ALBUM REVIEW: Here We Go Magic – Be Small

Rating6herewegomagic-besmall-560x560On their fourth album Here We Go Magic have lost some of their magic. While 2012’s A Different Ship radiated a rhythmic warmth Be Small feels just that – restrained, inferior and a retreat from the potential the band had to step outside of the shadows of contemporaries such as Radiohead and Grizzly Bear. There’s a late resurrection with the nimble electronic pulse of Tokyo London US Korea and the drifting melodic beauty of Ordinary Feeling but those highlights lack a supporting cast of songs and arrangements. Be Small is a disappointment from a band that appeared to be on the musical ascendent.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: You Beauty – Illywhacka

Rating87f668cf0-5843-0133-53db-060615f9c312Their debut Jersey Flegg initially received no attention on its release but it quickly built a fanbase around its concept (rugby league) and sonic palette. Illywhacka hits similar territory musically and again they’ve loosely based it around a theme, this time online dating. There are shades of Real Estate, Girls and Mac DeMarco in the trembling and shimmering guitars and the way the bass dances melodies around the drum kit but the similarities stop there. You Beauty meld fictional stories and compelling character portraits to their surrealistic post-punk music. Though there’s something unsettling about these songs, Illywhacka is damn original and in its own world, endlessly absorbing.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: The Fall, Gold Class, Orion @ Metro Theatre (21/10/15)

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photo credit: Chris Familton

Post-punk was the order of the night and Orion lived up to the label by diving deep into effect-laden guitar, melodic bass and stentorian vocals; the hallmarks of bands such as Joy Division and The Cure. Backed by the cold repetition of a drum machine they impressed in their ability to conjure no-frills melancholic music that hit an emotional sweet spot as readily as it invited the dance floor.

With a debut album only just released and critical acclaim already flowing their way, Gold Class hit the stage looking the part of a band already carefully considering their visual image. With guitarists in matching black t-shirts, and frontman Adam Curley in buttoned up polo shirt and dress pants they seemed self-assured and projecting a ‘look’ but it was their music that had the greatest impact. Tense and dramatic, they channelled early New Order, The Smiths and shades of shoegaze to thrilling effect and an enthusiastic audience response.

The first we heard from The Fall was an incoherent volley of words over the PA. Mark E. Smith was announcing himself and band to the stage in his distinct and inimitable way. The heart of the band is the taut and muscular rhythm section and guitarist Pete Greenway who keep the songs in tight check while Smith gurned and barked his cut and paste lyrics, wandering the stage messing with amp settings and knocking over mic stands like an annoying kid – except he’s 58. Wife Eleni Poulou seemed to be having fun, with her Korg keyboard and assortment of coats and bags. From the twisted disco of Dedication Not Medication to the primitive rock of Bury Pts 1 & 3 and an ironic Smith-less encore of I’ve Been Duped, The Fall showed nothing has changed in the maddening and delightfully eccentric world of Mark E. Smith.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Tindersticks – Hey Lucinda

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Tindersticks rearranged my universe in a small way when I first heard their Simple Pleasure album in 1999. It was around the same time that I fell for Lambchop, Mogwai and various other bands that dealt in graceful musical moods and atmosphere. I’ve followed them ever since, getting that sense of anticipation at hearing that warm melancholic tone of Stuart Staples over his bandmates’ new songs when each new album was announced.

Here’s ‘Hey Lucinda’ the first taste of their new (10th) album via a video clip created by by Joe King & Rosie Pedlow and featuring the vocals of Lhasa De Sela who sadly passed away from breast cancer in 2010.

Their new album The Waiting Room will be available as a limited edition CD/DVD, LP/DVD and very limited clear vinyl LP/DVD, worldwide through City Slang on January 22, 2016.

ALBUM REVIEW: Fat Freddy’s Drop – Bays

Rating8fat-freddys-drop-baysIt’s only been two years since the release of Blackbird, making this a quick follow-up in the world of Fat Freddy’s Drop. The reassuring thing about the Wellington band is that as their stock has risen they haven’t compromised their musical approach by shortening songs or devolving them to standard structures in the pursuit of hit singles.

They continue as they left off on the last album, if anything hitting a stronger strain of dark dub techno infused rhythms. The way they play with restraint, delaying the drop and stretching out the grooves is the key to their compositional and soulful interplay. ‘Slings & Arrows’ is one of their finest singles, steeped in digital dancehall toughness. It’s contrasted by the dark pulse of ‘Razor’ which shares similarities with Depeche Mode and Mogwai’s recent album.

