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.

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Album Review: Little Desert – Saeva

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Sit down. Don’t bring anything with you, you won’t need it. Just the bare essentials. Strap yourself in. No, really, ground yourself so that you are physically unable to move. Get comfy, you’ll be in this position for precisely 35 minutes and 29 seconds. That’s how long it takes for Little Desert’s debut album to wash over you. Peaks, troughs, all of it – it’s a musical lobotomy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style. It’s the most brilliantly theatrical album of 2015, and you heard it here first.

After gently teasing this album for the past six months, with the two singles “Captive” and “Resurrection” causing a bit of a stir, Little Desert have finally dropped Saeva, and it’s fearsome. They could coat the album in serrated blades loaded with disease –  one prick and you’re a dead man – but it wouldn’t make the record any more dangerous. It rears and plunges, shakes its mane, refusing to be anything less than an immersive, devouring work of art.

The first thing to notice about Saeva is how ghoulish this thing is. And not in the sort of Addams Family, jokey way; boo, gotcha hahaha. No, there is the definitive scent of a corpse that haunts this album. The next noticeable aspect is that Little Desert prove they are the lords of the crescendo, continually building songs from rubble into spectres that chase the viewer into dark corners. The ghosts are there, hammering on the doors to come out; they’re embedded in the cries of Esther Rivers, the panicked guitar stampedes, the tense synth riffs. Everything is buckling under pressure, running at a desperate pace, trying to escape. Take “Captive”: it rises, slowly, slowly, begins to scurry, in a zig zag, menacing repetition one moment, blistering guitar solos the next. It reverts back and forth, dizzying and demonic; by its finale, Little Desert have you begging for mercy AND more.

That intention of crescendo is present in almost all of Saeva. It’s not always the threatening blare of “Captive” – “Sinner” and “She’s Alive” wander into murder ballad territory, whilst “Soothsayer” contains a psych tint. But when Little Desert hit their grim stride, that’s when they’re at their peak. Take “Resurrection”, which marches from a funeral pace to a gallop, led by the charging Rivers. Her bellow stands commanding, directing the frantic synth arpeggios, and diving boulders of guitar into the a finale even better than Hellraiser, and that movie had hooks ripping off every bit of a guy’s flesh!

Little Desert have always impressed with their boldness, and they haven’t disappointed with Saeva. It’s tense, and tragic, and when they scratch their nails across the whiteboard, Little Desert light up, especially when Rivers’ thundering roar takes centre stage. It’s theatrical, huge and dense, a record you can be suffocated and squashed by, and not mind in the slightest.

You can grab Saeva from the it Records Bandcamp here. Little Desert are doing a few launches up the East Coast real soon: Saturday, 21st at The Tote in Melbourne (w/ Teuton, Mollusc and Half Mongrel), the 26th at Blackwire Records (w/ Ela Stiles and Whitney Houston’s Crypt) and a hell of a party in Brissy at the Crowbar on the 28th (w/ OCCULTS, Last Chaos, Pleasure Symbols and Death Church)

Album Review: POWER – Electric Glitter Boogie

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Raw Power. You heard of it? You know it. You know it well. It’s rusty, filthy, tetanus-coated, tinnitus-inducing noise. It’s primal, decadent muck that razes the ground it lays upon, inflicting wounds upon all, drilling itself into a bloody corpse. It’s pornographic, indulgent, deliriously basic music driven to its most dangerous extreme.

After releasing “Slimy’s Chains” earlier this year, Power proved that they were disciples of the raw. A stripped ‘n’ thrashed scourge, determined to squeeze the innocence out of an individual’s skull. This was a song that filled you with terror and excitement at the same time, a charismatic source of wicked rock ‘n’ roll. It made me more enthusiastic for a forthcoming album than any other record this year. It got to a point where I had to ask friends to go into Repressed to ask when they thought the Power record would be arriving, because I thought I had pissed off Nic too much with my clockwork questions.

