Sympathetic Stupid

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Wash Winter's Willies aWay With Whisky

A good lineup of bands for half a day at the Rob Roy. Kinda a silly title but it's all forgiven because I found a new favourite band.

I caught four of the bands on the bill. First up The Tijuana Bibles. Straight down the line country, I'm not a real conossieur but it seemed competent. Next The Handsome Young Strangers, playing 'bush music' they called it. Again, I've got no background here but I liked it, plenty of energy and even a song I knew, Flash Jack From Gundagai (I knew all those year of Macca would come in handy).

Then Floyd Thursby and The Definite Article, a three piece, skewing a little more alt. I'm pretty sure I've seen Floyd before somewhere, he was very good up front, and the band seemed tight and tuneful. They've got another gig coming up at the Cornish Arms on Wednesday night, I was sufficiently impressed to go to that.

Lastly, my new favourite band, who were actually moved up the order because The Maryhillbillys had a late bass player. Lucky, because I had to go to MIFF stuff and would have missed them otherwise.

The band are Khancoban. To paraphrase Jeff Tweedy, 'I fell in love with the drummer'. As a mediocre drummer myself, I'm a huge fan of Glenn Kotche at Wilco. Well, Jemima from Khancoban is also, I presume, as she's adopted his magnificent mallets technique. The band is a five piece; mostly we had Andre up front on guitar, Jen playing keyboards, Andrew on lap steel, Jason on bass and Jemima on the most important instrument.

Their sound reminds me mainly of Wilco, and of Augie March, two bands I love. Andre's high, sweet voice is similar to Glenn from Augie March, as is the feel of Jen's keyboards. On the other hand, Andrew's lap steel, and the rhythm section seem much more Wilco. All up, great.

The bad news is that it doesn't look like they've got another gig for a while. The next one on their site is September 3rd, and that's at the Australian Rationalist Conference. Unfortunately, they just played the Empress; that's right, walking distance from my house. Damn it. Hopefully some more dates appear soon.

SubAudible Hum @ The Rob Roy

First up, saw a bit of Donnie Dureau from Blueline Medic. Played some decent singer-songwriter, man and his guitar stuff. Not very Blueline Medic, as he said.

Next up were a band possibly called Little Star, who were also decent. They're a competent three piece who, despite lacking the undefinable magic of a great band (possibly because the frontman lacked a little charisma), had some decent songs. They switched between some keyboards and guitars, with the drummer putting a track on at times and playing some 303/808/something.

The nice band room at the Rob Roy filled up for the headliners. I've listened to the album a bit, and it sounds like fairly standard JJJ alt guitar rock. That's basically what we got. It wasn't the greatest show; the presentation was all a bit slipshod, there were big gaps between the songs, and some of the rock moves were frankly embarrasing. (The bass player especially was a little over the top.) Their best track is Puddle Of A Nation, and this did work well live, a good rock build in 5/4. I can't quite get the lyrics but I assume it's a bit of a go at Little Johnny's Australia. This always sells well. A limited selection of tracks to choose from means they had to play the slow ones, which didn't really work so well, especially the frontman's solo number.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Saints v Dees

Today at the 'G saw the solidly building Saints have a big win over the lacklustre, injured Demons.

I had doubts about the idea of four long-term injuries returning in one match (Hamill, Harvey, Riewoldt, Penny). No trouble, in practice, because by the last quarter when the returnees began to run out of legs, the match was well and truly over. Hamill was the best of them, showing that despite a lack of fitness, he's as competitive as ever. Riewoldt was good without being amazing, taking a couple of good marks and kicking for goal as badly as ever. Harvey is amazing in that he can return after months out and find the ball the same as ever; it looks like he could play another four years, at this rate. Penny was, as expected, the worst of them, playing on Robertson who was too fast for him. But he'll improve.

My player of the day was Brett Voss. He's had an up and down year, but today he played the whole game in the backline (except when he wandered forward for a goal), and showed that that's where he has to be. He's great at zoning off his man and helping out. He had a low possession count, but his one-percenters made the day, spoils, tackles, shepherds. When he's playing like this, he makes the backline.

The three who were most disappointing were Montagna, Jones and Guerra. Superficially they did OK (Joey with 3 goals), but this was in a team playing well. They'll be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

So, a great game, and not only because we won by 88 points. I don't think Melbourne were that good, though, and they had a lot of injuries, so Geelong next week may be a tougher test.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fiery Furnaces Wow!

I finally get the Fiery Furnaces!

