524. Black Keys – “El Camino”

Popping out of the Ms for a couple of reviews of purchases that post-date their respective letter.

The Black Keys El Camino Album CoverNot too many albums on here are Grammy winners.  I don’t to buy much from bands who appeal to crusty industry folks.

But this album did win Best Rock Album. Like so many actors and directors who get an award for the film after their really good performances, this opus doesn’t quite reach the heights of my fave Rubber Factory. But it’s the best output from their evolved fuller band, Dangermouse-produced selves.

This already confident band strides through this recording with Kanye-like swagger. They draw upon a greater breadth of styles from across their career, and on one track take the slow-loud blues approach to perhaps it’s eternal apex.

The tune in question is Little Black Submarine which kicks off like a Jack White number and seems to be staying in that heartfelt troubador space for the opening minute before naturally build to a whole new wig out space.  In the end, it’s stunning that it is only a 3:32 track:

I find myself returning to this album very regularly, probably as often as Rubber Factory, which says a lot for its chops.  Here’s to the long-awaited 2014 release.

File under: I’m van hailing

523. Make Up – “Save Yourself”

It’s not a great sign when the best track on an album relies heavily on a guest vocalist. Discuss…

a Album cover The Makeup Make-Up Save Yourself CD reviewIt’s also not a great sign when the best track on an album is a cover version… of a rock standard. Discuss…

OK, now that you’re all back, I’ll argue that is somewhat of a problem with this here final album from Make Up (note ongoing subtle name changes).

The track in question is Hey Joe and it closes out the album.  It is a fantastic rambling 7 minute plus version of this classic, with some luscious lead vocals by someone called Heather Worley (Google tells me nothing about her!).

Strangely, it is the most Make-Up of all the songs on the album, with some strong vocal interactions, a fierce groove, a pounding rhythm break mid-song and the appropriate level of hysterics.

Alas, the rest of the album doesn’t have that vibe.  The band appears to have abandoned much of the ‘gospel yeah yeah’ sound they’d espoused on previous recordings.  Instead we are left with an album that feels like a (less indulgent) Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it renders this my least played release from this combo.

File under: Save some dough and buy their other albums first

522. Make-Up – “In Mass Mind”

I’m a fan of an album that really needs to be listened to in one hit.a Album cover The_Make-Up-In_Mass_Mind CD review

This second studio effort from the funkiest white Washingtonians fits that bill from intro to outro.  It also captures the essence of this band incredibly well.

This is a band that loves a groove, a screamed plea and maintaining a vibe.

Frontman Ian Svenonius continues to destroy his vocal chords with exaberated exhortations bemoaning his romantic treatment, while invited as all along for his gospel music rides.  If there is a church somewhere that presents the righteous message in just such a format then I might well get out of bed one Sunday morning, don a natty suit and mosey on down (conscious of likely lightening strikes).

The album is not quite perfect.  It curiously loses a little momentum and energy in the back half,  (what I suspect might well be ‘side 2’ on any vinyl version), with a groove ever so slightly on the somnolent side.  Nevertheless, I feel Live in the Rhythm Hive:

File under: Make-up your Mind

Gig Review – Mudhoney

Attending my first gig in ages inspired me to blow the dust off the blog-machine…