The arrival of ‘Electric Glitter Boogie’ as a fully fledged album has made me want to blow my brains out, because I don’t think there will be another band in 2015 that will provide such an exhilarating take on rock ‘n’ roll. This album will fucking kill you. This album will turn you insane. It will pick at your brains like the Overlook Hotel, but with all the subtlety removed. There are no creepy twins, there is only the constant tidal wave of blood. Every song on this album is an exhausting experience, a battle cry of deplorability, the best fucking thing you’ve ever heard in your goddamn life.

How are Power so good? How could some fucking band from fucking Melbourne be this incredible? It’s because they’re committed, refusing to provide anything less than the most slovenly, mouth-foaming, carnivorous take on raw power since The Stooges. Take the title track, or the album finale, “Power” – the way those vocals are wrangled, screamed into that microphone, there’s an effect there that stays with you long after the cackles have subsided. You’ve just heard an expression so un-diluted by the usual bullshit that pervades rock music that it comes as a shock, albeit an addicting one that murders competitors.

My hands shake as I push the needle back to the beginning of the album, over and over and over again, a manic habit that borders on delirium. I need this album to rattle my brain into an asylum. I want to hear that sneer and that bludgeoning ringing in my ears even when I sleep. Power have created a terrifying, blackened masterpiece that not only bores through to what makes rock music so great but grovels at its feet of it, a slave to a master. This album isn’t just raw, or primitive, or intimidating, it’s all of the above, and more. It’s a painful bombardment of dilated pupil riffs that brand itself into the skin tissue. If you are any sort of fan of music, you will chain this album to your chest, and bury yourself with it.

 

Album Review: Palms – Crazy Rack

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My love affair with Palms is one that has been replicated by pretty much every teenager with a penchant for the guitar solo. I heard “Love” and went head over heels for the sheer blast of it. Palms weren’t just a band, they were a fucking rock band – which is a very important distinction, I might add. They were not indie rock, not surf rock, or garage rock. It was straight up rock – pure blasts of energy aided by that basic setup of guitar, bass, drum and Al Grigg’s rousing bellow.

Their debut album, ‘Step Brothers’, came through and won my heart. I started seeing this band whenever I could – the live total has reached somewhere around 30 or something. I know I’m not alone in my enslavement  – the same heads are always gathered at Palms gigs with a beautiful consistency. What’s more, every show brings in a new tidal wive of fans, who know every word, and are even more rowdy than the last bunch. Fuck, doesn’t that just make your heart swell? Doesn’t it make you shed a goddamn tear?

In the two years since ‘Step Brothers’ was released, Palms have made some huge steps forward as a band. They’ve switched labels, moving onto Ivy League Records, and graduated from tiny pubs to support slots at the Enmore…but that love for churning out a belters that are customer-made to turn a crowd into a foaming pit of writhing bodies hasn’t moved at all. If anything, the band have indulged even more in their unwavering love for splintering solos and big choruses. If Phil Lynott were alive today, Palms would probably be his favourite band.

The first three songs off Palms’ new record, ‘Crazy Rack’ are like the three points of the rock dog Illuminati. You’ve got “Bad Apple”, which manages to slip in a sheepish nod to the influence of Sydney’s premiere rock legends You Am I between blazing riffs. Then there’s “Rainbows” –  keen observers will note this was originally called “Rainbow Road”, which makes sense considering the fuck-me-it’s-so-hard-to-concentrate-on-not-falling-off-because-off-all-the-bright-flashing-lights pace of the song. Finally, “Thoughts Of You” completes the trifecta, Grigg administering passages of leather jacket-clad love between sleazy grunts of guitar. Three songs in, and you feel like that kid from the beginning of the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” clip, throwing his Dad out of the window with a single six-stringed detonation.

Speaking of hair metal, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to witnesses of a Palms DJ set as to the extent to which they embrace 80’s rock and pop, as Cheap Trick adoration rings loudly throughout. But really, Palms actually share their biggest likeness with a band from a little further down the track – Superchunk. It’s all there: big riffs, heart on the sleeve songwriting, and the ability to be at home just as easily behind a huge anthem like “In My Mind” as they are on doughy-eyed. quieter moment (“Photographs”). They’re a band indebted to rock in the original sense of picking up a guitar, pouring in a whole lot of fire and seeing what happens. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a frantic hurtle like “Beatdown”, a lesson in curled-lip cool like “Sleep Too Much”, or the yearning woop of “Fake Pictures”, Palms will rock it one way or another.

