Sydney band The Holy Soul are back with ‘747’, the new single from their forthcoming Robyn Hitchcock-produced LP Get Old! Coming six years after their superb album Fortean Times, the track has a heavy psych garage feel with a bassline that lurches and rumbles with melody and menace in the verses before the song blossoms out of the shadows into a damn sweet descending, jangly chorus.
Guitars, amps, effects pedals and volume were the order of the night for Swervedriver’s return to Australian shores. Local rock ’n’ roll fringe dwellers The Holy Soul were the best of the support acts with a raw, brittle and at times brilliantly inventive set. They showed once more why they are the city’s best kept secret with their fusion of Pere Ubu, Television, The Gun Club and Can.
Grinding Eyes look like a band who worship at the altar of BRMC, The Cult, The Black Angels etc. With a psychedelic video backdrop and plenty of dry ice they hit some compelling rhythmic grooves but it all felt too much like style over substance in terms of their songs. A band to watch nonetheless.
Sounds Like Sunset, like The Holy Soul, are inner west live perennials and their short set showcased their five-piece wall of sound approach. High volume gave their songs an eye of the hurricane feel with Dave Challinor’s sleepy, melodic vocals drifting above the thunderous squalls and providing the perfect segue to the headliner.
Swervedriver have managed the transition from reunited touring act to a fully functioning band with the release of last year’s IWasn’t Born To Lose You. Opening with Autodidact, that album’s first track, they immediately showed that the newer songs have earned the right to sit amongst such iconic songs as Rave Down, Son Of Mustang Ford and Last Train To Satansville. The band, featuring their newest recruit in bassist Mickey Quinn (Supergrass), included half of their most recent album and though the songs were more nuanced and less visceral than the band’s 90s output and the attention of the audience ebbed and flowed through the night, they showed they still possess the key elements of their sound – inventiveness and propulsion. Adam Franklin remains a man of few words though he did make a joke at the expense of “the worst fucking band” Guns N Roses and made a sly and topical reference to their homeland as an insular island nation. This was their best Sydney show of their three since 2011.
Taken from their excellent new LP Fortean Times, here’s the video clip for The Holy Soul’s single ‘There’s A Hair On The Soap’. Filmed in a shower, it’s a disconcerting concoction of hair, noodles, painted toenails, blood and grinding guitars.
The Holy Soul have been a constant on the Sydney independent music scene for over a decade with their own releases, countless gigs and collaborations with the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Damo Suzuki (Can) and David Thomas (Pere Ubu). They should be recognised as heroes of the underground, indeed in many circles they are. This album reinforces and enhances that reputation.
The Gareth Liddiard-produced Fortean Times is their finest and widest-ranging work to date covering all corners of avant-rock; from the effervescent should-be-a-hit opener Family Magician through the churning menace of There’s A Hair On The Soap to the paint peeling guitar wig-out of Alone Party. It’s as if they’ve cherry picked the best corners of indie and alternative music, fed it into the Holy Soul musical blender and then distilled it into these dozen songs. A clear sum of their parts, the band is built on the rhythm section of Sam Worrad (bass) and Kate Wilson (drums) who can swing and hypnotise as effectively as they can pummel and disorientate. Lives Of The Loons and History Part II are prime examples as they nail punk propulsion and MC5-styled tumble respectively. Jon Hunter and Trent Marden’s guitars add a sonic scree that screams both classic garage rock and the explorations of bands like Sonic Youth while Marden dispatches both observational and fantastical lyricist carefully chosen moments.
The versatility and restless experimentation on show here ensures their status as one of Australia’s most inventive (and wholly accessible) rock bands.
Emma Swift’s opening set and one of her last in Australia for the foreseeable future was a stark contrast to what was to follow. In a slowly filling room she kept the audience enthralled in eerie silence as she played songs from her debut mini-album plus a cover of Gram Parsons’ Brass Buttons. Over 30 minutes she sang sad songs of heartache with that voice that mainlines heavy emotion before concluding with a devastating take on Rowland S. Howard’s Shivers, transforming it into a wholly believable personal torch-song.
Robyn Hitchcock has been immersing himself in the culture of Sydney’s inner west in recent times and hooking up with local group The Holy Soul proved to be a masterstroke. Bringing just the right amount of virtuosity and grit to the music ensured the songs never sounded like covers. It’d be hard to find a more appropriate band to tackle the pop, rock and psychedelic shapes of Hitchcock’s music. The man of many colourful shirts went with the classic polka dot design and took us on a trip through his musical back-lot, from the Soft Boys to The Egyptians, solo tracks and onto The Venus 3. The common thread to all the songs was Hitchcock’s uniquely English voice – that pitched accent reminiscent of Bowie, Syd Barrett and Bolan – and the way he weaves surreal and eccentric lyrics into eminently catchy songs. The Soft Boys’ Kingdom Of Love was a tumbling collision of riffs and melodies over a glam groove, Full Moon In My Soul was one of the more beautiful and tender moments and Adventure Rocketship was pure power-pop interstellar adventure. Swift returned to duet on a couple of songs including a captivating Nietzsche’s Way before The Holy Soul rounded out a night of music that respectfully celebrated the music of one of music’s great underground geniuses.
