As solo releases from pretty beloved frontmen go, this one from Pavement alum Malkmus is relatively unusual. It doesn’t suck.
Stephen stays in relatively familiar territory, with loads of quirky, intelligent lyrics, poppy angular guitar work and playful rhythms. There is no strong attempt to do it differently from what worked so well for Pavement for their first few albums. The sounds isn’t pared back particularly.
If anything, Malkmus comes across as less deliberately obtuse here. There is a stronger sense of story-telling. The stories are somewhat nonsensical at times, and several might be viewed as eggheady, delving as he does into colonial military parodies, classical architecture references and an epic pirate tale:
It all hangs together startlingly well, however. It somehow makes sense as he jumps from a Yul Brunner tribute, to tales of the Pacific Northwest, and a teenager dating an aging coverband frontman with a fondness for frisbee and Dire Straits.
There is a palpable sense of ease and enjoyment on this album. A man relieved of pressure he presumably no longer wanted making music that amuses him, and entertains me.
File under: Following the right (foot)path
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?
As I did this time last year, here’s my list of favourite gigs from the year that was 2010:
#5 Emiliana Torrini at the Forum, Melbourne, January 3 – the jungle-drum beating Icelander made me smile all night…
#4 Justin Townes Earle at Corner Hotel, Melbourne, April 16 – he didn’t blow me away as much as on debut in 2009, but his bluegrassy brilliance was still a joy
#3 Dinosaur Jr followed by Pavement at Golden Plains Festival, Meredith Amphitheatre, March 6 – it was a miserable festival weatherwise, but this pairing of acts on the first night gladdened my heart (also of note was the performance of Nashville Pussy the following afternoon)
#2 The Pixies at Festival Hall, Melbourne, March 19 – Playing the Doolittle album in order with a great visual show (perhaps to hide their increasing girth). Again, not as exciting as seeing them for the first time a couple of years ago, but still a great night.
#1 Pavement & Gersey at Palace, Melbourne, March 12 – a dream pairing and both acts were in stand out form. Made me feel a good 15 years younger…
March was certainly a great music month, while the rest of the year was less impressive.
What were your favourite live outings?
I went to a fantastic wine dinner on Friday hosted by the wise Rob Gibson of Gibson Wines.
He made the sagelike comment that sometimes a wine has no words to describe it. It just tastes great.
That’s my feeling about both this album and the experience of seeing Gersey play these songs live.
The shoegazer movement of the early 90s has been justifiably pilloried as tiresome and self-indulgent. While Gersey embrace the sound of this genre, they have never bored me (or their appreciative fanbase, who turned out in droves a couple of months back when these guys played a rare gig supporting Pavement).
This debut effort is a true classic. It is epic in its grandeur, yet intimate in its feel. It works beautifully as a late night, in bed listen, yet benefits from being played very, very loud also.
The songs soar as they build around overlaying guitar threads, heavy and steady rhythms and confident, understated, slightly plaintive vocals:
I have loved this album since the first day I spun it, and it envelopes me each and every time I throw it on. I crave hearing and seeing these guys again some day soon.
File under: Bound to impress
Earlier this month I caught two performances by the reunited US 90s indie icons Pavement.
Immersed as I am now in The Fauves back catalogue, I have been comparing the fortunes of the two bands.
Pavement were received with justified adulation at both shows, and their albums are widely available and showered in praise. The songs therein tread a neat line between obtuse, sarcastic and overly verbose on one hand, and ridiculously infectious on the other.
The Fauves share Pavement’s musical ying and yang balancing act, although with less angular noodly tendencies and a bit more straight ahead rock. But, you pretty much can’t buy their back catalogue from anywhere other than the band themselves, and this millenium’s youth couldn’t discern them from Adam.
It really is a travesty. This album, for example,content is flush with clever and catchy content: comic-book self-improvement (The Charles Atlas Way), Costanza philosophy (Don’t Give Me The It’s Not You It’s Me), a trucking song (Long Load), and a treatise on the merits of Jon Bon Jovi (Campfire King of Course).
And where Pavement mocked the stadium rock of the Stone Temple Pilots et al, The Fauves have a more loving view of Australia’s rock festival history:
File under: Praise thee for your fly ways
I was starting to question the veracity of much-feared ‘poor second album’ stereotype. Alas this effort from the mighty Brisbane powerpoppers falls squarely into that category.
Indeed, this CD is a certain sub-species of the ‘Opus disappointica’ phenomenon. Here we see a cavernous gap between the better tracks and the lesser. The “filler” on here does not warrant such an ambivalent moniker – said tracks here should be called “Brussel sprouts”, “dog turds” or “Alexander Downer”.