Artist: Mudhoney
Venue: Corner Hotel, Richmond, Victoria, Australia
Date: Friday, 27 July, 2012
Who?: Seattle rockgods proving that age shall not tame.
Crowd?: The place was full of blokes of my vintage or older (i.e. into their 5th decade).  I think I may have spied one or two of the XX chromosomed gender, but it was mainly dudes relieving the joys of grunge.  This made for a chatter-lite night (as did the volume levels).  There was a fair preponderance of what I have tagged “nano moshing” – namely a barely discernible bounce on the heels and slight nodding of the head while not spilling any beer and definitely not bumping any of the other portly gentlemen in the vicinity. My sight lines were wonderfully devoid of raised “smart” phones.  We’re clearly old enough to remember actually watching a gig and recording it in our actual memory.
Best Bits: Mark Arm’s indestructible voice, that fantastic bass sound (from the Aussie no less) and the interplay with the lead guitar.  The memories of just how good grungy rock can be. “Touch me I’m sick”
Could be Better: I could be younger.  I could remember to bring earplugs
Dream Venue: The Punters Club, The Old Greek Theatre, The Evelyn before the refurb of the mid-90s
Dream Lineup: Taking a ‘stages of life’ view, perhaps The Stooges, The Datsuns and whatever young band is now rocking out in this fashion but whom I haven’t being paying enough attention to notice (they just don’t play them much on talk radio!)
Worth a Second Look?: Hell yeah.  Once my ears recover (and my liver). The band may now look like a quartet of dads from a Northcote primary school working bee, but they know how to construct a pure wall of sound.
Give us a look:

Back in the day

In 2010

521. The Make-Up – “Destination: Love – Live! At Cold Rice”

I have particularly fond memories of this Washington DC outfit striding onto the stage one sunny afternoon at the Meredith Music Festival.

They were unkown to me, and to most in the crowd.  Yet, within minutes, I was hooked.

The black-clad quartet beguiled us with a unique mix of punk and funk and bluster. As on this debut release, they were pedalling some patented “gospel yeah yeah sound”.

It’s all about style, about laying down a primitive bass line, some sparse guitars and crooning over it in a falsetto Screaming Jay Hawkins style.  We’re urged, call and response style, to drive some mythical revolution through our embrace of all things Make-Up.

This is The Cramps without the rubber and perversion, and one of the rare instances where a gang of white folks playing garage manage to capture the true funk-gospel vibe.

This is a live album, but it still doesn’t quite capture the pure adrenalin rush of seeing them on stage.  This video does go a little closer (even if the sound quality is on the poor side):

And here’s a cracking track off the album:

In hindsight, I’m wondering whether the band wore red on stage…

File under: I’m there

520. Majestic – “Live it up!”

I have a surprising amount of this sugar-sweet bubble gum indie-pop stuff in my CD collection.

These are albums full of light, breezy (and brief) tunes with doo-wop backing vocals, hi-energy choruses often from a male-female combo.

So far we’ve seen The Brunettes, Call & Response, as well as their 60s brethren. Some time in the middle of this century we might get to the Canadian masters of this stuff (The Salteens).

This here San Fran combo are slap bang in the middle of this genre, and mine its riches and are burdened with all its negatives.

The most upbeat, infectious tracks (Overcoat, Wonderful and Bub) hit the mark and evoke the silly Saturday afternoon shenanigans you’re looking for:

Elsewhere, the album is too restrained and slight to maintain attention. Songs wander past without you even noticing.

It turns out the lead man from this band went on to found the super successful musically-driven kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, which has a few appearances and contributions from the aforementioned Salteens (among many Indie-music types), including this rather terrifying number:

You can take this genre too far!!

File under: Beware of living life to its fullest

Gig Review – Dirty York

Very surprisingly I’ve been to two live musical events within a week.

Artist: Dirty York
Venue: Rainbow Hotel, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
Date: Friday, 10 February, 2012
Who?: Melbourne’s premier Southern Rock perpetrators.
Crowd?: Typically thick around the waist, follicly challenged (but with considerably facial hair), raucous and appreciative, a complete lack of hipsters.
Best Bits: The riffs, the voice, the energy and good humour, and a clear passion for an underrepresented sound these days (i.e. LZ + BC), and that the band completely fit the bill (i.e. they nailed the skinny hipped, long and languid look).
Could be Better: in a bigger room (so the drummer could really bash out)
Dream Venue: Sunbury 1973
Dream Lineup: Motorhead, Billy Thorpe, Lynard Skynard.
Worth a Second Look?: Absolutely.
Give us a Look: