Thursday, December 30, 2010



The Brisbane Hotel is alive with the ceaseless chatter of locals and interstate Christmas ex-locals catching up, drinking heavily and all here to witness the first gig in seven years for one-time flagship of the celebrated Hobart mid-to-late-nineties ‘scene’ The Frustrations.

Unlike so many other bands seeking to reform, the songs written by singer and guitarist Julian Teakle and drummer Mike Harris were wise beyond their years when they were written, so revisiting them is no mere exercise in nostalgia and many pack a surprising punch. Always a fan of unfettered honesty, Teakle counters the expected heckling and banter with ease. ‘Hi we’re the Frustrations...from a million years ago,’ he says with a wry chuckle between opener My New Shirt and Volcano. Teakle finishes the gig with a humourless ‘Now fuck off and spend your gift vouchers’ over blazing squalls of feedback suggesting that some sort of catharsis has been earned.

Affection is always matched with frustration at living in your hometown, and few songwriters have explored this with such blunt precision as Julian Teakle. The fact that he writes about Hobart is going to limit their relevance, but their coruscating sincerity can’t be denied, and tonight was a blinding reminder.

Knowing exactly how to set these paeans to the streets outside the venue, Harris has one drum style that involves the need to hit every drum on every song and this vocal-cue-triggered clutter sets Teakle’s stark guitar hacks off perfectly and allows them to capture that elusive beast; a simple sound to call your own.

The sonically reductive quality of The Frustrations is the most notably dated aspect of their sound. Few bands would have the bravery to play a 90-minute set with just a drum kit, guitar and occasionally used distortion pedal; no reverb, no distractions.

One Trick Pony Show is a languid mid-set highlight, Ricochet is ferocious and local classic What Erica Told Me sparks a sing-along with its brief verses (I love you / You’re dropped), before Teakle drily intones: ‘That was a song I wrote when I was 18, here is a far more sophisticated song I wrote when I was 28’, and enters Wilderness.

Teakle seems to have nothing to prove, won’t be thrown by vicious heckling and doesn’t exude the submerged need to seek approval that was an essential contributor to the energy needed to keep a band alive. There are dud notes, missed beats, a ferociously unpredictable cameo from Andrew Harper on 21 and the realisation that there are a lot of songs they can choose from.

Sonic Advisor, unreleased song Hey Death and Girl in the Purple Dress all shine, inspire some gentle slamming and are devoured by the audience, many of whom were definitely too young to have seen them before. Thankfully, there was never a chance of this being too polished, and like all good reunions, new material was played. Possibly best of all though, talk of the forthcoming release of a ‘lost’ album and plans for mainland shows.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Losing Your Cool: The Year Round-Up

Elsewhere, it's been written that 2010 was a year of musical disappointments. No instant classics (though some, including me, would argue Kanye's album is one for the ages) such as last year's Merriweather Post Pavilion (though that album's influence can be found throughout releases from new bands this year) and a lack of a uniting release like Funeral, In An Aeroplane Over The Sea or Sound of Silver. There were some interesting returns to form for some old favourites (Belle and Sebastian, Ninetynine), some fresh surprises (Best Coast, The Drums) and a few overhyped disappointments (M.I.A, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire).

Few would agree with my pick of Los Campesinos's release in the first week of 2010 as Album of 2010 but for me it held everything that a great album should. Ambition, risk-taking, a refusal to take easy options, honesty, unforced rebellion, breathtaking bravery, a total disregard for 'cool' and a wild, barely-controlled vital energy. You can map a journey from adolescent concerns on their debut through to intelligent self-reflection from their second release and an empowering facing up to adulthood and responsibility on this release. LC have no time for immature 30-somethings which Hollywood has recently fallen for. Though far from faultless, even when they stumble they do it with nobility and while striving for greatness.