The very best tunes on here are about as poppy, catchy and fun as this band ever produced.
Apartment is an insanely infectious little ditty (that sounds surprisingly like You Am I). Lucky Star delivers on that early-90s Boston sound. Venus Flytrap and Lightening Bug throws doo-wop, country-punk and a little bit extra in the pot and comes up with quite an intoxicating brew. Leisuremaster is straight out of Pavement 101, laying down a very chilled vocal over slide guitar and cymbals and brush rhythms.
I can’t help but feel the Pavement-influence is what brings this album down. Too often the tracks capture only a portion of said band’s approach but without the necessary imagination or flair (Bring it On is a prime example). Other tracks here are just throwaway twaddle.
File under: None the wiser
Back around the time this album came out, I caught these guys playing a show at the Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy. It remains one of the most memorable and enjoyable gigs in my memory banks.
I distinctly recall Dave McCormack (vocals) announcing they’d be playing their tunes in alphabetical order. They threw in a couple of great covers (including (perhaps) I Still Call Australia Home). The vibe that night, and on this album, was that music must be FUN.
These guys always seemed to be having a ball, but in a laidback, whacky uncle sort of way. The songs either rush at you smiling gleefully, or just sit around spinning slightly confusing tales that make you giggle (or shake your head in embarrassment). Imagine Pavement channeling Jonathan Richman.
Indeed the band even give a nod to Jonathon (along with Jim Henson and fellow Brisbanites The Melniks) on the outstanding (and cleverly titled) Singlette.
This album is chockfull of tracks that still sound fresh and still make me happy. I defy you to listen to Alone or If Yr Famous and You Know It, Sack Yr Band and not be enamoured. Here are two different versions of the equally impressive Pack Yr Suitcases (with and without theremin/bandmates):
File under: Guaranteed to get your patootie jigging
Posted in C, Oz Artists
Tagged album, album review, CD review, Custard, Fitzroy, Jonathan Richman, music, music review, Pavement, The Melniks, Wahooti Fandango
This 1994 release from Chicago ensemble The Coctails snuck into my collection a few years back, presumably picked up cheap at some sale, and I can’t remember ever giving it much of a listen.
I have a feeling I bought it on the recommendation of a buddy now residing in Brisbane town.
Well, now I’ve heard it, and I like. This stands as another example of right sound, wrong place. These guys deliver the sort of material that made Pavement indie stars – quirky vocal stylings but with very sound pop basis and with jangly, angular guitars and keys. Take their tune Postcard and tell me that this couldn’t have been a single off Slanted and Enchanted. Fans of The Shins or Modest Mouse wouldn’t be disappointed with at least half the tunes here.
The album is more than an homage to Malkmus and co however. The band has a trio of songwriters and an adventurous bent, so we wander in and out of genres with abandon. There are shoegazey Gersey-like moments (on Peel), and rockier efforts (Wicked Way).
Purportedly these guys started out as a “lounge-core” act. I must find out what that means, because they get this later stuff very right.
File under: A-peel-ing (I couldn’t resist)
Posted in C
Tagged album, album review, CD review, Gersey, Modest Mouse, music, music review, Pavement, Peel, The Coctails, The Shins
Reviewing Beck albums reminded me to find this CD and give it a considered spin…
This was a little project from the Grand Royal stable back in 1998-9, where they asked various indie luminaries to have a twiddle on a Roland groovebox thingie.
The groovebox is an all-in-one synth and sequencer and drum machine and 8-track recorder. Think the sort of ingenious music machine Doc Brown from Back to the Future might have conjured up (or those crazy kids from Weird Science), or the source of the soundtrack to Electric Dreams.
So, anyway, the album turns out to be a load of fun, with a mix of instrumental gems and some vocal numbers. The standout tracks come from Bis, Cibo Matto and Pavement. Sonic Youth offer an extremely esoteric and frankly painful soundscape, while Bonnie Prince Billy delivers a standard haunting (but not overly electronic) warble.
A lot of the best stuff comes from the instrumentalists, however, who deliver more than simple plinky plonk pieces. I’ve never heard of most of them, but they’re clearly Wizs.
All in all, this is a surprisingly consistent and singular album. Perhaps issuing all artists with same equipment reduced the risk of jarring contrasts.
File under:Elegant electronica
Posted in A, Various
Tagged Air, At Home With the Groovebox, Beck, Bis, Bonnie Prince Billy, CD review, Cibo Matto, Lennon, music, music review, Pavement, Roland, Sonic Youth, synthesiser