Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: The Year in Review

Every year I do one of these review things, and every year I think really, why add to the overwhelming volume of people ranking and comparing things that have almost nothing to do with each other except that they happened in 2013? And each year I think, well, I'll just do it for me so I can get a semblance of unity to things and briefly look back instead of constantly focusing on what is happening or about to happen.

One theme that stood out from my restricted view seating at the arena show that was music and culture this year is the preoccupation that Australian men have with being Australian men. Artists like Kirin J Callinan and Standish/Carlyon got acres of press coverage, millions of clicks and thousands of views and attendees at their shows as they (along with less bombastic artists such as Jonny Telafone, The Paradise Motel and Geoffery O'Connor) picked apart the notion of masculinity and, intentionally or not, sought to stake their claim as artists by thrusting frailties and weaknesses into the spotlight. Even Fringe Festival performances from Ben Pobje, Sabrina D'Angelo and Grit Theatre seemed to find a wealth of material in this shifting world of gender in mainstream media. 

Quite separately, the inevitability of gay marriage dominated the news, and social media chewed over where the lines for 'too much' were going to be drawn as Miley twerked and Kanye and Kim got incredible milage for their boundary pushing. Kirin J Callinan singing Embracism in the shower is a hard watch for most people, and that discomfort is, for me, 2013 in a sentiment. Is it his hoarse voice, his naked body filmed casually yet edited strikingly, is it the images in the song of child on child violence, is it the crap tattoos and the lack of make up and flattering lighting? Whatever it is, it felt more real and powerful than almost anything else this year.

The pope addressed difficult issues with sensitivity, films like Blue is the Warmest Colour and Only God Forgives provoked strongly divergent reactions due to their content, the sudden spotlighting of the Bechel test - a gauge of feminism in film that has been around for decades, the wild success and 'ironic misogyny' from hair metallers Steel Panther and from the sprawling impact of Odd Future and Kanye; discussions around the boundaries between sex, gender and identity were rarely, if ever, more prevalent in the media. Not to mention the litany of fascinating and complex female protagonists from that still-patriarchal world of Hollywood (Blue Jasmine, Frances Ha, Before Midnight, Frozen). And that, politics and environmental issues aside, is a reason to be positive about 2014.

5. Purple Skies, Toxic River TV COLOURS
7. Silence Yourself SAVAGES
8. Centralia MOUNTAINS
9. Tussles DAY RAVIES
10. Electric PET SHOP BOYS
11. Fade YO LA TENGO
12. Dream River BILL CALAHAN
13. Calluses PIKELET
14. Wakin on a Pretty Daze KURT VILE
15. The Loving Gaze MONTERO
16. Slow Focus FUCK BUTTONS 
17. Tomorrow’s Harvest BOARDS OF CANADA 
18. Slow Summits THE PASTELS
19. Anxiety AUTRE NE VEUT
20. Random Access Memories DAFT PUNK

1. Community 3 – A Compilation of Hobart Music VARIOUS
2. The Stickmen/Man Made Stars (reissues) THE STICKMEN
4. You Can't Hide Your Love Forever (reissue) ORANGE JUICE
5. Only God Forgives (Soundtrack) CLIFF MARTINEZ

1. Stoned and Starving PARQUET COURTS
2. Rival Dealer BURIAL 
3. Clear Sailing / Alpha World City #2 MONTERO
5. Wakin’ on a Pretty Day KURT VILE
6. What Death Leaves Behind LOS CAMPESINOS!
7. Shut Up SAVAGES
9. Stay (feat. Hayden Calnin) TULLY ON TULLY
11. Embracism KIRIN J CALLINAN 
12. Lost Highway TV COLOURS
13. Play By Play AUTRE NE VEUT
14. I’m Gonna Get Dressed Up TIDY TOWNS
15. I Remember Everyone THE NATIVE CATS
16. Royals LORDE
17. Love is a Bourgeois Construct PET SHOP BOYS
18. Get Lucky DAFT PUNK
19. I'm the Worst CATSUIT 

1. Absolute Boys
2. TV Colours
3. Day Ravies
4. Prudence Rees-Lee
5. The Stevens

2. Television MONA
3. My Bloody Valentine THE PALACE
4. Fuck Buttons FESTIVAL HUB
5. The Stone Roses FESTIVAL HALL 

1. Lowtide, The Stevens, Day Ravies, Zone Out THE TOTE
2. The Native Cats THE GASOMETER
4. The Caribs FESTIVAL HUB
5. The Night Before Tomorrow STICKY INSTITUTE 

1. Game of Thrones
2. Media Watch
3. Homeland 
4. Mad Men
5. Top of the Lake 

1. The Act of Killing
2. The Hunt
3. A Field in England
4. Good Vibrations
5. Cloud Atlas 
6. Gravity
7. Blue Jasmine
8. Frances Ha
9. Before Midnight
10. Drinking Buddies 

1. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews – Radio Five Live
2. Lime Champions - RRR
3. In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg – BBC Radio 4 
4. Friday Night Comedy – BBC Radio 4
5. Consequential Lyrics - Cassettes & Chocolate Milk

The government to make a lot of unpopular decisions that serve themselves and their cronies, an apathetic majority to ignore them, great art to be made about their repercussions and Lowtide to release a killer LP that has nothing to do with them. I also predict I will be arrested for peacefully protesting. 

