All posts tagged mess-and-noise

  • Mess+Noise album review: Hungry Kids Of Hungary – ‘Escapades’, December 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Hungry Kids Of HungaryEscapades

    At its heart, Escapades – the debut full-length by Brisbane quartet Hungry Kids Of Hungary – is unashamedly a pop record. ‘Coming Around’ is as brash an album opener as you could get, and whether intentional or not, it immediately sets the tone for whether you’ll find this band palatable or sickening. Boosted by Matt Redlich’s crisp pop production, wherein the vocals and harmonies are pushed high in the mix, the track shimmers with a tangible sense of tension – and not just of the sexual variety, though double entendres abound (“Everything was so hard … for us”, “I don’t want you coming around/ But I’ll think you’ll come”). The song sparkles with instrumental embellishment – a distorted lead guitar here, a shifting piano chord progression there – which doens’t obscure the band’s vocal strengths. Put simply, ‘Coming Around’ sounds massive, and belongs up there with the best “side one, track ones” of the year.

    With two songwriters in the mix – singer/keyboardist Kane Mazlin, and singer/guitarist Dean McGrath – things could easily get a little cluttered, yet Hungry Kids sidestep this by configuring a balanced tracklist (seven credits to McGrath, five to Mazlin) and exhibiting an unwillingness to over-complicate things. A barely-there overdub in ‘Closer Apart’ – you hear someone clear their throat, light a cigarette, then exhale – adds a sense of intimacy to a track that’s probably the most wholly demonstrative of their songwriting abilities. The subdued rhythm section soon blossoms into an expansive suite, which benefits greatly from the subtle inclusion of a string section. Mazlin’s ‘You Ain’t Always There’ mines a similar vein; so too McGrath’s ‘Eat Your Heart Out’.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More Hungry Kids Of Hungary on MySpace. The music video for their song ‘Coming Around‘ is embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise EP review: The Jezabels – ‘Dark Storm’, December 2010

    An EP review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    The JezabelsDark Storm

    The press release seems to want me to mention something about their age, so here goes: Sydney quartet The Jezabels are aged between 23 (singer) Hayley Mary) and 25 (drummer Nik Kaloper). Together, they write soaring, dramatic pop, so here’s where I’m meant to make some kind of comment on their maturity, and how incredible it is these young musicians are performing deep, complex, Important Music. This EP is apparently the “third and final release in a trilogy that began with 2009’s The Man Is Dead…” Alright then, moving on.

    The strangest thing about this band is that the instrumentation is essentially a blank canvas for Mary, whose voice is so urgent and alluring that you’re half-tempted to take a cold shower immediately after the disc ends. Her every yelp and note sticks in the mind, and endures; as for the instrumentation, there’s little to write home about. The band’s musical point of difference is the absence of a bass; keyboardist Heather Shannon fills out the bottom end by playing slow, deliberate chord progressions. Guitarist Sam Lockwood favours clean, feeble tones for the most part. In ‘A Little Piece’, his use of an ebow strives for that mournful, desolate soundscape feel, amid bursts of Foals-like noodling. Lockwood’s best asset as a player is knowing when to dial it back. Indeed, much of Dark Storm is characterised by a sense of space, which swells to crescendo during each chorus.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More of The Jezabels on MySpace. The music video their song ‘Mace Spray‘ is embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise album review: The Holidays – ‘Post Paradise’, November 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    The HolidaysPost Paradise

    Somewhere between Cut Copy’s electro wonderland, Gypsy And The Cat’s soft rock, and Empire Of The Sun’s delusions of pop grandeur sits Post Paradise, the debut from Sydney’s The Holidays. Despite such reference points, the album somehow remains interesting. Put it down to the strength of the songs, which unerringly achieve that rare pop trifecta: accessibility, originality and memorability. Tony Espie, who’s worked with The Avalanches, Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy, has mixed the album, which may account for its overall slickness and sheen.

    Favourite moments? The way the guitars intercut the vocal melody in ‘Broken Bones’; the ethereal introduction to ‘6AM’, which dissipates upon meeting the sound of an alarm clock and takes a right turn into tropical pop-land; the double-tracked phaser effect applied to the guitars in ‘2 Days’, and the joyous, nonsensical vocal hook in its chorus; and the seemingly effortless chillwave upon which ‘Conga’ rides (accompanied by bongos, widdly-widdly guitars and an incessant, sensual bass throb).

