Album Review: Shellac – Dude Incredible

The word ‘Dude’ is the pop-punk of personal nouns. Born from anti-establishment origins, with only a pure, if naive, heart, and slowly turned into a common indicator, if not trophy, of douchebags. Whereas in the 1980’s and 90’s, the words ‘Dude’ and ‘Pop Punk’ were still creative honours, being bestowed upon the greatest movie of all time (The Big Lebowski) and birthing some of the best bands (The Replacements, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, The Descendants), they soon got franchised into these dirty beings. Sure, the purity existed, but only in the most maligned of corners. Today, if you heard the word “Dude”, 9 times out of 10, it will be followed by a phrase like, “I totally finger banged some drunk chick last night”, as opposed to, “Check out this Husker Du cassette”.

But, without even the use of punctuation, Shellac have managed to reclaim one of my favourite words to use (besides “Fuck, and “Dipshit”) and make it incredible again. If Bill & Ted’s musical talents grew, but their vocabulary stayed the same, this is how they would describe this new Shellac record. This is hands down, one of the best records to have been released from any band this year.

For those uninformed about one of the most important bands to ever exist in an underground sense, Shellac are the All Tomorrow’s Parties poster boys, right next to Swans (cool!) and Nick Cave (cool?). They’re compromised of Steve Albini, Todd Trainer, and Bob Weston. Two of them are studio/recording engineers engineers, and together, they’ve featured as members of Big Black, Rapeman, Scoutt Niblett, The Volcano Suns and Mission of Burma. Weston and Albini have also worked on records by Sebadoh, The Pixies, Nirvana, Archers of Loaf, Cloud Nothings and The Jesus Lizard.

Now that you’ve been crushed by the weight of these accomplishments, go and listen to Shellac’s other recorded works. Especially ‘1000 Hurts’. That album is a work of goddamn art, and should be placed in a museum and Wu-Tang-ified. There’s something especially brutal and unique about Shellac’s work. Maybe it’s their complete lack of interest in worrying about commercial prospects (all members being fully employed). Maybe it’s the fact that all members have heavily contributed to the collective underground conscience in more ways than anyone else could hope to. Maybe it’s because the instruments on here sound like they’re trying to recall a parade of machine’s out of Mad Max colliding into each other in a black hole made out of evil. Who knows? All that’s obvious is that Shellac are incredible, dude.

Like the album cover, this record is pretty much a steroid. It’ll help you alleviate any anger left in your soul, turning you into a complete husk of a human, exhausted just from plugging into a single song. Shellac have narrowed themselves severely, trimmed down to a bare essential grit. Only two songs exceed four minutes, one being the title track which is a six minute rock opera that makes like John Wayne fronting Fugazi with a hurtling, demonic banshee cry. The trio have badassed their way into some kind of sound that grinds people’s faces off. It’s like walking into a revolving door of the  Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, each song propelling you into another nightmarish terror full of mutilated normality that’ll flay you alive.

On no other record have Shellac married their music and aggression more perfectly. They’ve always been one’s for creating the perfect atmosphere, but there’s always been room for improvement. Every note hits like a sledgehammer swung by a God, as cool as they have ever been. Each vocal, regardless of which member sings, is a searing rod to the ear canals. They are un-repressable, and completely without barriers. Songs like “Gary”, “All The Surveyors” and “You Came In Me” are sneering tour de forces, like a more cynical and organic Future of the Left.

For anyone that is bored shitless with the state of music, and needs something brutal and modern, look no further than ‘Dude Incredible’. This supernatural squirrel is a foreshadowing for your experience with this record – it will go all Bane-mad, lift you up and snap your back, then nurse you back to health in an environment of solitary confinement, wrapped in rich bass lines, brutal drum pounding and snarling vocals.

