LIVE REVIEW: METZ @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (05/12/13)

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Batpiss kicked things off with a blistering set of punk rock riffs and barked/screamed vocals with rhythmic deviations and a melodic interplay between the guitar and bass elevating them above generic thrashers. One song dropped the BPM considerably, for part of it at least, with the resultant dark and doomy groove sounding like Earth and a sign that the band can match their live intensity and tight delivery with interesting dynamics.

TV Colours haven’t been around long yet they’ve quickly risen from underground acclaim to poking their noses over the barricades with their album Purple Skies, Toxic River starting to appear in end-of-year best-of lists. From what started as a one-man project, the full band showed they can deliver the music with a real confidence and they delivered a damn impressive set. From the uber-anthem Beverly to songs that started in one stylistic dimension and ended up in another they nailed the sonic and emotive desperation of the album with ease. The quartet mined Husker Du and Sonic Youth, Thin Lizzy riffs, new wave and post punk anxiety and jerky neurosis with frontman Robin Mukerjee leading the charge and from the audience enthusiasm it felt like we’d all witnessed an important moment in the rising star of TV Colours.

That left METZ with work to do if they wanted to claim headline honours and the relentlessly touring Canadian trio rose to the occasion superbly. A few songs into their industrial hardcore onslaught the Goodgod pit started building up momentum with bodies careening into one another in response to the band’s physical and deafening performance. There were old songs, sneak peaks of new songs, a cover of The Damned’s Neat, Neat Neat and a healthy slab of their self-titled album played. As a unit METZ are brutally tight and they never let up. The only hiccup of their set was a power outage onstage which momentarily halted their momentum. It mattered little though and seemed to galvanise band and punters to push even harder. They finished with an extended version of Wet Blanket that was the perfect summation of METZ as a live experience with sweat soaked musicians, neck-bulging screams, a pulverising rhythm section in full flight and audience members overflowing onto the stage and being lifted high into the lights and mirror ball on the ceiling with joyful exuberance.

Chris Familton

This review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: Sonny & The Sunsets, Surf City, Community Radio, Adults @ Goodgod (21/11/13)

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Four shades of indie guitar pop music were on display at Goodgod with Adults being at the more obtuse end of the spectrum. The trio knocked out ramshackle, skeletal post punk songs built around restless melodies and rhythmic edge. Their songs gave the impression of being thrown together casually yet beneath the Pavement-esque delivery there lurked some interesting and restless musicality. Once the ears and brain adjusted they were occasionally frustrating and often very good.

Community Radio include members of Youth Group, Songs and The Vines with their sound sitting firmly in the vicinity of the the former two. Their dreamy, softly propulsive songs blended in well with Goodgod’s dimly lit, basement grotto feel and hypnotic spinning mirrorball. The interplay between guitarist Cameron Emerson-Elliott and bassist Patrick Matthews stood out as a highlight with intermeshed rhythms and tangled notes working out some wonderful melodies.

New Zealanders Surf City re-energised the audience with a set that had its fair share of frustrations but showed enough to justify the critical acclaim for their two albums. A bass cabinet upped and died in the first song leaving the band to battle on with the low end coming only from the stage monitors. It seemed to throw them, disrupting their vibe on stage, unnecessarily so as it still sounded great out front. They showed how well they’ve mastered the skill of blending a strong rhythm section with layered, effect-rich guitars and hook-laden vocals. You could hear the ghosts of the last 30 years of New Zealand independent music, still with Surf City’s own stamp applied.

Sonny & The Sunsets played their set in near darkness yet their music was brightest and most unabashed pop music of the night. Sure there was an abundance of dark lyrical themes but the band framed them with such infectious indie, surf and rock n roll pop shapes that they won the audience over from the get go. Goofy songs about murder, love, romance, aliens and girls filled the room via Sonny Smith’s laconic drawl that often brought to mind a jerkier, new wave Lou Reed. The musicality of The Sunsets was a real highlight from Tahlia Harbour’s girl-group backing vocals to the way they allowed so much space in their sound when it was required. This was a set of songs that sounded otherworldly and familiar, simple yet quirky, all at the same time.

by Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: The Murlocs, Los Tones, Blind Valley @ Goodgod Small Club (15/11/13)

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Three separate strains of psychedelic rock were on display at Goodgod with locals Blind Valley kicking things off in confident fashion. A quartet with a sound built around big Tame Impala-styled riffs, impressively melodic bass playing, Led Zeppelin atmospherics and a farfisa organ made them a varied and entertaining opening act. The arriving crowd responded in fashion, quickly filling that too often empty void in front of the stage and letting the music move them.