Elsewhere it seemed there was no band in Melbourne without at least one floor tom more than comes with a drum kit. Rat Vs Possum, Love Connection, Pikelet, everyone who made a half-decent album seemed to feel the need to accentuate rhythm with a 14x16 inch drum. Whether this sticks around remains to be seen but there were an uncommonly fantastic amount of visually as well as aurally engaging gigs this year and it seems that 'tribal rhythms' along with hipster baiting were the defining flavours of music in Melbourne, as well as a gradual shift towards musicianship which is a welcome change from the style-driven flash-in-the-pans of recent years. Commercially though it was insubstantial style (Lady Gaga, Ke$ha etc.) over stylish substance (Janelle Monae, Aloe Blacc), though of course one man drove an ego-charged tractor over all trends and preconceptions and showed that fearless ingenuity still exists, and sells records.

Overall, the undermining of hipsters and increasing use of Twitter etc peels away layers of artifice and pretense while forcing facades to run deeper. As a result, the loss of superficial cool means that talent has to shine through if attention is going to remain which means that the hunt for the next big thing is harder than ever. 2011 looks like it's going to get exciting with releases from Bjork, Three Month Sunset (now Lowtide), Aphex Twin, Cut Copy and even maybe The Avalanches (a VERY close source tells me that mixing is finishing this summer!), I think I can start on my Top Ten Albums of 2011 list already.

1. Romance Is Boring LOS CAMPESINOS!
2. I See The Sign SAM AMIDON
3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy KANYE WEST
4. High Violet THE NATIONAL
5. Innerspeaker TAME IMPALA
6. Love Connection LOVE CONNECTION
7. Here’s The Tender Coming THE UNTHANKS
8. Teen Dream BEACH HOUSE
9. Bande Magnetique NINETYNINE
10. Crazy For You BEST COAST

1. Tightrope JANELLE MONAE
3. Runaway KANYE WEST
5. Lost Cities of Gold LOVE CONNECTION
6. Bloodbuzz Ohio THE NATIONAL
7. I Didn’t See it Coming BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
9. You’d Better Mind SAM AMIDON

1. Janelle Monae
2. Love Connection
3. Tame Impala
4. Best Coast
5. K

3. Pavement PALACE
4. Svavar Knutur WESLEY ANNE
5. Jens Lekman MY BACKYARD

1. Richard In Your Mind, Rat Vs Possum, Silver White Magic NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB
2. Love Connection CAMP A LOW HUM
3. Pikelet, Love Connection, World’s End Press NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB
5. Denim Owl CAMP A LOW HUM

1. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews BBC RADIO FIVE LIVE
2. Lime Champions RRR
3. Transference RRR
4. Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me NPR

1. Mad Men AMC
2. 30 Rock NBC
3. SBS World Cup coverage SBS
4. Bizzare Foods TRAVEL CHANNEL
5. At The Movies ABC

1. Inception
2. Toy Story 3
3. The White Ribbon
4. The Red Chapel
5. Animal Kingdom

Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. From uniting millions of disaffected youth and finding hope in death on one of the albums of the millennium thus far (Funeral), to gloriously wallowing in American nihilism on the brilliant Neon Bible, to whinging about ‘the kids’ and making suburban boredom sound pompous and unengaging.


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (B-flat drone): From vuvuzelas, from iPhones, from people pretending to be vuvuzelas, from Youtube, from Google...2010 in a tone.

Harry Potter to provoke tears, world leaders to ignore climate science, The Social Network and The Kings Speech to win lots of Oscars, Animal Collective to disappoint while releasing a still-fantastic album, grime and dubstep to finally break through into the American mainstream via a white male artist, everyone to get the fuck over Lady Gaga while Bjork's next album is a glorious return to form.

Friday, December 17, 2010



With the stiff competition elsewhere in the city tonight it’s impressive to find the Grace’s bandroom nearly full, and the crowd clearly excited at the prospect of seeing The Triangles play their first Melbourne show in over three years. It’s perhaps even more impressive that a massive portrait of Bill Hicks mysteriously propped sidestage rarely distracts from proceedings.