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More of The Holidays on MySpace. The music video for ‘Golden Sky‘ is embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise album review: Surf City – ‘Kudos’, October 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Surf CityKudos

    Kudos is an anachronism. It simply shouldn’t be. It is the antithesis to modern music. While every other band is doing their best to sound like the future, New Zealanders Surf City are stuck in the past. There’s nothing futuristic about it, and yet, like a Magic Eye image, if you stare into their gaping sonic void for long enough, a conclusion reveals itself. Suddenly, it all makes sense: Surf City sound so fresh because they’re not trying to sound fresh.

    From the moment the first glassy guitar notes of ‘Crazy Rulers Of The World’ stream from the speakers, it’s clear that the six years the band have spent working toward their debut were worth it. In fact, just why Kudos succeeds so resolutely could be put down to the band’s patience. Their self-titled EP wasn’t released until 2008; likewise, nothing about Kudos feels rushed. Again, Surf City is antithetical to modern music, and the forever fast-forwarded release cycle perpetuated by tech-savvy musicians. Their social networking sites are neglected. Too busy making amazing music, I guess.

    Full review on Mess+Noise. More Surf City on MySpace.

    I wish I could embed a video or something to show you just how amazing this band is, but there’s fuck-all info about them online. You can stream the album’s best track, ‘Icy Lakes’, via Polaroids Of Androids, however. Do it.

  • Mess+Noise single review: Jebediah – ‘Under Your Bed’, October 2010

    A single review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Jebediah – ‘Under Your Bed’

    The best thing about ‘Under Your Bed’ is that it sounds like Jebediah circa 1997’s Slightly Odway. The weirdest thing about ‘Under Your Bed’ is that it sounds like Jebediah circa Slightly Odway. The newly-revived Perth quartet – whose last release was 2004’s Braxton Hicks – are all now surely in their mid-30s, yet here they are, all piss and vinegar, thrashing out a breakneck two-minute punk jam like they’ve just picked up their instruments for the first time.

    This is powerful musical juju whose potency shouldn’t be underestimated. Scores of Australians – likely also approaching their mid-30s – look back fondly on Jebediah, who rose to prominence during the heyday of triple j’s alternative rock obsession. The last thing they want is for their fond memories to be tainted by another ill-advised reformation. You know the drill: band releases and tours new album, audience stifle yawns during new material. ‘Under Your Bed’ seeks to buck the trend through sheer volume and speed. Incredibly, it succeeds.

    Full review at Mess+Noise, where you can also stream the track in question. More Jebediah on MySpace.

  • Mess+Noise single review: Gotye – ‘Eyes Wide Open’, October 2010

    A single review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Gotye – ‘Eyes Wide Open’

    “So this is the end of the story/Everything we had, everything we did/Is buried in dust,” begins the first original solo offering from Gotye since 2006’s Like Drawing Blood LP. Following its runaway success, songwriter Wally de Backer prepared a remix album, Mixed Blood, then shelved Gotye in favour of consistent writing and touring with his other band, The Basics. Ahead of a slot on the 2011 Laneway Festival and an impending third LP comes ‘Eyes Wide Open’, a compact, three-minute tune available for free download from his website.

    The most striking aspect of the song is its sparse instrumentation, especially when compared to his intricately-layered past works. ‘Eyes Wide Open’ is built around a three-note bass progression, de Backer’s characteristically muscular drumming, and that unmistakable voice. Additional credits for “whale cello” (Gareth Skinner), “poker bass” (Lucas Taranto) and “wasteland pedal steel guitar” (Michael Hubbard) are noted, but their input is more atmospheric than integral.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More Gotye on MySpace. The music video for ‘Eyes Wide Open‘ is embedded below.

    I should point out that what appears above is not the original review I submitted. Turns out I’d totally misheard most of the lyrics I quoted. Wally texted me soon after it was published to tell me the correct lyrics. How embarrassing. At least it was on the web, where it could be easily updated. I’m now super cautious when quoting lyrics – especially in newly-released music – for fear of being wrong. Again.

  • Mess+Noise album review: You Am I – ‘You Am I’, October 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    You Am I You Am I

    When discussing a new release from an act like You Am I, there’s a tendency to compare it to past works. Can it match Hi Fi Way or Hourly, Daily? Was it as disappointing as Dilettantes? So let’s try something different. Let’s pretend it’s their first album, not their ninth. Could it be wedged comfortably between the buzz bands of 2010, and hold its own? Could You Am I find an audience with You Am I if it were their debut?