Sure, Palms are just a rock band. There’s plenty of those around. But how many of those rock bands gets you excited about going to see them for the 31st time? Grab your air guitar, chuck on “Crazy Rack” and shred your way to the end of that hypothetical question.

‘Crazy Rack’ is out Friday, the 30th of October on Ivy League Records, and you can pre-order the record here. Palms play At First Sight Festival on November 14th, with Total Giovanni, My Disco, Blank Realm and more. Grab tix here.

Album Review: The Ocean Party – Light Weight

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Let’s face it: The Ocean Party are the equivalent of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. At first, its a back-to-basics overhaul of the terrorist plot to make “dolewave” a part of the cultural lexicon. Now, The Ocean Party are crafting incredible songs that are essentially trampolining cars into helicopters, creating mammoth explosion after explosion of exhaustingly great pop music. However, unlike everyone’s favourite action films featuring a bald bloke in his late 50’s improbably surviving everything, The Ocean Party have kept the integrity of their franchise, improving and exploring new territory, whilst retaining the original qualities that made them so beloved in the first place.

The qualities mentioned above are thus (how fucking great is the word thus?): comforting jangling melodies, a melting pot of songwriting voices, the occasional burst of saxophone, and genuine poetry in their lyrics. On ‘Light Weight’, The Ocean Party sound more convincing and stirring than ever before, establishing their own unique stamp on guitar pop. No longer do they sound like a band that have been inspired  by The Go-Betweens and The Triffids, but rather, they sound like a band that will go on to inspire. The key ingredient, at least from what I can hear, is the constant stream of self-doubt that peppers The Ocean Party’s lyrics.

Take for example the moving title-track, which is probably one of the most tear-gouging songs released this year. Forget about your power ballads, all you need is The OP Crew sighing “You said I’ll see you soon, I said I wasn’t sure, there was everything and nothing everywhere, then I had the idea that I deserved even more”. Has flitting romance been described that well before? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. I’m finding it really hard to think of another example when choking back the tears.

This theme of personal crisis isn’t necessarily something committed to wandering melodies and sighing vocals. “Guess Work” pops with an exuberant chorus, even when discussing a bloke getting blown to pieces in the middle of the street (and to think people were doubting my Die Hard analogy). “Phone Sex” grooves on a rhythm that could have been ripped from a macabre detective show from the late 80’s. And “Greedy” practically hurtles along, bright guitar lines clashing against the persona of a clueless boss.

However, as the album draws to a close, The Ocean Party retreat into darker territory, and shut down their record with possibly one of the finest songs of their careers in “Real Life”. A plodding monologue that blossoms into a careening mantra of fatigue, this is a song that bemoans the abundance of normality and squeezes in a reference to wanking. Surely, this is the greatest pop song of our generation?

If you put the careers of myself and The Ocean Party side by side, you’ll only end up depressed. Whereas I’ve plunged from obnoxious wanker to unbearable fuckwit, these guys have blossomed from local darlings to one of the most damn fine songwriting sextets this country has produced, reaching a professional highlight in ‘Light Weight’. And they’re from Wagga Wagga! The Ocean Party are not only the extended Bruce Willis metaphor that we deserve, but the one we desperately need.

‘Light Weight’ is out now on Spunk Records, and you can grab it here. You can read an interview between Jordan ‘King of the Keyboard’ Thompson and myself here.

Album Review: FLOWERTRUCK – Dirt EP

a1034313333_10There’s a reason that FLOWERTRUCK had one of the busiest rooms at the King St Crawl yesterday arvo. Sure, the job was pretty much completed for them by way of the absolutely chock-a-block set put on by Soundly Sounds DJ’s (available for corporate events, book now, serious interest only [no funny stuff]). However, it’s fair to say that a couple extra punters made the trip out because they’d heard there was a pretty decent band doing the rounds at the moment. That band starts with an ‘F’ and ends in ‘ucking FLOWERTRUCK’. Sweet, we’re on the same page here, this band rules.

