All posts tagged die-die-die

  • The Weekend Australian album reviews, September 2014: Richard In Your Mind, Royal Blood, Die! Die! Die!, Velociraptor

    Four reviews published in The Weekend Australian in September 2014.

    Richard In Your Mind – Ponderosa

    Richard In Your Mind – 'Ponderosa' album cover reviewed in The Australian, September 2014“A carnival of electric palominos / Have you seen those?” Contained in that bizarre, whispered rhyming couplet from the mid-album track ‘This Is House Music’ is almost everything you need to know about this Sydney psychedelic pop band. With one foot planted in the surreal, Richard in Your Mind has never attempted mainstream accessibility. Ponderosa — its fourth full-length release — doesn’t break that cycle. It’s a good album if you fancy a hefty dose of weird imagery and unconventional instrumentation amid the usual components of indie pop music.

    When the band plays it relatively straight, as on shimmering standout ‘Look You Gave’, the effects are stunning: four minutes of beautiful, propulsive storytelling. These moments of clarity are rare. Besides the album’s catchy ode to binge drinking in ‘Hammered’ (“Me and my baby get hammered in the daytime / Me and mine, all the time”), Ponderosa is defined by its flow of expansive, exploratory soundscapes.

    These ideas work more often than not, as on the elliptical title track, which starts in one musical postcode and ends up on an entirely different planet. Bandleader Richard Cartwright and his offsiders know exactly what they’re doing, and Ponderosa excels as an immersive listen because it’s simultaneously wacky and controlled. While I could have done without the short instrumental tracks, this is an interesting and worthwhile listen. In the remaining 12 songs, there’s rarely a dull moment.

    LABEL: Rice Is Nice
    RATING: 3.5 stars


    Royal Blood – Royal Blood

    Royal Blood – 'Royal Blood' album cover reviewed in The Australian, September 2014The first thing you should know about British two-piece Royal Blood is its unusual composition: drums and bass guitar. That takes balls to attempt, let alone pull off. For that reason every red-blooded rock ‘n’ roll fan should spin Royal Blood at least once.

    It’s rare for bands adhering to this genre to successfully experiment with anything other than percussion, bottom end, vocals and electric guitar, and it’s to the credit of Mike Kerr (bass and vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums) that their debut album is a compelling listen despite the absence of an electric guitar. Comparisons to another innovative rock two-piece are inevitable, especially when Kerr’s vocals come dangerously close to Jack White-aping on ‘Loose Change’. Kerr is secretive about how he achieves his tone, which ranges from low groove to high-end treble.

    This sonic seesawing is best heard on penultimate track and album standout ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’; punishing opener ‘Out of the Black’ is one of the year’s better rock songs. The problem is that the songs don’t stand up to repeated listens and close scrutiny.

    LABEL: Warner
    RATING: 3 stars


    Die! Die! Die! – S W I M

    Die! Die! Die! – 'S W I M' album cover reviewed in The Australian, September 2014This would make for a great debut album: raw, frenetic and propulsive. Unfortunately for this Dunedin, New Zealand, indie rock trio, S W I M is its fifth full-length release and it breaks a streak of essential listening that began in 2008 with Promises, Promises, a rough gem that preceded two superlative sets in 2010’s Form and 2012’s Harmony.

    This album, whose title is derived from online shorthand for “someone who isn’t me”, most often used on message boards where illegal activities are being discussed, simply lacks the songwriting punch and artistic evolution that has characterised the band’s three earlier collections. Andrew Wilson (guitar/vocals), Michael Logie (bass) and Michael Prain (drums) are innovative masters of their instruments and sparks fly, as anyone who has ever seen this band play live will attest. Throughout its decade-long career, Die! Die! Die! has tended to operate in either of two modes: its favoured flavour of abrasive, frenzied punk rock, and a contrasting delicate and melancholic style with fewer beats per minute and singing rather than shouting.

    S W I M features just two tracks in the latter mode, and they’re both highlights: ‘Crystal’ and the album closer, ‘Mirror’, wherein Wilson reflects on youthful fantasies of escaping home towns: “When we were young / There was any excuse / To get away / From where we’re from”. The remaining 10 tracks offer interesting ideas, though only a handful stack up to the best moments heard on previous albums.

