Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Wrapup

MINE

Scraping through the remnants of our collection has both of us wondering - will we make it to the end of the year without repeating any artists?  Well, I figure we can get through at least November on our own.  Maybe December will be all compilations - goodness knows we have enough littering our shelves.

This month is Spring in Sydney - time to get some sun on our faces and mess about in the garden.  Time to see Paul Weller - who was fabulous again.  Time to look at the end in sight of this year-long journey that, I can't help but say, has been alternately exciting and draining, thrilling and wearying.

What will we do next?  Delve into the vinyl?  Move over to DVDs?  Get the iPod to select a random song to review?  Any ideas?

YOURZ

I'm a happy chappy.  We've just booted another winter away and the days are officially longer thanks to Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time.  Mine has got the veggie garden flourishing again (for a girl who always said she had a brown thumb, the garden is doing very well).  I can't wait for the days when the weather is warm and the smell of BBQs hangs in the air when I'm walking home from work.

As Mine said, we got to see Paul Weller live, making it the second time for me.  He was every bit as good as the first time, if not better.  It was a top night.  Next up is tickets to see Gorillaz in December.  I can't wait!  And the line-up for Big Day Out 2011 includes Deftones, The Black Keys and Iggy & The Stooges.  Heck, I couldn't see all three as side shows for the price of a ticket, so we might just have to gets ourselves along to one of the shows.

This month, we've decided to give our freebie to our friend know as Cape D'Avenger.  We have a little inside knowledge so are hoping he will enjoy The Eels.  So if you're reading this, Cape D'Avenger, while we know where you live, we don't know your exact address, so send us an email with it and we'll send you a padded bag of musical goodness.

Not long to go now, folks...

Free CDs - October Throwouts

Free to a good home this month:


28 Days - Upstyledown
Jenny Morris - Shiver
Not From There - Sand on Seven
Still going begging from previous months:


Groove Terminator - Roadkill
Machine Gun Fellatio - Paging Mr Strike
Mark Gillespie - Flame
Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Chris Cornell - Carry On
Frenzal Rhomb - Meet The Family
Portastatic - I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle
Goodshirt - Good
KC & The Sunshine Band - Greatest Hits
Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
Shamen - Boss Drum
Nikka Costa - Pebble to a Pearl
Enigma - MCMXC AD
Brassy - Got It Made
A Gun Called Tension - A Gun Called Tension
P-Money - Magic City
New Radicals - Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too
Gyroscope - Breed Obsession
Audioslave - Audioslave
George Michael - Ladies & Gentlemen The Best Of George Michael
Queen - Greatest Hits II, Greatest Hits III, Made in Heaven (we're keeping the others)
Come - Near Life Experience, Eleven : Eleven and Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Ben Harper - The Will To Live and Diamonds On the Inside
Sugar Ray - Floored

These CDs are available free to anyone who wants them. We even pay for postage - so if you'd like to see an Australian stamp just e-mail us at yourzenmine at gmail dot com.

Trainspotting - Soundtrack


MINE

I have a bit of a weird feeling about this soundtrack.  On the one hand it features some great songs by some fantastic artists, songs I love to listen to over and over again.

On the other hand, it's the soundtrack to Trainspotting, a movie that has the honour of being the only movie with a scene in it I just can't watch.  Don't make me tell you which one.  But it involves Ewen Macgregor and a very dirty.... ooops, nearly threw up there.

I mean, I have no problem with Begbie glassing people and babies crawling across ceilings and heaps of the other totally gross-out stuff the movie's packed with.  But that scene?  I started watching it once, and only managed to get through it by closing my eyes and having someone tell me when it was safe to open them.  I've promised myself I'll never watch it again.

OK, I'll just listen to Lust For Life and wonder how I ever managed to walk the line between not choosing the three-piece suite on hire purchase - and not choosing heroin.  Glad I did.
VERDICT: TURN IT UP


YOURZ

Some soundtracks are just background music used in order to add ambience or atmosphere to the visuals on screen.  Others help the viewer identify with the times the movie is representing.  Very few, however, can claim to be defining of a generation.  Like the movie, the Trainspotting soundtrack is one such set of songs.  Just as the movie consistently makes top lists around the globe, the soundtrack too has become one of the most popular of all time.

Director Danny Boyle used Iggy Pop's seminal Lust For Life to accompany the opening scene of the movie, so to use it to open the soundtrack was a no-brainer.  This track fairly pumps with urgent energy and as a scene-accompaniment, sets a very particular tone for the movie. 

However, the problem with soundtracks is that while particular songs go well with the visuals, it can mean the dynamics for an album can be all over the place.  For example, after starting with such a bang, track two, Brian Eno's Deep Blue Day, effectively dampens the energy of the first track.  This isn't to say it's a bad song, just misplaced.  This is followed by the seemingly Eno-inspired Primal Scream title track, a lengthy instrumental, again a great track, but at 10 plus minutes, overly long and out of place.

This is a small complaint, though, as Trainspotting features some of the best Britpop bands of the time such as Blur, Pulp and Elastica. While I'm a fan of Blur, it is actually Pulp's Mile End that is a surprising delight as is Elastica's 2:1.  But what Sleeper's cover of Blondie's Atomic is doing there is beyond me as it is almost a note-for-note copy of the original.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trainspotting_(soundtrack) (the only information source available, folks)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Steve Miller Band - Young Hearts: The Best Of


YOURZ

The Steve Miller Band were one of those groups who were played a lot in the background of my teenage years.  There was no need for me to own any of his records because the songs that mattered were played so regularly on radio, it was almost impossible to forget them.

However, while all the hits are here, the surprises on this collection are those tracks I'm less familiar with, like the very Chicago-blues of Livin' In The USA, his extensive use of electronica effects, the Lady Madonna-inspired Space Cowboy and tracks like My Dark Hour, which features Paul McCartney on bass. 

I was surprised to learn Miller's family history that includes close friendships with both Les Paul (who encouraged a very young Miller to play) and T-Bone Burnett.  It was also interesting to read that Miller was good friends with Boz Scaggs, who found his feet in Miller's first band before striking out on a solo career of his own.