Until a few mere days ago, FLOWERTRUCK were EP-less, and yet they’d captured the hearts and minds of the folks of Sydney. Meanwhile, what have you been doing lately? You been releasing pop gems like “Sunshower”? Huh, punk? You been making rage indie clips of the week with “I Wanna Be With You”? You been doing that? You played with Alex Cameron and You Beauty? Have ya? No? Call us when you wanna play with the big dogs like FLOWERTRUCK.

As mentioned above, “Sunshower” and “I Wanna Be With You” are magical. They make pop music fun again – before these songs came along, Sydney was essentially the town in ‘Footloose’. FLOWERTRUCK is our Kevin Bacon. That means that, in a few short years, this band is going to be sidling up next to the musical equivalents of Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton is some sort of indie rock ‘Apollo 13’ blockbuster. And that doesn’t even seem that surprising of a claim to make. These songs are incredible, and like everyone’s favourite ham flavoured Hollywood star, its an early entry into a lengthy and acclaimed career.

Sandwiched between these two colourful bursts are three earworms that slot easily into any contemporary Australian guitar-pop playlist. Twerps, The Ocean Party, Big White…FLOWERTRUCK. Too easy. Job done. “Bad Dreams”, a swelling number that feels very ’16 Lovers Lane’, particularly stands out, a paced out burner that works itself into a frenzy of furry guitar work and chiming synths.

It’s absolutely no surprise that FLOWERTRUCK are packing out venues – they combine the flavours of Flying Nun/1980’s Brisbane shade of rock with New Wave pop sensibilities to the degree where it belongs in one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants. There’s heat in the fucking kitchen, geddit? You wanna get a lick on a few of these tasty morsels? Grab a plate – FLOWERTRUCK’s debut EP just came out. You can grab it at Bandcamp here.

Also, FLOWERTRUCK are gonna play the East Coast pretty soon. Band comes highly recommended. The Sydney show is at Deus Ex Machina on October 9th.

Album Review: Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven

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Today was hard. Real hard. Top 5 hardest days of my life. After twenty minutes of trying to find my Mission of Burma record, I decided to go through and re-organise my record collection by genre. An honourable task, I know – truly, I am the people’s champion. But in all seriousness, we now live in a world where the The Replacements will no longer rub shoulders with Rob Zombie (it was an ill-advised present, I swear).

The only reason I mention this, besides to gloat, is that when Blank Realm’s new album ‘Illegals in Heaven’ arrives. It’s going to be tough to slot this record into one of the newly orgnaised pigeon holes. Sure, you can throw it amongst the rock stuff, but Blank Realm are too sensitive and honest to fit in with the cock rock that dominates my shelves. New Wave? There’s too much depth to throw it next to Bronski Beat and Human league records. Punk maybe? Nah, I don’t feel like burning down the government when I hear this band. Psych? Fuck no, who do you think I am? I don’t have a fucking psych section. Jesus Christ.

Blank Realm are remarkable for their ability to glide through their albums genre-less; the only thing that can be firmly planted on them is their uncanny skill to marry sorrow and incredible musicality. Since beginning eight years ago, they’ve released a constant run of albums that dabble in gnarled noise, synth-pop, lo-fi rock, and more, peaking in last year’s masterpiece, ‘Grassed Inn’. Since releasing that, and witnessing their amazing live show many, many, many times, Blank Realm have rocketed from underground favourites to Australian legends.

Not only does ‘Illegals in Heaven’ cement that ideology, but it seals it in carbonite, Han Solo-style. Soon, Blank Realm will be frozen in a horrified pose, placed as a trophy in the lair of some overweight tycoon (hey, how you going). This album is an accomplishment of variety – shifting from dazzling drama that wouldn’t feel out of place spurting from the world’s biggest stages, all the way to chugging swings of post-punk and yearning ballads that have reached the end and can’t go on any longer. There’s a wonderful smorgasbord available here for the fussy eaters – you’re welcome to pick and choose, but it’s recommended that you just sit down and gorge yourself on the sheer variety that’s available.

