Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

Posts Tagged ‘Reviews

Lisa Mitchell @ The Basement (16/10/08)

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I hadn’t been to The Basement for several months before tonight – not since Laneway Festival in March, which was quite a different scene. The place has been renovated, the main entrance now at the other end of the room so that one comes into the club via a rather plush foyer, rather than descending those stairs and coming through those big double doors. Now, on one hand, the renovations are shiny and new, and certainly spruces the place up a bit. On the other hand, they’re shiny and new, and spruces the place up a bit, which seems to contravene everything The Basement ever stood for. I always loved a poster on the wall advertising a 1987 Dizzy Gillespie gig, and dreamed of listening to the great jazz masters in a dim-lit, smoky room, with a glass of whiskey in my hand – sadly, however, government legislation and renovations seem to be conspiring to kill my dream.

But I digress.

Supporting duties tonight fell to Matt Walters, a young chap from Melbourne who seems enrolled in the John Mayer School for Earnest, Scruffy-Yet-Loveable Singer Songwriters. Accompanying himself on guitar (and once on the old pi-ano), Walters still managed to fill the place with just his voice and instrument – always tough when competing with those in the expensive seats who haven’t finished their dinner yet.

His set was a brisk half-hour of breathy acoustica, never overwrought or over emotive, but never really breaking out into anything extraordinary – exactly the sort of thing that the vaguely-knowledgeable music fan could buy for their mothers for Christmas. But not in a middle-of-the-road, sentimental tacky crap way – Walters seems like a really nice guy with nice songs about girls who used to waitress in a small café near his flat in Melbourne.

Lisa Mitchell always seemed small, shy and a little bit scared when she was on Australian Idol in 2006, and I always thought it was holding her back from making the ‘brave’ choices that the judges always crap on about as being essential. And that shyness came through in her stage patter – but disappeared when the music started. Her music is still very much grounded in the ‘shy little girl’ motif, but this Mitchell is using her shyness as an artistic tool, rather than it holding her back.

But as each song is tentatively introduced (bagging Mitchell the coveted Reviewer’s Award for Consideration of Scribes Unfamiliar With Artist’s Catalogue), it becomes clear that Mitchell is bolder than she lets on. Her voice, so quiet in conversation, leaps around in her songs – by turns shy, small, loud, breathy, frail, indignant and strong. Love Letter is a beautiful song, sung solo by Mitchell sitting at a piano, with fleeting moments of Martha Wainwright-esque vulnerability and sadness. Slow is equally gorgeous, if perhaps a touch undisciplined as Mitchell occasionally fumbled her guitar accompaniment.

But, surprisingly, Mitchell is also a band-leader. Playing with drums and bass and later joined by another guitar and a piano, a couple of numbers establish a groove that I was not expecting to hear. So Jealous exhibited a strength in Mitchell’s voice not seen in any other song, building to a rollicking harmonica part from one of her guests on stage, while Edge Of My Dreams and Oh Hark showcased a tightness in the band that will only get better as the tour continues.

But the highlight of the set was, unquestionably, Neapolitan Dream. The opening cascade of notes on xylophone were greeted enthusiastically by the crowd, who immediately got up on their feet and began dancing, stomping and clapping, momentarily transforming The Basement into a barnstorming hoedown.
At 18, Lisa Mitchell is already an accomplished singer, songwriter and bandleader, oozing with potential. There were occasional moments of sloppiness tonight, but certainly not enough to diminish the entire show.
Her music is lovely, her voice full of potential and her lyrics full of pretty images, but it is quite clearly the music of an 18 year old. I’m eagerly anticipating Mitchell growing as an artist, and channelling life’s inevitable hardships and heartbreaks into her music.
I think that could be something special.

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October 19th, 2008 at 5:42 pm

ACDC – Black Ice (album review)

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ACDC return with 16th studio album.

World is now a better place.

Men and women of Australia –

Rejoice! For the years of unleavened bread are over!

On October 28, ACDC will release their first studio album since 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip, bringing surely the darkest days of Australian music to an end.

And what an album it is.

Despite all the members of the band rivalling Methuselah for age, this album shakes, rattles and rolls with all the chutzpah of a band that know exactly who they are, what their sound is and where they stand in the pantheon of rock. Not for them the stripped-bare minimalism of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown. Not for them the lush, atmospheric departure from rawer beginnings, a la Kings of Leon, nor the disturbing new trend of everyone in the world being produced by Timbaland (Bjork, Duran Duran, Coldplay). ACDC knew what we wanted from them, and they have delivered.