While Miller and co don't do anything even slightly dangerous (in fact, there is something positively clean cut about them), listening to tracks like Jet Airliner, Take The Money And Run and, of course, The Joker, take me way back to a time when life seemed so much more innocent.  While I don't lament my current state, not in the slightest, it is nice to be reminded occasionally of those days long ago.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

Like YourZ, I've never had the need to own any of the Steve Miller Band's albums - largely because they were and still are so radio-friendly.  Listening to at least the first half of this CD encouraged me to wind the window down and cruise, while singing along to the hits that are seemingly imbedded in my psyche.  Abracadabra, Take the Money and Run  and Rock'n'Me have that cruisy, easy, West Coast sound much beloved of Classic Hits and Easy Listening stations to this day.

But although the songs are great, I'm a little puzzled as to how this CD ended up in our collection.  Must have been one of those buy 5 CDs for 10 dollars each deals.  No harm done, but no real excitement for me.

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN


For more information: http://www.stevemillerband.com/

Friday, October 29, 2010

John Lennon - Shaved Fish


MINE

This is kind of the quintessential solo Lennon album.  However much Double Fantasy and Rock'n'Roll reverberated through my life (neither of which I own), it's these songs that mean so much to me.

I guess people of our generation always remember where we were when we heard about it.  Because it was early December and summer, I was with a couple of friends at a local swimming spot in Canberra, where I grew up.  My friend Karen and I had taken an air mattress out on the lake and were splashing about happily while our friend David went back to the car to turn up the music.  I'll never forget how he called us in to shore - we thought he might have hurt himself or something.  But as we came closer he shouted out "John Lennon's been shot!" and so we just packed up everything and went home, to mourn.
Much more than Elvis a few years earlier, this was the death that pierced my musical heart.  At that stage I was firmly a Lennon Beatles fan, budding anarchist that I was, well before my shift to gentle George.  These days I'm bound to acknowledge his many flaws.  Massive talent so often breeds massive ego.

There's so much on Shaved Fish to love.  But thirty years after his death, and thirty-five since this was released, I'm desperately sad to realise none of the things he Imagined have come true.  In many ways, this is a world the worse for wear, not the better for progress.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP

YOURZ

For a long time, it was said there are two types of music lovers in the world: Beatles fans or Stones fans.  While it is perfectly acceptable to like both bands, it is also nearly impossible to like them equally.  Me, I'm a Beatles fan, of this I have no doubt.

Of course, the divisions don't stop at being a Beatles fan.  Oh no, that would be way too easy.  There are subsets within this set: Lennon fans, McCartney fans or Harrison fans.  I can't imagine anyone who calls themselves a Beatles fan wanting to identify themselves in the Starr subset but who knows, they might be out there. (Mine says: oh yes, I knew one once - very weird guy)

If push comes to shove, I consider myself a McCartney fan.  I love his voice and his songs.  I love his personality and his musical abilities.  I love that he wrote my favourite Bond theme, Live And Let Die, and that had the balls to do the dreadful Mull Of Kintyre.  My favourite Beatles songs are mostly ones he wrote and sang (Yesterday, Michelle, Lady Madonna).  But as I've said previously in this blog, I have a hard time with being pigeon-holed.  I guess this is basically because I'm a loner and I'm non-competitive.  (Mine says: unless he's racing someone for a parking spot, folks!)

But having said all this, in my usual long-winded way, Lennon's songs are as important to me, although in much different ways, as McCartney.  Lennon had a way of being able to condense complex ideas into such poignant, powerful lyrics, much more so than McCartney has ever been able to do.  His deft turns of phrase and projection was able to tap in to the collective mindset of a generation

So, now we come to Shaved Fish.  Finally.  This is pretty much a compilation of singles released by John Lennon from the late 60s to the mid-70s.  It is an absolutely superb example of Lennon's songwriting, which, unlike typical McCartney tracks, are more socio-political and include many lyrical references to his personal philosophies (Imagine, Give Peace A Chance, Instant Karma, Power To The People).  It also details his battle with drugs (Cold Turkey), his search for higher states (Mindgames) and his ability to write beautiful pop (#9 Dream)

No, I don't really care for being pigeon-holed.  Just like I don't care for the idea of borders.  As the great man says:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information go to http://www.johnlennon.com/ (one of the many sites available)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

John Kennedy - Have Songs Will Travel

YOURZ

It wasn't until I was researching this review and found a few of Kennedy's band JFK & The Cuban Crisis videos on YouTube that I stumbled across Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong and recognised the song King Street.  While there is a big difference between the original band version and the one on this collection, both are equally great takes.

I remember seeing the clip and admiring the song way back sometime after it was first released.  I particularly liked the line


On King Street, I am King.  

In contemporary Australian  at that time, there was a move to have worldly rather than local references due to some cultural cringe but Kennedy defied this with his songs, sprinkling his tracks with locations around Sydney and Brisbane.  I really enjoyed hearing names I recognised and places I had been.

Vocally, he reminds me of Billy Bragg but (no offence to Mr Bragg, of course) with a better voice.  More importantly, he wrote great songs that have travelled well over the years.  I particularly liked Miracle (In Marrickville), Big Country and Juliet Jones.  And Kennedy can do the solo singer/guitarist thing very well indeed.  This collection deserves to be played more.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

A Forgotten Gem for me indeed.  I never followed John Kennedy when he was part of JFK and the Cuban Crisis, but came to him in his later years, with Love Gone Wrong, just prior to his departure for Berlin.  I'd purchased their album, Always the Bridegroom, when it came out in '87 and it featured heavily on my turntable.  Odd moment: some years later when I was playing it while a musician friend of mine was visiting, he told me he'd sung backup on Better Days, a semi-gospel number.  It's one of my favourite cheer-me-up songs.

This album is a sort of unplugged greatest hits, and I haven't played it for way too long.  His self-styled Urban and Western tunes are fun to sing along to, and matched with funny and clever lyrics.  However, I do recall going to see the band in a farewell concert before he left Oz for Germany (he's back now) and having him admit that in The Ballad of Jackie O he wrote what he freely admits to be the world's worst-ever rhyme.  I'd have to agree.

