LIVE REVIEW: The Smiths Tribute @ Factory Theatre (24/09/16)

The Salford Lads feat. Christine Jane

Covering another artist can be either be an exercise in slavish re-creation of their music, an attempt to replicate it as accurately as possible, or an insightful reinterpretation of their songs, adding a new shade, a new flavour to the music. This night was a tribute to The Smiths, in honour of the 30th anniversary of the band’s album The Queen Is Dead and we got both those approaches with differing results.

img_7019Early on Panic Syndrome added a goth-rock sense of drama with ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ being a standout in their set. It highlighted the scope of The Smiths catalogue from rockist anthems such as this, right through to the introspective and moodier moments that would follow. Another band that played it pretty close to the chest but with a real sense of energy and enthusiasm were Mr Blonde. They perhaps best nailed the celebratory aspect of the night.

JMS Harrison and Cabin Inn took the atmospheric approach with an extended keyboard intro of ‘Oscillate Wildly’ and Harrison nailing the lonesome melancholy of ‘Asleep’, one of the highlights of the evening. Sonically they worked interesting textures into the songs, putting their own stamp on the music.

The Maladies tackled one of The Smiths’ most famous songs in ‘This Charming Man’ with Dan Marando putting his devilish and theatrical take on the song, adding intensity and tension to it. That was ratcheted up a notch with ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan’ before they introduced Lisa Caruso who transformed ‘I Know It’s Over’ into a beautiful and sultry Mazzy Star-styled torch-song , dialling into the core of Morrissey’s swooning and tragic romanticism.

It was up to The Salford Lads (feat. members of Charlie Horse, Died Pretty and Panic Syndrome) who provided excellent backing for singers Christine Jane and The Church’s Steve Kilbey. Opening with instrumental ‘The Draize Train’ they proved immediately that they had a handle on the taut rock and groove-based elements of The Smiths’ sound. Jane showed she knows how to work an audience, urging participation and bridging the gap between stage and audience, something that most other acts didn’t really do. Vocally she was a bit hit and miss, enthusiasm trumping her service to the songs as she sang ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘Boy With A Thorn In His Side’.

img_7018From then on the night took a turn into the weird and awkward world of Steve Kilbey and his mix of interpretive dance, yoga poses and stage messiah gesturing. It was as if he was in a rush to get it all out, missing lines, singing wrong lyrics, sacrificing singing for unbridled emotive vocal outpourings. It felt like a pending train-wreck and it was only the well-oiled band that kept their set on the tracks. ‘The Queen Is Dead’, b-side ‘Jeane’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ were given widescreen guitar heavy treatment yet Kilbey went for the grandiose when he needed restraint and spent far too much time on cardio vs audio. The audience visibly thinned during the closing set and were left with a single encore of, bizarrely, a cover of the only non-Smiths song for the night – Gloria.

In all there were some fine performances with only the end of night detracting from the overall success of the evening. Perhaps next time one house band with guest players and singers may have better suited the tribute format.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: The Maladies – Something About Your Girlfriend

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The Maladies are back! Well, they’ve been back gigging for the last year or so but this is the first new release since the Sydney group’s fine debut album With You Right By My Side, Baby The Deal Just Can’t Go Down came out in 2009. With a new album on the horizon, Something About Your Girlfriend previews their new sound – updating and expanding their swampy gothic blues vibe with a modern sheen, strafing twin guitars and Daniele Marando’s dramatic, hyper-expressive vocals complete with hiccups and falsetto reaches.

See below for their Something About Your Girlfriend mini tour dates.


ALBUM REVIEW: THE MALADIES – With You Right By My Side, Baby The Deal Just Can’t Go Down

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Reviewed for FasterLouder

Sydney’s The Maladies have been playing together for a few years now,  taking their time getting around to recording an album. That has worked in the listener’s favour as the clumsily titled With You Right By My Side… is 40 minutes of consistently brilliant songwriting, lively playing and the exceptional voice of Daniele Marando.

The thing that hits you straight away is the big warm sound and production courtesy of Jamie Hutchings. He has nailed the mood and controlled chaos of their live show and at the same time allowed the songs to flex and breathe. There is a tumbling feeling through many of The Maladies songs that conjures up images of danger, darkness, wracked souls and dances with the devil.