    LABEL: Black Night Crash
    RATING: 3 stars


    Velociraptor – Velociraptor

    Velociraptor – 'Velociraptor' album cover reviewed in The Australian, September 2014From the beginning this band has relied on its sheer strength in numbers as a gimmick: as many as 15 musicians have appeared on stage during Velociraptor’s spirited live performances and its gang-pop style was a cute party trick that worked for several years leading up to the release of its debut album.

    On Velociraptor, the quality of songwriting outshines the quantity of players. This is an absolute classic of the pop genre: an album stacked top to tail with bright, clever musicianship and flawless song structures. Its 11 tracks are crisp, immediate, and deceptively simple. It is clear that plenty of work has gone into creating music so pure and accessible. At a touch more than a half-hour in length, Velociraptor is short and sweet, yet the melodies and instrumental hooks reverberate throughout the skull for days.

    The inclusion of Sweetie Zamora’s vocals on ‘One Last Serenade’ is a fine choice, breaking up the tales of inner-city heartbreak favoured by vocalist Jeremy Neale — a common thread best exemplified on ‘Ramona’, whose opening lines paint a vivid picture in so few words: “Ramona, I told you, I can’t sit next to you / In the cinema, when you’re texting other guys.”

    The album’s one shadowy moment, ‘Leeches’, is centred on a menacing lead riff that would make the Saints guitarist and Australian punk-rock forefather Ed Kuepper nod in appreciation. Velociraptor is a stunning debut album that comes highly recommended.

    LABEL: Dot Dash/Remote Control
    RATING: 4.5 stars

  • The Vine: Top Things of 2010 – TheVine Critics Poll, December 2010

    A list of my ten favourite music-related things of 2010, for The Vine.

    Andrew McMillen: The 7 Best Songs and 3 Best Gigs of 2010


    Big Boi – ‘Shutterbugg’ (feat. Cutty)
    Precis: Impossibly addictive; the single standout track from an album full of ‘em.

    From the album Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty, reviewed in July for The Vine: “Built around a compact backbeat and unique usage of the talkbox, Boi’s chorus hook in ‘Shutterbugg’ – “Now party people in the club, it’s time to cut a rug / And throw your deuce up in the sky just for the shutterbuggs” – is irresistible. It’s one of the best singles of the 2010, regardless of genre.” (Link)

    Crystal Castles – ‘Baptism’
    Precis: A gripping vision of an electronic apocalypse.

    From the album Crystal Castles II, reviewed in May for The Vine: “‘Baptism’ is the best thing they’ve ever written, surpassing Crystal Castles I standout ‘Air Wars’ by a considerable margin. On ‘Baptism’, they do everything right. Sheets of urgent synthesisers give way to a dainty, circular keyboard melody pasted over a pulsating beat, before Alice Glass’s pained vocals are met by the synthesised opening phrase cut into staccato triplets. ‘Baptism’ concocts an air of foreboding unlike anything they’ve summoned before.” (Link)

    Foals – ‘Spanish Sahara’
    Precis: Slow-burning pop songwriting perfection.

    From the album Total Life Forever, reviewed in May for The Vine: “‘Spanish Sahara’ sits in the album’s centre; in turn, it forms the beating heart of Foals’ revised artistic direction. In stark contrast to their previously-accessible singles, the epic song’s payoff occurs over halfway into its seven-minutes. Singer Yannis Philippakis urges listeners – and himself, perhaps – to “Forget the horror here / Leave it all down, here / It’s future rust, and then it’s future dust”, as the song slowly builds upon a sparse introduction to climax amid an ethereal lead guitar melody, thundering tom rolls and, ultimately, a somber, circular synth pattern. As an artistic statement, ‘Spanish Sahara’ is peerless among indie pop circa 2010. (Link)

    Surf City – ‘Icy Lakes’
    Precis: The definitive noise pop track of 2010.


