FILM REVIEW: Once More With Feeling

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Music documentaries often follow one of a few common narratives, whether documenting the rise (and often) fall of a band or musician, or following the making of an album or tour. Once More With Feeling fills a couple of different roles in that it acts as a preview and scene-setter for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ new album Skeleton Tree, released the day after the worldwide screening of the film, as well as a raw and intimate insight into negotiating the cycles of grief and how real-life tragedy can inform creativity.

Filmed on exquisite black and white (and in 3D), Andrew Dominik takes a layered approach of performance, voiceover, evocative and inventive establishing shots and straight interview footage. The result is a documentary of a documentary. He’s produced a film that looks magnificent and most importantly, conveys the range of emotion when Cave’s family unit is fractured by the accidental death of his son Arthur who fell from a cliff in 2015. Cave is confused and frustrated, seesawing between self-doubt and resilience while he and wife Susie immerse themselves in their work as one way of dealing with the trauma.

Warren Ellis is portrayed as a loyal and steadfast friend and musical partner and there is a strong sense that their music – and the physical process of making it – is a critical way forward, a beacon through the darkness. Cave comes out of the film as an utterly human figure, creatively paralysed by his loss but knowing that the music and his family are also his saving grace.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Loin Des Hommes

Rating7nick_cave_warren_ellis_loin_des_hommes_ostBad Seeds co-conspirators Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have created a haunting score to the film Loin Des Hommes, a French film adaptation of Albert Camus’ short story The Guest by director David Olehoffen. Experienced in isolation, without the film to provide the creative scenery, the soundtrack works as a tension-filled, primarily instrumental collection of pieces that use piano, violin, droning tones and some electronica to form a feeling of both beauty and dread. The pair have been composing soundtracks for over a decade now and over that time they’ve developed a unique style of dark and drifting moods and experimental otherworldliness that continues here.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

TOUR NEWS: Nick Cave announces solo 2014 Australia & New Zealand Tour

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Nick Cave has today announced he’ll be heading back to Australia and New Zealand in November and December for a run of solo theatre shows backed by a small ensemble of musicians. Cave has been quoted as saying “The aim is to try to create a unique show for Australia – something special and out of the ordinary.”

Tour Dates

November 27 & 28 – Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth

November 30 – Festival Theatre, Adelaide

December 3 – Brisbane Convention Centre, Brisbane

December 4 – Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre, Gold Coast

December 6 & 7 – Civic Theatre, Auckland

December 8 & 9 – St James Theatre, Wellington

December 11 & 12 – State Theatre Sydney

December 16 – Plenary, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Melbourne

Tickets on sale 3rd July , All tickets and information: www.nickcave.com

ALBUM REVIEW: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds | Live From KCRW

Rating8.5square-600This is Cave and cohorts fourth live album, capturing them at in interesting junction in their career with Grinderman running its course, Push The Sky Away being the first album to not include founding member Mick Harvey and unlike some of its more varied predecessors it is for the most part considered and restrained in its delivery. Live from KCRW continues that mood, even when it includes seminal Bad Seeds tracks like Mercy Seat, here stripped of its bombast and imbued with creeping dread and angst. Remarkably the intensity remains just as gripping, with added ache and sorrow courtesy primarily of Warren Ellis’ violin.

All four of the Push The Sky Away songs are the real highlights of the set. Higgs Boson Blues sets the scene with nine minutes of funereal, pulsing gothic blues, laced with line after line of Cave’s finest lyrics. Wide Lovely Eyes sticks closely to the album version with its gospel feel and rhythmic industrial chug while Mermaids is a warmer and improved rendition with the addition of a magical distortion-drenched guitar solo rumbling and groaning through the latter sections.

Not everything works as well as the most recent songs with And No More Shall We Part sounding forced and not quite in the band’s grasp. The session winds up with a comical introduction to Jack The Ripper, the band hamming it up teaching pianist Cave the chords before he commands Jim Sclavunos to “hammer it Jim” and the the sonic bar brawl of a song kicks into life. As live albums go this sounds fantastic and it feels like a celebration of the rarefied air the band are currently working in.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

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FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2013

DS 2013 faves

2013 was a pretty strong year for music. From the established artists hitting their late-period straps to newcomers breathing new life into old forms, it felt like a year where a whole range of styles rose to the top.

There were plenty of surprises with new albums appearing out of the blue from Bowie and MBV and also irritating marketing campaigns that felt like they were bleeding their albums dry before they were even released. I’m looking at you Daft Punk and Arcade Fire.