Blame my mp3 player, really. I was listening on shuffle and Quay Cur came on, and I thought, well, I guess I'll give this another chance. As well, I'd just been to pitchfork and seen them mentioned so it must have been divine providence.

I'm still on my first proper listen, but they're so joyful! That's what I needed this morning. Didn't realise it before though.

The Tax Inspector: Peter Carey

I've previously seen Peter Carey as being somewhat similar to Patrick White; great Australian literary novelist. But as The Tax Inspector is the first Carey I've read, there's been no knowledge to back up that comparison. My conclusion after one book is that I was wrong.

Carey is less 'literary' (whatever that means) than White. This book has a similar feel to that of White's The Eye Of The Storm. Both are presenting a view of a family with an aging matriarch. The deep psychological studies of the characters are somewhat similar. But that's fairly simplistic comparison.

I didn't like The Tax Inspector because it seemed to become a little crude. Well-drawn portrayals of ineresting characters degenerated into (admittedly compelling) sex and violence. It was a good picture of Sydney in the late 80s, but then it became a caricature of some sort of fraught family situation. Maybe this was a metaphor which I'm not perceptive enough to get, but I didn't love it, anyway.

Despite that, I can see why he's won the Booker twice. Smart writing without being too dense (as White often gets). I know little about the craft of writing but it reads well, which is my main metric. So I'll definitely follow up with more Carey.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sub-Editorial Fun

Bob Carr's resigning. Means little to anyone outside Australia, and even NSW. Interested to see what Crikey says about it, though.

But what brought this to my attention was the sub-editor's headline on an AAP piece in the SMH about opposition leader John Brogden.

'I so would have beaten him in 2007'

I'm easily pleased.

Saints Resign!

Sorry, that should be re-sign. Thanks to Tim Webster for pointing it out.

Well, they've done the hard things. Say what you like about G Thomas (and I will), but he's managed to convince a shedload of good players to stay at the club for peanuts. That's Kossie, Hudghton, Ball, Dal Santo, Hayes, Riewoldt, Jones, Baker, Maguire, Penny, Goddard, at least, over the last couple ofyears.

All that's left, as far as I can see, are X and R Clarke, and Gehrig. It's unlikely that the brothers will leave, unless they could guarantee a package deal, because I think they want to play together, so that should be easy negotiating.

Fraser's interesting. He'll probably play on for a year, two at the outside, but he won't be on $500k. The other option would seem to be retirement, as I don't think he'd have the motivation to attempt to establish himself at a new club. Either way, he's not the biggest loss, as our side looks at the moment. We've got a surfeit of tall forwards; Kossie or Riewoldt or Hamill or Ackland can all play down there. While Gehrig is a very good player, he's not irreplacable.

Again, the hard things are done. Now they just have to put it together again on the field. If there's no premiership in the next two years, the side is guaranteed to disintegrate.

Neighbours Postmodern Week

It's the 20th anniversary of Neighbours. To celebrate, they're doing some weird drugs down in the story hole. Kimberley Davies (Annalise) is wandering around looking sorta superfluous (not to mention seriously plastic) with a video camera; she's making a documentary? No Kylie or Jason, but a shedload of stars are returning. Delta, Craig McLachlan, Holly Valance, Jesse Spencer. Kym Valentine. Wow.

But what I liked was last night's ep which had Lance returning (from Queensland? Probably). The writers threw up this big running gag about how Connor was swapped in as Toadie's sidekick at the same time that Lance was swapped out. To paraphrase Annalise: 'I always get you two mixed up, you're so similar.' And they kept harping on it.

Very clever. I might have to make sure I catch a few episodes this week. Not to mention they're building up to something big...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mercury Rev (and The Finn Brothers)

Kinda a bizarre gig last night.

For a start, it was at Hamer Hall, the venue formerly known as the Melbourne Concert Hall. Great venue, seats apparently about 2600. Whether it's the greatest rock venue, I'm not sure. The Palace, standing only, holds about 2000 and has a sight more atmosphere. But the acoustics are great at Hamer Hall, as we saw during Mercury Rev's set.

So yeah, the first weird thing was that the 7:45 printed on the ticket actually means 7:45! Maybe that's standard for 'stadium' gigs, but I wasn't expecting it, so I missed the first couple of minutes of Secret For A Song. Which was a shame.

The second weird thing was of course that the Rev were support for the gig. Strange. Not sure what machinations went on behind the scenes to cause this, but I'm just glad I got to see them at all. (I left halfway through the perfectly serviceable Finn Brothers, and that's the last I'll say of that.)