    From the album Kudos, reviewed in November for Mess+Noise: “It’s a saccharine rave so wide-eyed and beautiful that you wish it to never end. While the rhythm section stays pinned to a groove, the guitarists shear off great chunks of the surrounding landscape with abrasive, Jesus & Mary Chain-like chords. Needling lead phrases punctuate each section, while the singer says “When your icy lakes swallow me” in the chorus over and over (or so I imagine; it’s pretty hard to tell through all the reverb). The result is a song more deserving of that idiotically-overused descriptor “widescreen” than any song that came before it. The best part is that the band is acutely aware of the rare musical alchemy they’ve tapped into, and opt to extend the jam to nearly eight gorgeous minutes.” (Link)

    My Disco – ‘A Turreted Berg’
    Precis: Musically ominous; lyrically, even darker.

    (Listen on TheVine)

    From the album Little Joy, reviewed in November for Rolling Stone: “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. ” (Link)

    Die! Die! Die! – ‘Frame’
    Precis: Frantic, emotive, timeless.

    From the album Form, reviewed in August for The Vine: “Closing track ‘Frame’ proves the singular highlight. It might be the most satisfying, most perfect song that Die! Die! Die! have ever released. Its sparse verses shiver in anticipation of the release offered by the towering chorus (“Give up the ghost, you can’t escape / We’re too close; I am here now”). ‘Frame’ is a masterpiece in three-point-five minutes.” (Link)

    Tokyo Police Club – ‘Bambi’
    Precis: Clipped electronica and sharp drums, intercut with a killer pop chorus.

    If you asked me to pick a song released in 2010 that best evokes ‘joy’, this would be my first choice. It remains as exciting in December as when I first heard it in August. You should play it five times in a row, at least.


    Metallica – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Saturday 16 October (review)

    “For the first hour, it’s exciting enough just to be in the same room as Metallica. Metal bands don’t come bigger than these four men, and since it’s been six years between visits, there’s electricity in the air. From the moment the lights dim and their introduction music – ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’, the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – plays, we’re transported. We forget we’re in a big, shitty shed 20 clicks from the city centre. This show is about spectacle, and nothing’s done by half. It’s something special to witness a band who still sound fresh in a stadium despite having been in the game for nearly 30 years, and having punched in this weight division for more than half of that. This is their norm. By their standards, playing to 13,000-odd fans probably qualifies as an intimate show.

    As they rip through the climactic vocal section of ‘One’ with blistering intensity (“Landmine! Has taken my sight! Taken my speech! Taken my hearing!”), I realise what a rare talent they have, to make some these tired-ass songs sound fresh. And then they follow up ‘One’ with ‘Master Of Puppets’, one of the greatest metal songs ever. There’s no-one not grinning, headbanging or fist-pumping. For some artists, reminiscence is a dirty word. Not so for Metallica, who dip deep into their back catalogue tonight, all the way back to their 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All. The house lights are requested for their finale, ‘Seek & Destroy’, during which dozens of Metallica-branded beach balls are dropped from the ceiling and punted around by both band and fans, and by this point, I can’t stop grinning. I’m not alone.”

    Massive Attack
    – Brisbane Riverstage, Tuesday 23 March (review)

    “They wield a back catalogue that makes lesser artists tremble, and they’re not afraid to use it. British trip-hop production duo Massive Attack close out their first Australian tour since 2003 with a commanding performance at the Brisbane Riverstage that delivers on all fronts: sonically, visually, and emotionally. Speaking to The Vine (link) on the eve of their Perth show nearly two weeks ago, Grant Marshall – a.k.a. Daddy G, who forms half of the core duo alongside Robert del Naja (3D) – spoke of how he’s learned that “you’ve got to give people something that’s quite memorable”. Check that box. Take a song like ‘Teardrop’. It’s that rare kind of musical composition whose impact is felt across generations, gender and race. Tonight, it’s performed by longtime Massive Attack collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, whose talented, vocal loop-heavy support slot proved a fascinating precursor to the main act. Their most distinguished tune has been reworked into an arrangement comprising little more than a backbeat and her beautiful voice that sings of love, loss and hope. It’s a touching moment for the thousands stood in silence, and as the song climaxes, I decide that it reaches a summit of human expression through music that few others can lay claim to.”

