Category Archives: Oz Artists

525. Kasey Chambers – “Storybook”

Another (relatively recent) purchase in need of a ‘catch up’ review.

a album cover Chambers Kasey Chambers Storybook Songbook CD review blogKasey Chambers is definitely a guilty pleasure around here, and when she released an album of covers I was intrigued.

The collection reveals a few lessons.

1. Chambers has excellent musical taste.  It’s hard to argue with the Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Paul Kelly, Fred Eaglesmith and Gillian Welch selections (in terms of both artist and song choices). Hearing Earle’s Nothing but a child and Kelly’s Everything’s turning to white with a female voice does add something new to their respective narratives and vibes.

2. She has a decent contacts list, with Kelly and Jimmy Barnes popping in to duet (Kelly very well, Barnesy not so much).

3. While some tunes are excellent reinterpretations, or at least decent homages, in the end it still feels like a diversion from her core business of penning original tunes that intrigue and excite.  Sure it’d be great fun to pop into her regular gigs down the road from her house where she has a covers band, it still doesn’t stack up against the ‘real thing’ (her music, or the originals of said tunes).

So add KC to the growing list of overdue new albums.

File under: Familiar tales

511. Magic Dirt – “Snow White”

I was disappointed relistening to this 2005 release from Geelong’s finest.

This is one of those albums were there is too much polish.  The energy and spontaneity of earlier releases seems absence, and the band appears to be trying too hard for the catchiness that permeated a couple of tracks on the preceeding two albums.

Perhaps I should be looking at the album through more of a Clouds-like lens (as that is very much the sound on the title track). Indeed the sound so un-grungy by the time we get to I love the rain that I’m starting to wonder whetherthis is a Candle Records act. Tracks that would have been the pop gem elsewhere become the ‘rock-out’ effort here:

This certainly not a stinker of an album, and if I’d stumbled upon it unaware of the band I may well have been been quite enamoured.  I suspect I would then have be pretty shocked if I’d caught the band in the live arena, as the pop vibe was never this overt and the vibe was so much grimier.

As it is, this is where the band and I parted ways… an amicable breakup of sorts.

File under: Call me grumpy… or Dopey

510. Magic Dirt – “Tough Love”

I have never made the connection before, but Adalita the frontwoman of Magic Dirt may be the Chrissy Amphlett of her generation.

A little research tells me that like Adalita, Amphlett hails from Geelong.  Both are forthright rock chicks. And as becomes apparent on this album, Adalita, like Chrissy, is certainly comfortable discussing her personal stimulatory activities.

On both Plastic Loveless Letter and the standout track here, GirlBoy, Ms. Srsen regales us with tales of masturbation, no doubt titillating (and/or intimidating) many a teenage listener:

That track is a real ripper, encapsulating pretty much everything that appeals about this act.  It’s punchy, honest, fun without being cheesy, and, to repeat the line above, a bit intimidating. Moreso than Amphlett, its seems worth aspiring to be part of the storyline of these songs.

This album is stronger than the predecessor, with greater variations across the 13 tracks. While the pop sensibility is still there, the songs vary much more in tempo. On one we get some veritable beat poetry, while Brat is thee closest to a jam track I can recall from the usually concise combo.

All in all, one of the very best things to come out of sleepy hollow.

File under: Tougher than George Smilovic, Sexier then the Divinyls

509. Magic Dirt – “What are Rock Stars Doing Today”

In yesterday’s post I uttered the phrase ‘ear worm’.  This here album from Geelong rockers Magic Dirt contains one of the most cerebrally invasive tracks in my collection.

The release of said song prompted me to finally buy a Dirt longplayer, despite having seen them around for years.

The song in question, of course, is the irresistable Dirty Jeans. I found my attachment to the song (and the similar adoration of many other folks) a little to hard to explain.  It’s a pretty straightforward rock track with a rather silly chorus and premise:

But, in many ways, that is the essence of good rock.  And this band has all the right ingredients.  Strong riffs, driving basslines and rhythms and a frontwoman who is irrepressible.

Indeed, Adalita’s vocal endeavours are what captivates both on this track and across the whole album.  She carries a song better than pretty much anyone on the Aussie scene, and has unmistakable timing and oomph.