The third weird thing was the show itself, I guess. Big screen, the five boys squashed onto the front of the stage with some pretty standard lighting going on. Having not seen them before, I wasn't quite prepared for the extent of the happy, hippy, new-age vibe which they exude from every pore. But I had been to the Buddhist Centre for a meditation class that day, so I guess I was slightly prepared.

As I said to Tom at the concert, it surprised me a bit that they the band seemed so accepting of Jonathan's histrionics (don't often get a chance to use that, check the meaning, yeah, 'exaggerated emotional behaviour calculated for effect', that works). I suppose it's testament to their stability as a band that they all share a bit of the same outlook on life.

But you'd never guess that the band started out as basically a punk outfit. From the almost completely humourless quotes and new-age imagery on the screen, to the sweet vocals, 'moth-light' guitars and assorted tingly percussion, they seem closer to an earnest yogi than a rock group.

And the music, especially the (universally panned) last album, reinforces that impression. On the disc, anyway. Fridmann's production is clean and nice and, especially on the later stuff, removes any trace of an edge from it. Some of that comes back in the concert, thankfully.

The big numbers were the highlights of the show. A great version of Vermilion, moving into Opus 40 was the overall highlight. The slow ones were as good as on the album, but didn't work for me in a concert, especially Black Forest (Lorelei), already my unfavourite song, and one that doesn't suit my mood right now. Unfortunately we didn't hear Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, I'd have had it as an encore, but the couple of hundred Rev fans in the audience couldn't summon up enough noise to make that even a remote possibility. Anyway, do support bands ever play encores? So it was over after just about an hour.

I can't resist the temptation to put them head-to-head with the Flaming Lips' gig of last year, which was in a far more conducive setting, at the Palace. Tell you what, if you swapped the two over, this would be the better gig. The Lips disappointed me; in their place, I'm betting the Rev would have blown the roof off.


And in later news, Michael Dwyer at the Age liked the Rev.
So cop that, all you Triple-M listening Crowded House fans sitting there drinking your VB with blank faces.

Gaiman: American Gods

At lunchtime I finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Great read.

I suspect I don't have quite the critical ability to do justice to the book, but it was a damn good read. Big story, decent characters, although Shadow's an exception to that because I found him compelling. He was recently bereaved so maybe I have some sympathy.

I occasionally found myself skipping the more wordy passages, the digressions and flashbacks into times past; I don't often concentrate well enough to really appreciate these. But for the most part, the writing was nice and clear. Nice use of the pantheons of many cultures. These appeal to my inner intellectual snob by letting me think I know the background. Until it becomes apparent that my knowledge of this is slight.

I always like to read books by smart people, and he certainly gives the impression of brains. All I'd read of Gaiman's before was Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. I can't remember that well enough to compare the two. But I've been advised to get into the Sandman graphic novels, so they could be on the agenda, though he does have other novels.

Next up is The Tax Inspector by Peter Carey. It seemed somehow unpatriotic to have not read anything by the greatest living Australian author (after Bryce Courtenay and Ken Piesse, of course). I'm hoping he'll work for me as well as Patrick White has in the past.

Dumb Football Media

Len Johnson says 'St Kilda maintained its charge towards the top four positions'. Paul Gough says St Kilda has 'clearly turned its season around'. The bookies say the Saints have 're-emerged as outright second favourite for the flag'.

Yes, Paul, they did win their 'past four matches by an average of ten goals'. But I'll tell you why that shouldn't be taken as a 'return to form'.

St Kilda's last six games have been against Carlton (16th), Hawthorn (15th), Collingwood (14th), Essendon (13th), the Bulldogs (12th), and Richmond (9th). Wow, five wins against six of the worst teams in the competition!

Let's not get carried away. OK, we've had some wins. But, with St Kilda, it's always a false dawn. This time, the glow on the horizon is probably G Thomas and R Butterss marauding through Moorabbin with flamethrowers, inhuming the 'training services' department.

The latest injuries could prove to be some of the most crucial. X Clarke has become a fairly important part of the side, in the small defender role. His run from defence is more than useful. Aussie replaces him; he's out of form.

Most importantly, big Ackland has been a revelation, contesting solidly around the ground, and being smart enough to kick goals. It's not bad that his absence sends Kosi into the ruck. But it is bad that Kosi's absence sends Riewoldt and Hamill straight into key forward positions. They're both underdone and can't be relied upon. Gehrig's dropping sitters. Goals will have to come from Milne and Guerra; possible, but not likely, as they're not the most consistent players in the league.

And Melbourne are under pressure from all sides. Just when I hate playing decent sides. Daniher's a good coach. He'll get them up. Guaranteed.