Sunday, March 27, 2011

Visual Aspects - M. Ward & Holly Throsby - Enmore Theatre - 20 February l 2011


Essence is defined simply as the fundamental nature of a thing.  In music, this is often mistaken as a derivation of influences, which leads lazy reviewers to comparing new with old, often ignoring the essence of the individual artist.  But while modern pop charts continue to descend into the auto-tuned pits of hell (for the most part), there are thankfully new artists making their mark, songwriters who don't subscribe to the moors of modern music, who divorce themselves from the musician-as-a-brand ideology and who actively seek to remain outside the superficial glare of  the celebrity spotlight.

One such artist is M. Ward, whose indisputable talent is of the sort reviewers will be using as a reference point in years to come.  And it his essence - the broke-down fragility of his voice, the passion and depth of his songwriting and his confident brilliance as a musician - will like ensure this is the case.

If such lofty praise makes me sound like a wanker, then so be it. But there are a few times in a music-lover's life when they come an artist who truly touches them and of whom they never tire of hearing.  Mine is a mixed bag: Elvis Costello, Paul Kelly, The Clash, Queens Of The Stoneage, Gorillaz, Deftones and Gomez, to name a few.  M. Ward is now also on that list, particularly after seeing him live recently.

I was really pleased we made it in time to see his support, local singer/songwriter Holly Throsby. Accompanied by her band, The Hello Tigers, made up of two incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists, her set of lush indie pop and folk was truly a delight. Featuring tracks from her latest album Team, her set was an almost perfect accompaniment to what was to follow. YourZenMine highly recommend her - here is a taste.

With a stripped bare stage, featuring a microphone, a piano and a guitar on a stand, there was no doubting what M. Ward's performance was going to be about - the songs.  When you take away all the normal frippery associated with a modern band, I don't think there would be more than a handful of artists who could perform with as much confidence and consummate ability.

Opening with the instrumental Duet For Guitars #3 before jumping into Lullaby & Exile and Poison Cup before saying a single word to the audience, something I was particularly pleased about.  Far too many musicians these days forget that most of us want to hear the songs, not them prattle on about some anecdote or another.  My respect levels for Ward went up a couple of more notches.

Moving from the guitar to the piano and back, he enthralled the packed house with tracks like Hold Time, Chinese Translations, Never Had Nobody Like You and a personal favourite, Fuel For Fire, as well as a cover of the David Bowie track, Let's Dance, retold as an alt-country gem.  Sung with Ward's gravel-laced voice, it gave the track a dark menace not apparent in the original.  He truly is a modern legend in the making and if you get the chance to see him live, I have no doubt you will agree.  This is an early contender for gig of the year.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Visual Aspects - Daybreakers


This year, we intend to randomly select movies from our DVD collection to review, kind of similar to the blindfold method we employed last year for our CD collection.  This is the first DVD off the rack, a fairly recent Australian-made movie called Daybreakers (2009).

Written and directed by the Spierig Brothers and starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neil and Claudia Karvan, this is yet another vampire-related movie, albeit with a sci-fi bent.  Despite being a hackneyed theme now, Daybreakers is actually a slighty refreshing take on the whole vampire shtick and thankfully, there is nary an angst-ridden teen in sight.

The story takes place in the near future when vampires have become the dominant species.  Blood supplies are very low and human beings are being hunted and milked into extinction.  The directors did a good job in giving a decent enough back story to hang the movie off, but it did leave me wondering why the vamps didn't start some sort of captive breeding program to ensure their food source didn't run out.  But hey, this wouldn't make much of a story, would it?

Ethan Hawkes' character is a vampire haematologist with a conscience who happens to work for the largest supplier of blood to the population (kind of like a vegetarian hippy working for McDonalds, I guess).  Without giving too much away, he meets a group of humans, led by Dafoe's character who tell him they have a cure to 'the vampire plague'.  He sets about helping them develop it.

The cast work well together, although the script gets a bit ponderous at points.  The combination of sci-fi and horror works well enough, although initially I thought there was a good chance for this to be more innovative and without the usual cliches.  But the high action end, complete with gory set pieces, is a bit of let down.  Its almost as though brothers Spierig ran out of creative juice and fell back on the same sort of devices I've seen time and again.  Even so, while it certainly isn't vital, I wouldn't call it a complete waste of time.

VERDICT: Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's alive, I tell you, alive!

Heya friends and fans,

This is a quick note to let you all know we're still alive and kicking. Unfortunately, though, Mine has lost her blogging mojo and doesn't know where to find it.  It looks kinda like a cute, fuzzy orange kitten except with larger teeth.  And while it won't bite, it reacts better if you feed it non-gluten, sugar-free cookies of the dark chocolate variety.  But don't corner it, whatever you do.  Hopefully, it will come home soon and Mine will be a blogging babe again.

In the meantime, I will be trying to post a few regular articles of my own, with blanket approval from Mine. I made the suggestion that I could write her parts as I believe everybody is entitled to my opinion and I have enough for both of us.  For some reason, however, she vehemently vetoed the idea. I was only trying to be helpful.

Look out for a few posts in the near future.