It must be lonely when you're recognised
As the world's most famous widow
If you married me I wouldn't die on you
Like all the others did - oh, oh, oh, oh

VERDICTTURN IT UP


For more information: http://johnfranciskennedy.com.au/

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hunters & Collectors - Collected Works


MINE

To me Hunters & Collectors always brings back the image of their first video - for Talking to a Stranger.  Directed by Richard Lowenstein, who went on to direct clips for INXS and U2, as well as making films, it's not just the music that makes it riveting.  The image of a nose-bound Mark Seymour being apparently doused with water while singing is one I've never forgotten.

The other thing that makes Hunters what they are is that they're unmistakably a Melbourne band, because they had a horn section. I can't tell you how many bands I'd be able to identify instantly and Melburnians in the 80s, just because of that.  Not that you get bands with horn sections these days.

I've seen Hunters a few times, and my favourite moment is always when they sing Say Goodbye.  Because there's really nothing like seeing a whole group of drunken Aussie men singing "You don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore" - it's surreal.

I actually missed almost all of the most beautiful Hunters moment in my life.  You see, I hung around with a group of people in high school - there were just shy of 20 of us - and we get together every five years to celebrate the decade and half-decade birthdays.  In 1997 there was a party at a club, with a covers band.  And a whole bunch of guys in the group got up on stage and sang Throw Your Arms Around Me.  We've always been a musical lot.  But I missed almost all of it because I'd been in the Ladies room chatting to a girlfriend (as you do) and couldn't ask for an encore.  So, maybe in 2012 I'll ask them for a repeat performance.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


YOURZ

I remember seeing Hunters & Collectors play way back in the early 80s when I was living in Melbourne.  I think it was at the Chevron Hotel, a now-defunct venue, but don't quote on this fact.  And don't ask me if I can remember what songs they played, because the only memory I have of the gig is standing up the back watching the band, who were all dressed in checked shirts of some description.  I can't recall if I saw them live again, except at a festival of some sort in the mid 90s.  I wish I had, though, because they were renowned for their live shows.

Right from the get-go, the Hunters were admirably a band.  While there was no mistaking lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Seymour's delivery, it was never his or any single member's band.  I remember wishing I could be in such a group, a cadre of musical brothers all working to produce something new, fresh and exciting.  Taking cues from Krautrock, their first releases were tight, sculptured rhythms accompanied by abrasive guitar and a blaring horn section.  They didn't do soft or gentle, at least not at first.  Listening to their early recordings, songs like 42 Wheels or The Slab, it feels like it was always all or nothing.

I remember hearing the thumping bass of Talking To A Stranger, one of their first singles and wondering where the bloody hell that sound came from.  I heard a similar sound repeated many times by different bands over the years, but none with quite the same impact as the this track.  This formula would be repeated, in various ways, over their next few albums, with Seymour not so much singing as abusing the microphone.  

However, while they had a well-established fan base with their first three albums, it wasn't until their fourth, Human Frailty, that the band finally had a hit record, led with a blistering diatribe to failed love of Say Goodbye (just hearing Seymour singing you don't make me feel like a woman anymore was worth the price of the album).  It kind of marked a departure from their noise-art rock to more traditional arrangements, but still with the undeniable passion and urgency the band exuded.

Then there is Throw Your Arms Around Me.  This is a true Australian classic, a song covered over the years by various Australian and international artists.  And drunk, homesick Aussies everywhere.  Seymour admits it was the first song he wrote that wasn't angry.  The band recorded and released a number of versions over their time together, never quite settling on a single one. The version on Collected Works, while suitably tender and probably the best known version, is not my favourite.  Check mine out here.  

And we may never meet again
So shed your skin and let's get started
And you will throw your arms around me

VERDICT: TURN IT UP

For more information go to http://www.humanfrailty.com.au/index2.htm

In our collection we also have

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Eels - Meet the Eels


YOURZ

Despite the title of this collection, I met the Eels way back when they released their first album, Beautiful Freak.  The Eels, aka Mark 'E' Everett, are another of those artists whose CDs have disappeared out of my collection over the years, damn it all.  I bought Meet The Eels as I missed tracks from the first three albums like Flyswatter, Susan's House and Mr. E's Beautiful Blues.  Then there's I Like Birds, which includes one of my favourite couplets:


If you're small and on a search, 
I've got a feeder for you to perch on

But it's the tracks from Eels fourth album, Souljacker, that really rock my boat, despite it being in the collection.  First up is the very Stooges-inspired Souljacker Part 1, followed by That's Not Really Funny and another desert island mixed tape song, Fresh Feeling - there is something about it that makes me smile every time I hear it.

What follows is his cover of Missy Elliott's Get Ur Freak On, both relevant and inspired.  I really don't know if he's taking the piss or what, but I don't care.  He has a history of fucking with audiences who request 'the hits', so I wouldn't be surprised.  If you haven't seen or heard about when he invited Afroman to sing his hit song Because I Got High, on stage at a show in Vienna, check it out here.  Afroman never sounded better.

The rest of the collection (it's a long one too, at 24 tracks) are from albums I'm not familiar with but have resolved, having fallen for the latter tracks like Dirty Girl, Hey Man (Now You're Really Living) and the tragically beautiful I'm Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart.  This is pure genius and we have to add another few more discs to our collection.  In this case, I'm sure we won't ever be disappointed.  

VERDICT: TURN IT UP and put it on repeat


MINE

For some reason when YourZ added his CD collection to mine, I came in with a preconceived notion that The Eels were some sort of prog/jazz/instrumental/ambient outfit.  No, seriously.  I didn't even try to listen to Souljacker, which was the only album of theirs that originally made it into Chez YourZenMine.  For - oh, about three or four years, if you can believe that.  How wrong was I.

