Tag Archives: Another Lost Shark Music Reviews

The Church: A Psychedelic Symphony on Music Max TV

That’s right, the day just keeps on getting better! Tonight, at 10pm (Eastern daylight savings time, so 9pm here in Brisbane), Music Max TV will screen a one hour special of The Church’s spectacular gig at The Sydney Opera House: A Psychedelic Symphony. Here’s my review of the gig, which will go down as one of the best I ever see. This my friends, is must see!!! I do believe a DVD of the show will be hitting the shelves for christmas.

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Still Psyched

Almost a week on from A Psychedelic Symphony and my brain is still firing…

From the moment George Ellis and his incredible 67 piece orchestra take the stage, the night is one of the most blissful of my life. They open with a superb arrangement of Metropolis, and as the band settle in, front of stage, the anticipation in the crowd is tangible. Kilbey whispers into the mic, there’ll never be another quite like you, the crowd burst their seams and the band surges straight into Sealine. Free of his bass, Steve has a new energy, attacking the vocal with fervour, It’s a miracle, let it alter you, and the packed house begins to give themselves over. Lost follows and the arrangement is soaring and lush and then it’s crowd favourite, Almost With You.

Three songs into the set and the bands musical prowess is shining through, the orchsetra, exploring spaces in the songs and swelling their already expansive sonic landscapes.

Anchorage and Pangaea from 2009’s, Untitled #23 are up next. Anchorage not only shows off Kilbey’s vocal depth, it also highlights his theatricality as a front man, and Pangaea has a new found sonic richness. Then we are taken back 30 years to where it all started… the slowed down, sensual throb of Unguarded Moment brings the crowd back to bursting. Kilbey’s voice is smooth and deep, Marty & Peter’s guitars interwine and Tim keeps the engine pulsing. The band then fire things up, unleashing a full-tilt version of Myrrh. The orchestra flexing their muscle as the guitars shift into overdrive…

 

Steve then hands lead vocal duties over to Peter and he delivers a superb version of Never Before, before moving to the keyboards as the band prepare to close the first set with the epic, Grind. For the first half of the song, the band adopt acoustic mode, allowing the strings to swirl and mesmerise, but as the orchestra leave the stage, Marty straps on the electric and we are left with just The Church on stage… it’s then, you remember why you are here. Marty’s solo is blistering, Kilbey is just about doing the splits, Peter’s keyboard is hauntingly beautiful, and Tim is giving his kit a delicious thrashing. The first half closes and the show has already exceeded expectation.

The second half of the show opens with the gorgeous, Happy Hunting Ground. It is a real treat to hear the orchestra make this soar. The band hit the stage again and tear through a cover of The Dave Millar Set’s classic, Mr Guy Fawkes. Then it’s the first of a string of highlights. Ripple is phenomenal tonight. Peter’s guitar work is sublime and the strings lift the chorus to dizzying heights. Reptile is up next and again it is Peter that steals the show. His guitar work toward the end of the song is nothing less than thrilling… Then we are treated to Two Places at Once, a song that has only sporadically made it into live setlists over the years. Steve and Marty trade verses, and the whole room seems to come to a stand still. It is one of the many ‘pin drop’ moments of the night. But nothing could have prepared the audience for what comes next… The Disillusionist.

Kilbey is absolutely possessed, channeling the lyric and moving like a dervish. The arrangement is epic, a wild mix of rock’n’roll, poetry and theatre. I was completely transfixed. Marty then takes lead vocal duty for Spark, which possesses a youthful energy, before the mood shifts with On Angel Street, Steve crooning some of his most personal lyrics, You should change the message on your phone/ So sad, so strange baby to hear my name/ Makes me cry when you say we’re not at home.

 

Then it’s the big one, as Steve says, the most popular Australian song of the last three million years, Under the Milky Way. And what can I say… the room is surging, every face in the room lights up. The second set closes with big rocker, Space Saviour. Tim’s drumming is frenetic, the cymbals getting more than a good workout. The crowd are on their feet, the band is waving and blowing kisses but no-one is leaving yet.

They return with Already Yesterday, followed by a shimmering version of Invisible, that also blends in The Velvet Underground’s classic, Heroin and again, allows Kilbey to really let go vocally. The crowd are on their feet for a second time, the band leave the stage, but still no-one is ready to go home.

The final act opens with Operetta. Truly, this song sounds like it was written for an orchestra. I have loved this song from the moment I heard it, but tonight’s version has a new magic. And finally, Marty’s guitar starts to rumble and the band break into wild-rocker, Tantalised. People start to pop up out of their seats and the room is shaking. The band remind us of their potency and we are all held in their spell.

The roar of the crowd is still inside me, and I imagine will be for some days to come. I have said to everyone who has asked me about the show that it’s nights like this that you live for.