As usual here at DS we kept our ears closely tuned into what was going on in Australia and New Zealand with both countries producing a wealth of great albums. Records from this part of the world make up 40% of our favourite records in 2013. Let us know what seduced and moved you this year and let’s do it all again in 2014.

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1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

A record that perfectly blends rich narrative and darkly cinematic sonic backdrops. One of Cave’s finest works and the moment where his and Warren Ellis’ musical collaboration becomes fully realised.

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2. Bill Callahan – Dream River

On his exceptional new album, Bill Callahan (formerly Smog) has recorded his most peaceful and meditative set of songs. There is a bucolic, contemplative feel to the eight songs on offer as they weave across percussive landscapes, led by flutes and hypnotic guitars. Sonically the album is rooted in pastoral folk, much of it soaked in dub-heavy reverb and delay. The focus though is firmly on Callahan’s voice, high and focused in the mix as he delivers typically brilliant lines like “All I want to do is make love to you in the fertile dirt with a careless mind”.

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3. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Vile has gone from strength to strength with each album and this is his finest yet. Finely tuned hazily motorik songs that sit in the pocket and keep drawing you in deeper and deeper with each listen.

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4. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Isbell’s coming of age as a songwriter, though not that he was in any way a slouch in that department prior to Southeastern. He doesn’t waste a word, he builds phrases with economy and poetic grace while encasing them in that rich southern drawl.

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5. Houndmouth – From The Hills Below The City

This was a real surprise record that came out of nowhere for me. It was recommended by a fellow Americana fan and reminded me of the best of what the Felice Brothers do when they blend irresistible melodies with sharp yet not overly polished harmonies and an instrumental mix of country and folk.

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6. Bryan Estepa – Heart vs Mind

A relatively unsung hero amongst Australian songwriters and possessing an angelic voice, Estepa embraced his inner pop and rock obsessions to craft this record that pulls influences from The Jayhawks to Hall & Oates. This is a superb album that excels in effortless, meticulous and timeless songwriting.

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7. Bad/Dreems – Badlands EP

Mix small town pessimism, youthful optimism, suburban nihilism and a lo-fi aesthetic and you have some of the ingredients that make the essential sound of Bad//Dreems. Badlands is another crucial addition to the canon of classic and quintessentially Australian releases.

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8. Wooden Shjips – Back To Land

This is the Shjips doing mainly what they always do, locking into psych drone grooves and riding them into the sunset and/or sunrise. Repetition is the key. They’ve let more light into this one and it opens up their sound into some new areas, rewardingly so.

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9. Ducktails – The Flower Lane

The solo project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, this is an album built on 80s dream pop with sax solos and warm glowing melodies. Easily the best in show for this kind of music.

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10. Kirin J Callinan – Embracism

The agent provocateur of Australian art rock realises his ambition with this wide-ranging album that blends dissonance and a healthy pop heart. Victoria M is one of Embracism’s high points, tempering the intensity with gorgeous, swelling piano and bittersweet baroque pop in the vein of Suede. Elsewhere we get Callinan channeling David Sylvian on Scraps, Bowie on the schizophrenic Chardonnay Sean and Suicide on Way II War. Debut album of the year.

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11. Popstrangers – Antipodes

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12. Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

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13. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Ready For Boredom

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14. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas

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15. The Drones – I See Seaweed

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16. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

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17. Vista Chino – Peace

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18. Civil Civic – Rules

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19. Basko Believes- Melancholic Melodies

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20. Sharpie Crows – 12 Omeros

21. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In 

22. Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost

23. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

25. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

26. Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – Mark Kozelek & Desertshore

27. Daughn Gibson – Me Moan

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango

29. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas

30. Mark Moldre – An Ear To The Earth

31. Anna Calvi – One Breath

32 .Matthew E. White – Big Inner

33. Califone – Stitches

34. The Haxan Cloak – Extinction

35. DJ Koze – Amygdala

36. Zomby – With Love 

37. Jen Cloher – In Blood Memory

38. Savages – Silence Yourself 

39. Forest Swords – Engravings

40. The Necks – Open

DS Favourite Songs of 2013

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It’s always a mighty challenge to narrow down all the songs you’ve heard in one year and slot them into order on a nice tidy list of 20. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful of gems but these are all songs that have either captured my imagination, feet, ears or all of the above and made me think “damn that is a great song”.

