LIVE REVIEW: PIXIES @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 07.03.17

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Returning for their fourth post-reunion Australian tour, Pixies have a new weapon in their arsenal in the form of last year’s album Head Carrier which saw a balanced return to their classic sound with fresh songwriting and a renewed edge.

In support, The Murlocs fulfilled their obligations but a 40 minute opening slot of mid-paced bluesy garage-rock fell flat ahead of the headliners dynamic onslaught. The end of their set was more interesting with a fuller sound courtesy of frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith adding a second guitar but it was too little too late.

Pixies’ defining approach to their current live show is one of economy. With four stick clicks they were straight into Gouge Away from their seminal Doolittle album and from then on there were zero words spoken to the audience, little interplay between band members and just song after song in rapid-fire procession with nary a lull between songs, bar a few guitar changes. The breadth of their catalogue was on full display as they roared through new songs from Head CarrierUm Chagga Lagga and Frank Black’s blistering throat shredder Baal’s Back particular highlights and easily the equal of the band’s older songs.

Four figures, all clad in black and fairly static in their movements, were like an immoveable core in the eye of a storm as strobe lights, smoke and the music created the shapes and sounds around them. Joey Santiago’s guitar was urgent, dissonant and cut through more than ever while drummer David Lovering led from the back, the heartbeat and conductor of the band. Paz Lenchantin is well and truly bedded in as a key member of Pixies 2.0, exuding both confidence and deference to the songs.

Here Comes Your Man, Gigantic, Bone Machine and La La Love You were glaring omissions from the setlist but it was hard to complain on the back of 30-odd songs that demonstrated what a gloriously weird and obtuse band Pixies are. Instilling a mass sing-along to Monkey Gone to Heaven, Where Is My Mind? and Hey and then realigning synapses with the 30 year old frantic dash of Isla de Encanta, the manic schizo-gallop of Vamos and the fractured surf-thrash of Broken Face. Disappearing in a wall of noise, smoke and white light, Pixies remain the perfect example of a re-formed band still creatively alive, committed to their songs and audience.

Chris Familton

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

NEW MUSIC: The Murlocs | Rattle The Chain

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I caught these guys playing at the Nuggets event at the Sydney Town Hall during the Sydney Festival earlier this year and I was damn impressed with The Murlocs’ bluesy take on garage rock. It was white hot, ramshackle RnB soaked rock n roll and they seem to have bottled some of the essence of that sound on their new single Rattle The Chain. It comes from their debut LP coming later in 2013.

Single release shows:

Melbourne / The Northcote Social Club / Saturday May 25. With Special Guests Hollow Everdaze, The Kremlings

Sydney / The Velvet Cave / Friday May 31.

Geelong / The Barwon Club / Friday June 7

LIVE REVIEW: Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations @ Paradiso at Town Hall (25/01/13)

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by Chris Familton

In a rare use of the Sydney Town Hall for rock n roll, Sydney Festival honoured both the original and seminal 1972 Nuggets 60s garage rock compilation and its recent Australian tribute Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era. The night was a chance for six of those bands to play short sets that gave a snapshot of their own Nuggets-spirited sound. It would have been amazing to see the hall packed to capacity, heaving to paint-peeling psych garage rock but though the crowd wasn’t disappointing it was still far from capacity.

The trio Bloods christened the stage with an endearing mix of enthusiastic and pop-leaning primitive rock. Though their cover of Farmer John wasn’t a touch on the original their other songs showed they can write catchy hooks. A band was needed to embody the spirit of ‘kicking against the pricks’ rock n roll attitude and The Gooch Palms were the ones to do it. The drums/guitar pair have their Cramps /Iggy schtick perfected and were only one song in when singer Leroy dropped his gold hotpants to reveal all before turning and proudly spreading his cheeks to the crowd. For all the aping and shock value they backed it up with some excellent primal theremin swamp rock that also drew from 50s rock n roll and doo-wop. Step-Panther took a few songs to get into their groove but they showed their are continuing to evolve, dropping some of their ADD song structures and making use of Steve Bourke’s great guitar playing. Melbourne representatives The Murlocs and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard felt like a double act – sharing members, sounding like authentic 60s garage rock outcasts and providing the peak of the events offerings. The Murlocs have a blues streak, complete with harmonica while King Gizzard threw in rnb basslines amid a ramshackle punk dive vibe. The sound of the venue best suited these acts with their white-hot treble sonics and while it was decidedly average overall, if any type of music was going to make the most of the acoustics it was this bunch. The Laurels always deliver but here they sounded out of place, their songs felt like lumbering, epic space rock, lacking the knife edge sound of the other acts. It was left to hometown heroes Straight Arrows to put the exclamation mark on the night and they staggered and lurched through a set of new and old tunes that concluded with a volley of toilet rolls into the audience.

The venue was oversized for this type of music but Nuggets was still fun, primarily due to the spirit of the audience and the bands. Hopefully the organisers take note and build on this foray into underground local music for future arts festivals.

this review was first published in Drum Media / The Music