While struggling to outshine the denim number, there are enough tracks on here (Pace it, Superglu, City Trash) to ensure I went back to the well for more tunes in subsequent years.

But let’s hear that big track one more time:

File under: Doing what they do best

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

492. The Lucksmiths – “Warmer Corners”

A week’s a long time in football, and like dog years, in music-reviewing time a day is the equivalent.

a album cover CD Review The Lucksmiths Warmer Corners records fiction sunlightWhile Naturaliste drew analogies to a tired, lacklustre football performance, this follow-up sees the band burst back on to the field with much-needed enthusiasm and zip, suggesting perhaps we’d experienced merely a Hiccup in our Happiness.

Horns are blown, babababas abound and I feel much…well…warmer.

The first three tracks on this album kick goals with welcome energy. Sure there is less experimentation, but I don’t mind.  I’ve become the fan who wants to see the same old routines.

Well, I do for the first half. But by the time we’re done bragging about knowing folks in San Francisco, I’m starting to get a little restless again.

After the (very delightful) twee² of Sunlight in a Jar, my teeth are starting to ache from excessive sweetness, and I yawn distractedly through the subsequent five tracks.

When all looks lost, up pops a closing track that ticks most of the ‘should hate this’ boxes (under-structured, no chorus, indulgent phrasing, glowing references to hipsters at parties with tattoos), but which I find mesmerising – Fiction.  As a final instalment to my extensive Lucksmiths odyssey (I didn’t buy their last two albums) it is a wonderful surprise twist in the tale:

File under: Thanks for the warm fuzziness

491. The Lucksmiths – “Naturaliste”

I spent a very chilly and depressing afternoon yesterday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

a Album cover The Lucksmiths Naturaliste naturalist CD review Candle Records TaliI was there to support my football team of choice as they took on the powerhouse club de jour.  We started well, in the sense that we scored first… but this was a false dawn, and the game was soon a massacre.  I was left disappointed and disheartened.

Listening to this 2003 album sees me follow a similar trajectory.  The album kicks off in a promising fashion. Camera Shy is one of strongest tracks from the second half of the band’s discography, with intriguing pacing and some deft writing (and a nice word of the day – heliolithic).

Soon, however, we are in a mess of mis-kicks and poor decision-making . The band gets bogged down in mundane variations on their least interesting, soporific balladry.

Beyond the somewhat promising Sandringham Line and the borderline sh*t- sibling Midweek Midmorning (possibly Darryl to T-Shirt Weather‘s Wayne Schimmelbusch), there is little to redeem this afternoon on the paddock.

To keep this awkward analogy going, this album should be seen as a one-time powerhouse team whose game-plan is looking stale and old hat trudging through a season with too little of their old spark and passion.

File under: Time for a clean out?

490. The Lucksmiths – “Where Were We?”

This is the 7th album in the Lucksmiths’ discography.

a album cover CD Review lucksmiths where were we candle records t-shirt weatherIt isn’t a ‘real album’, however. Rather it is a collection of singles etc from a three-year period.

As such, it’s a surprisingly coherent opus, with a fuller band sound, greater use of horns, organs and other non-stringy instruments.  To those who remember the simpler, early days this does mark a point where competence and musicality overwhelmed the sense of playfulness and ad-hockery we’d grown used to.

The world of ‘twee indie pop’ is really several (not mutually exclusive) sub-genres of the (i) low-fi/ anaemic (ii) brash acoustic powerpop (iii) layered and lush and (iv) the outright pretentious.

I would argue that the Luckas typically steered clear of (i) and (iv), but certainly shifted away from (ii) (to (iii)) over time.  It’s a shame but understandable.  Their last gasps of unashamed pop are wonderful – see T-Shirt Weather:

The more tranquil tracks are still admirable and catchy takes on nostalgia (Cassingle Revival, I Prefer the Twentieth Century), boardgames (Even Stevens) and domestic roadtrips (Southernmost, Great Dividing Range).

Moving further and further away from the band’s last live efforts, I’m surprised how languid and loungey their albums feel.  The urge to sway is defeating any memory of dancing and jumping… the passing of youth?

File under: Milestone or millstone?