Sympathetic Stupid

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Helmet Plea

Rosie Fantail is doing her level best to save hipsters from themselves.

Ever worried about looking uncool in your helmet? Or left the helmet at home because it'll wreck your hair? Do you even own a helmet? Please allow Rosie to convince you, through this link:

Helmets for Hipsters

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Augie March - Moo, You Bloody Choir

Inevitably, after a nigh-on four-year gap between albums, Moo, You Bloody Choir has been hit with the monster truck that is a major label publicity apparatus.

Apparently, it's their "most accomplished record to date - the amazing record they have always threatened to deliver." And "unquestionably one of the greatest song writers of our time" says the full press release, going on to tout the not-insignificant virtues of producer Eric Drew Feldman, who's worked with PJ Harvey, Captain Beefheart, The Polyphonic Spree, The Pixies - even our own Custard.

But they have a bit to live up to. Sunset Studies was an accomplished, earnest debut; ranging from made-for-JJJ Buckley-esque single Asleep in Perfection through Angels of the Bowling Green whimsy to, my favourite, the extended jam The Hole In Your Roof. And then circuitously to Strange Bird; the album that keeps on giving - almost every track on here's been a favourite of mine. Acclaimed by critics across the world, it wasn't an immediately easy album, but it had wonderful scholarly lyrics and a surfeit of musical ideas.

Ah, who am I kidding? I'm an Augie March apologist; from the moment I heard One Crowded Hour (thanks to Tim) I knew this album was a masterpiece. It was just a question of degree.

Well, Moo, You Bloody Choir is excellent. The previous two albums were regularly dense, but occasionally crowded, muffled, over-elaborate. MYBC is polished. Fear not, there's plenty of nuance there, but sensible production means it's focused; maybe contrast the acres between the notes of One Crowded Hour to the chaotic abandon of Song in the Key of Chance. Or, for a feel of the improved writing and arranging, compare the relentlessly wearing drive of This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers to the better balance of Just Passing Through, especially in the "like a gall stone" bridge, as Dave's drums pull back from the edge and the backing vocals throw oil on troubled waters.

But that's just a taste of an album with many highlights. It goes without saying that Glenn is a great lyricist, but four years brings out the best in him - "if love is a bolt from the blue/then what is a bolt but a glorified screw/and that doesn't hold nothing together" is possibly my favourite lyric ever. There's a bit of Dylan homage in opaque lyrics like "'I see' said a blind builder to his deaf daughter/As he picked up his hammer and saw/'If blood is thicker than water/why'd you dress in the dress that you wore?'". But he's singing now better than ever before - listen as he rolls out "that purple June" in One Crowded Hour; or keens "a heinous, heinous law" in the earnest, fragile Bottle Baby; or the big tacet lift "rise, rise, rise and tune your pianos" in Mother Greer.

What have I missed? The most interesting track on the album may just be Clockwork, an epic in the tradition of The Hole in Your Roof or Brundisium, but tending toward the best of late Radiohead; all ominous guitar soup with buried vocals, a subterranean, swelling riff and spectral string highlights coming from the next suburb. This tone is continued in the practically prog Vernoona, complete with about seven time signatures. There's a glorious major-key bridge before it reverts to its descending minor-key, unconventional glory - another epic, despite not having the running time to justify that tag.

Then, contrasting the genre-breakers, there's the alt-country bar ballad Baron of Sentiment. This plays mostly straight down-the-line country, until the middle eight, when a Neil Young riff wanders in and mugs the song - before Kiernan's piano breaks free, back to wild west saloon style. And the distinctly unsubtle Victoria's Secrets, a heart-on-sleeve ballad, complete with heavy drum fills and plaintive close-harmony in the chorus. And I haven't even mentioned another highlight, The Cold Acre, classic Augie March in the tradition of Addle Brains - but again, with cleaner production and a great build through the song.

All this and the usual tome included in the CD case, to fit all of Glenn's lyrics. Another candidate for album of the year. There may have been some vague disappointments in 006, but Augie March are avowedly not one of them.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Grave Digging

I think the people who run this radio show are pretty cool:

Creative Licence Pending

Friday, March 03, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

I mean, to Australia.

Michael Coppel is bringing the immortal Belle & Sebastian back to our shores in early June. Woo! Perfect timing for me, since I'm going away in late June.