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New: Hoodlem – Firing Line (Rat & Co Remix)

Rat &  Co released one of the finest electronic albums of the year earlier on, a mixture of Fly-Lo and Boards of Canada. Now, they’ve done an amazing remix for Hoodlem’s “Firing Line”, taking a song that has caught itself alongside Banks, AlunaGeorge and FKA Twigs, and moved it into a glacial, intergalactic freeze. Listening in here is immediately transfixing, immediately cold and intriguing. It’s like putting a summer jam in a cryogenic freeze, cooling something down so that it’s just a pale jilting beacon of technological prowess. Upon listening to the finale, I feel like this is how people felt the first time they watched ‘Blade Runner’.

Album Review: King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

Kyle Thomas is King Tuff. King Tuff is Kyle Thomas. Cool, we’ve got that out of the way? Just wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. No judgement, seriously. Pseudonyms are fucked up things. Remember that time JK Rowling sold fuck all books because she was writing under a pseudonym? Yeah, man, faking a name is hard business, and it can really bite you in the ass. Which is why it’s so cool to see King Tuff finally embracing his outrageous side, and not letting previous projects like Witch and associations with Ty Segall get in the way of some solid rocking out.

King Tuff records have alway suffered from being a little too awesome. They almost bland themselves out. It’s like when you eat a whole bucket of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked – once you get about 3/4 of the way down, the only reason you’re continuing is because you feel like you have to finish what you’ve started. You know it’s really, really good, a mini-orgasm giving birth to multiple other orgasms at the same time, but that plateau wears itself thin, and you don’t become bored necessarily, just accustomed. With “Black Moon Spell”, King Tuff has fully incorporated the T. Rex sound into his wild rock ‘n’ roll, and taken chances with his guitar that he never would have shied away from on earlier releases. With previous albums, there was always something just holding back the album from achieving what King Tuff wanted to say.”Was Dead” was almost hippie-infused, like a garage band choking on incense, and his self-titled was a headbanger’s journey cushioned by a safety helmet and an overprotective Mum barking orders from the sidelines.

But ‘Black Moon Spell’ pulls no such punches. It’s cool as fuck, so cool that it kicked calm and collected out on the street, and struts around by itself. The guitar lines are sickeningly sweet and crunchy, like an explosion that’s gone off at the Wonka factory. There’s the ultimate Hunx & His Punx knockoff track “Beautiful Thing”, which might be this year’s best track to stand outside an unrequited love’s house and blast on a loudspeaker (ironically, this insanely catchy firecracker is followed by a bouncy track glorifying the plainer of us, called “I Love You Ugly”). “Black Holes in Stereo” is like that Dasher “Go Rambo” track, only instead of belonging in a hardcore punk dive, it’s been transported to a transvestite karoake night, where you either play David Bowie or you can Get The Fuck Out (GTFO for the acronym lovers). And “Eddie’s Song” takes all the hand-clapping awesomeness of Aerosmith and Van Halen, and crushes it into a toe-tapping sexperience (trust me, the orgasms will come thick and fast on this one, the melody practically moans itself).

But by far, “Headbanger” is the standout here. It might be the finest song King Tuff has composed to date, chock full of guitar breaks, bludgeoning riffs, and mind-melting cymbal crashes. And best of all, KT manages to describe the perfect partner – someone with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden records and who’s not afraid to tear open some skin in pursuit of the ultimate headbang. Every King Tuff record has that one song that continues in the consciousness of the fans, even after the album has receded to background noise. ‘Was Dead’ had “Lazerbeam”, ‘King Tuff’ had “Keep On Movin'” and ‘Black Moon Spell’ has “Headbanger”.

But back to the original point. Cohesiveness was never really the goal of King Tuff, nor was it completely expected. Churn out a record loaded with hits, and we’ll ignore the couple of bung notes in favour of gettin’ turnt. ‘Black Moon Spell’ suffers from this curse in only the mildest of forms (“Sick Mind”, “Staircase of Diamonds”) and better yet, King Tuff’s musical ability has skyrocketed to make every track as gooey and chunky as possible. He’s cut off his fears, and completely let loose, indulging incredibly, and reaping the great rewards that stem from true glam rock. Marc Bolan would be crying tears of joy in celebration of this record, and you should to. The songs on here are excellence, and whereas ‘Black Moon Spell’s predecessors would’ve suited a garage performance or a sticky carpet, this album points towards stadium aspirations that are both achievable and welcome.

