Friday, February 24, 2012

Gillian Gilbert (New Order) interview: 2012


Gillian Gilbert is at the Macclesfield country home she shares with husband/New Order drummer, Stephen Morris when I phone. She immediately slips into a relaxed chatty mode, happy to discuss New Order’s past, present and future – after all, it’s been a long time since any typical band activities – rehearsals, touring, international press, New Order itself, have encroached on the keyboardist’s life. The 32nd inconsistent year of the iconic band’s existence is upon us, and Gillian, as with each member at some point or other, is a little surprised to be back. “You just never know with us what to expect, really.” She understates. However, New Order’s latest reunion is a very different story to previous times. The silence that followed the band’s last album - 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call - was broken by a statement in 2007 - apparently from within the group’s ranks – that New Order were ‘no more, and never likely to be again’.

New Order, 1980
However that announcement, which was made by (now ex) bassist Peter Hook, was news to his band-mates, as it turned out, he was the only one at that particular meeting. This ultimately proved to be Hook's first action in a mounting slash-n-burn of his own legacy. His subsequent plundering of Joy Division’s back catalogue and threats of legal action against the remainder of New Order (for using the name without his involvement) are now matters for the public to cast opinion on, but New Order’s surprise return in late 2011 - excluding Hook - implies a solidarity within the group still exists and is willed to power in even the roughest of times. But then their name always did suggest 'purposeful leadership' - along with vaguely hierarchical connotations - which all seemed very cocky considering they essentially began in 1980 as 'Joy Division; minus the popular singer'. As New Order, they chose a new lead singer basically on the flip of a coin, and for a time nobody in their right mind would have bet on a future for the band. Perhaps though, it’s that ‘unlikely rise’ from potential post-Ian Curtis obscurity that formed the catalyst for New Order’s ‘survive anything’ mentality. Few bands after all have endured their level of disharmony from outside and within their own ranks, so it’s not such a surprise, that in the wake of a very public battle with Hook, their passion has again beaten their hate.

Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert and Steven Morris re-united as New Order last year with a new bassist Tom Chapman and second guitarist Phil Cunningham. On the eve of their first Australian visit with the new line-up - and with no new album to promote – Gillian surely speaks for the whole band when she says that this reunion was a more ‘tentative one’ than previous times. “We didn’t really know how it (touring a new line-up) was going be received by the New Order fans, or if the interest would even still be there. But we have come to think of this time as like a new beginning, really.” The first New Order show without Hook was intended as a one-off benefit gig for long-time friend of New Order’s, Michael Shamberg – a film producer responsible for the bulk of New Order’s stylish and surreal music videos - who became terminally ill. It was also the first show to feature Gillian back behind the keyboard following her indefinite departure in 2000 to look after her sick daughter, “I missed just being with everybody.” She recalls, “It took me a long time to get used to not being in New Order.” The line-up was completed by members of Sumner’s other band, Bad Lieutenant but the obvious Hook-shaped hole in the band raised potential problems for the long term.

Performing Blue Monday on TOTP, '83.
“We were quite scared about doing a fully fledged tour with new band members, because we had to of course work out if Tom could cope with such a big part to play.” Gillian offers, “So instead of barging back into the spotlight as it were, and announcing some big ‘come-back‘ tour, we took small steps.” Tom Chapman will inevitably be compared to Hook at every show on the tour but, Gillian notes, it’s wrong to assume he’s merely imitating. “Tom isn’t copying Hooky, he has his own style of playing. Tom wasn’t there when we recorded those songs, and so it stands to reason that he hears them differently to Hooky and has his own take on them.” New member’s aside, the current New Order live show reflects on the band’s past now more than ever, and the visual identity created around New Order’s music. Gilbert explains, “In the past it was always about touring to promote a new album or whatever, but preparing for Michael Shamberg’s benefit concert, forced us to listen to a lot of our older material – some of which we haven’t played live since the ‘80s – and create a set list to go along with a lot of the videos he produced.” Those videos, including Blue Monday’s oddly posed dogs, Bizarre Love Triangle’s falling suited men and True Faith’s mime artists gone feral are images as iconic as the songs themselves, Gillian agrees.