This was my second album release gig in the last 6 days, the previous one being The Scare show at The Annandale. Both were hugely celebratory affairs that highlighted both the pride the bands have in their efforts and the high level of support they have from fans, friends and family. Sydney crowds are often accused of passive reactions to live rock n roll shows but these two events showed that the passion is out there and they aren’t afraid to show it.
The Maladies had a strong support line-up with The Holy Soul, The Disbelievers and Jamie Hutchings & His Imaginary Choir providing some lovely contrasting moments in the build up to the headliners.
The Holy Soul have a recently released album and up first to a sparse audience they were relaxed and playful with their swamp rock songs that swung and battered in equal amounts.
The Disbelievers were a much more stylised beast. Clad in sunglasses, Cult-era haircuts and and slacker pouts they dished up a sound akin to The Black Lips, albeit with a more psych and rockabilly edge. The singer has a voice that is the real deal and the guitarist played some demonically wired riffs and solos.
Jamie Hutchings is about to take His Imaginary Choir to Europe for some shows but first he completed his role as the Maladies album producer by warming up the crowd with a selection of songs from his 2009 album. His band has developed into a much more relaxed unit, the nervous exchanged looks and tentativeness has been replaced by confidence and as a result the songs have an added swing and drive, especially on Flamethrower and Treasure Trove.
The Maladies have earned their stripes on the Sydney and Australian touring circuit for a few years now and it has culminated in the release of their clumsily titled debut With You Right By My Side, Baby The Deal Just Can’t Go Down. Rapturous screams and applause greeted the be-suited band as they took the stage and pretty much played everything from the new record.
Augmented by a horn section and backing singers the OAF stage was a tad crowded with at times 10 people all contributing to the gospel infused blues rock that The Maladies do so well. All are masters of their instruments with Daniel Babekuhl’s hands a blur of frenetic fretwork, Michael Sullings’ rock solid bass playing and Josh Harvey’s tight and taut drumming.
The star of the show though was singer/guitarist Daniele Marando who possesses a truly spine-tingling voice. He can shift from a sweet soul croon on the beautiful Silo to a fire and brimstone howl in a nano second and on songs like Take Me Down the effect is electrifying. Marando’s eyes rolled back and he testified with his whole body twitching and lurching as if he was purging demons in a voodoo ritual.
The gang backing vocals are a strong feature of The Maladies and they are chanted like a prison chain gang providing many opportunities for the crowd to howl along to lines like “Gonna work all day and I ain’t gonna tire” on This Wood & This Wire.
It was impressive to see a band with one album under their belt play a full set with no hint of filler. The songs were swept along by the fantastic playing and the exultant emotion in the songs courtesy of Marando’s exceptional voice. The Maladies showed they are yet another chapter in the history of a particular brand of Australian music that has spawned Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, The Saints, Beasts of Bourbon and The Scientists.
The Mess Hall have had an extended break from live shows to record their new album For The Birds (out next month) so their show at the intimate Oxford Art Factory was a great opportunity to check out some of the new songs and see where the band is heading.
Daisy Tully opened the night to a sparse early crowed and showed her talents extend beyond playing violin for Bridezilla. As the Oxford Art Factory began to swell in numbers The Holy Soul took to the stage to warm up the crowd with their swampy blues rock.
The Holy Soul have slowly developed their sound into quite an intoxicating beast. They forgo intensity and bombast for a wider spectrum of sound and emotion. The laid back demeanour and smiles between band members shows they enjoy playing their howling garage rock that ranges from accordion tinged stumbles through the undergrowth to soulful incantations like Working On My Soul. Drummer Kate Wilson (also of The Laurels) provides a fine backbone to their headier songs like The River where they show they can keep pace with the likes of The Drones and The Bad Seeds.
The Mess Hall have always been an interesting proposition – how to sustain interest and build enough range into your songs with just guitar, drums and vocals – sure there are many other bands doing the same thing (Black Keys, White Stripes, No Age) but The Mess Hall have progressively shown they are willing to dabble in other textures like disco rhythms and exploring the flexible voice of Jed Kurzel.
Tonight was a chance to blow out the cobwebs with some of the favourites like Keep Walking and Pills and also road test the new tracks. The new songs in particular showed a nice progression into some great grooves and rhythms, incorporating some loops and utilising some different guitar sounds. There were no great detours from the essence of The Mess Hall but they showed that they could well have another great album up their sleeves with For The Birds. First single Bell in particular took on a Beck feel with its late night humid stoner groove – all swirling and sexy with its shuffling back beat.
Often bands debuting new material are met with a neutral crowd response but the OAF punters were kicking up their heels on a friday night and allowed themselves to be swept along on the riffs and Cec Condon’s sharp and sparse drumming. Surprisingly though, the crowd were fairly passive in their appreciation at the end of the main set and when the duo returned they only offered one last song (instead of the planned three) in response to the lacklustre call for an encore. Condon labelled the effort ‘fucking pathetic’ with a cheeky grin; a sign that they expect as much from the audience as they put into their music on stage.