Video: High-tails – Terrible Day

First thoughts upon viewing the new High-tails: ‘That is a cute fucking dog’ and ‘they are really beating the shit out of their band mate’.

Obviously those thoughts don’t make a lot of sense next to each other, but neither does much of the “Terrible Day” video. Or the song either. I mean, the track starts out talking about walking Chihuahuas. This is not exactly a song that’s going to transcend major philosophical boundaries.

But it does have that extreme teenage sensibility about it, much the same way bands like SURES do. High-tails have that innate ability to get a pop hook, and unearth it unashamedly. This is further expressed in the video, in which a bunch of random shit (there’s really no other way to describe it) gets dumped on the band’s faces. They all show surprising resilience, considering all the lipstick, force-fed food and toilet paper. But yeah, good song, good clip, good band.

Video: SMILE – BLVD

This is, hands down, one of the most interesting and amazingly simple music videos of all time. In a time when everyone’s either shoving as much nudity into a shoot as possible, or going for some incredibly high concept bullshit, Melbourne’s SMILE have gone and created a music video where the music isn’t the main focus.

Sounds incredulous, I know. What’s the point of having a music video where people are just talking? Well, what SMILE have done is create an entire backstory and aesthetic, a portrait IF YOU WILL, of exactly what their song is trying to say. By placing the music as a soft backdrop for a family conversation about dead dogs, compost bins and the intricacies of the rain hat, there’s an entire new dimension in play. Whilst leaning in to get a glance at the truly beautiful song that is “BLVD” is completely worth it, sitting back and being regaled by a uniquely Australian story. Warm and cozy in the buzzing heat of the car, whilst rain patters against the windows and the radio trails on, old mates are discussing shit that is too funny and amazing to give justice in print. This video just needs to be watched.

New: HOON – Enigma

Similar vibes to Chicks Who Love Guns and Doc Holliday Takes the Shotgun, Wollongong’s HOON are all-caps, which means they want everyone to know how loud they are. A loud band needs a loud name, and if Year 11 Standard English taught me anything, it’s that CAPS LOCK is the way to separate yourself from the pack.

They’ve also got a swag of tunes worthy of the caps-lock grace, including this bad-boy “Enigma”. Loud, proud and scummy as a month old used nappy, “Enigma” is the kind of thing you want to play when you’re all out of Metallica, but want to keep up the beer shotgunning vibes. Listening to this makes it that much easier to pour the world’s shittest beer down your throat. A chaser if you will. A chaser of balls to the wall rock ‘n’ roll.

New: Chugga & The Fuckheads – Idiot

Now that’s a fucking band name. You need to turn this one right the fuck up, not just because turning things up to 11 is oh so rock ‘n’ roll, but also because this thing is so lo-fi that you won’t be able to hear shit unless ol’ mate Chugga is screaming in your ear. Like Housewives and Red Red Krovvy, , “Idiot” is some fun as fuck punk music. You don’t feel like you’re going to get your teeth kicked in by a dude with a barb-wire tattoo. Instead, you’re free to swing your arms in as haphazard a fashion as you want, as this exhilaratingly revolting and grimy soon-to-be punk staple provides some prime material to windmill your skinny arms to.

Video: COBWEBBS – Easy

What the fuck even, mate? How is the human mind meant to comprehend this? It’s like being submerged into the mind of Doc from Back to the Future whilst his brain has a seizure and all his memories from various time frames are collided into each other at the velocity of LHC.

This has to be one of the most insanely strange and darkly seductive thing to be released in 2014. Pair that with the goth drone of COBWEBBS , chugging weird sci-fi doom in the vein of GLOSS, Multiple Man and Four Door beating itself with a copy of A Clockwork Orange, and you’ve got one four and a half minutes that sound like perfect disturbia.

