Thursday, June 10, 2010

Parades, Bells Will Ring and The Upskirts

(Bells Will Ring)


Last night, Melissa and I went to see Parades perform at Transit bar. I was reviewing the gig for FasterLouder (free tickets, woo!), but we also saw the band play at Homebake in 2009, and remembered enjoying their set.

Supporting were The Upskirts, a triple J Unearthed band from Sydney, and Bells Will Ring, also from Sydney. The bar was sadly quite empty for the gig, a fact that generally dissapoints me about gigs in Canberra, but those that did attend were pretty enthusiastic.

I won't do a full review (because then I won't be able to write one for FasterLouder without being incredibly bored by my own words!), but I will say that I enjoyed all three bands, though Bells Will Ring less than the others. Their vocal harmonies seemed a little off, and I felt like they were trying a little too hard to be polished on stage.

Parades, of course, were amazing. So much so that I bought their album! (Goodbye, food money, I shall yearn for you tomorrow!).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Music Review: Rebecca Hancock - Somewhere To Land

I first discovered Rebecca Hancock (supported by her band, The Prison Wives) way back in 2002, when my twelve-year-old-self with a burgeoning appreciation for independent music became obsessed with her debut album Somewhere To Land. Now, eight years later, Miss Hancock has released her second album, Under My Bed.

Unfortunately I lost my copy of Somewhere To Land way back when, and have spent many years bereft of the soulful, haunting songs – wishing I could find the CD again. And then I realised that with the invention of this wacky thing we call the “internet,” I probably could.

I bought another copy of Somewhere To Land from Rebecca’s website and – even putting aside the fact that she sent me a personal email saying she hoped I enjoyed the CD – am thoroughly glad I did.

Rebecca has a versatile voice that puts many of the recent female-singer-songwriter revival to shame. Her songs are reminiscent of Ani DiFranco, or Tori Amos before she became self-indulgent, and are a pleasing blend of fey, folksy tunes and dirty barstool blues. Stand-out tracks include Moon Wants a Lover, Prison Ground and an astonishing cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

You can listen to a few songs off her new album here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CD Review: Operator Please - Gloves

Operator Please burst onto the music scene in 2005 with that song (that song being ‘A Song About Ping Pong’) and their debut album Yes Yes Vindictive. The pint-sized rockers were barely out of school, but performed with the verve of a veteran act. Despite the consistent quality of their music, there were mixed reviews for the album. While many recognised that there was no need to say “good for their age” – they were just good – there was an unfortunate amount of backlash against the band. They were criticised for being too young, too gimmicky, too much a myspace marvel. Operator Please, however, were not about to be talked out of making their own brand of loud-mouthed music, and are back with their sophomore album Gloves.

Gloves has perhaps slightly less of the frantic, distracted, attention-deficit-disordered energy of its predecessor – but the band have channelled this power and created something more driven. Lead single ‘Logic’ features a – there’s no other word for it – funky bass line and shows just how well the band do dance-beat rock. ‘Just Kiss’ has a climax and sexy synths that will probably encourage some make-out on the dance-floor; while ‘Back and Forth’ is a summer song with Caribbean blue skies overhead, and the influence of bands like Vampire Weekend apparent. Songs like ‘Loops’ show just how in control of the instruments the band is: these aren’t just high-schoolers, they’re technically proficient.

This second album is sophisticated, strong and still just as sassy. It is Operator Please, ready to fight, gloves off.

- M

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Trivs Farewell Tour...

Tonight we attended The Trivs Farewell Tour, of One Location - otherwise known as a 'gig.' The boys are heading overseas to various not-Canberra-and-therefore-exotic locations, and so bid farewell to our small nation’s capital with cheer and chutzpah.

The supporting acts were Super Best Friends and Ah! Pandita. Having not seen Ah! Pandita since they acquired a drummer, I was well impressed by their transition from ‘layered-vocals and uber-melodic indie-girl music’ to ‘layered-vocals and uber-melodic indie-girl with a dash of bona fide riot-grrl music.’

Farewell Trivs, may your travels see you well. May there be no trials and tribulations.

-- M

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fuck Yeah, Zines!

Zine life in Canberra has been taking off of late, thanks in part to a new collective, FYZ.

This group has been organising semi-regular zine-making days, not to mention posting links to zine fairs and other related news on their facebook page.

Check it out!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Film Review: Avatar

It’s been more than ten years since James Cameron directed the Academy Award-winning Titanic (1997), and the hype surrounding this monster of a film has been of leviathan proportions. Does it deserve the title of ‘epic’?