Consistency is a key on Bays. At times in the past they’ve taken their collective foot off the pedal and allowed some filler onto their releases but here everything works equally well. There’s a balance and flow, much like their epic live shows, that, over its nine tracks, makes it their most listenable release. Vocally, Dallas Tamaira’s voice is as soulful as ever, adding the human element to the music in a number of styles. From the acid jazz vibe of ‘Makkah’ to the quick-stepping house groove of ‘Cortina Motors’ that snakes and gathers momentum over ten glorious minutes before he croons over the measured digi-funk strut of closer ‘Novak’. Bays is a sublime addition to the band’s discography.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Kirin J. Callinan – The Teacher (feat. Connan Mockasin)

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Callinan has finally released some new material to follow up his 2013 LP Embracism of which we said “he has been overwhelmingly successful at marrying violent dissonance and the traditional art of songwriting”. ‘The Teacher’ sees him hitting new romantic power ballad mode with an emotional tale of teen lust, role models and positions of power and influence. The tongue in cheek angle has been upped and I’m not sure in this case if it benefits the song. I personally preferred the darker  intensity of Embracism but who know where the rest of the new album will go when it emerges blinking into the daylight.

REISSUE NEWS: Flying Nun & Captured Tracks To Reissue Chris Knox & Tall Dwarfs LPs

Chris-Knox---Seziure-Cover_1024x1024Flying Nun Records in partnership with Captured Tracks have announced they’re reissuing two seminal New Zealand albums. On November 13th Chris Knox’s Seizure (with the 1st pressing artwork) and Tall Dwarfs‘ first full length album Weeville will be available on vinyl and CD.

Artist: Chris Knox
Title: Seizure
Label: Flying Nun Records
Year: 1990. Re-Issued 2015
Cat #: FN125
Formats: 12″ LP, CD + Digital

PRE-ORDER

Track List:

  1. The Face of Fashion
  2. The Woman Inside Of Me
  3. Statement of Intent
  4. Filling Me
  5. Not Given Lightly
  6. Break!
  7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  8. Wanna!!
  9. And I Will Cry
  10. Rapist
  11. Grand Mal
  12. Voyeur
  13. Honesty’s Not Enough
  14. My Dumb Luck
  15. Ache

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Artist: Tall Dwarfs
Title: Weeville
Label: Flying Nun Records
Year: 1990
Cat #: FN166
Formats: 12″ LP, CD, Digital
Recorded: 1989-1990. Re-Issued 2015.
All Songs By Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate

PRE-ORDER

Track List:

  1. Log
  2. What More
  3. Breath
  4. Skin of My Teeth
  5. Crawl
  6. Sign the Dotted Line
  7. Pirouette
  8. Lucky
  9. Bodies
  10. Mr. Brocoli
  11. Lie
  12. The Winner
  13. Rorschach
  14. Tip of My Tongue
  15. Ozone
  16. Hallelujah Boy

LIVE REVIEW: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, HITS, White Dog @ Manning Bar, Sydney (08/08/15)

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White Dog were up first and represented the punk end of the musical spectrum on offer. They started off with a straight hardcore delivery and then took detours into post-punk dissonance and angular shapes. From Black Flag to Big Black with a direct attack and socially acute lyrics they certainly primed the energy of the room.

HITS from Brisbane are a defiantly rock ’n’ roll five-piece with twin guitars and a frontman with a fine line in humour and attitude-laden vocals. The spirit of MC5 and Cosmic Psychos is all over their sound with singer Evil Dick admonishing the crowd one minute and tongue diving a burly gentleman in the front row the next. They provided the levity and fun to the night without sacrificing heavy rock and swaggering roll.

Beneath a vertically-hung American flag Jon Spencer Blues Explosion slunk on-stage and within seconds launched into their trademark blend of incendiary blues and funk fuelled rock ’n’ roll. Jon Spencer, the demonic preacher, was flanked by rhythm machine Russell Simins and Judah Bauer – the eternally youthful and essential counterpoint to Spencer’s sweaty exhalations. Bauer’s telecaster provided sweet, chiming chords, solos and slide while Spencer was all knee drops, flailing arms and raw primitivism. The band work as the perfect trio, playing both off and with each other and it’s a mystery how they can play an entire set with barely a break between songs. Next-level telepathy was the only explanation offered up in the audience. They played a fair chunk of their recent album plus a selection of their back catalogue, all of it working seamlessly. Fusing James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and the Minutemen resulted in an endlessly entertaining show and showed that rock ’n’ roll played with passion and intensity in its purest base form is still life-affirming.

Chris Familton