                                                  the classic 'True Faith' video

“I’ve always loved what Michael did with True Faith especially.” The video, which features costumed dancers performing increasingly violent, synchronised routines, thinly hides the band’s most overt drug-referencing in a song.  True Faith – the song and video - was one of the first to drag underground club culture into the mainstream, where it was immediately deemed ‘unsavory’. “I remember Radio One refused to play it unless we changed some of the words.” The original lyric “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re all taking drugs with me” was tamed down to “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re afraid of what they see”. “It was never about promoting, or glamorising anything though,” Gillian adds, “Meanwhile, nearly every song on the radio now it seems, is loaded with drug references, only it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. Is it shock for the sake of shock value? Yes, I think so.” And if any band should know, it’s New Order. 

Keyboardist Gilbert, also
occasionally played guitar in NO.

Madchester, Baggy, Acid House, and a slew of other music/drug-related sub-cultures have all been credited to New Order’s influence on music, but a scene was already in the making, born from a rapid rise in street-level music creation and a potentially destructive new wave of party drugs. New Order simply provided the best possible soundtrack for whether you were going out, or coming down. The scene bloomed within the well documented home of Tony Wilson’s Factory label and Hacienda nightclub, but many of the bands and many more of the drugs ultimately proved bigger than either business. New Order survived Factory, but only just. To recoup some of their lost earnings, the band reconvened in 1990, “for what we thought would be one last time”, to record the official World Cup anthem – World In Motion. In a bittersweet twist, the song hit number one at the same time New Order were broke, disbanded and had little hope of a future. “It was encouraging having a number one single, yeah, but really we did that record as a commercial venture because we were in trouble financially.” Gillian confirms, “Steven (Morris) had the idea to do it, and just because we knew it would be used by all the TV stations broadcasting the World Cup, we all agreed. It was one of the few financially smart things we did as a band.” Its romantic to think the band keep New Order going for ‘love not money’, and although Hooky is the current bug in the band’s ointment, their instability had begun long ago as a result of bad business. It’s often downplayed for the sake of a good mud-slinging story, but Factory crashed during the making of New Order’s then come-back album, 1993’s Republic which ended the band’s tolerance for the industry for many years. Regarding the band's future plans however, Gillian can only offer her personal wishes.

“I would like to finish this tour, take a short break and then see what the future brings. We don’t have plans beyond these shows right now, but that can be an exciting prospect as well." She ads, "I don't think we will be recording a full album again, but I'd like to do an E.P. perhaps. We always had singles that weren't on albums in the past, so I think an E.P. would be a good compromise of those two things." As for the recent history in which ties between New Order's and Hook have seemingly been cut for good, Gillian concludes, "Many things way out of our control have slowed us down over the years, but… I think, in a way, the band is bigger than us as individuals, which makes it easier to carry on in the face of… whatever the universe can throw at us. I think with this group getting back together, we knew there would be battles (Hook) to get through, but in New Order, that’s just how we play."



The 'Low Life' album and tour was unusual in that it was the one and only time the band's images were used in the promotional artwork.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dr Alex Paterson (The ORB) Interview: 2012


UK electro act The Orb, always found themselves lumped in with the narcotic-influenced club music scene emerging in the late ‘80s, while journalists struggled to find a more accurate description; ‘Pink Floyd for the ‘90s rave generation’ and ‘Space-obsessed knob-twiddlers’, are just two of the terms that have been commonly used to describe the duo, and complimentary or not, founding member Dr. Alex Paterson can see no reason to give a shit. “I’m still here 25 years later talking to you, so I think we must be doing something right.” Paterson’s early morning croak assures me his ‘blissed-out drug music’ is a ‘good match’ ahead of the touted double-billing of The Orb with UK sample-monsters, Bomb The Bass. “It’s good; I think we both come from the same school of plagiarism.” The self-appointed/self-medicating doctor laughs.

“As it happens, I used to go out and buy Bomb The Bass’s records for when I was DJing back in the early days.” Paterson recalls, waking himself up a little more. “We’ve both always listened to music with the same ear for working out how you can make something new out of something old, I think.” Paterson’s mention of ‘plagiarism’ is more self-referencing than accusation. In its earliest form, The Orb was an excuse for Paterson and one Jim Cauty to create sampling anarchy. Cauty however fell out with Alex following the debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and went on to raise hell as one-half of The KLF with Bill Drummond, who’s own free-for-all approach to using copy-protected music was as prolific as their lunatic stunts. The Orb continued on with some-time members, Youth (ex-Killing Joke), Kris ‘Thrash” Weston, Tim Bran and various others, before Paterson’s longest term ‘co-Orbist’, German-born Thomas Fehlmann joined in 1995. With the many cohorts under the bridge, I wonder is Alex the archetypal ‘difficult artist’?