Thankfully for the many that couldn’t be there, there will be a DVD release later in the year.

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Saturday Afternoon Mix Tape – The New Folk XVII

Spring is well and truly here (well in Brisbane anyway)… the still crisp air prickles the skin while  the sun gently warms; and the sky’s endless acres of blue stretch out over lush green and vibrant azalea blossoms. And that’s just the view from my front window.

Afternoon’s like this pull you softly into the arms of evening… so as you go on your way, here’s a few songs that have been spinning rapidly in my world. I think they make pretty good company.

Clogs – Last Song

Clogs are a genre-defying blend of classical music and traditional / indie folk. Circling around the collaboration between Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner from The National, Clogs create profound, otherworldly music that has the strange ability to inhabit your being long after the album has ceased. Last Song comes from their epic 2010 release,  The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton and features The National’s Matt Berninger delivering a vocal that rival’s Cohen for melancholic minimalism.

 

Doveman – Breathing Out

Thomas Bartlett is the artistic vision behind Doveman and his latest opus, The Conformist, is a creative peak of sorts. It is a lush, quietly propulsive album featuring members of The National (all of them in fact at some stage) and while the surface may seem shiny, there are great depths to explore here. Bartlett’s melodic whisper of a voice slips takes you from one hushed moment to another, seducing you with lyrics that slip unknowingly into your mind to reveal a sharper edge. ‘The darkness tells me that I’ve waited long enough…’ Indeed!

 

Peter Wolf Crier – Hard as Nails

Peter Wolf Crier’s debut album Inter-Be has a peculiar urgency about it, each song stretching beyond the limits of guitars and percussion, to create some wide-open spaces. Pisano’s vocals loop, wail and crescendo in a gorgeous mess, as Hard as Nails comes to a close. There are definitely hints of Jagjaguar labelmate Bon Iver’s haunted balladry here, but Peter Wolf Crier manage to maintain a sense of exuberance throughout… even when the lyrics descend into bleaker, more visceral places.

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The New Folk XV – Winter Sounds

This Lost Shark is moving slowly today… winter sun, lapping between my shoulder blades and the gentlest of breezes prickling my neck. Sunday’s don’t come much better, and today’s soundtrack comes courtesy of two fine Australian bands and one from the windy city of Chicago. Lose your self in these sounds… let your day find its own pace.

E-Song – Nikko

Brisbane band, Nikko have just released their much anticipated debut, The Warm Side. It is a brooding, densely crafted song cycle that seeps further into your consciousness with each listen. The band swings moodily across the nine songs, creating sonic peaks and troughs for singer/guitarist Ryan Potter to climb in and out of with his sparse lyricism. The Warm Side is a mature, intelligent debut, one that combines tension and tenderness, and leaves you with a feeling of discovery. While E-Song is not from the debut, I couldn’t resist posting this collaboration – Killing Time – with filmmaker Oliver Lofgren.

II – Fabulous Diamonds

Reverberated percussion, dubby-synths, isolated vocals, ghostly saxophone, this is the sonic terrain inhabited by Melbourne duo, Fabulous Diamonds. Their recent release II, is nothing short of hypnotic, blending extended, repetitive jams with shorter, surreal pop songs. This clip captures Fabulous Diamonds onstage creating a mesmerising soundscape that takes the boundary of pop music and unrelentingly stretches it.

Red Ants – Sonoi

Hailing from Chicago, sonoi are another band that are challenging the pop stereotype, with their warmly composed instrumentals, ambient collages and off-kilter rock. Red Ants opens their debut album and is one of the tracks that comes close to combining all of their styles. It is dreamlike in its construction, the melodic guitar line, floating keys and pulsing drum rhythms providing the perfect bed for Adam Busch’s heady vocals. Other highlights on the album are the perfectly crafted angular rock of Sherry Fall and the ambitious and album changing Anchor Tattoo.

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The New Folk XIV – Got That Mojo Workin’…

There are some great new releases ready to drop in the next couple of weeks. This Lost Shark is particularly excited about the new album from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Mojo. This is the first new album from Petty with The Heartbreakers since 2002’s The Last DJ, so there is a great deal of anticipation. Here’s a taste of what to expect as well as a couple of other songs to ease you in to your Saturday night.

I Should Have Known It – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Petty is one of those artists who is truly timeless. He has been knocking out classic songs for over three decades and has a sound that is completely his own. Back with The Heartbreakers, Petty is scintillating. The band sound (and look) energised, Mike Campbell’s is at his blinding best; the rhythm section of  Ron Blair & Steve Ferrone are air tight; Scott Thurston chugs away in the background and Benmont Tench… well, he is without a doubt, one of the best piano/keys men going around. I Should Have Known It is common territory for Petty & The Heartbreakers. Tom has written some incredible songs of rejection/lost love over the years and this is up there with his best. When Petty snarls into the mic, ‘It’s the last time you’re gonna hurt me’, rejection never sounded so good. Mojo is out on June 15.