The year is 2054, and the human race is colonising the alien planet Pandora, so that they can mine for the imaginatively named mineral ‘unobtainum’ (presumably once they have it, it becomes obtainium). But the indigenous people of Pandora – blue-skinned Amazons, with a connection to the forest – are not willing to give up their homeland so easily. Earth sends in Avatars – human minds, linked to alien bodies – to convince them to leave. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator) is one such Avatar, thrust into an entirely new world, and out of his body. But as Jake learns more about the native people, he finds himself torn between two worlds, fighting for the forest – and his life.

The story is straightforward: Pocahontas on another planet, Dances With Wolves to the tune of a space opera, romanticism of the savages in space. Unfortunately the dichotomy between civilised/savage is slightly overwrought. The aliens are somewhat complex characters, but the army and corporate thugs are mindless, testosterone-powered machines. The human characters are ironically more two-dimensional than their animated counterparts.

The plot is predictable, the politics somewhat preachy, and the dialogue clichéd: but this is a remarkable film nonetheless. The formula is still interesting no matter how many times we’ve seen it, but it is the alien planet Pandora that makes Avatar so watchable. The lush and luminescent world is filled with detailed plants, and fascinating and frightening animals. The thick atmosphere of the planet means that mountains float suspended in the sky, and slow-moving reed-grasses are reminiscent of underwater scenery.

Avatar was made for 3D, so it would be remiss of me not to mention its effectiveness. Does it live up to the hype? The 3D effects are amazing. Most impressive are not exploding aircraft, or airborne missiles, but the more subtle scenes, where 3D is merely used to add depth to the scene. Watching Avatar, one feels like they are really standing in the room with the characters, or watching the lush forest stretch out before them.

Despite the predictability of plot, Avatar is an amazing technical achievement. It is worth seeing, if only so that one can see the future of filmmaking. It is an out of body, out of this world experience.

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver

- Melissa

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gig Review: Homebake 09

Homebake: Tasty Australian Morsels

A blow-by-blow guide to getting baked at the smaller stages of Homebake, by your two devastatingly good-looking and not at all self-indulgent zinesters.


Sydney trains are terrifying, especially when you’re tired from a Newton evening, and have the navigational skills of a retarded puppy, the runt of the litter. By the time we arrived at St James Station, we realised the only way we would ever make it to Domain would be by stalking the fluro-clad, thong-footed folk traipsing down the street in packs. Like wolves. The retarded puppies followed, whimpering. (Analogy gone too far?)


Being the nerds we are, we reached our destination an hour before the gates were due to open. If only we’d thought to bring our Nintendo DSs. As it was, we stood lethargically in line, wedged between two groups of 30 year olds, mentally match-making the couples. Zoya rubbed sunscreen into Melissa’s back, and tried to make it as platonic as possible. We still held high hopes of hooking up with the lead singer of the Red Riders later that evening – who knew who might walk by?


Allowed through the gates swiftly (after being IDd by disbelieving security guards) we made a beeline for the main stage to watch Philadelphia Grand Jury. This pop duo (and their latest drummer – they’ve had five) know how to rock an early morning slot. The energetic pop frenzy ended with a collective band breakdown, as the bad-ass bassist left the stage mid-song, and the frontman walked around in circles yelling “I don’t want to party!”, before dismantling the drum kit as the drummer continued to play. The jury’s verdict is in: guilty. Guilty of being awesome!


With little else to do, we decided to hang around and watch The Scare play. Best decision ever! The flamboyant frontman howled his way through each song, gyrating in the faces of photographs and simulating masturbation with his belt strap. At one point, he threw himself over the barrier into the crowd, and got jiggy with it with his fans (and innocent bystanders). The Scare were a pleasant surprise. Scary? More like scare-tastic! (Okay, we’re really sorry. We’ll stop with the puns now.)

Food Break:

Interestingly, we ate pizza.


We headed to the Hopetoun stage, where we intended to remain for the next eight hours – front and centre. When we entered, we could hear the sound of indie pop-rock emanating from the stage. Zoya asked Melissa, “Who is this delightful band?” To which Melissa replied, “I don’t know, a group of twelve year olds.” As we got closer, we realised that if they were twelve year olds, they were very tall and attractive – the kind of twelve year olds we like. Oh yeah. Jonathan Boulet and his band harnessed their naïve and boyish charm to create energetic pop-folk, placing them squarely as sensitive new age guys. Oddly, their demographic appeared to be buff bogan men, the only members of the audience who knew ALL the words to their songs.