Newcomers Los Tones took the sound in a Black Lips-inspired garage rock direction with a suitably loose-hinged and physical set of whoopin’ and hollerin’, string-breaking ramalama-drenched surf rock. They have a narrowly defined sound but they executed it well, conjuring up images of mariachi bands jamming slack-jawed at drunken house parties.

The Murlocs have been building a reputation as one of the best live acts coming out of the current and fertile Melbourne psych scene. Their not-so-secret weapon is singer/harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith with his screech and slacker demeanor that rides the band’s deceivingly hypnotic sound. Crammed onto the small stage they eased into their set but it only took a few songs before the up-for-it crowd were swaying and colliding with wide grins and closed eyes.

The Murlocs are all about rhythm and groove, hitting those droning, chiming chords that draw the audience in, removing that imaginary live between band and punters and even inspiring a couple of stage dancers. The band played with a sleepy, heavy-lidded vibe that enhanced the hazy, tranced-out mood of their set yet beneath it there was still a strong energy and vibrancy to the music, giving it a celebratory feel.

Rattle The Chain stood out as a real highlight, as did the new single Space Cadet and its wonderful shimmering and choppy guitars. With the sweaty punters baying for more they returned with their cover of Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, showing the debt they owe to the original garage rock bands but also demonstrating their own style and the beat/blues/boogie sound that they’ve added to the mix. All three acts on the bill showed that rock n roll is in good hands with bands that know their musical history while still living in the now.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: Endless Boogie @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (27/03/13)

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by Chris Familton

Bruce!, a name so good it warrants an exclamation mark, hail from the Wollongong area and brought some of their no-frills rock up to the big smoke. They played hard, fast and exceptionally tight rock and showed their record collections are probably populated with albums by bands like Misfits (who they covered), Clutch and Queens of the Stone Age. Having three vocalists gave them different angles to work with from Alice in Chains-ish crooning to guttural punk screams but the real bonus is that they have the songs to back it all up. Big wire-taut riffs with chord progressions that felt fresh and chunky.

X are worthy of are the title ‘local legends’ and with Steve Lucas calling time on the band in 2012 it feels like a rare treat to see them live again. The trio played a low-key set to only 30 people but their songs and musicality tore through the room on the back of some savage bass playing and Cathy Green’s effortless drumming. Lucas delivered some stinging guitar playing as they ran through classics like Mother, Degenerate Boy, I Don’t Want To Go Out and Revolution. Let’s hope there is still more to come from X.

The audience grew slightly for Endless Boogie but it was a disappointing turnout for a band that have garnered a lot of plaudits for their brand of mantra-like boogie rock. Frontman Paul Major looked like a lost relic of 70s rock and NY punk and though he did sing, that facet of their performance is fairly irrelevant. Their strength lay firmly with their extended drone-like songs that ebbed and flowed to mesmerising effect. Built on some impressive drumming that doffed its cap to the metronomic qualities of krautrock and bass and rhythm guitar that were content to sit deep in the groove and serve Major’s shredding they conjured up an intoxicating sound, the kind that takes over your neck muscles and makes head shaking irresistible. Their main set only comprised a handful of songs, such was the length of them and the audience looked surprised the set ended so soon. They returned with Smoking Figs in the Yard but it was a shame so few were there to witness a performance that was the perfect synthesis of ZZ Top and The Stooges.

this review was first published in The Drum Media and on themusic.com.au

LIVE REVIEW: The Men, Royal Headache @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (30/01/13)

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by Chris Familton

Things kicked off with the fantastically named Raw Prawn. A band that sounded as uncooked and naive as their moniker suggests. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the band played a set that balanced precariously between authentic 70s UK punk and lo-fi primitive glam rock. It all sounded like it could fall apart at any point. Songs like None Left hit the urgent pound and strum of The Velvet Underground if they’d grown up in the inner west of Sydney and never learnt to play outside a few chords and a backbeat. It was a set that was both amusing and refreshing, like a palate cleanser to remind you how good simple music can be.