Cocaine and Ashes – Son Volt

‘I’ve had strychnine, I thought I was dead / I snorted my father and I’m still alive / I did it because that’s how it’s done / I’m the same as everyone, just kinda lucky’

So starts Cocaine and Ashes, the opening track from Son Volt’s forthcoming album, American Central Dust. The song pays homage to ‘the human riff’, Keith Richards, who once claimed to have snorted his father’s ashes (later denying it). The sound here is sleepy, at times desperate… Gone are the more raucous guitar sounds of Farrar’s previous band, Uncle Tupelo, but found is the graceful playing of newcomer Mark Spencer (piano, pedal steel). I hope this new line up has a few albums in them, as American Central Dust, has the lazy brilliance and raw confidence that we have come to expect from Farrar & co.

Destroyer of the Void – Blitzen Trapper

Destroyer of the Void blends sweet country, pop and psychedelia in epic proportions. It is an ambitious song to open an album, but where would we be without ambition? Destroyer tips its hat to The Beatles, Queen, Dylan with The Band and countless others, while remaining completely original. It is great to see the band re-expanding their sonic scope after the focussed folk-rock of previous album Furr. Don’t get me wrong… I love their acoustic narratives but the space rock of Destroyer opens up the astral plane and demands further exploration.

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Darkness in the Light: Willy Vlautin live in Brisbane

Well yesterday was incredibly special… waking to a low grey sky, was the perfect start to a day that would only get better. It was the perfect weather for listening to Willy Vlautin.

Willy has been a big influence on me as an artist in the last decade. For me, the spareness of his writing, resonates in that space between the heart and the pit of the stomach. That space where darkness and light meet, to create an ache that just keeps itching at you, driving you to look deeper inside yourself, your world and the people in it. So with that big grey sky threatening to burst, we pulled on our jackets and headed in to Avid Reader to hear Willy read from his latest novel, Lean On Pete.

As part of the afternoon Salon, there were three other readers programmed from local university creative writing courses. Willy sat in the front row, sipping from his coffee watching intently the three writers who came before him, leaning in to their stories. And when it was his turn to take the mic, he thanked the authors and talked about his love for the independent bookstore. This wasn’t the prerequisite, ‘thank you for having me…’ this was straight from the heart, honest thanks. This humbling sense of honesty, was one of the outstanding features of Vlautin’s reading. There was no rock star ego, just a man and the sweet desperation of his words… words that he has obviously worked and lived hard for.

Vlautin lights up when he is reading and talking about his novels. His love for writing stories is clearly a driving force in his life. When asked the difference between writing stories and songs, Willy smiled and said, if you see me walking down the street smiling, then I’m probably writing stories, if you see me hungover, missing a tooth, then I’m probably writing songs. Vlautin admits to being a ‘bit of a sad sack’, and while there is a darkness in the characters (such as young Charley Thompson in Lean On Pete) he so skillfully brings to life, there is an intrinsic hope in his narratives, and it is this hope that lies in wait for the reader/listener willing to take the journey with Vlautin and his band of misfits.

At the end of the session, Willy signs books and is eager to engage in conversation with everyone in the queue. He doesn’t quite look comfortable behind the table and is on his feet to shake hands often and thank people for coming along to the reading. I get my books signed and talk to Willy about characters such as Walter from his Postcard Series on Richmond Fontaine’s 2003 album Post to Wire and Allison Johnson from his second novel Northline. We talk about these characters like they are old friends and Willy talks of their futures with clarity, he knows clearly what has happened to all these folk. We walk out into an evening that has cleared, our heads full of hope, ready to see Willy shift gears into singer/songwriter mode alongside Richmond Fontaine bandmate, Dan Eccles.

The Troubadour is nicely crowded tonight for a bill which also features local youngsters The Honey Month and Brisbane stalwarts Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side.

Willy is again in the crowd for both bands and is clearly a big fan of Gentle Ben. Australian music has been a big influence on Vlautin, as it was the Paul Kelly song So Much Water So Close To Home (based on a Raymond Carver story of the same name) that inspired Vlautin to start writing prose.

