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:

519. Vusi Mahlasela – “The Voice”

I have a question for all you music lovers out there: what is your approach to music in a language you don’t understand?

Do you seek out a translation of the lyrics at all? Do you try to imagine what a song might be ‘about’?  Or do you just let it wash over you?

This ‘best of’ tunes from South African maestro Mahlasela features songs in a variety of that nation’s languages.  Some are in English, such as this one:

Others are impenetrable to me, but it matters little, as Vusi’s voice is truly captivating.  He seems to conjure up some universal language of joy and hurt.

He plucks out a rhythm on occasion with his vocals (doing that clicking and breathing thing of his countrymen, but in a less cheesy fashion).

This album purchase followed seeing him live about six years ago, a show that certainly entranced my missus and I.  It is still a thrill that this album captures much of the revelatory nature of that show.

On a strange aside, on several songs Mahlasela’s voice evokes Peter Gabriel, yet none of the tunes seemed as contrived or overwrought as Gabriel’s.  I wonder if I would think the same thing if I understood the language?

File under: He IS the voice

Gig Review – Pugsley Buzzard

I’ve decided to spice up the blog a little by also sharing my views on any live musical shows I might encounter.  I’ll try and build a complex system that allows comparisons so that my end of year rankings are more reliable!

Artist: Pugsley Buzzard and his Trio
Venue: East Brunswick Club, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
Date: Sunday, 5 February (afternoon show), 2012
Who?: Some bloke from up Sydney way peddling boogie barrelhouse piano blues. Think Tom Waits meets Dr.John.
Crowd?: It was all about quality (i.e. there weren’t more than 25 people there), and our table of 32-40 year olds lowered the average age very considerably.
Best Bits: The swagger, the voice, the tuba (!), the love and respect for the classic sounds of New Orleans, the Truckstop Honeymoon cover.
Could be Better: One or two less solos (that’s you Mr.Drummer!), better miking on tuba, a little more banter
Dream Venue: Your local bar, a juke-joint (whatever that is), somewhere dark, dingy and bourbon-soaked (but without hipsters or singlet wearers)
Dream Lineup: Probably not Tom Waits.  Maybe Chuck E.Weiss, Truckstop Honeymoon, Serena Ryder… and then Sharon Jones to get us all dancing.
Worth a Second Look?: For sure.  He’s playing a residency around the corner (Grumpy’s Green) Wednesdays in March.  I’ll get down to one or two nights.
Give us a look:

518. Taj Mahal – “Blue Light Boogie”

The decision of Henry Saint Clair Fredericks to adopt a stage name was understandable.

But perhaps instead of the subcontinent’s most famous mausoleum, he could have chosen “Sidney Opera House” (and passed himself off as the part of Sun House’s clan).  Or got all funky with “M.Pire State” (and hooked up with a partner called “Bill Ding”).

OK, that’s enough silliness.  This is a compilation of (mainly) covers  Mahal recording during the 1990s.

This album is slightly warmer and more engaging than the prior reviewee. But, he still isn’t taking many risks with song choices. I’m not sure the world needed another version of Honky Tonk Women, and he manages to underwhelm with one of my favourite standards (John The Revelator).

He does a better job with Mercedes Benz, and one of the rare Mahal-penned tunes here is by far the most fun – as he gets all excited about big-butted belles on Big Legged Mommas Are Back In Style. I was expected Sir Mix-a-Lot to pop up any time with a bit of this:

Searching around for decent Mahal clips, I stumbled upon a series from back in 1972, of which this is the best:

That’s the sort of stuff I’d like to see from him here.

File under: Not arresting enough

517. Taj Mahal – “Señor Blues”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned here more than once that I have a strong preference for the “dirtier” end of the blues music spectrum.

a Album cover Taj Mahal senor blues mind your own business CD reviewBlues should sound raw and dangerous, and if happens to tell of love gone bad or misadventure, all the better.

Taj Mahal doesn’t fit said bill. His recordings (well, certainly this Grammy-winning 1997 set) are slickly produced, and firmly in the jazz-blues domain. He does pick at a guitar better than most, and his vocal stylings ride the groove perfectly, but it is all a little too ‘big band’ and Cosby Show for me to love it.

I feel like a bit of a scrooge in not embracing this album as a classic.  In the end it gets back to my ambivalence to this genre.

Imagine the Commitments fictional setup (without all the pale Irish corniness), and that’s the set-up here.  Too much horns, organ and backing vocals on what are pretty standard ‘interpretations’ from THE songbook (including Mahal’s version of Mr Pitiful).

The best track on here is the least augmented, a sparse cover of a Hank Williams tune Mind your own Business:

More tracks like that might win me over to Mahal’s side of the fence.

File under: ¿dónde está la tierra?

 

516. The Magnetic Fields – “i”

As concept albums go this is one of the least ambitious efforts I can recall. Featuring only songs with titles commencing with “i” (and then listing them in alphabetical order isn’t really a stretch.

If Stephin Merritt was really lazy, he could have simply named fourteen random songs with unrelated titles that comply.

He doesn’t appeared to have cheated on that front, but, irrespective, a singer-songwriter doesn’t have to push too hard to come up with a load of first-person, self-starring lyrics. Not mentioning “I” would have been a bigger ask.

As for the content, the collection is pretty coherent, and with no guest vocalists, much more cohesive than the 69 Love Songs opus. The trade-off is less creativity and whimsy.

At its best, Merritt hits open a few more showtunes that’d please the most critical off-Broadway audience such as I Don’t Believe You, and the Gilbert & Sullivan-like In an Operetta. I Thought You Were My Boyfriend is screaming out for a disco upgrade (and may well have had one already):

There is a bit too much bland fodder on here to warrant much raving, but it is still a worthy entry point into the MF world.

File under: I’ve heard better

Remembering my favourite gigs of 2011

As is par for the course around here of late, I have been tardy in declaring my top gigs from 2011 (to go with my 2010 and 2009 lists):

#5 Foo Fighters and Tenacious D at Sydney Football Stadium, December 8 – simply because stadium rock was such a novelty (and because we were undercover for the persistent rain).  Grohl and co certainly can work a crowd!

#4 Michelle Shocked at Joe’s Pub, New York City, May 29 – captivating dinner and show set up with Michelle revisiting The Texas Campfire Tapes and showcasing some new stuff in a hilarious fashion:

#3 Bright Eyes, Wild Flag & Superchunk Radio City Music Hall, New York City, March 8 – A spectacular show with great supports.

#2 Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears at Bowery Ballroom, New York City, March 26 – So much fun, such a big surprise. Sweaty and groovy and all that…

#1 Bettye Lavette at Cafe Carlyle, New York City, May 25 – this is one of the gigs of my life time. In a fancy piano bar with this compelling chanteuse but metres away.  Her voice and emotion was compelling.

So what were your favourite live outings?