Arcade Fire’s Reflektor 

"A man can meet another man in a bar. On the sportsfield. At his place of work. Or in his own apartment. OR ON THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW." - Kirin J Callinan


The Shadow Electric, 16/12/2013

Breathing life into a chilly dusk, Scotdrakula play a particularly incendiary form of messy, Reatard-esque rock, and quickly prove a smart choice for the opening act. Beneath a long, steady stream of bats flying above and a distractingly good documentary about Australian wildlife projected on the massive cinema screen behind them, the three-piece set fire to any preconceptions punters may have about what a three-piece is capable of. 

Guitarist and vocal cord shredder Matt Neumann is a riveting presence and exuberant instigator of the violent fun and lingering sense of danger that charaterises the best garage rock. Avalanche is driven by a sharp, violent melody, Idlewild hellish rockabilly and their latest assault Break Me Up a high point of the night. Kicking goal after goal, the audience respond in similarly euphoric bursts of noisy appreciation.

Described in his promotional material as 'slack rocker and complete charmer', DeMarco is, in fact, anything but. Well, if you're charmed by profuse belching, spontaneous assessments of strangers' penises and generally acting like a drunk uncle, then Mac’s your man.

Opening with one of the musical high points of 2012, Cooking Up Something Good, Mac DeMarco and his three-piece lock straight into a raw and mercurial boogie. With the warmly appreciative crowd already on side, the band ease into Stars Keep on Calling My Name and the system is set. Gone are the gentle, humble songs that make his most recent album 2, so good. In their place are chunky, garage-rock makeovers that really really work. 

"I’m seeing a lot of eyes but I’m not seeing a lot of shaking Melbourne," says self-declared ‘dickhead from Jersey’ and bassist Pierce McGarry. "You’re screwing us over!" DeMarco goes for the old "Sydney gave us more. You guys have gotta top them right?" angle and both techniques work. OH&S goes out the window as shirts are stripped, people climb on shoulders and crowdsurfing kicks off. He’s got us right where he wants us, and we’re rewarded with a killer set. Viceroy, Annie, a rare outing of Me and John Hanging Out and scorching takes on Freakin’ Out the Neighbourhood and Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans during which DeMarco and McGarry viciously make out with each other ("Hey man, you taste of Taco Bell," says McGarry offhand. "That’s just what it tastes like when a heterosexual man kisses another man," DeMarco shrugs.

McGarry requests to "see some penises", earns several compliant punters complementary assessments from DeMarco. A penis-themed cover of Weezer’s Sweater follows and leads the gig into the band’s divisive but passionate ‘covers’ section. Blackbird, Takin’ Care of Business and phenomenally half-assed versions of Enter Sandman and Stairway to Heaven raise the sloppy party vibe and close the set with a very happy audience howling for more. Charming? Maybe, but anyone who can turn the Abbotsford Convent into a house party has a lot more than just charm.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 08/12/2013

While it's unlikely Sidney Myer would expect his bowl to host such a torrid display of oversexed metal, he'd be chuffed to see just how at home tonight's players made themselves. And they are exactly that; players.

Exploding onto the stage and into our bloodstream like the contents of the Sunset Strip gutter crammed into a syringe and injected into our collective arse (or, ass), Buckcherry take the balmy dusk and make it pitch black. The hard workin’, hard lovin’ and harder playin’ five-piece boast more tatts and leather than a series of LA Ink, and their inherently empty odes to partying and misogyny are made for times like these.

Opening with Lit Up, the agenda is set and the relentless fury and love comes hard and fast from both sides; the crowd bursting to life between songs, the band never taking their foot off the accelerator. The title track from their 2010 album All Night Long follows and singer Josh Todd's Axl-esque voice impales the band's bright hard rock deep into our ears. Epic metal ballad Sorry goes out "to all the sugar bitches", before they rip up the place up with Crazy Bitch and an expletive-laden cover of Icona Pop’s I Don't Care. As a vehicle for showmanship, this show is a triumph, musically it's totally forgettable.

Steel Panther arrive following a live video feed from backstage showing the band playing Strip Battleship with some busty friends, to a 6000-strong crowd ready to party and a batch of staggeringly offensive metal songs to smack us with. Drummer Stix Zadinia, bassist Lexxi Foxx, guitarist Satchel and singer Michael Starr ("it’s as if Meat Loaf and Bret Michaels had a kid" says Satchel) enter to a rapturous reception before letting us know exactly what’s on their minds and why they're here.

On a multilevel stage, beneath a giant screen and between extended breaks of totally hilarious banter, the band never give less than 100%. Full-throttle party metal songs about masturbation (Tomorrow Night), sex with hot girls (Eyes of a Panther), sex with ugly girls (Turn Out the Lights), sex with anyone (Glory Hole), interracial sex (Asian Hooker), fellatio (It Won’t Suck Itself) an improvised song about Satchel’s love of cunnilingus, and heartfelt ballads about anal sex (Weenie Ride), and non-exclusive relationships (Community Property) tell you all you need to know about Steel Panther.