1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

3. Houndmouth – Penitentiary

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

5. Bad//Dreems – Caroline

6. Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

7. Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

8. Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

9. Ducktails – Under Cover

10. TV Colours – Beverly

11. Popstrangers – Heaven

12. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

13. Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

14. Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

15. Bill Callahan – Small Plane

16. Neko Case – Night Still Comes

17. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

18. Arcade Fire – We Exist

19. Suede – Barriers

20. Depeche Mode – Heaven

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

Houndmouth – Penitentiary

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

Bad//Dreems – Caroline

Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

Ducktails – Under Cover

TV Colours – Beverly

Popstrangers – Heaven

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

Suede – Barriers

Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

Bill Callahan – Small Plane

Neko Case – Night Still Comes

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Arcade Fire – We Exist

Depeche Mode – Heaven

LIVE REVIEW: Grinderman @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 28/01/11

written by Chris Familton

When Nick Cave took a couple of his Bad Seeds and gave birth to Grinderman a few years ago there were suspicions that the side project would be a fleeting affair, a stroppy regression to Birthday Party-esque guttural blues and lascivious shock value. That was the sense the album, videos and artwork gave and though Cave stressed it was a project that he held in the highest regard, he couldn’t shake the notion of a brief diversion.

With album #2 proving that Messrs. Cave, Ellis, Sclavunos and Casey had both refined and expanded the Grinderman blueprint, their Australian tour, in conjunction with the Big Day Out, sold out in quick time showing that the fans were more than ready to follow the band’s vision.

In support at the Enmore was a solo Ed Kuepper – also a recent touring member of The Bad Seeds – who played an impressive set of epic guitar pieces with vocals thrown in here and there. In the venue’s open spaces his guitar sounded gargantuan and at times reminiscent of Neil Young’s widescreen sound with Crazy Horse. Not content to just create mood Kuepper also showed he has a fine handle on vocal melody with his dusty voice.

Moments before Grinderman swaggered on-stage the curtain behind the instruments dropped to reveal the true backdrop – a glittering silver-draped wall and lighting racks. Ellis, Casey and Sclavunos took their places first and eased into the opening chords of ‘Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man’ before the unmissable stick figure of Cave strode out with bristling intent. By the end of that first song you knew this gig was going to be special, Cave had ripped his jacket from his back, clambered onto the heads of the first row and let rip guttural screams between the unsettling chants of “he sucked her and he sucked her and he sucked her dry”. The tension they built in the verses was palpable and when they hit the chorus it was like a Krautrock glam-boogie explosion.

From there on they veered between tracks from both albums. ‘Worm Tamer’’s chorus of “for too long” was the first glimpse of the vocal role that Ellis would play alongside his myriad of other string and percussion instruments. He was the mad gypsy hatter to Cave’s hell-bound preacher and his comical high kicks and freak-out thrashing on the floor was the perfect foil to his frontman’s stage command. During ‘Evil’ he was seated facing across the stage, arms held high, screaming into the mic like he was undergoing some kind of self-exorcism.

Just as the adrenalin was in full flow mode and you thought they’d bring it down they hit the crowd with the gonzo rock of ‘Get It On’ and the pelvic thrust of ‘Heathen Child’, two songs that have different elements of sleaze at work. Of course they couldn’t sustain the intensity and showed they could work dark mood and crawling intent to the same effect. ‘When My Baby Comes’ was all swirling psych yearning while ‘Bellringer Blues’ with its almost classic rock chorus, chugged along at a perfect mid-pace later in the set.

The highlight of the show was an extended ‘Kitchenette’ with Cave at his most comical and at the same time unhinged. He took the slow grind of the album version and exploded the characters into manic technicolor by serenading sweetly into the up-close faces of the front row before unleashing banshee screams down their throats. His “tippy toe, tippy toe” line was woven and interjected throughout the song and his accompanying dance was downright hilarious. ‘Kitchenette’ summed up Cave’s twin sides of sick preacher and sombre balladeer and it was a revelation of a performance.

Returning for an encore that included the infectious ‘Palaces Of Montezuma’, the Bad Seeds-sounding ‘Man In The Moon’ and the MC5 via Television rama-lama of ‘Love Bomb’, the band concluded with their theme tune of sorts – ‘Grinderman’. The song, with its funereal voodoo drone and haunting mood, was a perfect way to bring the last 90 minutes back to earth. In terms of live performances it’ll be impressive if anyone this year can beat the conviction and intensity that Grinderman brought to the stage. They were all that live music should be – visceral, emotional and transportive.

Chris Familton