All posts tagged my-disco

  • The Weekend Australian album reviews, December 2015

    I reviewed 15 albums for The Weekend Australian in 2015. Many of them were great, but the only five-star rating I awarded was to the below album, which was released in early August. The full review follows.


    HEALTH - 'DEATH MAGIC' album cover, reviewed by Andrew McMillen in The Weekend Australian, 2015That this Los Angeles-based electronic pop quartet insists on capitalising all of its song and album titles speaks to the confronting nature of the music it creates. DEATH MAGIC is the group’s third album, and its best: a futuristic and immersive marriage of electronic beats and pop sensibilities. Its style on previous records was rooted in the abrasive repetition of noise rock, and while that scaffolding remains in place, HEALTH has spent the six years since its last album, GET COLOR, perfecting an aesthetic which is entirely its own.

    Since 2009, the quartet has composed an eerie, atmospheric score for a popular video game, Max Payne 3, and according to an interview published on Pitchfork in April, they “made this record like four times”. The rewrites were well worth it.

    This is among the most vital and exciting albums to be released in any genre in any year. It is a masterpiece of staggering depth and immediacy. Each track pulses with energy and the optimism of youth, yet its overarching lyrical theme is an obsession with the end of life: “We die / So what?” sings guitarist Jake Duzsik on fourth track ‘FLESH WORLD (UK)’. “We’re here / Let go,” he intones atop an insistent backbeat and snippets of warped, metallic squalls.

    Wedged among the unrelenting darkness are two anomalously poppy tracks, ‘DARK ENOUGH’ and ‘LIFE’, which appear back-to-back in the middle of the set list. “Does it make a difference if it’s real / As long as I still say ‘I love you’?” sings Duzsik on the former track, while on the latter he reflects, “Life is strange / We die, and we don’t know why”.

    For a bunch of guys in their early 30s, this preoccupation with death is curious, but as fuel for their art, clearly it has been a boon. The mood that surrounds these themes is far more ebullient than funereal. In acknowledging its mortality rather than denying it, HEALTH seems to have replaced existential anxiety with self-confidence. First single ‘NEW COKE’ is the album’s darkest arrangement, wherein Duzsik’s ethereal vocals state a mantra (“Life is good”) that’s offset by waves of engrossing electronic distortion, like a plane crashing in slow motion. In the middle of the track, there are a couple of brief moments of silence, before the diabolical noise returns anew.

    Stylistic decisions such as these are perhaps influenced by the notion of “the drop” in electronic dance music: compulsive snatches of anticipated euphoria which spur the mind and body into action. DEATH MAGIC is a tough album to categorise: half pop, half electronica and wholly immersive, it is the sound of four singular musicians mining a rich, untapped vein of material. Defiantly, proudly, this band sounds like no other in existence. What HEALTH has come up with here is a towering achievement best played very, very loud.

    I also reviewed the below albums for The Weekend Australian in 2015. They are listed in chronological order, with the publication date and my rating noted in brackets.


  • Rolling Stone album reviews, November 2010: My Disco, Shihad, Passenger

    Three album reviews for the December 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.


    My Disco
    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


    Ignite (Roadrunner)

    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”