My opinion of The Life Pursuit was unequivocally positive a few weeks ago, and has only improved since then. Not sure what the configuration of the Forum will be for this gig but hopefully it'll be all dancin' room, cause I can't listen to The Blues Are Still Blue while sitting down.

Tickets on sale next Friday morning; that'll be browsers-akimbo madness. Capacity 1500? I'm tipping a sell-out inside half an hour, but my judgement could be out on this one.

Map props to A Reminder for the news.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Broken Social Scene @ Corner

Charles Spearin

I preface this post with a picture of Charles Spearin (or, as I call him, the Funky Moustache - Funk-Mo) of Montreal band Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene. Please keep Charles in your mind's eye as you read the rest of this post.

So, Broken Social Scene, eh? Well, after seeing them just a couple of days ago and being comprehensively blown away, my expectations were sky-high going into last night's show. In fact, the task of my day (apart from attempting to identify each member) was moderating my expectations somewhat. For much of the day, they could have wheeled out Lennon, and Johnny Cash and Hendrix without satisfying my mental image. But by gig time I'd managed to dial it down a little.

So first up New Buffalo. Sally's always pretty decent, by no means a natural stage presence, but I love her voice. And her songs evoke a particular mood in me - not one immediately appropriate for a rock show, but this also helped in modulating my fever pitch. Her music's very studio-based, which leads to the use of a lot of pre-recorded stuff in concert, but it's handled pretty well. That said, the highlight of the set was when John Crossingham (from BSS) wandered out to play some pretty sensitive drums on the closer, No Party.

Then Broken Social Scene. Arriving early, we were well and truly at the front but, despite an apparent sell-out, the room was strangely not packed. Throughout the set there was heaps of room just metres from the stage. Not a complaint, just strange. Maybe the wall of guitars pushed the crowd back...

What was the set like? Well, to get it out of the way, they still rocked just as hard, and managed to get pretty close to my expectations. It's a very impressive live show. This was more well-rounded than Sunday; better sound and a longer set allowed more slow songs, and more sensitive treatment of them. We heard Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl, the slow version of Major Label Debut (with Sally Seltmann joining Lisa Lobsinger on vocals), a very partial version of Windsurfing Nation after a request from the crowd, and some older tracks which I don't know. Though no I'm Still Your Fag or (I don't think) Looks Just Like The Sun.

And as for the stompers, the highlight had to be the enormous It's All Gonna Break. Told they had just four minutes left, the band eschewed the traditional "go off stage and make them cheer for five minutes", wandering off briefly before coming back to play the ten minutes or so. This was even bigger and louder than the other night because, when Charles put down his guitar to go cornet, the guitar was taken up by Spiral Stairs, indie legend Scott Kannberg from Pavement and Preston School Of Industry. This wasn't a suprise only because we'd seen Spiral already, joining the band on guitar for Ibi Dreams Of Pavement. I must admit, he didn't noticeably add to the sound (hey, what's twenty percent more guitar?) but his presence definitely added to the energy in the room.

Incidentally, I worked out most of the lineup for this tour. Cornerstone members Brendan Canning (mostly bass) and Kevin Drew (guitar and vocals, despite food poisoning yesterday) are there. The infinitely impressive Justin Peroff plays drums, regularly joined on the second kit by John Crossingham (also some guitar and backing vocals). Andrew Whiteman plays most of the big guitar solos with panache and a shedload of skill. Charles Spearin is the coolest man on stage plays guitar and cornet. His bandmate (from Do Make Say Think) Ohad Benchetrit plays guitar and alto sax. Violin (and some vocals) is Julie Penner. Lisa Lobsinger does most of the female vocals. That just leaves the trumpet player, whose intro I missed (it's not Jimmy Shaw), and the trombonist, who for the Melbourne leg is the trombonist from Architecture In Helsinki. Is it Tara Shackell? Maybe.

So that brings me to the highlight of the concert. The last track in the main set was "this one's for the lovers": Lover's Spit. Great track, a big anthem with a really mellow middle eight. Though in this case that was stretched a bit, as Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin descended the stage and began to hug a significant fraction of the entire audience. Apparently this is customary, but it was a surprise to me - especially when I found myself wrapped in the arms of Charles Spearin; the Divine Moustache himself! Refer back to the picture. He is truly the man.

I didn't shower this morning, and I may not shower ever again.