “that success, who doesn’t want that? But it comes with a lot of baggage.”

Jones’ most recent album, The Other Side Of Desire, was her first in a decade and was released independently after a crowdfunding campaign; making it a world apart from her experiences with major labels in the 70s and 80s heyday.

“It feels good not to have any pressure from an outside person to meet their expectations. The thing I had going when I was first signed was they were the best label in the world, they had the best A&R and they just loved music. They dropped you if you didn’t sell records but they didn’t sign you and then drop you straight away, they tried to develop artists and they kept them on the label,” she explains. “I was spoilt by that and know what it’s like to be on a label run by a company that loves its business more than business, that loves music and artists and doesn’t try to make them act like business people. We live in a time where artists act like business people, they talk about the bottom line and their brand. They talk about the brand of Beyonce and the brand of Madonna, this is shameful in the arts. It shows the whole process is corrupted.” says Jones, a tone of disillusionment creeping into her voice.

Jones sounds like she’s in a great place musically and personally as she looks to the future and what it may hold for her. “I am writing and I’m finishing a book which should be out around Christmas. I’m having fun right now performing and I can feel people engaged in ways that I didn’t feel before. I’ve accepted my place in music and I like that I’ve lasted this long and I just want to keep working on it. When I stand in front of an audience I know exactly who I am and that is a great gift.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Bic Runga – Close Your Eyes

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This is Bic Runga’s fifth album in two decades and comes as she is inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame. A collection of covers and two originals, it finds her tipping her hat to some of her influences, from the obvious to the obscure. Both originals (the title track and Dream A Dream) are lush rhythmic pop songs with tropical noir textures while elsewhere she tackles Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Love’s Andmoreagain, Nick Drake, Kanye West and the Roberta Flack classic The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face. Many fans would prefer an album of originals but as a stop-gap this is a wonderful and worthy insight into Runga’s musical world.

Chris Familton