This collection (and it's a long one, let me tell you) is full of some of the most beautiful indie-pop I've ever heard.  YourZ has gushed enough about it that I don't really need to, but I want to anyway!  I mean he does do a fair bit of button-pushing in the studio - but not on every track.  He doesn't cloud his songs with effects, he just adds the merest dash here and there - like a delicate seasoning bringing out the real flavour of each song.

He knows well enough to employ some great musicians.  He'll do stripped-back when he wants to.  And his lyrics are a complete delight.  I mean, I guess I can understand why he's not better-known - I mean the world thinks Coldplay and Celine Dion are pretty cool - but this stuff is, as my dear husband has said, pure genius.  As much as we can have in our collection will never be too much.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information http://www.eelstheband.com/

In our collection, we also have: Souljacker

Monday, October 25, 2010

Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul


MINE

Mmph.  I really thought I was going to love this, given my previous delight at anything Dangermousy in the world.  I'll admit the songs are prettily composed and well played and everything, but it just didn't grab me.

I'd recommend it for dinner party music, though - there's lots of inoffensive melodies beautifully done.  I just didn't find it compelling.

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN and pass the hors d'oeuvres 

YOURZ

It seems as though anything Brian Burton, aka Dangermouse, touches has an undeniable appeal to me.  His work with everyone from Damon Albarn, Beck and The Black Keys have become firm favourites.  Then he teamed up with Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous and an eclectic roster of singers and contributors, including film producer David Lynch.

The opening track Revenge, featuring the beautifully strained vocals of Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, sets a great benchmark for the rest of the album but only for the first three tracks.  It leads a trio of gorgeous alt-pop before changing gears with Julian Casablancas taking the lead in Little Girl, a bouncing dubby track complete with bass drops.

The following two tracks, the chugging Angel's Harp featuring Black Francis and Pain with vocals by somewhat subdued Mr Iggy Pop, add the rock quotient to the track listing.  After what could only be described as a Lynchian hommage to the psychedelic pop of everyone from The Beatles and Beach Boys to the Lips in Star Eyes (I Can't Catch It), is my favourite track of the album, Everytime I'm With You, voiced by Jason Lytle, formerly of Grandaddy.

However, I can't help feeling a sense of loss.  The death of Linkous prior to its release was a tragic blow.  If only as a testament to his abilities, Dark Night Of The Soul is as fine a document as any.  Vale Sparklehorse...

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information: http://www.dnots.com/

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bangles - Different Light


YOURZ

Blech...  Girly guitar pop.  Yeah, Susanna Hoffs was hot, okay.  And she played a cool Rickenbacker guitar and looked fuckin' awesome in mini skirts and long boots.  Still doesn't mean I liked the music she was making.

It doesn't help that their biggest song, apart from ergh... Walk Like An Egyptian and Eternal Flame, wasn't written by them but by Prince.  Now, I don't have anything against the pint-sized purple-clad popster (check out that alliteration) but no wonder he gave Manic Monday away.  I probably wouldn't ever have admitted to writing it.

VERDICT: THROW IT OUT


MINE

I was a bit disappointed when the pointy stick landed on this CD rather than All Over the Place, as that (in my opinion) is by far the better Bangles album.  I had to save my pennies to buy the first album, after I saw Going Down to Liverpool on a late-night music TV show called Rock Arena.  At the time I was an unemployed army wife living in a country town, and I had to get the record shop to order it in for me - on cassette, as we were spending a lot of time in the car driving to Melbourne and back. 

I played that cassette to death, and was delighted to hear the band had a new record out in 1986, when I was living in Brisbane.  Still an army wife but no longer unemployed, I called the city's eclectic record shop (Rocking Horse Records, it's still there) to find they had it - on import from the US.  So I paid through the nose for it, and brought it home.  About three weeks later, Walk Like an Egyptian hit the airwaves, and the Bangles became a household name.  Which of course distressed me no end with my indie-cool.

Listening to it for this exercise, there are songs I like - Return Post and Walking Down Your Street in particular - but it still leaves me feeling a wee bit cheated.  Oh, and please, please do not mention their later hit Eternal Flame - the very thought of that sweetly, syrupy piece of fluff makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

As a side note: these girls owe me for concert tickets I bought in the early 90s for a tour they later cancelled.  I was so depressed I never got a refund - just stared at the tickets for days before throwing them away.  They're touring Oz with Pat Benatar right now... but I just couldn't bring myself to fork out for it.  Hmmm, is that regret I hear now?

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN and put the other one on


For more information: http://www.thebangles.com/

In our collection, we also have All Over the Place

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy


MINE

I can't say I'm a Warren Zevon fan, because I don't own any of his albums except for Excitable Boy - and this is the third copy I've ever bought.  Let me explain.  As a person with a rather large music collection, I've been alphabetising it for years.  And when you do that, Mr Zevon ends up... at the end.  Therefore I was devastated to find one day that my first vinyl copy of Excitable Boy had a very heavy wiggle in it, after it sat in the sun one too many times.  So now I have one vinyl and one CD version of this album in my possession.

I actually can't really say I'm a fan of the whole album, either.  You see, I've only ever played Side One - which I know really well - so on Side Two I can only really appreciate Lawyers, Guns and Money - and even that isn't a patch on the five songs on Side One.

My favourite?  Depends on the mood.  If I'm sad, I love Accidentally Like a Martyr.  If I'm in the mood for dancing, it's Werewolves, plus that has one of the best alliterative lines ever written in a song  "Little old lady got mutilated late last night" - that's so much fun to sing!  And Roland has great memories for me as being one of the jukebox favourites in the pub where I'd go with colleagues from my very first job.  But all in all I'd go for Excitable Boy itself as the best track on the CD.  His ability to tell a story that's macabre yet lighthearted is just amazing.

I've read a biography, and he wasn't a very nice person.  He was bedevilled with OCD and addiction - but still, he was a right arsehole to a lot of people who'd only tried to be his friends.  However, there's always room for Side One in my heart.


VERDICT: TURN IT UP when Johnny strikes up the band


YOURZ

The very first working band I was in was way back in the very early 80s.  It was called The Fuze (please remember, this was the 80s and compared to a lot of other bands, our name was pretty tame).  We were a bunch of airmen at our first posting in Melbourne, living and working and playing hard together.