While Foxx is staring into his on-stage dressing mirror and arranging his hair (which he often does), Satchel declares Melbourne "the greatest fucking city on earth. Why? Because the age of consent here is fucking 15! Whose fucking idea was that!?" Getting an even bigger cheer is the first use of their ‘Mötley Crüe Tittycam™’ that gets a workout documenting some of the many instances of boob-flashing and more intimate antics engaged in by the several dozen women who take to the stage during the encore.

A whole thesis could be written about what Steel Panther represent and whether their ironic hedonism goes too far, and it would be a seriously excellent read, but that would be missing the point. Closing with the self-explanatory anthems Party All Night, 17 Girls in a Row and Death to All But Metal amidst a fug of pot smoke, their brand of panto-metal is technically impressive, hilarious and undeniably awesome. As Starr shouts, metal salute aloft, whenever presented with a pair of bouncing breasts in his mock-astonished face: “heavy metal rules!” Tonight, it totally fucking does.

SYNTHETICA AESTHETICA: An interview with Emily Haines of Metric

From the band’s birth in 1998, via sold out arena shows, working with Lou Reed and now making an album into an app, Metric’s EMILY HAINES tells ANDY HAZEL that her motto is still 'be where you doesn’t belong'.

When the call goes through to chat to Metric’s lead singer and songwriter Emily Haines her about her upcoming Australian tour, she speaks matter-of-factly about a milestone that any musician would consider a peak of their career. “Yeah, we’re about to play Madison Square Garden, we’re on in a few hours. We opened for the Stones here [in 2006], so I have great memories of it,’ she says warmly before cracking up laughing. ‘It is crazy though right!?”

Since forming Metric in 1998, Haines claims to be constantly in awe of her life. “You find ‘normal’ within it, but if I ever stop being excited or grateful or amazed, that’s the time to bow out. I would hate to be so jaded or uninspired that I couldn’t appreciate how amazing moments in my life actually are. This tour we’re on couldn’t be better,” she adds keenly. “We’re playing in new places, with new bands and a whole bunch of new people are hearing our music.”

The latest place Metric find themselves in is the iTunes App Store. Not content with releasing their new album Synthetica, and a remix album Synthetica Reflections, the Toronto four-piece created an interactive app that allows viewers to isolate instrumental tracks within songs and effectively remix the album themselves. Crossing paths with app developer extraordinaire Scott Snibbe – mastermind behind Bjork’s Biophilia project - Haines explains that once they began discussing the idea, the chance was impossible to turn down.

“There is no reason to put out an app just for the sake of it. It facilitated an idea we already had, and, just to be clear, I’m making zero comparison with what they [Björk and Snibbe] did,” she says hurriedly. “That was a multimillion dollar project, and it was totally incredible. For us, seeing Synthetica on the App Store, it’s just a beautiful companion to the record. It’s a throwback to the way listening to an album used to be an immersive experience. You’d buy it, take it home, put it on the turntable and stare at the cover and take in all this associated imagery. With the app, I love the swirling visuals and the way you can customise the music…it’s perfect for kids and stoners I guess,” she laughs. “I really want to open it up to people. The whole premise is you get to be in the music and change it. Instead of predicting and pushing something, it would be great to get a sense of what people want and upgrade it to keep it accessible and enjoyable.”

While Synthetica, the band’s fifth album, is their most successful yet, there is never any sense from Haines that this is anything other than a point on a much longer journey. So far, the band’s journey includes scoring the blockbuster Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and David Cronenberg’s 2012 puzzler Cosmopolis, belying a strong work ethic, one that’s all over Synthetica. “I fought for every word on that record,” Haines explains. “I had to defend every idea and phrase, because…well, that’s just the way we work. I do feel like Synthetica sounds confident, but doubt is never going to leave entirely,” she trails off.

This inherent humanity and realism infuses their synth-driven music. As Haines explains, she is fuelled by the tension between the human and the technological realms.
“On this album, we contemplated; where does you as the pure version of yourself end and where does the external world begin? And how much can you inhabit it? These ideas can be applied to a sci-fi film, dance music or an indie rock band. From the beginning our idea was always to make our way into wherever we didn’t belong, to be that one song on the radio where people are like ‘whoah what’s that?’ And in a lot of ways that on Synthetica we’re really in this zone now.”
Festival-goers may know Haines best for her work with Lou Reed at last year’s Vivid Festival. Their long-standing friendship is a topic that is still, understandably, sensitive. However, the mention of his name, after a silence, inspires a potent reflection.

“We can philosophize about ideas and direction, but in the end it’s all music. The power of music is one thing no one can explain, why certain music lasts and how it connects. It’s amazing to think how important this man was to so many people; he had one hit! All those records people grew up on and that kids are still growing up on now, it had the power to create something that people who would be strangers, the contents of a subway car basically, could share. What is that transformative power of music?” She asks before responding. “I don’t know, but it’s something that can’t be cheapened.”