Kicking off the night is Robot Child who have the unusual ability of wearing sharp 50s suits while playing a very 90s-sounding mix of metal riffs, funky piano and soaring grunge-esque vocals. While they do what they do really well, are super talented and charismatic dudes (particularly singer Jeff Wortman and guitarist Waleed Aly) and can likely play Throwing Copper and Blood Sugar Sex Magik note for note, it’s hard to imagine who has a yearning to hear their particular version of rule-breaking rock. Still with the grunge revival surely months away, who knows?

Vicuna Coat are a band who should be getting a lot more attention for their wholly original mix of indie rock, country psychedelia and seamless integration of sitar, symbiotic vocal harmonies and ukulele. Songs segue and rushes and lulls come and go as guitarists Edwin Jungwirth and Gordon Blake seem to telepathically work off each other to create singeing, smouldering lead lines and arpeggios. Whether they’d want more attention is hard to say, as there are no egos at work here. Songs cover road trips to Bluesfest (Red Devil Park), a dog, from the dog’s perspective (Kyra) and the wry depreciatory banter from stunning vocalist Kat Winduss. The band can only treat the audience as friends. ‘Stick around to hear one of my favourite bands of all time’ says Blake signing off.

The Triangles soon assemble themselves, their instruments, but mainly their props. And boy have they got some. Not content with catchy indie pop melodies, simple chugging chords, tinkling synths and a seemingly bottomless suitcase of random melodic instruments, there are top hats, portraits, balloons, plates of chocolate and coconut slice, Viking horn hats (passed off as bull horns) and a Zorro cape and mask. Each song seems to require a small-scale production, as massive word bubbles appear around singer Eleanor Horsburgh’s head during You Got Me All Worked Up before the aforementioned Spanish props accompany the closing Other Side of the Pillow. Of course the Spanish-chart-topping and Jetstar-ad-soundtracking Applejack is a highlight, but it’s their new song The Economist which indicates that it’s unlikely to be three years before their next Melbourne gig.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010



Though it’s uncommon to see a band like The Field in a setting like the East Brunswick Club, it shouldn’t be. Audience response tonight shows there is nothing like Swedish minimalist techno played live to rustle up some enthusiastic shuffling from the crossed-arm brigade that mass to Meredith sideshows.

Kicking things off with what at first seems to be the tired cliché of live electronica – a casually dressed dude bending over a MacBook Pro – Kharkin soon dispenses with these preconceptions and starts beating an Alesis Control Pad over some silvery chords, lets some space slip between his dense blocks of urbanic atmospherics and rules.

Having been lurking on the fringes and occasionally bursting to the centre of whatever musical communities will have him (i.e. most of them), Qua aka Cornel Wilczek has been steadily amassing a fanbase since he crept into consciousnesses five years ago. Tonight we get warm pulses, geeky glasses, choir-like synth pads, a devilish ‘tach and a dusting of amp-driven distortion over everything. Soon progressing through aerosol bursts of hi-hats, Derrick May-like hard beats before strapping on a guitar, it seems as if he’s trying to cram 100 ideas into each minute of the set, any second I’m expecting him to turn to us with a grin and say (a la Rob or Deane from the Curiosity Show) ‘keep up kids!’ Granted, five minutes of this would be enough to set James Murphy on course for another two albums but here Wilczek moves as if he had no pressures at all. AiH’s James Cecil joins for some synth drumming mid-gig and it all goes down splendidly.

Curtains part to a sensually undulating stream of sine wave and pink noise and before us lie the four-piece techno reinterpreting machine of The Field. Beneath projections of outer Swedish suburbia shot from a train window Axel Willner and co deliver clipped beats, controlled compressed cycling chords, delicate chorus-laden guitar chops and some of the most wildly enthusiastic drumming ever to remain within the strict boundaries of techno rhythms. While visiting several high points of 2008’s From Here We Go To Sublime album the Field push much that is unfamiliar to the audience, which suits us fine. Though it’s the irredeemably exhilaratory highs of Over The Ice, Everyday and The Little Heart Beats So Fast that get people moving there isn’t a moment where the band are anything less than phenomenally tight and the vibe is less than euphoric; a stellar performance that leaves everyone wondering why there isn’t a merch desk and when they'll be back. Must have been killer at Meredith.