    I won’t string you along. The answer to all of the above is “yes”, but here’s where my review concept falls apart: it’d be nigh on impossible for a rock band’s debut to emerge so fully-formed. The songs and sounds contained within You Am I could only be written by a band with 20-plus years of experience up their sleeves. Its trajectory is remarkable, as the LP seems to gather momentum and clarity as it nears the end; a rarity among musical acts of any genre, for sure. It feels as though the album’s near-perfect pacing is integral to its impact. Its 11 tracks offer disparate moods and experiences, yet they’re loosely threaded through the same rock narrative that made them endearing in the first place.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More You Am I at MySpace. Video for their single ‘Trigger Finger‘ embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise EP review: Bigstrongbrute – ‘We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning’, September 2010

    An EP review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Bigstrongbrute – We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning

    Bigstrongbrute - 'We Can Sleep Under Trees In The Morning' EP coverWritten partly between “a brutal Brisbane summer and a bitter New Jersey winter”, this EP from Bigstrongbrute – musical alter ego of Paul Donoughue – is the successor to his self-released album, Gardens In The Gutter (2008, now out of print). What began as a solo project has blossomed into a group effort, both on stage and within this release: friends lend bass, trumpet, flute and piano to augment Donoughue’s frail guitar tone. Besides a contribution from Jessie Warren (aka Carry Nation), who provides guest vocals on ‘In My Own Mind’, it’s Donoughue’s deep, distinctive voice that dominates the mix. His songs are meticulously crafted, yet the end product is played loosely enough by the band to impart a sense of spontaneity and charm.

    Although the middle tracks are populated with guests and musical bluster – Fergus Hill’s trumpet on ‘You Were Always Right’, a jarring, distorted electric guitar solo by Andrew Ford on ‘Supply & Demand’ – the EP begins with Donoughue alone, backed by acoustic guitar and piano. These six songs are kept intentionally uncomplicated and lo-fi (though Todd Dixon’s recording is clear and warm). They’re the sounds of loneliness forced into social interaction, before again seeking solace.

    Full review at Mess+Noise, where you can also stream the track ‘You Were Always Right’.

    More Bigstrongbrute on MySpace. Highly recommended.

  • Mess+Noise album review: Drawn From Bees – ‘Fear Not The Footsteps Of The Departed’, September 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Drawn From Bees – Fear Not The Footsteps Of The Departed

    Drawn From Bees - Fear Not The Foosteps Of The Departed album coverBeware artists who tag themselves “art rock”. Which is exactly where Brisbane quartet Drawn From Bees positioned themselves with the release of their first EP, The Boy And The Ocean, in late 2008. They’ve since adhered to an admirable work ethic that’s seen them write, record and self-release material every six months under their own label, Bonefinger Records. Fear Not The Footsteps Of The Departed is their first full-length.

    Drawn From Bees aren’t short on ambition, nor willingness to experiment with different songwriting styles. This isn’t amateur hour: every sound here is calculated almost to the point of sterility. As a result, what they achieve with polish is offset by an absence of warmth and humility. The songs are damned good, but it’s a record largely devoid of personality.

    Full review at Mess+Noise.

    More Drawn From Bees on MySpace. Music video for their track ‘Run Away‘ embedded below.

  • Rolling Stone story: ‘The Go-Betweens Get Their Own Bridge’, August 2010

    A short story for the September 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, about The Go-Between Bridge opening in Brisbane.

    Click the below image for a closer look, or read the text underneath.


    The Go-Betweens Get Their Own Bridge

    by Andrew McMillen

    In the tradition of Melbourne’s ACDC Lane, Queensland now has Go Between Bridge. In 2009, Brisbane residents voted to name the city’s newest river crossing after The Go-Betweens, who formed at the University of Queensland in 1977 and went on to achieve international acclaim. On June 25 this year, Robert Forster marked the structure’s completion with a concert on the bridge itself. Ahead of the event, Forster described the naming as “heart-warming, and a bit surreal”. Forster opened with “Steets Of Your Town” from 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane. The song was written by band co-founder Grant McLennan, who died from a heart attack in 2006, aged 48. Beforehand, a crowd of 5,000 witnessed Yves Klein Blue, The John Steel Singers, Bob Evans and Josh Pyke perform adjacent to the silent Brisbane skyline.

    The above photo was taken by Brisbane-based music photographer Matt Palmer.

    Elsewhere: I reported on this show at length for Mess+Noise. I also interviewed Robert Forster for M+N’s ‘Icons’ series a few weeks before The Go Between Bridge opened.