“No, I think it’s more that there’s a kind of snobbery among a lot of English DJs, and many of them seemed to be in competition with each other, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.” He adds, “Thomas didn’t behave in that way, which was a new experience for me. We do things for one another, not for self-aggrandising reasons.” The Orb, although linked to the sample revolution born out of hip hop, claimed their own distinct niche as ‘ambient electronic pioneers’; a term which Paterson is immensely proud of. “I was an A & R scout in the early ‘80s, so I always had my ear to ground, wanting to know what was going on in music, and nobody was doing ambient house music before The Orb formed.” Paterson, as a recreational pot-smoker spotted a gap in the dance-oriented club scene for chill-out music that wouldn’t completely kill the listener’s vibe. “A lot of people were putting on stuff like Neil Young or Pink Floyd after a night out clubbing, so we thought we set about changing that by offering an alternative.” The two premiere ambient house chill-out records were The KLF’s Chill Out, and The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, which Paterson now admits was heavily inspired by Brian Eno.

“My day-job back then was working for Roxy Music’s record label in London, and Eno was one of the reasons I got into making music of my own.” He exclaims, but Eno apparently was keen to distance himself as an influence from Paterson’s work. The Orb were indeed gaining exposure for a lot of the ‘wrong reasons’ in the early ‘90s, as sampling on the level employed by them was a major concern for labels wanting to release music with the hassle of lawyers banging at the door. “The sampler made it easy for artists like us to completely alter a sound to use in a recording – so much so, we got away with a lot more than most people know about.” He laughs, “I can say that now, because if a sample isn’t claimed within seven years, forget it, no one’s going to go to the trouble, but it got to stage where our label (Island) wanted us to provide tapes of all the different parts to each of our records on separate tapes, so they could see what we were trying to sneak in there. The funny thing was, the samples were so unrecognisable after we’d finished with them, Island couldn’t even tell what they were anyway!” For the artists who may have griped about their work being sampled on an Orb record, there were as many who proclaimed it a kind of honor, Alex recalls. “When Steve Reich heard his guitar turn up on Little Fluffy Clouds, he got in touch with us and said, ‘I fucking love this, I never thought someone could do this with my music. It’s amazing.’ He wanted to go on record as a supporter of what I was doing. It’s just when publishers and record labels get onto you that it all goes to shit. They’re the only ones really worried about losing money; it’s rarely the artists as far as I can tell.”


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tim Simenon (Bomb The Bass) interview: 2012


Bristol-based rag-tag collective, The Wild Bunch flourished as outsiders from what was happening in mid-‘80s mainstream music. The DIY approach they took to making music and various other art forms simply wasn’t in a competitive field, as much of their output was consigned to being played in local clubs or on pirate radio. However, the future had in store an unprecedented level of acclaim and acceptance for the micro-scene’s main players. Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry, Tricky and Nellee Hooper among others, all got their first break in the mostly migrant collective. But the scene, long before launching the globally admired stars of trip-hop, was early on having a rather profound impact on a young Scottish-Malaysian lad named Tim Simenon. Simenon, being a Londoner, was an outsider even among the Wild Bunch, “I became friends with a lot of that group through going to Jazzi B’s Soul II Soul club. They ran a local DJ battle night, where anyone could show off their skills or just hang out.” Like them, Tim was driven by the potential of a new music style created utilizing samplers. 

“I was the guy with the records, basically.” He laughs, “I had been collecting since I was about 8 or 9 years old, and when I started mucking about with samplers I had a shit load of music already to work with, which was essential if you were serious about live DJing.” Simenon adopted the title Bomb The Bass to DJ under, and like his mates in Massive Attack, the emphasis was on devastation; specifically the ‘annihilation’ of hundreds of recorded works for use in samples. However, where Massive Attack became known for the somber, subtle approach, Bomb The Bass’s debut single, Beat Dis! hit the listener with a montage of over 50 samples, kicking open the door for a whole new wave of sample-heavy dance 12”s. He’d created a monster, but his actions also shook up the Wild Bunch crew, most of who were yet to release any of their music/mixes. “DJing was still a new thing, and a lot of the artists on that scene wanted to release records, but nobody knew if what we were doing would have any kind of appeal beyond our little club nights. That’s the beauty of what was happening in that scene, we were just friends doing what we enjoyed doing. Nobody thought it would become this massive thing.” 