As a traditional 4 piece, two guitars, bass and drum, we played sets of cover songs at Airmen's Club nights at various bases around the greater Melbourne area.  In fact, the only gigs we ever did were for other airmen.  But we had a ball and got paid well.  And in true rock and roll form, the chicks who wouldn't normally talk to blokes like us started hanging out.  Our set of covers ranged from hokey to, well, not so hokey.  But one of the few songs we did and everyone loved was Werewolves Of London.

Fast forward to when Mine and YourZ truly first moved in together and amalgamated our collection.  Like her, I'd been alphabetising my collection more as a way of keeping track of everything than anything else.  And for the first time, there was an artist sitting in the the 'Z' position. It was doubly pleasing as Excitable Boy contained both the previously mentioned track (which featured both Mick Fleetwood and John McVie on drums and bass guitar) and the only other Zevon song I knew in the title track.  And while his has never been the kind of music I've been into, I can't help but acknowledge him as a unique voice in the annals of rock history.

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN


For more information: http://www.warrenzevon.com/

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thin Lizzy - Wild One The Very Best of Thin Lizzy


YOURZ

In 1978, not long after I turned 15, I went with some similarly-aged friends, caught a ferry into the city and walked around to stand on the steps of the iconic Sydney Opera House and watch a free concert, sponsored by the hippest radio station of that time, 2SM, and featuring headliners Thin Lizzy, as well as Wha Koo (who?), Jon English and a personal favourite, The Sports.

But it was Lizzy we were there to see and they didn't disappoint.  Here they were, one of my childhood hero bands, playing live in front of me (and thousands of others).  I have a vivid memory of standing on top of a garbage bin so I could watch them perform Bad Reputation live. Of all the bands I idolised as a teenager, these guys were the first I ever saw live.  It was a defining moment of my teens, hanging with friends, sharing cigarettes and sneaky sips of warm beer while listening to music.  I spent a lot of my life since then doing more or less the same thing.

More importantly, hearing them do The Boys Are Back In Town and being part of that crowd singing along, at such a time and in such a setting, I just knew I wanted to be a musician.  Thinking back now, this event probably set a precedent.  Seems as though the most significant times of my life have occurred at a rock and roll show.  And for that, I'm truly and deeply grateful.

That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
Won't be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again

The boys are back in town



VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

This album came to our house because of a mix-up by a friend of mine.  She'd heard a song on the radio and was convinced it was Thin Lizzy, so she bought the CD.  Turned out to be someone else entirely, but it did kind of sound like Rosalie - although I've completely forgotten who it was.

So given that she knew YourZ is a rock pig from way back, she figured it'd find a good home at ours.  And it has, although I have to admit I haven't given it nearly enough listens.  Again, the complaint - too much good music, not enough time.

And this time I have no feel-good, musical-moment tale to tell.  I will say that I knew more of the songs on this album than I thought I did, and had a good time rocking out to them.  As a final note to self: don't play this in the car again, it encourages speeding.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP anyway


For more information go to http://www.thinlizzy.org/

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stray Cats - Back to the Alley The Best of the Stray Cats


MINE

Aaah, still makes me smile.  Even had me bopping in my seat on the way to work, and whistling the tunes all day.

So, I've been a Cats fan since back in the day, and got to see them in the late 80s.  First gig was at a local venue, and I was so excited by it, I decided to trek to the Blacktown Worker's Club (in the at-the-time scary western suburbs) to catch them one more time.  Alone.  Had hardly ever been anywhere west of the inner city socially before.

And the venue was amazing, there were heaps and heaps of the rockabilly crowd there with twirly skirts and pompadours.  This time I only had one drink and plastered myself to the front of the stage, for one of the best gigs I've ever seen.  Gene and Eddie two feet from my nose, oh yeah.

Now, that time I'd gone along without my then-boyfriend (hi, Lindsay!) who'd actually introduced me to the Cats as something more than a novelty act, but who was on call that night and couldn't go out.  So for the first (and last) time ever, I decided to hang around the stage door and see if I could get him an autograph, just as a "thank you" to him.  Because seriously?  I was from the city.  If we don't know the band, we go home.  It's just not cool.

Aaanyway, they came out to a relatively small crowd who were mostly in costume, but didn't sign any autographs.  Which got me steamed.  So, I hopped in my car and followed them, along with a pack of others.  I know.  Deeply uncool.  The driver had obviously done this before, because he went on a high-speed jaunt through the back streets, and all the time I'm hoping I don't lose them because I had no idea where I was, but eventually he headed into town.  Late at night, on a weeknight, not much traffic and doing at least 30 kilometres (20 miles) an hour over the limit.  But I hung on.  Blew at least one red light (in the days before red light cameras).

When the minibus finally got to Kings Cross I was cursing myself.  I was a city girl, they were staying in the "celebrity" hotel, I should have guessed.  And then they blew me off!  I was the only car that had stuck with them, but they were bundled out and up to their rooms.  However, I did get a bit of consolation.  The driver looked at me and said "Fuck girl, you can really drive!"

I headed off to the Manzil Room (a muso's hangout) and had a few drinks with their support act, whose name escapes me now.  Never did get that autograph.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP (I'll have a whiskey on the rocks and a change of a dollar for the jukebox)


YOURZ

Okay, so Mine has a great story about the Stray Cats.  While this isn't a competition, I would like to be able to offer my own similarly poignant, funny story, perhaps hinged on karmic schadenfreude or sweet comeuppance.

But nope, I don't have anything even approximating a story such as hers.  The best I can offer is those days and nights long ago I spent cruising in my old black 63 Chevy Belair.  I had the Stray Cats first, self-titled album on cassette and used to flog the hell out of it and a bunch of others while driving around in that beautiful beast of a car.  This is music made for cruising in hot cars.  And boy, could the Cats play.  They are still one of my favourite three piece acts.