In saying this, Blank Realm display a logical graduation throughout ‘Illegals…’, rising and falling with the pulse of an expert mixtape, the kind that Rob Gordon from High Fidelity would fawn over. There’s a huge difference to the sporadic and random splurges of ideas that Blank Realm brought to their earlier output. The album opens with “No Views”, a frantic and frank ode to Blank Realm’s adeptness to explode from the iTunes Library and right into your very being, before manoeuvring into the herky-jerky “River of Longing”. You can bet a million and a half bucks that shit would be The OC’s theme song if that shit was still around.

Following on from the one-two punch of riveting gonzo pop that only Blank Realm are capable of delivering, they settle into a pattern of restless anti-love songs for the rest of the record – “Palace of Love” performs Waiting For Godot in a chamber of dense synths and fluttering guitars, whilst “Costume Drama” pairs a throng of careening, buzzsaw riffs with pleasant, clipping keys. The finale of”Too Late Now” shoots daggers of despair, a six and half minute anguish override. When Daniel Spencer sighs, “It’s much too late now, for you to ever come back/ It’s much too late now, they just don’t write ’em like that”, there’s a good chance you’ll throw up a little in your mouth in harmonised hopelessness.

That excerpt is just a sample of Blank Realm’s songwriting prowess which remains as focal to their music as the instrumentation itself. Often Daniel’s lyrics and delivery cry out, and persistently resonate with anyone who’s been dragged through the muck that is having your heart torn out. There’s too much to specifically haul out and quote, so just take the word that he’s damn good at putting pen to paper, and then singing about those words. However, it’s Sarah Spencer shining on “Gold” that forces the jaw to officially drop…Holy shit! What the fucking goddamn fuck on a shit stick is this!? Is your heart in your throat? BECAUSE MY HEART IS IN MY FUCKING THROAT! It’s sitting there like I’ve swallowed a boulder. I can’t breathe, you can’t breathe, we’re just sitting here in wide-eyed silence, unable to even gasp in awe. Why? Because Sarah possesses one of the most arresting voices on this planet. It’s like Chrissie Hynde’s and Stevie Nicks’s vocal chords had a kid that moved to Brisbane. Sarah Spencer is a powerhouse, and “Gold”  stands out as one of the most potent, heart-shredding songs on an album full of them.

I mentioned before that I’m not going to have anywhere to put ‘Illegals in Heaven’. Fuck that, I’ve got just the place. A big, fuck off jewel case. This album is a monument to the best band in Australia – this record proves what Blank Realm have been ploughing away at all this time: their capacity to surprise and enthral with only music. This album has completely matched the stunning nature of ‘Grassed Inn’, a two-for-two deal of dense records packed with emotionally ruining content. After their record last year, the cracks began to show in Blank Realm’s status as a purely cult band. With ‘Illegals in Heaven’, the intention should be to burst through the wall and shake the world to its roots. That’s the only way it should be.

‘Illegals in Heaven’ is available this Friday, September 4th through Bedroom Suck Records. You can pick it up from their Bandcamp here. They’ll be playing the At First Sight Festival in Sydney on November 14, alongside My Disco, Total Giovanni, NO ZU and more. You actually can’t miss this gig – it’s imperative that you are there.

Album Review: MAKING – HIGHLIFE

CoverWhere were you a year ago? I’ll tell you where I was – knee deep in rejection, working an unpaid internship, and having nervous breakdowns in the best nightclubs that Kings Cross had to offer. “HOLY SHIT!”, I would scream internally, “HOW THE FUCK IS ANYBODY SUPPOSED TO LIKE THIS”, splashing a $17 craft beer down my hot pink shirt that myself and all the boyz were wearing. Salmon flavoured colour co-ordination is the name of the fucking game, amirite? How else are you supposed to let everyone know that you’re a fuckwit?