Saturday, December 11, 2010



“I hope you’re appreciating the full brunt of our theatre training,’ deadpans Ancients singer  Jonathan Mitchell after another static and unemotional display. An inspired choice of support, The Ancients quiet an audience largely new to them and get a response louder than the bewitching sounds they send. Mitchell’s rabbit-in-the-headlights blinkless gaze when delivering lyrics is unsettling and forces wrapt attention on the band in a way that few performers manage, Jonathan Richman perhaps. Playing most of their recent Ancients 2 album, highlights include any song in which guitarist Mark Rodda’s fluid brittle trills are a driving point such as Marsh Tomb, Street Funk and a particularly rocking new song, as Mitchell’s understated lyrics are largely lost in the thickly-populated room even if his intensity and songwriting nous is unmistakable.

Half an hour later, red curtains part to reveal Girls, another five-piece, this time with bunches of flowers gaffered to the mic stands and strewn on amps, and the opening bars of Laura playing to squealing fans. Songwriter Christopher Owens is at once a culmination of a dozen influences and yet a clearly talented songwriter and guitarist. With his newly cropped hair (as reminiscent of Jesus and Mary Chain’s Reid brothers as the last half of the set sounds), Owens’ slightly shrunk turtleneck sweater gathers at his throat, adding to the ugly-urgency effect of his facial contortions that accompany each squeezed vocal outburst. Often hopping on one leg, occasionally rolling on the floor or playing his red Rickenbacker between his legs, it’s a strange blend of 50s clean-cut rock star and new wave influenced pop that this band push and, unarguably, they do it well. Far more than a few memorable hooks and some set filler, Girls dispense with the clean, brief songs early on and let lose once they know we're on side. Lust For Life nearly disappears beneath the preceding anthemic outro of Hellhole Ratrace and the protracted glorious fuzzfest that is a segued Morning Light/Heartbreaker/Carolina is surprisingly abrasive for a band so obsessed with melody.

Owens clearly loves the bell-clear sparkling guitar tone and both he and birthday boy guitarist Ryan Lynch mess with it, sometimes echoing each other’s parts with tonal shifts but never straying too far from chiming precision. Bassist Chet White’s (Edgar Winter autographed) bass malfunctions and holds things up for a little while, but by the time the solo encore Oh My Life ends the set with a spellbinding, shimmering pin-drop-quiet close there is only glee spilling through the crowd, surging for the merch desk. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE - An interview with Grace Woodroofe

With a voice that overshadows the remarkable story behind her debut album GRACE WOODROOFE's greatest achievement may be not inspiring jealousy in every singer-songwriter reading this, muses ANDY HAZEL.

Picture it. You’re a teenage girl growing up in Perth with your heart set on being a musician. You make some shyly recorded home demos and pass them to a friend who happens to pass them on to her brother, who happens to be Heath Ledger. Heath emails you from LA and says he loves your songs and asks if you would like to visit and let him introduce you to some industry friends. You get permission from the school principal to take a week off school, go to LA, make a lot of friends, captivate Ben Harper, he asks you to support him on an American tour and books you into a studio to make your first album. Yeah, right.

“I didn’t know she’d send it to him at all,” says Woodroofe of her friend who kick-started this unlikely chain of events. “I gave her two songs, and a few days later she says she’s sent it to Heath, who I’d never met before. I was 17 when I first went. I came back, graduated, and went back for six months by myself, that’s when we recorded the album.”

