Monthly Archives: February 2011

482. The Lucksmiths – “First Tape”

Sit back folks, we might be here a while.

This is the first from a pile of albums from these three (for now) Melbourne lads.

The Luckas were but awkward teens when they cobbled together this debut album, which I did indeed buy on cassette the very first time I saw them playing support for Tlot Tlot at the Punter’s Club.

This is a very rough and ready set of slightly clumsy, but sweet and well-conceived ditties.  There is much of what would become the band’s signature features – puns, earnestness mixed with a playfulness, snare-based rhythms, Bragg-esque guitar work, and ska-influenced bass lines.

There are some sweet ballads – the powerfully sublime Weatherboard and the well-constructed Tale of Two Cities.

The outrageously silly and catchy and wrong Adolescent Song Of Mindless Devotion was one of the high points of this band’s pop endeavours with its “l-l-love you” chorus and rolling pun to pun set up .

This album should really be seen as auguring much more.  But equally it can be viewed as the most Modern Lovers meets Violent Femmes of the band’s output.

Criminally I can find not a single clip from this era, so will instead jump to the end of their tale with this glimpse of their farewell gig:

And as a special treat, a cover from their frontman:

File under: Stick with them

481. Love Me – “Jubilee Park”

Thus my short Love Me Fest hits the home straight (and I gird my loins for perhaps the most harrowing (for you my dear reader) extended run of albums from one artist).

This third album has served as a lovely, mellow backdrop to my afternoon of slowly working through a rather drawn out rewrite of a section of an academic paper.

It has performed this role so admirably simply because it is unintrusive, consistent and smoothly produced.  The slide guitar has returned, bringing with it a gentle swaying feel, that snuggles up to the cowgirl singers nicely (and the smoker’s voice of Amanda benefits considerably).

The male vocals are much less Go-Betweens-Lite, instead successfully ploughing melancholy depths on tracks like Stubbs Terrace (although it weirdly seems to be about former Labor minister John Button – perhaps it’s some obscure peaen to his tariff reforms in the auto industry).

As a pretty fully versed Love Me scholar, I’d label this album as their slightly blue period.  I wonder if I should chase up their  album #4 (simply because it IS purchasable). Perhaps they embraced cubism…

File under: At least you can search for this title on Google

480. Love Me – “Fuel”

This bloody band really weren’t thinking about their subsequent searchability with their very generic choice of name and album titles.

It’s a shame anonymity has been thrust upon these guys, especially in light of their outstanding debut.

This follow-up doesn’t quite cut it, however, and might as well be judged by its messy and ugly album cover.

The band tone down the twang on this CD. My preferred vocalist, Madeline, seems to get less airtime (and no particularly gripping tunes).  The smoky voice of Mandy doesn’t do it for me, while the dude’s efforts tend to grate (most noticeably on Chestnut Mare, although said track is also the catchiest on here).

There are a few nice moments of violin, but this album somehow sounds more dated than its predecessor, especially in its evocation of all things Go Betweens whenever Tom grabs the mike. That shouldn’t be a bad thing in and of itself, but on tracks like Halfway Heart and Empty Taxi it does just all feel like a second-rate substitute.

I just looked it up and realised Amanda Brown (the wielder of the violin among other string instruments on here) is indeed the Go-Between of said name.  But that doesn’t justify the homage.

File under: Lacks spark

479. Love Me – “Love Me”

This act ranks right up there in terms of obscurity.  Their decidedly non-Googlable moniker renders them pretty much invisible in the cyber world, and there are no sound files or clips that I can find.

What I do know is that the Sydney band featured three vocalists, that on this 1996 album Dave Orwell from Golden Rough was a fulltime member (but, oddly, not a vocalist), and that Tim Rogers was producer. Oh, and that I own their first three albums.

I’m thinking that these guys are also cursing their timing.  They were onto the whole silky-smooth alt-country schtick a good decade before The Audreys. Several tracks on here, such as on the wonderful Dorothea McKellar-adapting Buy Me A Drink and Slipping Asleep, could easily have appeared on the Audreys’ first couple of albums (and would have improved them).

Of the vocalists, Madeleine King has the most mesmerising effect (I think… or is that Mandy Pearson? – damn you iTunes for your lack of liner notes), while the shift between male and female voices works wonderfully.

I have no idea where you could find a copy of this album… but you should try to.  It’s a true nugget of gold-plated harmonica, slide guitar and wistful warm afternoon wonder.

File under: A many splendored thing

478. Lo Fidelity Allstars – “How to Operate with a Blown Mind”

It’s probably about time we re-entered the dance floor to the sound of pounding electronic beats.

This British combo where a yet another (somewhat tangential) member of Big Beat scene who somehow captured some of my wallet attention.

This 1998 collection sits nicely as a more band-like incarnation of Fat Boy Slim. Prodigy-tendencies are thrown into the mix but thankfully bereft of that act’s overarching brattiness.

This is better than most albums from this genre, simply for the diversity of sounds, and the competence with which such jumps are handled.

The floor fillers like Kool Roc Bass are deft and still sound pretty fresh. I particularly like the funky Battle Flag (featuring a Sub-pop acted called Pigeonhed who I had somehow never heard of):

I’m a little torn on the spoken word elements of this album.  Presumably this was all about the integrity of the work and distinguishing this from merely a bunch of dance tracks (and thus also forcing djs to listen closely to find the beats etc).  Unfortunately, the chatting tends towards weird streetwise barrow boy cockney babble and is just distracting.