Most of the tracks on this collection are from the same album.  Listening back, I added another couple of songs to my deserted island mixed tape in Stray Cat Strut and Runaway Boys. I still get the same thrill when I hear the start of the latter, which broke traditional pop formula by starting with a lead guitar back and in doing so created one of the classic rock tracks of all time.  In my humble opinion, of course.  And after such a grand statement, what else is there to say except...

VERDICT: TURN IT UP, wind the windows down and lets go cruisin...


For more information go to http://straycats.com/

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jane Siberry - When I Was A Boy


YOURZ

Having never heard of Jane Siberry nor any of her music until I met Mine, all I could do was listen to this album and be sucked into the vortex of sound created by her brilliant voice.  Her's is rich, smooth and as sweet as wild honey, even if it does come with the occasional lyrical sting.

She falls into that zone of magnificently-voiced female artists who I've never really had any interest in, being the rock pig I mostly am.  But I couldn't call myself a musician if I wasn't able to appreciate and acknowledge her prodigious talents.

This is seriously good music but just not for me.

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN


MINE

I haven't been looking forward to this review.  Not because I don't love this album, because I do.  But because of Vigil, the song about sitting in a room waiting for a parent to die.  I haven't been able to listen to that song since my father died, almost a year ago.  And I tried to listen to it for this review, but I had to stop.  It's still too painful.

Anyway, I came upon Jane Siberry in a restaurant/bar in Sydney many years ago, when a DJ was playing one of her songs.  After noting down the name, one of my friends (hi, Kevin!) found she was playing in Sydney soon afterwards, and we went to see her.  I was transfixed, and bought this album as soon as I could.  She was playing as a girl-and-guitar, as I recall, but the strength of her voice was - look, I still don't have words for it.

Many, many years later she visited again, this time to play at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival under her new name - Issa.  (She's gone back to being Jane now, I gather.)  So I flew to Adelaide to see her with a friend of mine who lives there.  And again her voice was - so riveting, so enveloping, so beautiful, there aren't words for it.  This is one instance where the CD offers a small reflection of the power of the artist's voice - not the other way around, as it so often is.

I was really annoyed to find she toured Australia again last year, and I was completely unaware of it!  Because I could hear her sing "Love is everything they said it would be/ Love made sweet and sad the same" any day of the week.  Although I could probably listen to her sing the phone book.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pulp - Different Class


MINE

I love this album - but I don't often listen to all of it.  That's because I love, love, love Common People, Disco 2000 and Sorted for E's and Wizz.  Now I will admit, Jarvis occasionally does that beat-poetry type singing - but not all the time, not all the way through the song, and he really can sing.  Like anything.

Pulp do that lovely electronica-guitar-dance-rock crossover stuff and were firm favourites when this came out, in 1995.  As I recall, I didn't actually buy this until a couple of years later.  It spent a lot of time in the CD player - but I will admit it's those three songs that get the most traffic.

I love the sardonic tones Jarvis gives to Common People, and the almost-fragility he imparts to lines in Sorted ('Cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain/ somewhere, somewhere in a field in Hampshire).  But Disco 2000 is my favourite.  I really, really wanted the DJ to play it for my 20th high school reunion 10 years ago, but the guy hadn't even heard of it.  Funny thing, next month is my 30th reunion.  But even though this time I have the job of putting together the music (I'm currently awash in bad late 70s-early80s pop) I don't think Disco 2000 has any relevance there any more.  Shame, because it's a damn good song.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


YOURZ

I’ve never been much of a fan of Pulp.  They were kind of on the radar back in the early 90s due more to the people I was sharing a house with than anything else.  They were big fans of just about everything British.  To be honest, lead vocalist Jarvis Cocker’s mannerisms annoyed me. 

But Mine reintroduced them to me.  While I still couldn’t exactly call myself a fan, I do now have a bit more respect for them.  They were kind of lumped into the Brit Pop category, along with a whole swag of bands and maybe this was why I never had much interest.  I’ve always been a big Blur fan but not many other bands in that list cut it for me.

There are some good tracks on Different Class, no doubt.  I think Mine has probably mentioned these already.  And there are a few album tracks that remind me of the Bowie during his Aladdin Sane period, which is cool.  But am I the only one who thinks Cocker is a bit of a wanker?

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN


For more information: http://www.pulppeople.plus.com/

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not From There - Sand On Seven


YOURZ

We haven't got really close to this kind of music in our collection, although The Mint Chicks fall somewhat in the zone.  And that zone is what is known as noise rock or post-rock, to some.  I can't admit to being a fan of a lot of what there is to offer but I know what I like.

Not From There chiefly came to the attention of Australian fans with the song Sich Offen, first released as a single and then with this album.  That the lyrics are sung mostly in Austrian didn't seem to make a difference to the listeners.  It's a grinding burst of dance-friendly rock.  I remember seeing the band live back around the time this was released and it was great to see the beard-strokers and the ravers mix it up.

Their follow-up album, Latvian Lovers, is a lot more playful with less of the vaguely Teutonic soundscapes this  album uses as padding.  But there are still a few gems to be found.  Hurricane Charlie opens the album, bursting out of the speakers like a siren.  This is followed by Juanita's Cocktail Party, a gear-changing piece of distorted mania while The Corkscrew builds on a distinct snare break and distorted vocals until it explodes in a wall of distortion.

I remember really liking all of this album at one point but now it just sounds a bit too wanky and conceited.  And I know Mine is going to be pretty damned impressed too, so lets...

VERDICT: THROW IT OUT 


MINE

Well, it started OK.  A well-paced, rocky opener... and then it all went south.  Tweets and buzzes, singing in German fer gossake. That deeply indie I'm-not-really-singing-this-is more-like-beat-poetry-set-to-music stuff.  Wanky is the word.  I have to admit I didn't really listen to much of the album, as I'd get about 30 seconds in to each track before screaming loudly and pressing the "next" button.  So I guess I'm going to be predictable here.

VERDICT: THROW IT OUT or off a high cliff...


For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_from_There (we know its Wikipedia but this is all there is, folks).

