Monthly Archives: January 2011

459. Le Tigre – “Le Tigre”

In a perfect world this band might be some tribute to Canadian hair-rock giants Glass Tiger (maybe by some Québécois?).

Of course it isn’t.  Instead it is the debut from the first ladies of the electrotrash riot grrl genre.

This had the potential to be a painful, overly indulgent exercise in nostalgia for some Blondie-esque New Wave reversion.

Thankfully this trio is to clever and talented to fall for such gimmickry.  Instead they manage to tap into the energy and excitement of the era, while still constructing an album that bears up to repeated lessons.

The upbeat, tinny, multi-vocalled tracks have a punky vitality mixed with dance-floor friendliness (there’re hints of the non-rappy stuff from the Beastie Boys).

More distinct is the combination of unashamedly arty topics (e.g. What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes, Slideshow At Free University), and also hardcore feminist homages. The name-checking on Hot Topic makes up for that gender-studies course you forgot to take.

I’m impressed by this album to the extent that it could have been very grating in its knowing tweeness (think Architecture in Helsinki), but they managed to pull it off. Sort of like Glass Tiger…

File under: Earned their stripes

458. LCD Soundsystem – “LCD Soundsystem”

You’ve probably picked up that I only make very occasional
excursions into dance-floor targeted acts.

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem was hard to ignore with this debut.

The Daft Punk is Playing… single was (and still is) delightfully infectious, as well as being the perfect party invitation:

That song and this whole double album showcase a playful and daring
approach to a raft of different musical styles. Murphy is clearly a
complete music geek. Losing My Edge manages to
namecheck more seminal acts and epochs than should be possible in 7
minutes.

I love Murphy’s laconic, nasal chatter-as-vocal and the
smattering of garage rock elements amongst the stomping blips and
beats.

He is not afraid to explore a more melancholy side, with downbeat tracks that out-Eel The Eels , such as Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up.

This mix and mash of styles and sounds is both unique and worthy of Murphy’s claim to a Movement.

File under: Languid Crafty Display

457. Pete Lawler – “King Rooster”

Some of you may remember Pete Lawler as the usually grumpy, often intimidating bass player in Aussie folk-rock legends Weddings Parties Anything.

When Pete split from WPA, King Rooster was one of the various monikers he adopted (he was also Dr Pump in the Crazy Baldheads).

In this incarnation he was still a little rootsy, but much more in a swampy-boogie blues vein.

This feels like a solo side project, constrained by a very tight budget, but lovingly shaped with the help of some friends. Unfortunately, the sound is often a little murkier than even the genre justifies, and thus the album seems laboured and underdone.

Lawler sings on here, channelling a cool demeanour, somewhere between Richard Clapton and Tim Rogers. The energy is infectious.

I love that the album is so parochially Melbourne, with Footscray, Mordialloc and Brunswick St all prominent (along with a certain retailer on Ikea Blues).

If the TV show Gruen Transfer are ever looking for a new theme tune, they could do a lot worse than the wigged out Ad Man.

Sadly, I never saw Pete play this album, but I often delighted in his take on Xmas cheer (from his WPA days):

File under: I feel like chicken tonight

456. Bettye Lavette – “The Scene of the Crime”

Despite my delight in her previous release I was criminally slow in picking up this 2007 effort (I bought it as a present for my missus a couple of months ago).

I’d missed that this was, in effect, a collaborative album.  Lavette is backed, and produced, by fellow reviewees Drive-By Truckers.

The hook-up works a treat, as the band provide a wonderfully soulful backing groove, while Lavette continues her interpretation of the tunes of others (this time it’s Willie Nelson, Elton John, John Hiatt, and  Don Henley amongst others).

The theme here is world-weary, down-and-out laments saved from melancholia by  Lavette’s feisty, pull-myself-up-ness.

Her voice is truly stunning and enveloping.  She interprets a song better than almost anyone I can think of.  I find myself both actively barracking for her survival, while a little intimidated by her power.

I am particularly struck by the Nelson number Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, and the ‘sitting at the bar in full wise old head-mode’ that is the John-Taupin tune Talking Old Soldiers:

The one song penned specifically for the album, Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette), is also a classic edition to the small ‘tales of the music biz’ sub-genre.

File under: It should be a crime not to own this

455. Bettye Lavette – “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise”

As a doting partner, I purchased this CD as a birthday present for my eventual wife back in 2005.

Bettye Lavette I've Got My Own Hell to Raise The album had been getting gushing reviews, as almost the estrogened equivalent of Solomon Burke‘s revitalisation.

Here long-time soul stalwart Lavette covers a wide collection of female songwriters (e.g. Aimee Mann, Sinéad O’Connor, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Fiona Apple, and Dolly Parton).

The claim that a singer has ‘made the songs her own’ is made far too frequently, but here it is completely appropriate.  Lavette brings heart and (dare I say it) soul to each tune, and presents a seamless set of ten tracks.

This is sassy, sultry stuff.  The song choices are fantastic, with loads of heartbreak and vows to self-improvement and invidual strength.

This is the album every divorce celebrant should hand out. Any of the tunes would work as a the soundtrack to a montage when Susan Sarandon/Sandra Bullock/Halle Berry resolves to put that bastard and his cheating ways behind her, puts on some lippy, shakes out the hair, and strides out the door chin high to turn heads and wow all.