In case we hadn’t got enough of Jonathan Boulet’s beautiful bod – talent. We mean, talent – he was also the drummer for Parades, the next band to grace the stage. Parades create layered indie-pop of the Arcade Fire variety, but less good. Not that they were bad, per se, and all members of the band were very clearly talented, but there’s only so much imitation-Canadian music that you can listen to before it all starts sounding the same. The final song was pretty good. Obviously.


Next up was Bridezilla, and Zoya and Melissa quickly agreed that they would sleep with any member of the band, comprising of four females and one male. However the most impressive aspect of the band was not their matching black lace outfits, but their ethereal, saxophone- and violin-driven toons. By the end of their set, we had renewed our ambitions to become girl-rockers. Melissa on tambourine, Zoya on triangle (and rap vox).


After such a soothing set, the next band that graced the stage (and by graced we mean smashed) was Die! Die! Die! Melissa has a friend who saw this band back in 05 – they dislocated their knee during the set, and just kept moshing. This should give you an indication of just how hardcore the band is, and inspires their audience to be. Mid-way through the set the lead singer threw himself into the crowd, with guitar in hand, before opening the barrier and leading the audience pied-piper style to dance in front of the stage. Later, the bassist crowd surfed (again, with bass in hand) on a grand total of five people, without breaking tune. Melissa touched his… Never mind. Good set though. Real good. Moving on.

Sometime later… Okay, we’ve totally forgotten the times. Use your imagination, people! Geez.

Magic O’Clock

Red Riders! Disclaimer: we didn’t actually get to sleep with Alex, the lead singer of this glorious band. Laaame. But we are pretty sure that by this point the members of other bands loitering backstage had begun to recognise us as “those two crazy girls dancing manically at the front of every set.” We unabashedly love this band, so we obviously loved the set. Highlights included Alex’s hilarious hand gestures, his leopard print shirt, and tight tight jeans. And the other members of the band were pretty good, too. Oh, and the music. Seriously, Red Riders deliver the good times and the great hooks. Crowd favourites included “My love is stronger than your love” and “You’ve got a lot of nerve.” Personal favourites included “Feels Like Grace.”

Girl O’Rock

Who appeared next on stage, like some crazy magical goddess of rock? Why, none other than Juanita of the Howling Bells. In her sequinned top and black ribbed leggings, it would be easy to underestimate this girl as just another pretty singer. But her diminutive frame disguises a big voice and some kicking guitar skills, not to mention an attitude to rival any male rock star’s. Their time across the pond in England has not in any way altered the Howling Bells’ sultry-grrl vocal style and growling guitars. Many a man left the audience sweaty and a little weak-kneed. Maybe some girls did too. We’re not pointing any fingers. (Zooyyaaa.)

Sexy O’Clock

Anyone who has met us, knows of our undying enthusiasm for Yves Klein Blue, Brisbane indie-rockers who have recently made the big-time. And by “big time” we mean, a night act on the small indie stage. We’ve seen this band three times, and each time we have managed to somehow touch the lead singer Michael Tomlinson. Twice with his permission (hand shakes and arm-signings), this time without, as we stroked his bicep while he leant into the crowd. We were clearly the biggest fans in the audience, and the only ones who knew the words to every song. Just sayin’. Not bragging at all. After the sweaty exhausting set, (including favourites “Getting Wise” and “Polka”) Michael threw himself into the fray to be crowd-surfed to the back of the tent, before leaping to the ground and sprinting off into the night. Like a cheetah. Or some other sexy beast.

Quiet Girl Music O’Clock

AKA – your two shepherds were totally tired.

Having reluctantly left Yves Klein Blue, we found just the end-of-evening therapy we needed in the shape of Sarah Blasko’s headlining set. Sadly, Sarah’s floaty girl music was no match for the terror of Powderfinger’s monster rock, which kept polluting our airwaves and earwaves. Not that we’re bitter. What we did manage to hear was amazing, as Sarah always is. Her vocals were impeccable, and we particularly enjoyed it when she threw glitter into the crowd. It was a perfect end to a perfectly exhausting day.

Um, we also heard that some other bands played at Homebake. This alleged “Jet”, so-called “Hilltop Hoods” and unheard of “Eskimoe Joe.” Who are these bands? Where did they come from? Frankly, we think it’s a massive conspiracy.

End O’Clock

Happy and fainting, we battled our way through the throngs of drunk people onto a train, where we basked in the glory of our vibrating eardrums and aching muscles, revelling in the pools of our own sweat, puddling on the PVC seats we sat on. Hot.

Now well and truly baked, we were ready to go… “home.” (Ha ha! See what we did there? Lol.) We slept happy, dreaming of rock stars. In our beds. (And if iPods count, they were there. Aw yeah.)

Sweet and sweaty dreams, readers. Hope to see you there next year!