In our collection we also have Latvian Lovers

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jenny Morris - Shiver


MINE

Urgh.  I was really hoping I'd enjoy this more, given that I was a staunch fan of Ms  Morris in the 80s and saw her performing live several times.  But I guess this is the reason the CD's stayed in the drawer, unplayed, for so long.  These songs really don't age that well - except for Aotearoa, which will always be a firm favourite.

I fell in love with Jenny's voice when she was a member of QED in the early 80s, with her fragile-yet-powerful vocals showcased on the single Everywhere I Go.  (Ooh, dig the keytar!)  But it was her first album, Body and Soul, that I loved the most.  It's not in our collection because I had it on a cassette... and so while I'm voting to turf Shiver, I must dig around and see if I can buy Body and Soul again and listen to You I Know ( a Neil Finn song).

VERDICT: THROW IT OUT


YOURZ

I was quite surprised by how many of the songs on Shiver.  Actually, its a bit scary because I have never owned anything by her nor have I ever been a fan.  It means I heard these songs played on radio so many times, they've become part of me.  No wonder I can't remember my birthday with shit like this cluttering up my memory.

There is no doubting the Andrew Farris (of INXS) influence.  In fact, a number of the tracks are co-written with him.  These kind of sound like INXS-lite.  Tragic, really.  The only real highlight is her version of Paul Kelly's 'Street Of Love' too but I enjoy the original version too much to enjoy her cover of it.

VERDICT: THROW IT OUT

For more information: http://www.jennymorris.com

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Machine Translations - Happy

YOURZ

Oh, it has been so long since I listened to this album.  For that reason alone, it has to be a Forgotten Gem, but it is so much more, believe me.

I don’t know how to describe J Walker, the man behind and responsible for the wondrous world of Machine Translations.  For all you international readers (hi there, friends), the best way I can put this is that J is the Australian version of Eel’s main man, Mark Everett, or E, as he is known.  The only difference is that J doesn’t seem to be as bogged down in bleakness as E often admits to being.

Happy, Walker’s fifth full length outing, continues his mostly-alone forays into the spaces between pop and folk.  He enlists various key players along the way to help paint his sound-scapes, but more so, it is his abilities as a multi-instrumentalist and the often unusual instruments that carry the songs.

I know this might sound obvious but while listening to Happy, I can’t help but smile.  Its not because the music is overly upbeat (some of its anything but) or is filled with great hooks (which it is) but it is the overall ambience.  This is pure pop magnificence.  Why we only have this album, though, is something we need to address, Mine.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

I can't call it a Forgotten Gem, but I can call it a "Why haven't we got more of him?"  When we first got Happy it was barely off the CD player.  And it makes its way back there semi-regularly, but now my brief foray into research shows there are more albums!  New albums!  Begging to be bought!

Now, how can I explain my enthusiasm.  I guess MT falls into the realm of stripped-back artists we love like M Ward... but also of experimental soundscapers like Sigur Ros.  There are pure pop moments and other where the man behind the band - J Walker - has definitely gone mad with the buttons and loops.  But even so, it's all good.  Really.  All of it!  Especially She Wears A Mask which is so damn hummable it's been chasing me around all day.

Don't take my word for it, watch Amnesia.  Then buy the album.  And all his others, because that's what I intend we should do ASAP.  If we did it for M Ward, we should do it for J Walker.  (YourZ sez: great minds think alike, my love)

VERDICT: TURN IT UP



Friday, October 15, 2010

Katalyst - What's Happening

MINE

With Paul Kelly we went from artist to compilation - and now with Katalyst we've gone from compilation to artist.  Let me explain.  The artist known as Katalyst (Ashley Anderson to his mum) is a DJ and producer, whose Dusted compilation is essential at any party at the YourZenMine abode.  But he's also a recording artist, putting together great musicians and vocalists on What's Happening and creating an album that just sounds like it was put together by a DJ.

Why? Because it pops, it struts, it croons, it rocks.  There are long songs and short ones, there's swing and rap and all kinds of styles, all blended together so you never know what's going to fly into your ears next.

It's also flawlessly produced - naturally - and the tunes are beautifully performed.  In short, this album is a winner.  Why don't you own it?

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


YOURZ

Ashley Anderson, aka Katalyst, is personally responsible for some of the best party nights I’ve had in recent times. No, seriously.  As we have already noted in our review of his amazing compilation Dusted (see it here), he has a real knack for mixing old and new together as well as creating some incredible beats himself.

On What’s Happening, his second full length album, he concentrates on giving us his own brand of new soul, hip hop and lots of bits in between.  And in doing so, he has gathered together a great arsenal of players, both national and international, using them to fire off track after fabulous track.

Steven Spacek, the vocalist who he formed his side project Space Invadas with, opens the album with the new soul-flavoured How ‘Bout Us, before the first single, All You’ve Got, jumps out of the speakers at you.  Featuring the rapid-fire talents of Ru C. L., Hau (from Koolism) and Yungun, this is hip hop as it should be, groove-laden, ego-free and well-humoured.  The bass line in this track is simple but so enviable.  It is exactly the sort of line I wished I written myself.

The highlights come fast on What’s Happening.  The beautiful and magnificently-voiced Stephanie McKay takes a incredible turn on Say What You Feel, the equally-gorgeous Adalita brings the rock with Bladewalker and  Katie Noonan lends her incredible voice to the Portishead-like To Dust.  But its not all about the girls.

Ru C. L. comes back for second appearance on Step Up, while Joe Volk adds his talents to Loaded Gun, as does Mat McHugh (from Beautiful Girls) to Over And Over, a dubby track reminiscent of Gorillaz at their best.

The problem though is that I haven’t listened to this nearly enough to really appreciate it. The previously mentioned compilation is still our constant go-to party starter and we’ve yet to find anything else that is equal to the task.  But, appropriately, What’s Happening is now a serious contender.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP

For more information: http://www.katalystmusic.com.au/

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hilltop Hoods - The Calling

YOURZ


In Australian hip hop, there is no greater group than the magnificent Hilltop Hoods.  In fact, their significance is so profound, they set the standard for just about all hip hop that have followed in their wake in Australia.  But few have been able to come anywhere near the sheer passion for their craft (or the success) that the Hoods have achieved. And they’ve achieved a lot.  The Calling is the first Australian hip hop/rap album to achieve platinum sales and following albums sold similar numbers.