On the eve of the release of Always Want Woodroofe is back home and remarkably unfazed by what 2011 may hold. “Perth must have something to do with why I’ve not been overwhelmed,” she says matter-of-factly. “Working and meeting people in LA…I’ve never been awestruck by things going on around me. Perth is great place to grow up in terms of the music because it’s so isolated and there is so little to do here. There’s no outside influence so you develop things on your own. I’m staying in Perth at the moment but I’m never here for that long,” she says pondering the future. “I’m expecting to move to Sydney at some point and I felt really at home in LA. I made some incredible friends, and the community feel of the underground music scene is really cool. I felt so embraced there. In Perth growing up and going to school, it was always weird to know that I wasn’t going to go to uni and that I was going to be a musician. Everyone you meet in LA is a musician or an actor; it’s such a creative community, and it was so great to meet people who shared my goals. I definitely want to move there at some point, Ben is there, and Relentless7, we hang out a lot.”

As freakishly lucky as this story is, there is one factor that is perhaps the real reason for all this fortune; her voice. It’s hard not to be captivated by it and harder not to lean on lazy comparisons to describe it, such as ‘a female Tom Waits’. It’s something Woodroofe also struggles to relate, “I just sort of take things other people say about it,” she says laughing. “I love Tom Waits but I don’t know if I would say that I sound like him. Some people say Nick Cave or a cross between him and Karen Dalton. I was listening to a lot of her and Phoebe Snow growing up, Nina Simone and stuff. Singing was instinctive and very natural thing but my voice has developed as years go on, it’s like a boy going through puberty or something,” she says with another laugh. “The more I sing and perform the more I learn to control it and manipulate it.”

Her voice fits perfectly with the dark themes and subjects of Always Want and the album confounds the opinion people might form from simply judging her by her picture. “I had a strong vision before I went into the studio and I recorded the album before I had any proper management or label,” she says lightly, “I imagined the songs would turn out this way, with a heaviness about them.”



A venue free of sound insulation,  bands get a bright and garish sound playing in the Workers Club, and this works surprisingly well for the groups playing tonight, both of whom hide their accomplished musicianship in twisting and unpredictable songs. 

Chris Bolton makes a case for being one of the more fearless singer-songwriters in town with his moniker Seagull now signifying a four piece band who explore the outer edges of indie rock with piercing vocals, heavy rhythms and textured melodica. Bolton has transformed from an intelligent, bookish wilfully low-fi singer-songwriter into a charismatic near-experimentalist pushing his Velvets chugs into dark stabs of pop. With Patinka Cha Cha member Ruby Green providing the melodica lines which blend beautifully with his textured stabs of the guitar, the band move easily from elegant and slightly sinister dynamics to My Disco-like sledgehammer blocks of rhythm. For a guy strumming a broken acoustic a year ago this blazingly charismatic transition makes Whitley’s seem tame.

Rather than finding a rhythm and driving it into the ground, Patinka Cha Cha play with the idea of what songs can be. A typical one messes with the meter, skips from effervescent horn blasts to a fluid melodic guitar break before crashing into a five-part vocal-led outro and offering the delicious proposition of not knowing where a song will go next. Sounding entirely unlike any other band yet with the horn-led rhythmic fluidity of late 70s British combo Pigbag, Patinka Cha Cha are a dazzling seven-piece and prove Natasha Rose is a disarmingly shy bandleader and blisteringly exciting guitarist. Hiding swathes of warm, untreated jazz-influenced guitar virtuosity amidst danceable beats and explosions of synth pad warmth, there is breathtakingly unique mix of musicality and pop nous, all the more amazing for the youth of all involved.

Despite the dynamic shifts, several girls are inspired to do swoopy dancing, the room is nearly packed and the thermometer cracks the high 30s which all lends this show and this band an exciting ‘now is their time’ edge. Whether PCC fall on the right side of indie or are deemed by those with radio playlisting power to be too imaginative, too jazz influenced, too unpredictable or just uninterested in the opportunities on offer remains to be seen, but either way, Patinka Cha Cha are one of the most exciting bands 2010 has yet offered. The fact that they’ve already outgrown the EP they spent tonight promoting is another reason to check them out sooner rather than later because there’s really no knowing what’s next.