Three album reviews for the December 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.
Little Joy (Shock)
Melbourne noise trio ease off on the throttle, but retain their edge
“There are others / Others just like me” deadpans My Disco’s bassist, Liam Andrews, in “Rivers”, over and over. He’s taking the piss. Since forming in 2003 this Melbourne trio have prided themselves on sounding unlike anyone else in Australia. Again they’ve opted to record with Steve Albini (Shellac, Big Black), and again their minimalist sound reaches a creative apex. Like on previous albums Cancer and Paradise, Andrews, his brother Benjamin (guitar) and Rohan Rebeiro (drums) describe a sonic wasteland that’s bleak, confronting, yet wholly compelling. Their largely instrumental approach has always relied upon repetition, endurance and sheer force. By those measures, Little Joy is no different; only better. Taken as a whole, these nine tracks convey a sense of propulsive moment; of evolution. Album closer “A Turreted Berg” – characterised by a subterranean bass hum, a simple backbeat and screaming guitar squalls – is the single best song they’ve released. Studious without being stuffy, Little Joy is My Disco’s finest yet.
Key tracks: “A Turreted Berg”, “Young”, “Turn”
Elsewhere: an interview with My Disco’s Ben Andrews for The Vine
Wellington’s finest deliver an underwhelming eighth album
Eight albums in, Melbourne-via-Wellington rock quartet Shihad are still struggling to reclaim their mojo with a consistent full-length effort. It was back in 1999 that they released their last all-class LP, The General Electric; 2008’s Beautiful Machine, Shihad’s last effort, was bogged down by melancholy pop. Balancing heavy and soft songwriting modes has always been a concern for the band, and Ignite doesn’t buck the trend. Its best tracks are led by either sledgehammer riffs (“Sleepeater”, “Lead Or Follow”) or anthemic vocal melodies (“Ignite”); although such peaks are underwritten by the unremarkable (“I’m A Void”, “Engage”) and the plain forgettable (“In The Future”). The most disappointing part of this LP is that there’s nothing here we haven’t heard before from Shihad. A stylistic reinvention we need not; instead, it’d be nice to hear some songs that can outlast the album cycle. Admirable though it is that they’ve maintained a 22 year-old career – and that they’re still attempting to better their distinguished past – in whole, Ignite just doesn’t measure up.
Key tracks: “Sleepeater”, “Lead Or Follow”, “Ignite”
Elsewhere: an interview with Shihad’s Tom Larkin for The Vine
Flight Of The Crow (Inertia)
Local luminaries lend a hand to much-loved U.K. songwriter
Plucky Brit Mike Rosenberg brought his Passenger project to Australia in 2009 and hung around long enough to busk our streets, earn some cash and endear himself to an all-star cast. Funded entirely through his busking sojourn – if we’re to believe the marketing – Flight Of The Crow features the likes of Josh Pyke, Boy & Bear, Lior and Kate Miller-Heidke lending voices and instruments to Rosenberg’s 11 songs of loneliness and longing. His guests are consistently impressive without stealing the show; instead, the spotlight remains firmly upon Rosenberg, whose distinctive voice shimmers with just the right amount of pathos to induce repeat listens. In the title track, he sings of waking up alone and unhappy, questioning the worth of “living widescreen”, and missing birthdays and New Years in a convincing manner, which crystallises the self-doubt of solo travellers the world over. Rosenberg’s hustle alone is worthy of respect; that the man can write credible acoustic pop tunes is a bonus.
Key tracks: “Golden Thread”, “Flight Of The Crow”, “Shape Of Love”