One of the first of the Bristol crew to get a record out was Afro-Swedish MC, Neneh Cherry. She and Tim collaborated on the sweet but sassy, Buffalo Stance in 1988, which became so huge, supposedly it was the prompt for Madonna to write Express Yourself. “I have to say, that was one of the most enjoyable records I ever worked on, primarily because Neneh was such a breeze to work with. I’ll always remember that powerful attitude she brought to everything, I mean Buffalo Stance was her through and through. That was her personality, you know.” From that single, the scene began to grow as more and more names linked to the Wild Bunch turned out records that seemed incapable of failure. Bomb The Bass’s second album, Unknown Territory surfaced around the same time as Massive Attack’s Blue Lines prompting talk of a ‘new movement’ in music, however Tim was a far less stationary act, flirting only briefly with trip-hop. His next release would begin to develop from a collaboration with Russian/American hip hop artist Justin Warfield (who’s album, My Field Trip To Planet 9, Tim was enamored with), but who more importantly, shared Tim’s love of William S. Burroughs

Tim's 3rd album, Clear-ly inspired by Naked Lunch.

“I remember at our first meeting, Justin and I talked a lot about Burroughs, and straight after he went off and wrote these fantastic lyrics based around Naked Lunch.” Simenon’s Bug Powder Dust began as a collection of dialogue samples from the David Cronenberg film adaption, before blossoming into a full collaborative rap. The track - a massive hit - pre-empted 1995’s Clear, and a newly acquired use of live instrumentation. Tim was beginning to scratch the surface of Bomb The Bass’s potential as a live band, but it would take a further 14 years for him to fully realise it. For the remainder of the 1990’s, he retreated into production, while his ideas for Bomb The Bass’s future fermented. Simenon worked his magic on Gavin Friday’s inspired Shag Tobacco, and on the ill-fated Michael Hutchence’s solo album – his final recording, it would turn out - then as the decade neared its end, a production project came his way in the form of Depeche Mode’s album, Ultra. The band’s ninth album equated to their revival following a disastrous self-destructive period, while Simenon on the other hand, completely disappeared from view.

“I hadn’t had a break in over ten years… Not since I started releasing music in fact.” He recalls, “I needed to be inspired again, and so it was vital I take a few years off. The Depeche Mode album was a really dark time for me and them, and so rather than push myself even further, I spent a couple of years in my room in front of the speakers just listening to music instead of working with it.” Simenon’s silence was finally broken ten years on with a dramatic new sound in 2008. With a new collaborator, Paul Conboy, the notion of Bomb The Bass as a live act finally began to take shape. ”The key to getting back into music was writing the Future Chaos album.” He explains, “That album came together with such momentum that I found I had regained a kind of excitement about making music which had been missing for some time.” Keeping in mind the festival’s title of 'Future Music' that Tim will be in Australia for, aside from his rich back catalogue, fans can expect some fresh new sounds, he confirms. “Paul and I have been writing the follow-up to Future Chaos, so we’ll be premiering about five or six of those songs in Australia.” The new album, he explains, bares little resemblance to the sample-based work he mastered in his formative years.
“On this tour Paul will be singing and playing live bass, and I’ll be making the beats and just playing around with the BPM’s a lot more. It’s exciting for us to have the sort of ‘raw edge’ of a live band, which I’ve been wanting to do for some time, but for the album we will hopefully be getting some guest vocalists in which I haven’t done for ages.” Bomb The Bass’s most successful tracks had always put the credit on guest singers; Loretta Heywood (Winter In July), Justin Warfield (Bug Powder Dust), Jazzi B and Maureen (Say A Little Prayer), yet Tim’s own signature is there in every single piece. “What you’re describing there is ‘The Texture,’” He laughs.” That’s where I come in, I think.” It was Tim’s ‘texture’ that put him in hot demand as a remix artist too. Credited on Bjork’s Play Dead, remixing Massive Attack and Depeche Mode etc.. – everyone, it seems, wanted a sprinkling of the BTB magic, but Tim follows a simple rule when choosing who to mix it with. “All the artists I’ve worked with over the years, I’ve done so because we have shared a connection in some way.” He assures, “It’s important to get along with people I’m working with for me to be able to work. I’m just lucky in a way, that all of the people I have collaborated with have been or become friends. I mean it’s got to be fun, or what’s the point, eh?



