Monthly Archives: October 2011

506. Machine Translations – “Abstract Poverty”

Having one album from J.Walker’s nom de plume Machine Translations has always granted my some musical cred in my mind.

a album cover a Machine Translations Abstract Poverty Walker blog onealbumaday CD ReviewJW is one of those artists who gets name-checked with startling frequency in the ‘serious’ Aussie music press (usually preceded by the term “under-rated”), and I’ve alway been able to nod knowingly when I spy references thereto.

But, I didn’t ever really know what membership of this inner circle actually indicated. Listening to this early MT album (note the ‘early’, indeed it’s the pretty hard to find debut… I must be even cooler than most) for the first time in at least a decade, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

J.Walker is one of them multi-instrumentalist home-recording savant types, and what he’s cobbled together is an often vocal-free set of tracks which are surprisingly fresh and lively.  He fiddles around with Hawaian guitars and Eastern sitars occasionally (the altter unfortunately evoking that awful cinematic subgenre where an Aussie couple wander around South Asia discovering themselves), but most of the work is a like a less grandiose Triffids/The Church (e.g. Aiming for Zero).

This is a much less difficult and pompous recording than I expected. Maybe those critics are onto something.

File under: A soundtrack screaming out for a storyline more interesting than me sitting in my office

505. The Mabels – “The Closest People”

I listened to this album walking to and from work over the past couple of days, and was all prepared to dismiss much of the album as lacking energy.

a Album cover Mabels The Closest People Anthony Atkinson Candle debut blog onealbumaday CD reviewYet, listening again this early morn at the desk in my study, the album seems much more vibrant and perky, and much less grating than the intermittent traffic noises in our streets.

There is quite a lot to like on this long player. Atko has penned two neat tracks that adopt cricketing parlance with aplomb: A Sporting Declaration and Girlfriend in Disguise.

In a more equitable parallel universe Brett Lee would record a hugely successful Bollywood version of the former, and 200 million rabid Indian music fans would chase up the original. In an even freakier alternaverse The Mabels would then become the multimedia megastars on the sub-continent and field a team of paunchy, bearded, cardigan-wearing music geeks that takes out the IPL crown!

Returning to reality, this album has two well-constructed psalms to suburban and intercity separation (Fitzroy-Abbotsford (I think), Fitzroy-Brisbane respectively), and more wheat than chaff.  The back half of the album is a little slower and morbid than I’d like.

File under: Working from home

504. The Mabels – “Scenes from a Midday Movie”

And thus begins our journey into the letter M.

a Album cover Mabels Scenes from a Midday Movie Anthony Atkinson Candle debut blog onealbumaday CD review Mables493 reviews ago I wrote a pretty damning review of the debut solo album from The Mabels’ frontman.

Part of my disappointment stemmed from my affection for his earlier work.  This, the band’s 1998 debut, showcases much of what they did best (although an earlier EP is possibly their peak).

Like much of the Candle Records’ catalogue this is a subtle, mellow grower of an album.  The band construct tales of small town life, and inner suburban melancholia. The former material is more touching and captures a claustrophobic world not typically observed outside Tim Winton stories and country music.

The sexual politics (Filipino Bride, Small Town Charity Queen) are handled without purience, with a smattering of humour on the side (Tennis Player’s Girlfriends).

The more urbane numbers of the album contrast well, and lighten the tone, with occasional bursts of energy. Sitting in a Cyclone was a personal live fave, while Ecstatic showcases the combo’s ability to deliver a sense of fragility (and the horns are a treat too… as seen in this rare live footage):

If you are after a cosy, honest album that rewards mutliple listens, this is worth chasing up.

File under: Afternoon delight

503. Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs – “No Help Coming”

Holly and her buddy Lawyer Dave (how’s that for an anachronistic name for a purported hillbilly?) continue on their merry way with this 2011 album.

One again the schtick is rural, rebellious and ‘down home’. And again, they go damn close to pulling it off.

This was the album they were showcasing when I caught them live, so it’s fun to have the backstories to a few of the standout tracks.  For example, knowing that Burn, oh junk pile, burn is about a crazy former neighbour with a penchant for Xmas day bonfires, make me delight more in the wordplay and playfulness. The Hawaiian guitar on said track also adds (in a bizarre fashion) to the off-centre, gothic vibe of patches of this album).

Again, the three or four standout tracks on here are absolute rippers for the genre, such as the title track, L.S.D (Rock’n’Roll Prison), and their latest effort at bating god botherers, Lord knows we’re drinking.

The rest of the tunes are little too laid back for my liking (actually ‘loving’… I do like them).  Nevertheless, this makes for a great Sunday arvo, beer on the balcony listen (although I feel I should have a shotgun on my lap, rather than this damn computer thingy).

File under: Self reliant

502. Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs – “You Can’t Buy A Gun When You’re Crying”

One Friday night in NYC, while the missus was off gallivanting in London, I jumped the L-Train over to Brooklyn to check out Ms Golightly.

I had a recollection of said lady singing on a White Stripes album and one by the Greenhornes, and being name-checked regularly as a righteous and prolific babe in the serious UK music press, but couldn’t have told you much more about her oeuvre.

To my delight I discovered she is in middle of a serious hillbilly, rootsy phase.  She has teamed up with a mightily hirsute bloke he plays a mean slide and pedal steel, and they have cobbled together a songbook full of front porch laments and songs screaming for some jugband accompaniment:

The vibe is very much Deliverance through rose-coloured glasses.  The devil is the good guy, and Jesus ain’t no use. Alcohol is Medicine Water and Daddy seems like he’s a little more amorous than he should be.