When it is Willy and Dan’s turn to take the stage, they open with Welhorn Yards from The Fitzgerald. Like so many of Vlautin’s songs, it leaves you at the point of crisis to ponder the fates of his characters:

I saw the yobs and D.O.A but I couldn’t go home
So I went down to the yards and I sat by the concrete wall
And the wind picked up and I fell asleep on the dirt and gravel
At the Welhorn Yards
Harry shook me awake as the wind howled above us and
it nearly scared me to death
From a distant street light I saw the cut on his face and his
blood soaked shirt
“Everything went wrong,” he cried. “I lost the money and I think
J.P is gone. He was just laying on the floor when I ran for the door.”
At the Welhorn Yards, that night at the Welhorn Yards
Harry smoked cigarettes as the wind flurried above us
I gave him all the money i had and i gave him my ID and coat and
watched him disappear down the road
I sat back down and fell into the uneasiest of sleeps
the worst nightmares of sleeps
Where a madman came after me
His hair was on fire and his eyes were bleeding
and he said he was going to kill me

From there on in, the setlist is any Richmond Fontaine fans dream, featuring songs from their back catalogue such as:

Whiteline Fever (from Safety, 1997)
Out of State & Western Skyline (from Winnemucca, 2002)
Barely Losing, Two Broken Hearts, Post to Wire & Always on the Ride (from Post to Wire, 2003)
Incident at Conklin Creek (from The Fitzgerald, 2005)
$87 and a Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse the Longer I Go, I Fell Into Painting Houses in Phoenix Arizona, Moving Back Home, Lost in this World & Capsized (from Thirteen Cities);
and a swag of songs off the new album We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River including, The Boyfriends, Maybe We Were Both Born Blue, 43, Two Alone & Lonnie, which features one of my favourite ever song lines:

I ain’t going to worry about you anymore
You can keep living that hard if you want to
but the only point that you got now is dying
I saw your aunt in the store, she couldnt keep from saying
horrible things about you, but the thing is they’re all true

Vlautin and Eccles are the perfect pairing on stage. They look at ease with each other and at all times are in sync, Eccles’ guitar flourishes rounding out Willy’s well strummed rhythms.

One of the real highlights for me was their performance of three of the postcards from Post to Wire (here’s a link to one of them). The tail-between-legs, apologetic ramblings of Walter to his good friend Pete showcase Vlautin as one of the most innovative musical storytellers of this or any other generation.

At the end of the night the room is smiling, one of my friends looks at me and says he has written three new poems in his head, and we are all then out into a night filled with stars, Vlautin’s words illuminated in all of us, lucky enough to have been in the room with a truly gifted artist.

For those who couldn’t make it along, you can listen to an interview with Willy live from the Sydney Writers Festival here.

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The New Folk XIII – Vlautin, Felice & Lanegan

The touring circuit is hitting a mid-year peak, with a glut of great singer/songwriters hitting our shores in the coming months. Here’s a taste of some of the artists I am anticipating great shows from in the months of May, June and July.

We Used to Think The River Sounded Like a Freeway – Willy Vlautin & Dan Eccles

Willy Vlautin is undoubtedly one of the best storytellers to ever pick up a guitar. He has been described as ‘the Dylan of the dispossesed’ and likened to authors such as John Steinbeck for his crisply realised images of characters at the end of their rope. And for the first time, Australian audiences are getting a chance to see Willy (accompanied by Dan Eccles) play live, thanks to the roaring success of his band Richmond Fontaine’s eighth album, We Used to Think the Freewat Sounded Like a River and more importantly his critically accalimed third novel, Lean On Pete. Willy is in Australia as part of the Sydney Writers Festival, but Brisbane also gets a look in on Saturday May 29, with Willy reading and talking about Lean on Pete at Avid Reader at 4pm and then playing a set from the Richmond Fontaine back catalogue at The Troubadour that night. Tickets for both these events are now available and I am sure they are not going to last… artists like Vlautin are a rare commodity.

One More American Song – Simone Felice

Another rare commodity is Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Duke & The King). Felice, like Vlautin, is an acclaimed singer/songwriter, who has also had great success as a poet and experimental novelist (Goodbye Amelia, Hail Mary Full of Holes). One More American song is an example of Felice’s lyrical richness. In the song he remembers Johnny, a boy from school with fiery red hair, who, thanks to the horrors of war has become the king of bottle tops, pushing shopping carts in a parking lot. It is this kind of raw narrative that Felice pens so well. And like Vlautin, Felice is making his way to Australia for the first time too, but unfortunately Brisbane is not part of the tour… Sydney and Melbourne only. Maybe next time…

Bombed – Mark Lanegan

From his days leading Seattle grunge gods Screaming Trees, to cameos with Queens of the Stoneage, Isobell Campbell, Soulsavers & The Twilight Singers, Mark Lanegan’s voice has become a sort after instrument. It has that whiskey-soaked, lived-in-leathery versatility that can stretch effortlessly from blues to country, gospel to full-tilt rock. Lanegan is like a heady mix of Johnny Cash and Charles Bukowski, most at home telling tales of the underworld, where drug deals, petty violence and squalid love affairs are common place. So if you like your stories seedy, get along to one of Lanegan’s Australian shows this July. He plays The Zoo in Brisbane on July 9.

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