That might sound awful, but it was nowhere near as bad as what MAKING were going through. Picture this: you’ve been around for bloody yonks. You’ve released an EP, a single, and everything’s looking great. Every weekend is spent with your buds at Blackwire Records, netted between those signature bear claws, slaying the very concept of rock like you’re Braveheart, and other bands are the English. You’ve headed to your mate’s studio (word is he’s going to be doing some work with Miley Cyrus) and there’s a label that wants to put out your record. Your debut album! On vinyl! That’s the dream! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

You sit there, waiting and waiting. Man, it’s been a while, hey – when are those records getting delivered? It’s getting kinda late, but you don’t want to take a nap, in case you miss the delivery man. You call your guy….no answer. That’s weird? You’re sitting there, and panic sets in. What’s happening? Where is your record? What the fuck? All that hard work, all that effort…for nothing. When tossing up between being an absolute slice of shit in the Cross and seeing your life’s work disappear, I’ll be too busy slipping into the grossest shirt I can find and planning the route of my hektik  night through Sydney’s drainage system to give an answer.

Thankfully, Melbourne’s TRAIT Records saw logic, and the travesty of having this album un-released. Now, MAKING’s debut is here in all it’s glory. I say glory, because that’s what it is. There isn’t a whole lot out there like this album. Not much anyway. Think of the unconventional pacing of At The Drive-In clashing with the tumultuous noise of Lightning Bolt and unnerving aggression of Shellac. Throw in some casual influence that comes from witnessing/performing amongst the incredible scene that exists in Sydney, from Tanned Christ to Yes, I’m Leaving, to Totally Unicorn, and you get MAKING.

There are so many aspects of ‘HIGHLIFE’ to admire. The drums, for example –  you’re slammed from every angle like the villains of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, completely swarmed by pecking cymbals and clanging feathers. But the guitars! They are so wrung out, melodies switching and interchanging with equal nuance and menace, wringing your neck at one moment, and gently swallowing you in the next.DON’T FORGET THE BASS! The rhythm section pokes and prods surgically, manoeuvring each track here with the deadly precision of the doctor from The Human Centipede.

By far the best aspect of MAKING’s work is their calm before the storm approach. However, the difference between the cliche and the terror that MAKING exhibit is that there is always that expectation that the band will soon engage in a full-blown head crushing saga. The overall atmosphere is like being in the middle of a pool of sharks, bleeding and alone. The terror isn’t your immediate threat, but rather the waiting, that prolonged sense of doom. It’s like if that movie “Open Water” was made with a band that made one of the most interesting heavy albums of 2015 instead of a Great White. Although most deafeningly showcased on “Come To Me”, the effect is witnessed throughout the record, whether on a smaller scale with the pulsing long-distance ooze of “Amazon”, or “Dream Job”, in which shrill brutality is deployed for solely destructive purposes, an Agent Orange level of suffocating musical gas choking out the listener.

MAKING’s journey for the release of this album was a long one. Very long. But shit, don’t you reckon it was worth it? Not only does a salmon-shirt-wearing, deplorable piece of shit like me get to listen to this record, but so can everyone else. Miracles happen you guys, miracles happen. Immersive, impressive and forever brutal, MAKING’s ‘HIGHLIFE’ has scared the fucking shit out of me, and I couldn’t be happier.

‘HIGHLIFE’ will be out September 4th, on TRAIT Records. Pre-order here. They’re playing Blackwire for the album launch: September 11th with Marcus Whale, Mere Women and BV (put it together, ya numbskull)

Album Review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

Bad//Dreems – four dudes from Adelaide with an affinity for the oft-forgotten backslash. They wear mud-smeared uniforms, and beards slash their faces; their first t-shirt parodied the West End Beer Logo. As for their music, the band unleash their guitars in droves, fuzz hurled at the listener with a reckless, growling grin. It’s straightforward rock and roll, entrenched in pub rock tradition, with the records of Cold Chisel, Coloured Balls and The Angels still ringing in the ears.

Bad//Dreems are easy to fall in love with, especially for the average Australian. What better way to soundtrack the sweet summers of ’13 and ’14 than with a few tinnies snuck from Dad’s fridge, beach body envy and some rock music that makes you wanna to throw your fist in the air?