Album Review: Yes, I’m Leaving – Slow Release

Before I start this review, I want to state that Yes, I’m Leaving are amongst the Top 5, if not the best, punk band in Sydney. I mean, these guys basically rule Black Wire Records with an iron fist, and have one of the most devoted cult followings, with hordes attending each show, each kitted out in a debacle of denim, piercings and leather. If you haven’t heard of them, or seen them before, stop what you are doing (yes, stop reading this sentence), and check them the fuck out.

Why? Why are Yes, I’m Leaving such a force of god-defying power? Well, besides being sadistically underrated and having a killer name that was probably inspired by the reactions of playing Lightning Bolt to people who think Tame Impala and OK GO are badass, YIL have the power to capture a sonic fury not seen since Fugazi. There’s those staccato beats, crunching bass stampedes, and wailing howls that cause dogs to prick their ears in curiosity, and everyone of decency to flock to whatever audio device is blaring such amazing music.

On their fourth record, YIL elevate themselves to a strangely mid-fi territory, but before anyone gets on their high-horse, all this means is that the punch and kick of the band comes through that much clearer. This isn’t a shitty case of having a band’s fuzz ripped from underneath them, leaving nothing but an indie-rock facade that is more bland than a 9-5 office job at a vanilla factory. Now, the bass lines are easily traced, each note hammering down with a punctual and forthright aggression that was always hiding just behind Yes, I’m Leaving’s full potential.

The case for Yes, I’m Leaving’s status as “HOLY FUCK THIS BAND WILL BECOME A GLOBAL LANGUAGE” begins with the first track, “One”. You heard this thing? YOU FUCKING HEARD THIS THING??? THIS THING WILL RIP YOU APART, SHIT IN YOUR CHEST, AND NOT EVEN APOLOGISE, FOR THIS BEING IS AN INCENDIARY FORCE OF NATURE! There’s nothing that “One” won’t do to ensure that the skin melts off your face, leaving nothing ut a chargrilled, sizzling but fantastically stoked head. It rips, roars and demolishes all in it’s path, and if you;ve had the luck of seeing this in a live format, you’ll know how much this track can cause the unprepared to double up in pain and pleasure.

Another thing that needs to be stated about this record is that there is no filler. NONE! Every song is just as pulverising as the least, losing no time with offsides or bullshit. Yes, I’m Leaving now that each and every moment of their 30 minute record is a moment that can be spent bending the definition of amazing, and turning non-believers into full-blown fanatics. It’s hard to pick favourites on the record, as every time I put on a track, it instantaneously becomes “my new favourite”. However, for the sake of “journalism” and #SINGLES, tracks like “Salt”, “Alchemy”, “Funny” and “Puncher” all stand out that little bit more. These are songs that hurtle with the same velocity of Gandalf chasing the Balrog down the gateway to hell, and they also allow for that slight Australian accent to make sure that all those who will become disciples of the YIL will know exactly where they come from.

There’s so much more I fell I can say about Yes, I’m Leaving’s new record. The lyrics that incinerate all in their path, the powerful knockouts of the music, the way that these three Sydney musicians have unlocked a sacred power that honestly defies what “sound” can be defined as. They break so many rules and eardrums with their music, that it is hard to imagine going back to listening to bands that can’t be described as ‘cauterwauling hellbeasts’. With this album ‘Slow Release’, Yes, I’m Leaving have just cemented their place as Australian punk legends. In the near future, people will be talking about assasinating presidents so they can hear shitty bootlegs of this album. Make sure you’re not one of them, and buy one now.

Get yourself a pre-order of this soon-to-be-legendary record here. And when Yes, I’m Leaving announce launch shows, get yourself along to AT LEAST one of them.