File under: I’m in two (slightly blown) minds

477. John Linnell – “State Songs”

My alphabetisation skills have failed me again.  This album has been in the wrong spot for years (I blame my weird belief that ‘liquor’ is spelled ‘licq…”.

As you’ll discover if I ever make it to the letter ‘T’, I once had quite the fixation on the work of the They Might Be Giants. In those pre-internet days, I was on their mailing list, and a member of their CD-a-month club for a couple of years.

Among the many esoteric releases (all EPs) was a five-track version of this long-player. I subsequently sold all the EPs for a tidy sum in the early days of eBay.  Like a drunk dotcom investor I parlayed a small portion of buying this album.

The CD is exactly what you’d think – 15 songs about US states (plus one overly ambitious theme song title Songs of the 50 States). This stinks of one of a lame high school creative writing exercises, and the results are suitably hodge podge.

Linnell may well have simply added the name of a state to a few songs he had laying about (e.g. I don’t see the connection between bicycle-crashing and South Carolina). States are anthropomorphised and a lot of attention is paid to their respective shapes on a map.

It’s not a complete mess, and there is the usual wild range of well-executed ideas in the mix that TMBG fans expect, but ultimately  I find it too throwaway and underwhelming.  See what you think:

File under: More like South Australia than Victoria

476. The Liquor Giants – “Up With The People”

So we come to the end of our Liquor Giants four-play.

It’s been a mighty pleasant journey (if a little tardy). Ward Dotson and co-conspirators have cobbled together a wonderful pastiche of sounds from the 1960s and 1970s into a coherent and entertaining body of work.

This album sees the sound get a lot sunnier and sugary, with a distinctly Brian Wilson feeling, although beneath the heavy harmonising there is a sour bite as Dotson does seems a touch bitter about life (especially on Industry Hookers and All of the Assholes).

It isn’t all Hawaiian shirts and mental problems of course, with excursions into relatively primeval glam-garage rock on Mach Show, and solid power pop on Fifth Wheel Time.

Alas, the drought of LG video clips continues for this release, but I did find this short film build around an excellent track from their previous release:

In closing I will lament again the disappointing failure of the listening public to embrace the pop mastery of the Liquor Giants.  The people have let themselves down…

File under: The populace are revolting

475. The Liquor Giants – “The Liquor Giants”

How appropriate that this album has a velvet themed cover.

This album evokes a sense of adult sophistication (like the velvet bags that one purchases at the theatre), yet it is playful and textural.

Indeed, the juxtaposition of the single title Chocolate Clown keeps up the sweet, but possibly psychotic theme:

Ahh, so finally I got to share this band’s sound with you. Polished but fresh isn’t it?  (there’s that contrast thing again).  That particular song is the most Buffalo Tom-like on here.

The rest mine the B-band vein of the Beatles and Big Star, with enormous dollops of pop sensibility,jaunty guitar work and luscious yet raw harmonies (all delivered by one-man-show Ward Dotson). Dotson sings more confidently and consistently, and he pens some great lyrics, including rhyming ‘Scott Baio’ with ‘Gallileo’ (of course, those two geniuses are often in the same sentence).

There is much more killer than filler on here.  I find myself humming along to most, and belting out the choruses to $100 Car, Bastanchury Park and the big-rocking Cheap Trick-esque closer which is untitled on the CD, but my iTunes tells me (as does the chorus) is called Hold Tight.

File under: Sweet with a punch

474. Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

I thought I’d break up the Liquor Giants quartet with this recent acquisition (via the very generous Andy).

Diving into this album was a surefire recipe for a delayed review.

This is not a cheap and dirty nine-track exercise pumped out one afternoon in the studio. Rather it is a finely structured 16-track artwork, exploring the nuances of suburban life in all its grandeur and minutiae.

Their ‘Funeral’ release impressed back on review #7, and this is a rosier, slightly less melodramatic counterpoint. It’s still as arty as hell, with a lusciousness and splendour that makes this feel like an event.

Concessions to popdom can be found however, such as on the title track (which sounds like a less angsty Ed Harcourt):

I keeping hearing wafts of Go Betweens on here amongst all the Bowie and Morrissey elements, and that’s a great achievement, immersed as the Queenslanders were in a similar homage to the beauty and heartache of the day-to-day.

It isn’t all fresh-cut lawn, sprinklers and Stepford Wives.  The band also glam rock it better than most.  Month of May had me picturing stacked platform boots and eye-makeup (sadly, that isn’t the look in this live version):

File under: (Art-) Rocking the suburbs

473. The Liquor Giants – “Here”

Distracted by some work commitments, I have had a few more days than expected with this second of my Liquor Giants CDs.

And what a delightful time we’ve had.  Ward D. and his buddies rock out very consistently here.

The overtly Brit-invasion feel of the prior release is pushed to the side a little here, as the band embrace a more American, energetic sound.

The opening few tracks had me thinking Replacements, but in a more refined, disciplined sense. 67 East 2nd Street got me Google-mapping and planning a walk across a few blocks when I’m in NYC next month.

I love the snarly sarcasm of Everybody’s a Genius (and anthem for most workplaces I’m sure), and the contrast with much more hopeful This Paper Cup.

This is a band with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of quality choruses and subtle variations on a core pop-rock sound.  I remain astounded by my inability to share their excellence with you via any media beyond my inadequate words.

In lieu of a clip of any song from this release, here’s a song I like, from a band I love, that includes the word ‘liquor’ in the title:

File under: A strong, desired presence