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

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

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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: The Babe Rainbow Announce New LP ‘Double Rainbow’

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The Babe Rainbow, those cats behind last year’s superb single ‘Johnny Says Stay Cool’ and self-titled album are back with a brand new record, Double Rainbow, and its first single and video, ‘Supermoon’. It’s a moorish slice of languid, pastoral psychedelia.

Double Rainbow is released July 13th, 2018 via Flightless Records.

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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.”

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

ALBUM REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound

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Eleanor Friedberger was the voice of the quirky and inventive Fiery Furnaces before going it alone. Now onto her fourth solo album, she’s more than established herself as a fine songwriter and clearly decided to stretch out into some new sonic territory on the more electronically textured Rebound.

Eschewing the knotty indie guitar sound, she’s delved into a more synthetic world of drum machines, keyboards and melancholic music that references the sadder side of 80s pop but is in no way a nostalgia exercise. There’s a patina to the music whereby the songs sound lush and contemporary with one foot in simple melodic pop and the other in the art-pop world of artists like Stereolab. 

The single Make Me A Song is as catchy as anything she’s done in the past and demonstrates her playful wordplay and consistently infectious way with a chorus hook. The downbeat thrum of Nice To Be Nowhere recalls both Julee Cruise and Jack Ladder in its plaintive soft focus sway while Are We Good dances with a playful kosmiche pulse. Her use of electronic sounds add a warmth to these songs rather than colder machine-like qualities. It’s a re-housing of her songs in a new setting and she’s again matched it with sensitive and astute songwriting.

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