These two make this genre seem easy and alluring, although there are a few too many lazy tracks in the middle that have me craving some hooch to liven it all up, but the album ends in a flourish and has me craving more woodsy, mountain action.

File under: Damn them gun control laws

501. Drive-By Truckers – “Go-Go Boots”

One major disappointment on arriving in NYC was discovering these guys had played there the week before.  I bought this latest effort as consolation.

Revisiting my old reviews I am struck by my wavering views of the band’s consistency. In many ways that sums up my response to this album

At its best, this album matches the grimy storytelling of ‘Dirty South’, especially on the title track and Used to be a Cop. But the remainder of the saga about a licentious preacher murdering his wife and running off with a pole-dancer is a mess and way too forced. The pivotal track The Fireplace Poker is meandering, unenergetic and just plain frustrating.

The band redeems itself, however, on the overtly country Cartoon Gold and the downright acidic Weakest Man:

Those two acoustic videos of Mike Cooley doing his thang highlight one of the three reasons I keep going back to the DBT well – his voice.  It is irresisitable, as is the energy when the bang gets up a head of steam (the third prompt to purchase is the damn cover art which captures my eye like a bright shiny object).

Now, I just wish the band would show some goddamn discipline.

File under: Sexy at times, but often uncomfortable

500 albums in 999 days!

Wow, I just snuck under the wire yesterday on having to rename this blog “One Album Every Two Days”.  My late burst of activity has got me across the line, and the effort has rejuvenated my interest in this eternal quest. So let’s have a look at the wash up thus far.

Twelve letters have been completed (although I’ve still got a few more backlogged A-Ks to get through), with B-Bands accounting for 22.6% of albums reviewed. That letter also provides the current top 4 faves:

  1. The Black Keys – “Rubber Factory”
  2. The Beastie Boys – “Paul’s Boutique”
  3. James Brown – “Star Time Disk Two”
  4. Buffalo Tom – “Let Me Come Over”
  5. Gersey – “Hope Springs”
  6. De La Soul – “3 Feet High and Rising”
  7. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – “Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury”
  8. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Henry’s Dream”
  9. Lily Allen – “Alright, still…”
  10. Steve Earle – “El Corazón”
  11. Darren Hanlon – “Hello Stranger”
  12. Grandview – “Room 15”
  13. Died Pretty – “Doughboy Hollow”
  14. Eminem – “The Slim Shady LP”
  15. James Brown – “Star Time Disk Three”
  16. Dinosaur Jr – “Bug”
  17. The Audreys – “Between Last Night and Us”
  18. Ani DiFranco – “Puddle Dive”
  19. PJ Harvey – “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”
  20. Lemonheads – “It’s a Shame About Ray”

Aussie acts are over-represented in the upper echelons, with 30% of the top 20 and the top 100  (vs 23.8% of reviews). Here’s the top 10% for each letter:

A

  1. Lily Allen – “Alright, still…”
  2. The Audreys – “Between Last Night and Us”
  3. Ryan Adams – “Heartbreaker”

B

  1. The Black Keys – “Rubber Factory”
  2. The Beastie Boys – “Paul’s Boutique”
  3. James Brown – “Star Time Disk Two”
  4. Buffalo Tom – “Let Me Come Over”
  5. James Brown – “Star Time Disk Three”
  6. Dan Brodie and The Broken Arrows – “Empty Arms, Broken Hearts”
  7. James Brown – “Star Time Disk One”
  8. Billy Bragg – “Back to Basics”
  9. Solomon Burke – “Don’t Give Up On Me
  10. The Breeders – “Last Splash”
  11. The Black Keys – “Brothers”
  12. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”

C

  1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Henry’s Dream”
  2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Let Love In”
  3. Kasey Chambers – “Barricades and Brickwalls”
  4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!”
  5. Rob Clarkson – “Off Your Faith”
  6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “The Boatman’s Call”
  7. Custard – “Wahooti Fandango”
  8. Rob Clarkson – “Shirts & Skins”

D

  1. De La Soul – “3 Feet High and Rising”
  2. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – “Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury”
  3. Died Pretty – “Doughboy Hollow”
  4. Dinosaur Jr – “Bug”
  5. Ani DiFranco – “Puddle Dive”
  6. Ani DiFranco – “Dilate”
  7. Bob Dylan – “Another Side of Bob Dylan”

E

  1. Steve Earle – “El Corazón”
  2. Eminem – “The Slim Shady LP”
  3. Eels – “Electro-Shock Blues”

F

  1. The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
  2. Fishbone – “The Reality of My Surroundings”
  3. Roosevelt Franklin – “The Year of Roosevelt Franklin/My Name is Roosevelt Franklin”
  4. Florence and the Machine – “Lungs”

G

  1. Gersey – “Hope Springs”
  2. Grandview – “Room 15”
  3. Golden Rough – “This Sad Paradise”
  4. The Guild League – “Private Transport”

H

  1. Darren Hanlon – “Hello Stranger”
  2. PJ Harvey – “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”
  3. Ed Harcourt – “Here Be Monsters”
  4. The Hold Steady – “Separation Sunday”

I

  1. Abdullah Ibrahim – “Best of…”

J

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – “Naturally”
  2. Janis Joplin – “Pearl”

K

  1. Paul Kelly – “Greatest Hits – Songs from the South Volumes 1 & 2”
  2. Ben Kweller – “Changing Horses”

L

  1. Lemonheads – “It’s a Shame About Ray”
  2. The Lucksmiths – “What Bird Is That?”
  3. The Lucksmiths – “Happy Secret”
  4. Bettye Lavette – “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise”
  5. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – “Scandalous”

Here’s to many many more…