Gig Review: SPOD

Friday, 19th September @ The Lansdowne

The name SPOD is synonymous with the descriptor of ‘fucking legend’, in much the same way that Bruce Willis is synonymous with ‘short-tempered and/or haired badass’. His live performances are renowned around Sydney and/or the world as being some of the funnest, most original and heart-attack inducing extravagances this side of watching Hannibal Burress fight a lion. He can turn an otherwise placid crowd into a single entity of happiness and party-vibes, all with the tap of a drum machine and the hurling of the word ‘CUNT!’ at whoever’s not seven pills deep and truffle-shuffling their way into history’s books.

But that was not to be the stage set for SPOD’s album launch tonight. To celebrate the release of his frankly brilliant ‘Taste the Sadness’ record, a reworking of his bonafide classic ‘Taste the Radness’, and an ode to the plights of no longer being able to handle a beer bong/taxes, SPOD laid out a fine dining experience the likes which made all the local RSL’s green with envy. However, the tellies were not tuned into the horses and footy, but rather to SPOD’s exceptional ability to get turnt.

But, where previous SPOD shows featured popped collars and rabble-rousing (does anyone actually say that anymore #bringbackrabblerousing), tonight featured a real mature elagence. Only a night before, Sydney’s mulleted and mohawked finest gathered to mosh to healthy sets from The Friendsters, Destiny 3000, Miss Destiny and TV Colours. Now, the sweat and puke stains were covered with linen tablecloths, red candles, and a decor that screamed home by 9 o’clock. There were even some lighting fixtures ripped from the local bowlo. It was a paradise.

SPOD wastes no time in gathering everyone’s attention towards him. Betrothed in a chequered emerald bathrobe that’s seen it’s fair share of depressed, lonely mornings, the set started with swelling strings and old mate handing out his own beef jerky to those lucky enough to be seated. Candles lit, melancholy set into his face, SPOD begins his show with the one-two emotional cock-punch of “Totally Sad” and “Last Dance”, the latter which saw him shed his bed-ware for a dignified suit. You’d be forgiven for having tears running down your cheeks, as these songs are enough to crack a tearful sob from even the moist stoic Queen’s Guard. Even bogans don’t stand a chance against SPOD’s truth bombs.

The set revolved almost entirely around the new album, although by no means was that a bad thing. Whilst the album is rooted in a special kind of sorrow and self-realisation, SPOD has a unique ability to invigorate songs and involve the audience. He also made do of a few special guests, notably Richard Cartwright from Richard In Your Mind and his toy megaphone/summoner of Satan on “Devastated”, a “song for the kids” cos they love the reggae. Dion Ford of Palms also got on shredding duties for 2012 standalone single “Coupla Drinks”, SPOD’s ode to having a few cheeky ones with ya mates. To describe that moment as euphoric would be an understatement, as every single thing with a pair of lips bellowed the refrain with their head keeled back like they were busting out “AH ZABENYA”.

Finishing out the night was “Electric Hips”, a funk-ified update of the hidden punk track “Electric Lipz” off ‘Taste the Radness’. Whether he was genuinely pissed off with the sound dude, or because we simply weren’t gettin’ jiggy enough, SPOD didn’t start the track until the whole crowd was sufficiently fucked ‘n’ funky. It was here that SPOD hit his peak, running around like a coke-binged Gary Busey replaying his career-defining on Point Break in the confines of a jail cell. SPOD was reckless and hilarious, damning those in his way, including an enthusiastic dude that got cocked in the head with a microphone and a lady who ended up with all of SPOD’s chest in her face after refusing the get out of the way from his chaos.

Panting, sweaty and naked. No, I’m not describing SPOD, I’m describing the patrons. Despite being forced to sit down and packed in, I’d dare to find an attendee who wasn’t fucking stoked that SPOD was back on the market. The godfather of partying has lost neither his way nor his humour, and tore the Lansdowne a new arsehole. God Bless SPOD, and may he never lose his crown. Even when he’s breathing through a tube, and confined to a wheelchair, this guy will be a better party-goer than you can ever hope to be. All you can do is hope to catch him next time he graces the stage.