Album Review: Big White – Teenage Dreams

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Dulwich Hill is renowned for…fuck. I have absolutely no idea, hey? Does it have nice parks? A decent pork roll shop? Or is it like Macdonaldtown, a place that’s technically on the train line, but you’ve never actually been there, or know anyone who lives there.

Nah, but the old D-Hill actually does lay claim to  The Surgery, a share house full of art school students that feels like its churning out all of the hits lately. Its a bastion of skewed pop productivity, from the looming post-punk blast of Den, to David Byrne’s latest project FLOWERTRUCK. But sitting high and mighty at the top of the soon-to-be Brill Building 2.0 is Big White, a five piece that Creation Records would have sliced throats to sign back in the day.

Their debut Teenage Dreams was recorded in Berlin a few years back, and fuck knows why its only getting a proper release now. Oi, knock knock, record execs, don’t ya know a hit when you see one? It’s called “You Know I Love You”, and it makes the feet split apart and engage in the sort of toe-tapping hi-jinks that only Kevin Bacon used to be able to summon. Or hey, if that doesn’t tickle the soles of your feet, how about a helluva romp like “Dinosaur City”, which has allegedly cause ruptures in the Earth’s mantle from all the stomping that accompanies every Soundcloud play. Hey Japan, guess what, there’s another 9.0 headed straight for you, courtesy of those no-good pop enthusiasts.

Look, here’s the deal. Big White know their way around a pop song, that much is glaringly obvious; but that’s not what makes Teenage Dreams a jaw dropper. The full spectrum covered by Big White makes this album the one that you want to tell all your friends about, even the weird ones on Facebook that probably added you for identity theft. Take the title track that hits a little to close to home for those going through their quarter life crisis and manages to put the words “Pingers” and “Nickelodeon” together. Or the glistening epic “American Twins”, a song that makes you want to lounge in bed, drink cheap red wine and watch old Steve Buscemi movies simply because the song name checked him and you forgot how great he was. And “I Can’t Tell”, a song that pairs depressing and brilliant in a riveting parallel – how can they sing “I can’t tell whether my girl cares if I’m dead or alive,” yet make you want to shimmy like you’re in an Outkast video?

If this is your first interaction with Big White, make sure it’s not your last. This is only the debut from these guys, and it’s pretty phenomenal, hey. Now they’ve finally got the ol’ record contract locked down, expect MORE, MORE, MORE hits for many years to come. If you’ve already heard about Big White…fuck, you read a fair few words just to have your opinion of “Yes, Big White are one of the best pop bands going around” vindicated.

Teenage Dreams is out now, and you can grab it here.

Album Review: AUSTRALIA – Portraits of Places, People and Movies

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1983. Australia. Fuck yeah. According to Wikipedia, some real crazy shit went down ’round this time: Jonathan Thurston was born, Parramatta romped the Eagles in the finals, and Bob Hawke went on national television and told everyone to get drunk after we won a boat race. Also, some of the all-time singles this country has ever produced were birthed during this period. “Rain”, “Reckless”, “I Hear Motion”, and this absolute national treasure. The kind of songs that you’ll scoff at from your hip share house, until it’s 3am, the pub’s run dry, old mate’s kicking you out and you’ve got your arm around someone you met thirty seconds ago screaming, “THROW DOWWWN YOOUUUURRR GUUUU-UUUNS”. 1983. Australia. Fuck yeah.

It’s this precise time period that AUSTRALIA (the band) are attempting to encapsulate, that golden era of pub rock when this country really struck a musical identity. It’s a brave move – right now, most bands in this country are either making plaintive guitar pop, or garagey punk. No one has thought to hark back to a phase that is often ridiculed, unless it’s during the aforementioned gloriously drunken hour of 3am. But AUSTRALIA succeed because they don’t just emulate the music that they likely grew up with, but actually understand its simple pleasure: to get people to dance, instead of mosh, to guitars.

Sure, their debut still carries the trademarks of their forbearers: Aussie Crawl, Midnight Oil, The Models, and Goanna all pop up as obvious soundchecks in AUSTRALIA’s music. Shit, the record even evolves in the same way you would expect an 80’s No.1 Album would: Hit, Hit, Mega Hit, Introspective Ballad, Fodder, Fodder, Absolute Belter, And A Big Sweeping Gesture to Close.