This is a fantastic collection.  Any woman who can transform a track I already loved (from Lucinda Williams) and make it even better is worth praising:

File under: Get on this highway

454. The Last Poets – “The Last Poets”

I bought this CD from the same Vietnamese retailer as the Lamontagne album (I guess they’d alphabetised pretty well).

This combo of black-power poetisisers are one of the frequently cited forebears of hip-hop, and I already was familiar with their track When The Revolution Comes from a couple of different compilations.

This 1970 debut album is a pretty mindblowing collection of bongo-backed tirades about the plight of the black man (and presumably woman) in post-civil rights, economically depressed, Black Panther-framed inner-urban milieu (or something like that).

If you’ve ever heard any of Gil Scott Heron‘s work then you’ve got a good sense of the style, content and right-on-ness of this album.

If anything these guys are angrier, less hep-catty, and much more willing to throw around the nigger word than GSH:

This is highly entertaining stuff. It’s beat poetry without all the skivvy wearing and artiness.  It stands also as a testament to an important moment in history.

You can’t dance to it, but then, there ain’t too much spoken word that you can.

File under: The seed they sew’d it

Looking back on the gigs of 2010

As I did this time last year, here’s my list of favourite gigs from the year that was 2010:

#5 Emiliana Torrini at the Forum, Melbourne, January 3 – the jungle-drum beating Icelander made me smile all night…

#4 Justin Townes Earle at Corner Hotel, Melbourne, April 16 - he didn’t blow me away as much as on debut in 2009, but his bluegrassy brilliance was still a joy

#3 Dinosaur Jr followed by Pavement at Golden Plains Festival, Meredith Amphitheatre, March 6 – it was a miserable festival weatherwise, but this pairing of acts on the first night gladdened my heart (also of note was the performance of Nashville Pussy the following afternoon)

#2 The Pixies at Festival Hall, Melbourne, March 19 – Playing the Doolittle album in order with a great visual show (perhaps to hide their increasing girth). Again, not as exciting as seeing them for the first time a couple of years ago, but still a great night.

#1 Pavement & Gersey at Palace, Melbourne, March 12 – a dream pairing and both acts were in stand out form. Made me feel a good 15 years younger…

March was certainly a great music month, while the rest of the year was less impressive.

What were your favourite live outings?

453. Ray Lamontagne – “Till the Sun Turns Black”

I am a sporadic purchaser and devourer of British ‘serious’ music mags such as Uncut and Mojo.

The former has a habit of gushingly embracing artists, and one of their pet acts a few years back was this guy.  As a result (and on the advice of a travelling buddy), I picked this album up for a pittance in a Vietnamese CD ‘store’ in early 2008.

I forgot I owned it til last week.  It’s had quite a few listens, and paint me impressed.

Ray has a soft, plaintive voice, and emotes like his life depends upon it. It’s all precious, elegant and engaging.  The orchestration (i.e. some strings and the like) makes this feel intimate and well-balanced. It brings to mind the work of the Buckley clan, and also Ryan Adams‘ less histrionic moments.

The closing, title track is an excellent showcase of his combination of restraint and power (by the way, this is a fan-vid – nicely done):

I can imagine a wonderful live event with Lamontagne playing back to back with Martha Wainwright.  I’d love to be lounging and swaying to that.

File under: No need for sun-block

 

452. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Congratulations South Africa – The Ultimate Collection”

When asked the standard Rockwiz question (First gig attended?), my response is a proud “Paul Simon on his Graceland tour, supported by (and playing with) Ladysmith Black Mambazo”.

I was wowed both on the album and at the concert by the all-male choir with their harmonies, wooping, stomping and general joy.

The gentlemen in LBM were a wonderful introduction to a continent of exciting music and also captured a mix of anger, pride and optimism that seemed emblematic of the struggle in South Africa.

I was thus excited to see this 2 CD greatest hits collection amongst my wife’s CDs, and pretty disappointed with the content therein.

While there are a couple of the killer tracks from the Graceland album (including a Simon-less Homeless), and several well-paced, soaring Zulu numbers, the albums are overpopulated with their crossover tracks, often awkward cheesy covers and collaborations (with Dolly Parton for example).

I suspect I’m being a complete world music slob, but most attempts to collaborate in such fashions do tend towards the novelty rather than musicality.  Much of the album showcases how much Paul Simon’s immersion in South African music was an exception to prove my rule.

File under: Commiserations

451. The La’s – “The La’s”

A new year and a new letter.

The La's The Las Album cover CD I headed indoors for the Christmas-New Years break with very good intentions of bringing this blog somewhat closer to its increasingly inaccurate title, but I got bogged down with this here CD.

It’s not because the album is a tough listen.  In fact it’s the opposite.  This is an album that sounds great at first hearing (my wife’s reaction to hearing it reflects this – she loved it).

It holds up to numerous plays, as it reveals itself to be a disarmingly timeless take on 1960s-era British Invasion pop-rock.  It belies its 1990 release date by sounding less retro and try-hard than Oasis et al.

I’m sure it’s something to do with production processes, as it is an album with both lots of space and a more modern spaciness.  The songwriting is superb and seemingly effortless:

Of course, this is album burdened with one enormous standout track (the Merseyside classic There She Goes). Said track feels a little out of place here as its jangly infectiousness is both bolder and less balanced than its brethren.

This album has been played at least twenty times over the past four or five days around our house.  I’ve enjoyed each and every listen.  It’s up there with the Avalanches single album effort as one screaming for a follow-up.

File under: A note to follow