Depeche Mode - Ultra (production)
Depeche Mode - Strangelove (remix)
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (remix)
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (remix)
Jamie J. Morgan - Walk On The Wild Side (remix)
Bjork - Play Dead (remix)
Massive Attack - Sly (remix)
Gavin Friday - In The Name Of The Father (remix/production)
Gavin Friday - Shag Tobacco (production)
David Bowie - The Heart's Filthy Lesson (remix)
Curve - Chinese Burn (production/remix)
Curve - Come Clean (production)
Michael Hutchence - self-titled (co-writer/co-production)
Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance (production)
Neneh Cherry - Manchild (production)
Seal - Crazy (remix)
Sinead O'Connor - You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart (production)
Sinead O'Connor - Universal Mother (production)
Tim Booth and Angelo Badalamenti - Booth & The Bad Angel (production)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: live in Melbourne, 2012 (review)

Venue: The Palais
Date: 31/01

Re-emerging only last year with a new band - The High Flying Birds - and whole new set of songs, the elder of OasisGallagher brothers, Noel set himself the unenviable task of starting from scratch. Although most of the songs on the High Flying Birds’ album were written in 2008 while Noel was still in Oasis, his writing more than hinted at a severing of old ties. 2011 single, the no-hold’s barred The Death Of You And Me, heralded Noel’s new life as a solo artist, and showed a promising, more purposeful direction than most latter day Oasis. Of the new tracks, which are spread equally throughout ‘the classics’ tonight at his Melbourne Big Day Out sideshow, none can be written off as mere ‘Oasis-lite’ rehashing. Still, expectations for Noel’s solo gig were pretty moderate for me I confess.

Would the shadow of Oasis hang heavily over proceedings, as a half-full arena of disgruntled fans just mark time until Wonderwall? Well as it turns out, not even close. Gallagher is the very picture of the fabled phoenix from the ashes of his old band. Standing before us drenched in red and blue lights, age defiant was a possibly even more cocky Noel than the one who once celebrated a life of ‘cigarette’s and alcohol’. Tonight, he confidently reminds all who had forgotten how brilliant a performer he actually is, and how many bloody good songs he’s written. In place of the geezer trying to relive the glory days I half expected, was a master showman proving you can’t beat experience - fuck knows, nothing has beaten Noel Gallagher.

Following a standing ovation on his arrival, Gallagher kicks off with (It’s Good) To Be Free, and the choice is a master stroke. This old b-side, which has surely taken on new meaning for Gallagher in recent times, gains an immediate reaction from the packed in crowd who seem determined to match Gallagher and his band in volume. Its all the warm up he and his audience need too, as the show’s momentum and crowd response continue to elevate – especially once Gallagher wonders aloud ‘why is everyone sitting down?’ As we all gladly surrender our comfort, the band delivers a run of six tracks from High Flying Birds’ debut, each a triumph of thrilling, edge-of-your-seat rock. If High Flying Birds remind me of Oasis at all, then it’s the best elements of serendipitous sophomore (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and bust-up album, Dig Out Your Soul, which tellingly was recorded at the same time High Flying Birds was taking shape. If I Had A Gun ranks closest to ‘the Oasis sound’, offering a peak into what might have been, and also a ‘last look back’ moment before the brand new as-yet-unreleased, Freaky Teeth.

Midway through, and the electric guitar makes way for an acoustic and Noel’s band depart, leaving only him and keyboardist, Mike Rowe. Tuning up, Noel reads the crowd for a moment and gets a cheer. “Who was Saint Kilda?” He yells, while strumming something familiar. “It’s not in the Bible – I’ve checked.” Out of the laughter, a fan offers; “She was a prostitute!” Noel scoffs in return, “You’re a fucking prostitute, mate.” The laughter soon turns to cheers as Whatever (I’m Free) is suddenly upon us, along with the customary sing-a-long. The already up mood inside the Palais plateaus and Noel draws the moment out with a stunning, stripped back rendition of Supersonic - Oasis’s debut single which although has been ‘re-imagined’ still holds its power as one of the most fun songs Gallagher ever wrote.