But this success could in no way be called ‘overnight’.  It took the band over ten years of dedication, hard work and touring before releasing this, their third full length album (and first on Australia’s premier hip hop label, Obese). Support for hip hop in Australia prior to the Hilltop Hoods success was very limited, with most of the industry viewing hip hop as more a novelty than anything serious.

Through the break through singles from The Calling, this view was turned on its ear.  And while the singles Nosebleed Section and Dumb Enough introduced the band to a wider audience through radio airplay and their relentless touring, this is not a two-single album with filler tracks.  In fact, the album is so strong and flows so well, I can imagine there would have been some heated discussions about which songs were going to be singles. 

I can’t really decide which tracks on this superb album are my favourites and there are quite a number.  My laundry list changes every time I listen to The Calling as I discover something new in this masterly produced album I like.  But the title track, The Sentinal, Illusionary Lines, Laying Blame, Mic Fenton and Walk On never fail to please.  At least, that's my list today.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

The best Aussie hip-hop has me coming back for more - even with a huge 17 tracks on this album.  I'm all for giving the fans more, but often when I see that many songs on a CD I can't help wondering if the band's really engaged its critical facilities and only included its best material. 

But the Hoods put out a quality product - as this album attests.  It's a platinum-selling album here in Australia, and the singles The Nosebleed Section (samples Melanie Safka!) and Dumb Enough are genuine mainstream toe-tappers.

There's no mistaking the broad Aussie accent - which we've discussed on this blog before - and for me they make it work.  I don't often give hip-hop a high score, because I generally prefer to have it stirred into a mixed bag on the dance floor.  But I can listen to The Calling, end to end.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information: http://www.hilltophoods.com/

In our collection we also have The Hard Road

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marianne Faithful - Broken English/Strange Weather


MINE

I bought this double CD for Broken English, which was part of the soundtrack to my high school years and which everybody (except me) owned in 1980.  The singles - The Ballad of Lucy Jordan and the title track - were also much-played on the jukebox of the bar I frequented with work collegues, my first year out of high school.  And when I look at the album cover it's Lucy that runs through my head.

In fact, I bought the CD as a birthday present for myself, the year I turned 37.  Although I haven't yet, like her, dashed my hopes of driving through Paris in a sports car, with the warm wind in my hair.  Although I'd be hoping for a Parisian driver, as every time I've been in Paris I've been convinced the drivers there are protected by some kind of force field not available to mere mortals like myself.

As for the rest of the album, I love Brain Drain "you go on and on/ Like a bloodstain" and Guilt, plus her terrrific version of John Lennon's Working Class Hero.  And of course there's the oh-so-shocking  Why D'Ya Do It? which as I recall was banned in Australia when the album first came out (it has the C-word in it along with some pretty graphic sexual imagery) and even now I'm sure would raise an eyebrow or two.

The other album, Strange Weather, isn't really my kind of thing, as it's more a nod to Brecht and Weill - kind of modern Cabaret.  But Broken English?

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


YOURZ

Unlike dear Mine, I'm not at all familiar with Broken English (the album).  But I do remember Broken English (the song) and The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan.  The lyrics to the latter always stuck me as sad and desperate, something I never wanted to be at any age.  It also makes a great case for believing you are never too old to do something new, which is a personal philosophy of mine.

I have to concede Broken English has a lot going for it, from the iconic cover art through to the album tracks I'd not heard before.  Her version of Lennon's Working Class Hero is a stunning retelling while the controversial Why D'ya Do It is awesomely vitriolic and still packs a powerful punch.

The second half of this collection, Strange Weather, could best be described as cabaret for the seriously depressed.  Small relief comes from a few tracks, specifically Sign Of Judgement, Love Life And Money and her cover of the Stones classic, As Tears Go By, which she imbues with a heavy melancholia. (Mine says: Marianne actually had the first chart success with this tune in '64 before the Stones did their own version in '65, so this is a cover of her own version to be persnickety - as I often am)

So, is it really two albums for the price of one?  For me, it isn't but it's certainly worth the cost for Broken English alone.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP 



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Decoder Ring - Decoder Ring


YOURZ

In an industry where spoon-feeding audiences lyrical hooks rather than providing emotive clues through music, Decoder Ring are at odds with the de rigueur.  Very rarely, if at all, do they allow vocals of any sort to mark the passage of their songs, which swell and fall away in a tide of riffs, pads and percussion.

On this, their self-titled d├ębut, the original 5 piece line-up build soundscapes that would be at home in a full-length feature film.  In fact, the next official record released by the band was the soundtrack to the Australian film, Somersault, to critical acclaim.

Mine calls it prog but then says she likes it whereas I, after some further thought, would be more inclined to call it avant garde - a bit arty and a bit introspective.  It melds electronica and rock in a way not often done and certainly very few do it as well as Decoder Ring do.  Interestingly, in doing a little research for this review, I found out an old acquaintance of mine, while not on this particular recording, is now playing bass in the band.  So this one's for Stef.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


MINE

This album prompted much discussion between YourZ and Mine(self) about just what exactly denotes prog - and with at least one song at well over 10 minutes this album could definitely wear the label.  But there's something about most of it that makes me want to listen - as opposed to yesterday's effort which just made me snort with barely-suppressed laughter.

Perhaps it's the melding of guitar and electronica - kind of a Metallica/Depeche Mode mash-up, if you will - that makes it the ideal driving music.  As YourZ has pointed out, it's a great soundtrack - and that's exactly what you need when the road is unfolding new scenery in front of you every minute.  OK, there were moments when they put on their serious prog-pants and went hard at it - but then the skip button is only a finger-push away.  For the rest of it, I'd say...

VERDICT: TURN IT UP


For more information: http://www.decoderring.com.au/