By know you have surely heard Runaway Train, the album’s first track and lead single. Happily, though, the metaphor was not autobiographical, and ACDC continue to stay on track, flying down that highway to hell that has lain stretched out in front of them since long before the late, great Bon Scott donned pigtails and a pinafore on Countdown in 1974.

They revisit all the old stomping grounds that made them what they are today – cash (Money Made), roads and other modes of transportation (Rock N Roll Train, Wheels) and wild partying (Anything Goes) – but, in what must reassure us all in these politically, economically and socially turbulent times, a full quarter of the album’s titles involve rocking (Rock N Roll Train, She Likes Rock N Roll, Rock N Roll Dream and Rocking All The Way).

There is nothing new here. But, with apologies to Bob Hawke, anyone who attacks this album for its sameness is a mug. We do not want bold experimentation from these titans of rock and roll. We want ACDC to restore our faith in good old-fashioned RAWK! To banish the rising tide of fluoro and synthesisers that threaten to sink us all.

So go! Buy this album when it comes out. I defy anyone to press ‘play’ and not start grinning from ear to ear the very instant Angus Young’s Gibson SG roars into life.
This is one for the true believers. Australia, and the world, is better for having Black Ice in it.

seriously, though, how awesome is this cover art?

seriously, though, how awesome is this cover art?

Written by soundaffects

October 10th, 2008 at 6:15 pm

OLD STUFF (review): Veya – Slanted City

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(written August 1, 2007)

If Wolfmother is the crazed, hyper-active love child of Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep, then the Sunshine Coast 4-piece VEYA is the result of some serious sexy-time between the ‘Mother and, say, At The Drive-In.

It’s a sound that seems acknowledge the direction that the rock market is currently moving in, while at the same time longing for the riff-a-licious, solo-happy days of yore. It’s the sort of instantly marketable sound that makes you wonder if there is an astute producer or manager behind the scenes, steering the band towards the money.

But after one listen to Slanted City, any such thoughts are immediately banished. VEYA’s new 6-track EP smacks of independence and passion, ideologically reminiscent of the sheer fury of The Sex Pistols, with a Ramones-ian habit of being known only by their first names. This vitality, coupled with raw, unadorned recordings leaves you in no doubt that these boys are doing their own thing.

The music is remarkably tight and accomplished for a band of teenagers, with the drum and bass partnership of Skot and Leon seemingly telepathically linked, driving the songs with a furious energy. On top of this is Eddy’s seriously impressive guitar work. Each track could be an audition tape for Guitar Hero III, complete with classic riffs and blistering, perfectly-structured solos that recall a bygone era while still managing to sound fresh and interesting.

The one area where this album falls out is on the only soft track, Come Home. While the guitar part is very sweet, the lyrics doesn’t do it justice. The chorus “nothing can scare me/more than the army has already done” is not exactly Shakespeare, and the vocals during the bridge are strained, and slightly painful to listen to. And while Veya can hardly be accused of being the only band in the world singing with a fake American accent, it never sounds good.

Generally though, Dominic’s vocals match the urgency of the music, with a current, vaguely emo sound to it. This isn’t meant as a derogatory term, despite the current penchant for emo-bashing in music media. However, it must be said that Dom’s rock and roll wail needs a little bit of work. His upper register isn’t particularly strong, but for the most part this simply adds to the unrelenting energy of a band that seems desperate to speak their piece.

Written by soundaffects

August 30th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

OLD STUFF (review): Sydney Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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(written September 2, 2007)

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most delightful plays in the English language. It is a light-hearted affair, glittering with fairies, lush forests and love coming from every angle. It is impossible to see this play without feeling a warm glow throughout your body, and a smile form on your face.

Unfortunately, someone decided that it would be a good idea to import Englishman Edward Dick to direct. This is a man who, if I had my way, would never be allowed to work with Shakespeare again. He was the director of an Othello that graced our shores just a couple of years ago, and since then it has stood out in my mind as a particularly fecund dung-heap of a production But sadly, the nostril-burning odiousness of that production was nothing compared to the pure rankness of his Dream.

If this production was a human being, those Right-to-Die-Communist-bleeding-hearts would be campaigning around the clock to end its interminable suffering with a quiet, dignified death. This is not the fault of the actors. Goodness knows this is not a production devoid of talent in that department.

No, this production was doomed from the moment Dick-face decided to go for “dark”, “atmospheric” and “insufferable” as the cornerstones of his vision. One simply cannot bring oneself to actually critique this tripe in complete sentences, so one is forced to resort to a summary in bullet-point form.