We then welcome the rest of the band back on stage for the 'most fun' song High Flying Birds have in their cannon – (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine. Noel’s all about momentum tonight, he’s brought his audience up and is determined to keep us there. The second set seems to fly by, as each carefully chosen song forms a kind of ‘greatest hits’ package. New gems such as Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks meld into unsung classics, Half A World Away and Talk Tonight. The many ex-pat Brits in the audience, hoarse from belting out the words along with Noel, near topple over each other in a bid to shower praise on the man as the triple banger encore comes around. Little By Little, The Importance of Being Idle and closer, Don’t Look Back In Anger made their homes long ago in the hearts of Brit-pop fans at closing time sing-a-longs and blurry-eyed cab rides home. Tonight, Gallagher’s fans share with their idol the fondness each and every one of them hold for these songs. Noel knows to not even bother singing on Don’t Look Back In Anger – the entire audience unite in a roof-raising effort all their own – and Gallagher’s uncharacteristic grin speaks volumes in its own right, as he enjoys a momentous end to a show by one of the classiest come-back's in recent times. Nice one, 'our kid'.



(It's Good) To Be Free
Mucky Fingers
Everybody's On The Run
Dream On
If I Had A Gun
The Good Rebel
The Death Of You And Me
Freaky Teeth
Whatever (I'm Free)

(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine
What A Life!
Talk Tonight
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks
Broken Arrow
Half The World Away
The Wrong Beach
Little By Little
The Importance of Being Idle
Don't Look Back In Anger

Monday, February 6, 2012

The End of Australian Music Content on Commercial radio?

The following is a post I made in a forum regarding the CRA's recent whinge about having to play a small percentage of Australian music in their quota. The subject to me is infuriating to say the least, as it represents yet another change for the worse in terms of the ridiculous level of exposure given to cheap and nasty, mostly American, commercial pop. It seems as if the gap between popular music and product pushing is almost completely closed and to me, this is no trivial matter. Australian music is simply less likely to be affiliated with branding and looks likely to suffer as a result in a world where advertisers hold all the cash. The CRA (or Commercial Radio Australia) have long stopped pretending they give a damn about fostering local talent since realising they can get a bigger slice of pie playing overseas artists on labels linked to ad agencies whose jingles for the newest crap-tastic gadget are also the latest singles from Rhianna/Bieber/Maroon 5 etc...

I'd really like to dig my heels into the CRA and say how awful they are for considering such a proposal, but the reality is, they are reflecting a growing public indifference to not just locally produced music, but to some degree an indifference to anything that isn't totally mono-cultural. Not caring about what happens in mainstream, commercial music isn't enough for me. I can't be switched off to it when nearly every resource I access - by no choice of my own - rings with the sight or sound of the latest 'talented new-comer', who always seems to be either American (specifically LA based) or trying so hard to appear that way, its almost impossible to tell the difference. Then there's the subliminal hatred. I feel bad for hating people who lap up, apparently anything deemed 'hot' by the faceless arseholes who apparently have a lot to gain by you buying the latest shitty autotuned wankery. As far as I'm concerned the CRA are just more faceless arseholes with an agenda. What that is can probably be summed up by the complete flat-lining of any real diversity in heavily promoted music. Why risk losing listeners/money/advertisers on some 'weird local shit by some unknown wannabe' when you can get Timomatic and Reece Mastin to dance on command, look damn pretty doing it, AND sound like a combination of Black Eyed P!nk Marooned Beiber, or whatever the kids (apparently) all slurped up by the tonne last year?

Who's world, exactly?
My question is, are the CRA looking to drop all locally produced music from their playlists or just the stuff that wasn't produced, written and rapped on by some bloke in Hollywood called T-Party? In which case, haven't they already achieved their goal?? Creating a vacuum in which only this miniscule measure of success applies to musicians is so destructive in the long term. The apparent glamour (if you're a bogan maybe?) of US-style overnight stardom on the back of some paper thin soulless dance tune is of course hollow, but why then are so many young Australian artists seeing it as something to strive for? You could argue that the end of anything identifiable as Australian on commercial radio is already upon us, but I predict hard times ahead for people like CRA and other supporters of 'shit made in America's gotta be good, it sells like hot muffins'. They drop all Australian content from commercial radio, and eventually just run one long unchanging advertisement/song on an endless loop that gradually becomes a single droning autotuned note, a flat-line, if you like spelling the (by that time) much welcomed death of those withering arseholes who through the power of commercial media, want nothing more than to dull the wit of all who come in contact with them.

May they suffer as much as I do whenever I chance encounter one of their boil in the bag ready-made suck-cess stories flogging me an iPhone from the saftey of a mega-billboard and draining the life force outta me within seconds of hearing their corporate-endorsed shit.