But when you hear a song like “Wake In Fright”, or “Breathe In”, there’s that something there where you know it ain’t mere replication. It’s the sharp stabs of guitar, the warm, encompassing buzz of synths, the baritone bellow that stirs you equally in the heartcage as it does the feet. It’s the anthems paired right next to the songs you’d love to listen to roaring down the highway, alone after a breakup. It’s the way that if you close your eyes, AUSTRALIA catapult you decades before you were born, to the seat leaning against the Lansdowne bar, stuffing spilling from the soiled seat cushion, jukebox blaring the soon-to-be classic “Who R U?”. The place stinks of piss, someone’s chucking up in the alley outside, and the pub is heaving with dancing bodies.  Fuck, it feels good.

Portraits of People, Places and Movies has its weaker moments, but as a whole package, its a record that delivers something that shouldn’t be feasible in 2016. Why the fuck would the kids want to listen to the music their parents forced on them? Because AUSTRALIA’s making that music, goddmit, and it sounds good. Who knows? Maybe thirty years from now, someone’s gonna come stumbling out of the bowlo, air guitar in hand, barking, “LOVE! IS BETTER! COME TAKE ME UNDER THIS WATER!”.

Portraits of People, Places and Movies is out now, grab it here. They’ll be playing the ‘Gong on April 1st and Brighton Up Bar in Sydney on the 2nd, both shows with YEEVS (!) and Phantastic Ferniture (!).

Album Review: Summer Flake – Hello Friends

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Ya blew it. You fucked it, you absolutely fucked it. Everything is crushing you, your eyes are popping out of your skull, cartoonishly bulging from their sockets like the final scene from Total Recall. You’re so sad that everything is a chore, all your usual responsibilities are unimportant, and all the stuff you should care about suddenly feels really far away and ridiculous. You stop going out, and then you stop going outside. All your hobbies turn to ash, and sink through your fingers, evolving from formerly enjoyable to terrifyingly lame. I used to do that shit? You spend day after day in bed, sheets sinking into your skin, only getting up to engage with your vices. Booze, drugs, binging on Big Macs. It doesn’t matter, you gorge yourself on that vice, pressing it deep into yourself until it becomes your identity.

For me, that vice was the music of Summer Flake. Haha, what a fucking cliche, do you also have a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster in your room next to that bobblehead of Morrissey? Ah, fuck ya. In all seriousness though, I needed a partner, something that I could latch onto, and that came in the form of Hello Friends. Steph Crase says the kinds of things that are way too hard to actually say. There’s a bravery in her voice, an unwavering solidarity that goes hand in hand with a special, intimate kind of sorrow that’s not just comforting, but also strengthening.

Hello Friends carries a quiet poignancy; it never reaches beyond the toe-tapping patter of “Wine Won’t Wash Away”, but that restraint echoes with a boom, and when Crase unravels, well the walls come crashing down around your head. Take “Look How Far We’ve Come” – it takes its time to build, the pace almost unnoticeable, but when it reaches its crescendo, you better believe that you’ll be joining me on the floor, coiled up, sobbing. And not the pretty kind in the movies – this is the type with snot and hiccups involved.

But that’s just the one song, and this album isn’t really a singles factory. Take the single track, and there’s a bawling toddler sucking its thumb. But that’s only because you’ve taken in a fragment, a split second of incredible sadness. Of course you’ll be fucked up. Consume the whole record, and it becomes this beautiful soundtrack to meditate upon – this is why I fucked up etc. – all to the mesmerising sounds of someone who gets it, and can accentuate it far better and more beautifully than any twenty year old ginger.

When you’ve absolutely had it. When things are fucked. When you’ve blown it beyond all proportion in your mind, and nothing seems worth getting up for. This is the record I recommend you sit down with. The Smiths are for your parents, Summer Flake is for now. She’ll be the one that’ll raise you beyond this aching, anti-social demon that you’ve become. And if all of that’s not enough to convince you then how about this – Henry Rollins thinks she’s one of Australia’s best. If you think you’re better than Rollins, then you can get fucked.

Hello Friends comes out on Rice is Nice Records April 8th. Pre-order here.