Edward Dick-nose was the director.
• Dick-let saw fit to ignore the obvious joy and beauty in Shakespeare’s original text, and instead chose to drag the words through mud.
Mud. The set was covered in it. Quite literally. And there was almost no point to this whatsoever. It was utilised for about two minutes at the very end of the play, but otherwise it was completely ignored.
• The actors kept walking around in circles. Over and over again. Without ever once explaining or trying to justify this ridiculous act.
The fairies. Dick-Dick-McDick had every actor play a fairy at some point. This is not an inherently flawed concept. Unfortunately someone decided that the fairies should flail around as though suffering from a particularly violent case of Parkinson’s. To see three of Australia’s finest stage actors (Peter Carroll, John Gaden and Pamela Rabe) reduced to dancing around like Peter Garrett damn near broke one’s heart.
• “The course of true love never did run smooth”. This speech is one of the most beautiful in all of Shakespeare, and it’s the one chance that Lysander has to illustrate his love for Hermia. So to have Lysander and Hermia stand on opposite sides of a cavernous stage, and make Lysander bellow one of Shakespeare’s most tender, loving speeches is yet another criminal act perpetrated by Edward Dick.

Admittedly, not everything was terrible. The mechanicals were wonderfully done. Colin Moody was immaculate as Bottom, Peter Carroll loveable as Snug and Allan John delightful as Flute.
The lovers also managed to escape their appalling direction relatively unscathed. Hermia (Hayley McElhinney) and Helena (Amber McMahon) were two of the absolute highpoints, and Demetrius (Martin Blum) and Lysander (Eden Falk) were rather good, considering the limited roles they were playing.
Puck, played by Dan Spielman, is also worthy of a mention. Although this Puck was dark, malevolent and sullen, one is forced to concede that it was a wonderful performance. Spielman’s physicality was rather wonderful, and his was the standout performance of the production. Sadly, however, Spielman couldn’t save this production, and so it meandered towards its end. And while the final mechanicals scene was lovely, it would be almost impossible to ruin it.

Mind you, that’s what I thought about Midsummer Night’s Dream itself. Sadly, Edward Dick-for-brains-so-couldn’t-direct-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag single-handedly managed to prove me hideously, ridiculously wrong.

SANTANA supported by Blue King Brown @ ACER Arena 28/2/2008

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One of the strangest experiences of my life was sitting in the ACER while all around me lawyers and big-businessmen watched Blue King Brown and their brand of post-Inconvenient Truth roots music in this gigantic, soulless cavern. Stranger still was that they all seemed to be enjoying it

Quite a lot.
And, although I think BKB are more concerned with appearing socially aware than anything else, I must admit they put in a good show.
Including audience participation.
Quite generous audience participation.
Which, again, was weird.
Although, really, if you can’t get your message across in a 45-minute set, I don’t think you deserve a 5 minute monologue at the end of it to make it obvious what you’re all about.

But as I saw countless Santana t-shirts with “love”, “peace” and “freedom” writ large, and watched an intro video in which these words were flashed on the big screens superimposed on an image of a flying dove, it all made sense – I had somehow gotten mixed up with a slew of middle-aged ex-hippies who hadn’t been able to take time out of their Commerce/Law degree to actually go to Sunbury in the first place.
Never was this more apparent that during Carlos Santana’s sickening monologues, like when he brought Natalie Pa’apa’a from BKB out on stage and began to exalt the “sister side of us all”, concluding with the stunning revelation that, without women, none of us would be here.

Now kids, I want you to say hell to Mr Carlos Santana, your new Year 3 Science teacher.

But no science teacher in the world can play guitar like that.
It was absolutely gorgeous.
I’ve seen Tom Morrello, John Frusciante, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, The Edge and Eric Clapton in the last couple of years, but Santana matched it with all of them.
His playing soared, swayed, soothed and screamed, and left no one in any doubt as to his mastery of his chosen weapon.

But what I couldn’t stop thinking was that Santana was in desperate need of a frontman – his own Jagger, Iggy, Bono or Zack de la Rocha . For while Santana played beautifully, he was just chilling out in a dirty red beanie, an old t-shirt and some track pants, while two guys who sounded like rejects from Boys II Men sang all the songs. I couldn’t wait for them to shut the hell up so I could get back to enjoying my evening.
Don’t get me wrong, the band was brilliant. The drumming, courtesy of ex-Parliament/Funkadelic Dennis Chambers, was the best live drumming I’ve ever heard. He unleashed a solo that began well, seemed to peter out, and then exploded in this cavalcade of rolling, clashing drums and cymbals that had everyone in the audience rise as one in a standing ovation. What’s more, the two bongo players, brass section, Hammond organ, bass and second guitar filled the air better than I had ever imagined.
What it missed, though, was a focal point – someone to command the audience’s attention so that Santana could just chill out.
The man has all the natural stage presence of a mollusc, which is a great shame when the music is as good as anything going around.