    Faith No More
    – Soundwave Festival @ RNA Showgrounds Brisbane, Saturday 20 February (review)

    “Immaculately dressed in pale suits, Faith No More immediately establish rapport with the tens of thousands who crowd the main showground bowl to witness the reunited headliners after their 12 year absence. Opening with a full-band lounge version of ‘Reunited’ by vocal duo Peaches & Herb, it’s made immediately clear that their ‘Second Coming’ tour is no half-baked cash-grab; instead, the band are serious about doing justice to what was left behind in 1998. Serious, that is, while maintaining the playful, casual air for which they became known. (During set closer ‘Just A Man’, Mike Patton hijacks a video camera and – mid-song, without dropping a note – forces the operator to film his cock, which briefly appears on the giant screens that flank the main stages – video of the incident.) Any doubts about their reformation were squashed the moment the suits walked onstage.”

    To see the rest of the critics’ choices, visit The Vine.

    Elsewhere: my 10 favourite Australian albums and five favourite Australian songs of 2010, for Mess+Noise.

  • The Vine album review: Die! Die! Die! – ‘Form’, August 2010

    An album review for The Vine.

    Die! Die! Die! - Form album coverDie! Die! Die!Form

    By now, Die! Die! Die! have assured their allegiance to a idiosyncratic punk-rock aesthetic: gritty, bottom-heavy, and consistently confronting. Like the New Zealand trio’s previous releases, Form contains a sound most unlike many other bands on the planet. Their hyperactive rhythms inspire vivid imagery of movement, of change, of progress. Form – their third full-length, and their first under the banner of legendary Kiwi indie Flying Nun Records – marks an evolution in the band’s songwriting, most notably in frontman Andrew Wilson’s guitar parts. He regularly alternates between a clean, jangly tone – usually during the verses – and punches one or more overdriven effects during the chorus. His playing isn’t formulaic, though, nor predictable; instead, his vocal and six-string contributions form the melodic basis amid the rhythmic bedrock laid down by bassist Lachlan Anderson and drummer Michael Prain.

    Musically, Die! Die! Die! describe a man-made wasteland built upon deceit, treachery and wasted potential. Their soundtrack is drums, bass, guitar and vocals. The images they conjure are frequently alienating, yet curiously, this music is addictive. Its disembodied, abrasive nature still manages to communicate a human warmth.

    Full review at The Vine.

    More Die! Die! Die! on Facebook. This album is brilliant. Video for the Form track ‘HowYe‘ embedded below.

  • The Vine interview: Die! Die! Die!

    Technically, this is my first video interview for The Vine. You wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t told you; although it took place via a Skype video call, it’s still published in plain text.

    New Zealand indie punk band Die! Die! Die!Andrew Wilson of Die! Die! Die!

    Indie punk band Die! Die! Die! burst forth from Dunedin, New Zealand in 2005 with a hard-edged debut album that favoured abrasive noise over melody or song longevity. Their second release, 2007’s Promises, Promises doubled that album’s duration to 40 minutes, and saw the band exploring a more restrained style of songwriting without losing their characteristic urgency and impact.

    Three years later, their third full-length is due. To whet our appetites, they’ve released a new video [for ‘We Built Our Own Oppressors’, see below] and are touring Australia throughout April. The Vine’s Andrew McMillen video called Die! Die! Die! singer/guitarist Andrew Wilson [pictured left in the above image] in Auckland, to discuss outsider perceptions of New Zealand, supporting Marilyn Manson, history’s great Kiwi bands, and turning down European tours with Brian Jonestown Massacre.

    Full interview over at The Vine.

    Skype video calls are a wonderful interview tool, though my connection did drop out midway through. We hastily reconnected and pretended that nothing happened. How marvelous that we can speak to one another from our respective bedrooms in Brisbane and Auckland. I should have taken a screenshot. Next time…

    Die! Die! Die! are an excellent band and you should give them a try. Thanks to Joe Segreto @ IMC for hooking this up.