Thursday, February 2, 2012

Foster The People: live in Melbourne, 2012 (review)

Venue: The Palace
Date: 30/01

There are way more kicks on offer at a Foster The People gig than the Pumped Up kind, the lads prove at thier Melbourne Big Day Out side-show. In concert, L.A.’s Foster The People run a tight ship, showing great care and precision in each and every song’s delivery. At this stage, their relatively short set must feel deeply familiar following an intense year of touring debut album Torches, yet there are no signs of fatigue or boredom from the guys. It’s easy to see the love for these songs in the band’s faces as much as it is in the packed Palace audience’s. For me, 2011 belonged to Foster The People. I knew looking around at my fellow punters, almost everybody there surely felt that same euphoric joy as I did on first discovering this band. Listening to Torches was a sharp reminder that something quite prominent had been missing from music in a general sense. Here was an album that by-passed any kind of current trend and instead declared a most antiquated purpose: music to bring people together.

Yes, Foster The People with each sample and percussion-heavy track, serve up a big spoonful of Summer of Love - California style. The utmost contemporary, tricked out keyboard/sample pads favoured by, well almost every band and his dog, are somehow sweeter in the hands of Foster and their freelovin’ vibe. Vibe is the key word here though; peel away the layers and lyrically, very few of the bands songs would stand up to scrutiny in the Woodstock poetry tent. Houdini, being a possible exception, reminds us to ‘focus on your ability’ and break out from our ‘shackles’, and tonight as the set opener, is so mood enhancing, it may as well be sold as a prescription drug. There’s more’ happy-power’ in that one song than a Flaming Lips encore, and the metre very rarely dips below ‘stupidly happy’ from then on.

Even the bands few mid-tempo songs (Miss You, Waste) evoke enthused bouncing sing-a-longs, and its on those tracks especially the band allow themselves to really freak out and break from their recorded counterparts. Miss You descends into a wall of percussion, recalling Nine Inch NailsMarch Of The Pigs, boosted by frantic strobing as singer Mark Foster leaps from his seat at the keyboard to batter a huge tom lumped in front of drummer Mark Pontius’ kit. Throughout the whole gig, when the two Mark’s aren’t vibing of each other as duel drummers, Foster is on guitar, fret to fret with bassist Cubbie Fink or head-banging hunched over his sampler. The man doesn’t rest, switching as he does between various instrument duties, all while conducting the audience in sing-a-long. Indeed Mark Foster can add sublime showmanship to his already full bag of tricks, and frankly the determination he displays to connect with all who come to see his band shows up many a live act as detached and lazy.

Aside from playing every track from Torches, they cover Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So; “because I taught Pumped Up Kicks to River from Weezer one night a party, and they started covering it in their shows!” Mark reveals. Naturally it sounds better than the original, thanks to the the addition of the Foster ‘stamp of fun’ but I was more than happy for them to get back to playing their own tunes. Namely, Helena Beat which concludes the main set in grandiose style and damnit all if Mark’s vocals don’t sound so much better live than on the recording. It’s an unusual singing voice he’s packing, with frequent falsetto parts, whistling and near-whispered refrains here and there, he’s nothing if not dynamic. All of these aforementioned stylings of course come together on the highly anticipated encore.

Pumped Up Kicks was the song that gave rise to what began as Mark’s bedroom muck-about project and ultimately landed him global top billing on the festival circuit. Tonight, predicting the reaction to the song, FTP tweak out a couple of extra minutes of ‘sing-it-back’ time from the heaving crowd. Shifting the song’s tempo suddenly from ‘Ministry of Sound club mix’ to ‘Linkin Park earnest head-bang’, they somehow make the whole thing work, while retaining the swagger of the original as the audience continue to shout the refrain long after Mark has stepped back from the mic to take it all in; a rare moment of stillness for the singer, who deftly steps into the front row, held aloft by countless hands where he remains grinning until the houselights switch on and his band exits the stage. He knows it’s been a good gig. He knows he gave his best and the fans were united with him in that. How thrilling it is to see a band so full of confidence in their music, and ability to perform it, yet remain totally devoid of arrogance. Simply brilliant.


All photos by Narelle Pfitzner

PALACE SET-LIST, 30/01/12:

Miss You
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Call It What You Want
Don't Stop (Colour On The Walls)
Say It Ain't So 
Helena Beat
Pumped Up Kicks