Written by soundaffects

April 12th, 2008 at 3:26 pm

GUY SEBASTIAN @ The State Theatre, 6/3/2008

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So, what kind of audience is it that turns up to see Guy Sebastian play with some of the most respected soul musicians in the world?

Well, it’s an odd one.

There are the obligatory tweeny-boppers, invariably accompanied by their over-eager parents.
Then there are the old guys who have been hoarding Stax and Decca records since their 15th birthday in 1963, and have finally got the chance to see some of their heroes play live. They don’t really know who Guy Sebastian is, other than through a general, vague awareness, but as far as they are concerned this band could be fronted by the reanimated corpse of Mussolini, just as long as they get to see Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper.
Then there are the large gaggles of middle-aged women – those who don’t listen to much music, but like non-threatening singers like Guy Sebastian. These women have music libraries filled with Cliff Richard, Il Divo and various Idol winners from around the world. Their interest in these men is never purely musical, of course. Indeed, they wistfully dream of these clean-cut Casanovas coming to their house, singing to them while they complete their tedious housework, and then making love to them in a way that their husbands (“One-Minute Mike” and “Two-Inch Tom”, as they joke to their friends) haven’t done since the dying days of the Reagan administration.

Aside from the old soul fans, those present went all gushy for the support act. I don’t remember his name, but that isn’t a great loss – he was Guy Sebastian, but less in every aspect. His voice isn’t nearly as good, his songs are about as interesting as 3a.m. T.V, and instead of sounding like a nice, intelligent, humble person when he spoke, instead he managed both to forget the phrase “crowning glory” and sound like a complete gronk in the process. This man will never trouble the ARIA judges.

As for Guy Sebastian himself?

It’s like…

Well…

Ok.

So before Guy came out, they played us this video about the history of Stax Records. And as story after story about Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Al Green and Booker T & The MGs, you began to think about these titans of music: about how this music was born in the cotton fields of the South, how white men and black played this music together at a time when they couldn’t sit in the same area of a McDonalds, and how these immortal voices carried the urgency and the rage of an entire race trying to break through the hate and rage of centuries.
And then Guy Sebastian comes on stage, and his voice is flawless, and his energy is relentless, and the love from the audience is tangible – but something is missing. It lacks, dare I say it, any soul.
When Wilson Pickett sings “I’m going to wait ‘til the midnight hour”, you know EXACTLY what is going to go down in the midnight hour. When Guy Sebastian sings it, you just aren’t sure. Is he going help your kids with their homework? Is he going to sit on your couch and watch Scream with you and hold you close when you get frightened?
In fact, the show only kicked up out of karaoke mode three times:
1 – Guy sung a new song of his called Fire, and you could absolutely feel the passion, the urgency and the sheer need in his voice. It didn’t sound like mimicry, and it didn’t sound hollow – it was pure energy and total desire.
2 – When the rest of the band left the stage, and the MGs played their classic instrumental Green Onions. Everyone was out of their seat, dancing like mad as this most brilliant of bands played this most brilliant of tracks.
3 – Just as the set was getting warmed up, Jimmy Barnes came on stage for a special surprise appearance. He sang two songs, Sam & Dave’s classic Hold On, I’m Coming and When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, and really showed everyone what a frontman should be about. It really seemed like something was wrong with his baby, and that it really hurt him to the depths of his being. Guy, on the other hand, made it seem slightly hypothetical, as though if something ever happened to his baby, it probably would, you know, be kinda crap.

It was a really fun gig, and it was something of a dream realised to see the MGs. But it never really kicked out of 2nd gear. What it was missing was real soul.

Written by soundaffects

April 12th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

in the beginning…

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yes, I have finally succumbed to the inevitable.

as someone who thinks of themselves as a writer, to write things and not see them published anywhere but your own notebook is a somewhat depressing sight.

also, there is something to be said for having an audience. even if that audience is my mother and my girlfriend, it’s still an audience. and if I have an audience, I will endeavor to write for them.

and so I will be writing about a whole lot of things: music, politics, film, ideas.
I’ll probably repost a good amount of stuff from newspapers, other blogs and whatnot.

the world is too big, too complex, for one person to claim a monopoly on knowledge. so I’ll be sharing it around a bit.

enjoy

H.

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April 12th, 2008 at 1:31 am