Royal Headache looked to be up for it from the moment they stepped on the Goodgod stage. Jokes and barbs were bandied about before they kicked into what Shogun called a jam but sounded like a great fully formed new song. As players the band locked in like the best power pop trios (The Jam) and created that signature bristling surge of sound that allowed Shogun to cut loose with that voice of his. On a good night, and this was one of their best, Shogun doesn’t just prowl the stage, he bounces around, stares daggers into the front row and sings those suburban love songs with real passion and that throat shredding soul howl. They are bone fide hometown heroes which set a high standard for The Men to follow.

From the opening barrage of guitars and drums that is their new single Electric, The Men were ferocious in the manner in which they approached their songs. Bassist Ben Greenberg was a flailing, thrashing blur making it hard to believe he was actually nailing the notes on his bass as efficiently as he was. By the end of the second song drummer Rich Samis looked totally spent yet he seemed to play faster and with more energy the longer they played. His krautrock precision was essential to grounding the sonic malaise that was churning and exploding around him.

Turn It Around was aired early and sounded as anthemic as its recorded version while the addition of harmonica on a couple of tracks and the airing of Candy with its Dylan playing with The Clean vibe, showed they are partial to some country rock that bizarrely didn’t sound at all out of place amid the frantic punk and psych rock sound of most of their set. The physicality and exuberance of The Men had that ‘leave nothing behind’ feel and as a result felt like you were hearing and watching a band that believed in themselves and their music 100% and played right to their limits. It was visceral music and mid week in a humid concrete basement in Sydney felt like the perfect location to be pummeled by the sound of The Men.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

LIVE REVIEW: Jack Colwell & The Owls, Brendan Maclean, Packwood @ Goodgod (07/06/12)

by C. Familton

Goodgod may not have been host to such fragile music as was on display from Packwood. Featuring Bayden Packwood Hine on banjo/vocals and some wonderful violin and cello accompaniment the trio silenced the small crowd with a handful of songs from Packwood’s debut EP. Space was the key to their appeal and generous helpings of it were used to accentuate what was played between the silence. You hung on individual banjo plucks and zoomed in on Hine’s confident and colourful folk vocal. Bats was a playful lyrical dance with his instrument while Charlotte highlighted Hine’s darker material.

Brendan Maclean (also a member of The Owls) gleefully showed off his new orange tracksuit which was decidedly at odds with his music but definitely not his personality. He had a way of delivering a devastating and emotional song and then flicking the switch to a light hearted story of seeing Dolly Parton in concert. Maclean’s music sits in the same vicinity as the baroque pop of Rufus Wainwright and Patrick Watson. His keyboard and ukelele (which he named Murphy Brown) playing was a key part of his set, casting the songs in quite a different light to his denser band sound on record and shifting the focus to his swooning voice and its wonderful melodic turns.

Jack Colwell & The Owls were celebrating the release of their debut album Picture Window and though the venue was far from full the enthusiasm of those present easily filled the room. Colwell is a classically trained musician who now operates in the world of indie chamber pop with his dramatic, ornate and textured songs. Flutes and recorders appear through the set to colour the songs and the dynamics and composition of them were handled near perfectly by The Owls. Colwell pushed his vocals hard and though an occasional easing of intensity would have been welcomed it worked well to amplify the emotive content of the songs. His quieter moments were reminiscent of Antony & The Johnsons though his voice is a deeper, more masculine instrument. There was certainly a fascinating range to Colwell’s set with the fun upbeat singalong of Captains Melody and the brilliantly dark and sordid Banquet complete with Nick Cave styled pelvic thrusts and floor writhing. Colwell is still somewhat of a hidden gem on the local scene, though that may well be about to change.

this review was first published in Drum Media