A Comprehensive List of Everything I’ve Forgotten To Write About in the Last Three Months. Pt. 1 Punk/Post-Punk/Experimental

 

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After a three month mild mental breakdown, during which I decided that writing about music was the devil’s work, I’ve come back to furiously type hyperbolic phrases that make no sense. Lucky you. Anyway, there’s been a heap of music that I missed while I was busy having a sook:

Punk/Post-Punk/Experimental

Tyrannamen – Self-Titled

Seriously, watching this band was the reason I decided I wanted to write about bands again. Seeing them play, going home, buying and then smashing the record to within an inch of its vinyl life, I felt compelled to tell other people.  It’s hard to listen to this album and not want to reach out to whoever’s nearest, sit them down, and regale them with this unflinching rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece. If there’s one band you should listen to from this list, make it these guys.

 

Twinrova – Elitist

A brooding goth sneer from Sydney, makes you want to sit in the rain and spit on people as they hurry by, knowing that they’ll never notice because of drizzle

Dry Finish – String Me Along

Dry Finish sat at the top of the pile as far as new punk bands in Sydney. Listening to them is a lot like how I imagine what it would be like to be strapped down to a surgical table in the basement of a scientist who scored his medical degree through the deep web and repeated viewings of A Clockwork Orange. Suck shit if you missed them before their guitarist moved overseas, these guys were the best.

California Girls – Desire

Melancholy drum-machine and drone combo from Canberra. If you’re in a wrist-slitting mood, chuck this on.

Sex Tourists – Birthday Party

The highlight from their three song debut EP, and possibly one of the saddest tracks I’ve ever listened to. That opening line never fails to reduce me to a sobbing pile of shit. These guys would probably be Roland S. Howard’s favourite band if he was still kicking.

Black Cab – Uniforms

Ambitious, thrusting electronica with a post-punk sheen, the latest from Black Cab propels itself on a stirring rhythm that almost makes you feel something close to hope. Turn off the alarm, turn off the phone, close the blinds, and sink into thiiiiiiiis.

Spike Fuck – GUTS

I feel the same way about this song as I did when I heard “Shivers”, “Wide Open Road” and “Dream Baby Dream” for the first time. It’s a quiet epic that plunges into the heart cavity and claws your insides into the kind of mess the cops find at a crime scene and sends the first responder into the trauma ward.

Wives – Devoted to You

Brutally underrated Canberra band with a post-punk record that stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs and stabs. The chanting vocals, the whirring jabs of guitar, the toe-curling melodies, it’s the whole fuckin’ package.

Publique – Wax/Suffer

Total Control and A Place to Bury Strangers clash on a surging tidal wave of feedback and blood-curdling screams.

School Damage – Lift Off

In an alternate, much cooler reality, this is the theme song to The X-Files.

Nite Fields – Voyeur

Paranoid and tense newness from one of Brisbane’s best. Three and a half minutes of subterranean, pitch black post-punk, occasionally slashed with fiery shouts and sharp guitar.

Miles Brown – Seance Fiction

I was halfway through a mammoth album review of this record when I lost my mind and decided that writing was a huge waste of time, and the review never came out. I should’ve finished it though, so maybe others could have maybe found out about it if they accidentally clicked on this site. Seance Fiction is incredibly complex, and infinitely worth jumping into. It’s dark, dense and murky; once you dive in, you can’t leave.

Muscle Memory – Altar Boy / Underground

This thing burns, like wrapping your hand around the wrong end of a soldering iron.

HANNAHBAND –  29ER

Great earnest emo with a punk slant that reminds me of what it was like to be 15 and think everything in the world was running against you. Sweats like a teenager who’s stuck on a family holiday and hasn’t had a cigarette in four days.

Ace Romeo – Hyperdrive

Should’ve done this ages ago, but this album rules, yeah? It’s pretty much a lost John Carpenter soundtrack, back when he was making badass movies with Kurt Russell.

Clever – Your Eyesore’s Sweet

Punk rock done in the style of a George A. Romero movie. It’s a chainsaw shoved down your throat sort of thing.

Bad Lifers – Shelf Life

Like the Tyrannamen album, this was recorded ages ago, and has only been released recently, if you count November of last year as recent. Anyway, this album is to scuzzy punk what I am to laziness.

Whitney Houston’s Crypt – Hatofold Boyfriend

Fuck me.