Continuing the southern gothic streak that Nick Cave has trademarked, The Maladies tell stories of lost love and life’s trials and tribulations. Their swampy blues incorporates chain gang vocals on This Wood & This Wire, Take Me Down and I Feel So Fine. All three songs are so infectious I’ve woken the next day still humming and singing their echoing refrains.

The immediate star of the show is singer Daniele Marando who truly possesses one of the most life affirming voices I’ve heard in a long time. His ability to switch from a delicate and sweet croon to an aching and tortured wail of a scream is spine tingling. When he sings ‘I feel so, feel so, feel so fine…’ it is as if he testifying to save his soul. So many singers these days can harness similar elements but Marando’s range and conviction are compelling.

Marando’s singing is like a much more realized and gospel-ized Finn Andrew of The Veils. It also has the warm falsetto of Roy Orbison as well as a sweet, sweet country croon that he uses beautifully on a cover of Don Walker’s Silo.

The rest of The Maladies are crucial components to their intoxicating sound. They know when to play with passion over technique and when to play with sensitivity restraint. Drummer Josh Harvey uses more than his standard kit to build clatter and harsh percussive sounds into the music while Daniel Babekuhl plays with a diversity that shows a strong knowledge of different guitar styles and emotions.

With You By My Side… isn’t all doom and gloom, the final track You And Your New Tattoo… is a fun waltz-like shuffle sounding like a Greek gathering in the back room of a bar, possibly a tip of the hat to some of the members cultural heritage.

The Maladies have produced the strongest possible renderings of their songs and captured what makes them such a great live band. Hard to believe it is their debut, it confirms them as undeniable talents on the local scene with a sound that will also transfer well to international audiences. Listen and you will be singing along to one of the best Australian debut albums of 2009.



REVIEW: THE MALADIES @ OAF, Sydney (05/11/09)

The Maladies | photo by Chris Familton

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 host of the evening’s entertainment was the prolific Jamie Hutchings and his Imaginary Choir who form the bulk of the current musicians behind Hutchings’ solo work.  As the heart and soul of Bluebottle Kiss he has released 6 albums, all of a consistently high standard, plus numerous EPs and singles.  His first solo record, The Golden Coach, received positive reviews and showcased the less intense side of his songwriting.  Its follow-up, His Imaginary Choir, is due for release early in 2009.

In support were Mark Moldre, The Shipwrecked, The Maladies and Loene Carmen.  The Maladies are a raucous bunch delivering swinging gothic blues with conviction who seem to get better each time I see them.  Loene Carmen continues to deliver her sultry Americana tales of love won and lost.  Her success is how she marries loose and ragged guitars with her cooing vocals to conjure up that dark hazy atmosphere.

A Sunday night at the Annandale is always a nice way to prolong the weekend and postpone thoughts of Monday morning and Hutchings brought a family feel to the evening with his sister Sophie on keys and backing vocals, wife Erin also on backing vocals plus brother Scott on drums.  The setlist showcased a range of tracks from the upcoming His Imaginary Choir and 2002’s The Golden Coach as well as the tour only EP After The Flood.

The sound of Hutchings solo work is not a million miles from Bluebottle Kiss but the key difference lies in the tonality of the songs and their structure.  Absent is the dissonance and note bending swagger of BBK’s live shows and replacing it is a more steady and measured approach.  Sophie’s keys in particular lent a delicate touch and her vocal harmonies with Erin Hutchings really did work well both with and against Jamie’s earthier voice.

New songs such as ‘Flame Thrower’ and ‘I’m Going To Have To Ask You To Leave’ highlight his sombre melodic sensibilities which have always been one of the strongest assets to his craft and can be traced from earlier songs such as ‘User Friendly’ to the newer songs he played.

As the backing band, His Imaginary Choir, the musicians put on a solid performance, if a little tentative at times.  The songs themselves could easily exist and succeed as just voice and guitar in a live setting so the arrangements and their live delivery benefited from the band providing colour, light and shade to the songs, enabling them to breathe rather than suffocating their essence.

As one of Australia’s great songwriters, Hutchings continues to deliver great performances and convince us of his art.  One senses that with the release of the new solo album and more shows under their belt, the band will further settle in and develop as Hutchings’ live Imaginary Choir.