But anyone who’s delved into Bad//Dreems discography and actually cared to flick their ears on will soon be switched onto the subversive, self-deprecating nature of the band. Between the impassioned ocker riffs and pounding drums is self-doubt, and equal dolings of homage and criticism to Australian culture. Nestled between the songs about girls are genuine moments of fucked-up, thrashing abandonment. It’s a powerful concoction, one that makes Bad//Dreems stand out from the rest of the bands that flood the carpets of the local.

This dual personality aspect of Bad//Dreems has never been stronger than on their debut, ‘Dogs At Bay’. All that boiling potential – the crashing riffs, the piercing solos, the suffocating waves of authentic rock and roll that was bred from a beer-soaked carpet – all of that shines through here. Packed equally with radio-ready singles and songs for the summer festival season as it is with contaminated black sheep, this record is a triumph.

‘Dogs At Bay’ opens with some of the most overtly subversive songs Baddies have ever released: “New Boys”, “Cuffed & Collared”, and “Bogan Pride”. Despite the ocker titles, Bad//Dreems take the piss in the most applaudable fashion since Jonathan Swift. They tackle overt masculinity with deftness, paired with sprawling, catatonic riffs soaked in the sweat of a body-builder. When Ben Marwe whispers “Big muscles fucking up my sweatshirt, big muscles pumping into my dreams!” before bellowing a nightmarish work out routine, the amount of shivers that rock the average listener’s mild frame is enough to halt even the most sturdy of pacemakers.

The whole record isn’t devoted to taking the piss on clueless blokes –  there’s plenty more to the Bad//Dreems camp than frustration. Spurred by chewing riffs, “Nadine” punches out the lights, an underdog boxer stuck in a corner, fighting their way out with pure fury, just trying to get to the fucking paradise that is Summer Hill. Then there’s the token track about girls – “Dumb Ideas”, which absolutely shreds the hell out of its subject matter. The main thing to be taken from that track is that everyone from Surry Hills is a piece of shit, which I thought was fairly obvious, but hey, the more people that know of the evil peril of that place, the better, amirite?

The face-melting rock is fantastic, and Bad//Dreems are doing it better than most, certainly. Hearing these songs on record, (or even better, at a show) and feeling a gut reaction to songs like “Dumb Ideas” and “Hiding to Nothing” is a cathartic experience, one that puts your clenched fist in the air with the rest and reduces your voice to that of Clint Eastwood after a pack of smokes. But there’s a lot of bands that can do that. What sets Bad//Dreems apart are the cracks in the record, where the humanity shows. “Ghost Gums”, “My Only Friend” and “Hume” are incredible songs, absolutely jaw-dropping, and help round out the album. They put the gnashing rock in perspective, and help make ‘Dogs At Bay’ a fucking album, as opposed to a series of singles. They’re delivered with humility and smarts, assuring that Bad//Dreems can’t be pigeonholed as a one off rock band doing a Barnesy impression.

With their ‘Dogs At Bay’, Bad//Dreems didn’t just suit the expectation, or impress. They went above and beyond, showing they could be just as at home writing a pop song as they were with a crushing riff or a tune laden with self-analysis. There needs to be more bands who sound like they have a wattle-bush stuck up their arse, who can reach the mainstream. Too many groups prefer to ape overseas ‘indie’ contemporaries. Fuck that, I want a band that sounds like they’ve just finished playing Goon of Fortune. Guess what? Bad//Dreems is that band. Hopefully, a shit tonne of people hear this album, and our pub rock culture will become richer for it, and soon, the dream of a million scrawny bands fighting

‘Dogs At Bay’ comes out Friday 21st of August on Ivy League Records, and Baddies will be playing OAF on the 9th of October w/ Green Buzzard and West Thebarton Brothel Party.

Album Review: Royal Headache – High

I’ve recounted this story about a million and one fucking times, but here goes again: I was too young when the first Royal Headache album came out. Far too young. I was 15 years old, and on a grunge kick – Foo Fighters, Silverchair, and Pearl Jam thrived on the “Rye-Rye’s 3$$entials’ Playlist. I had absolutely no clue that a whole world of actually decent music lay at my feet, broiling just a few suburbs away. Bands like Royal Headache, Circle Pit and The Nevada Strange were just a few examples of incredible acts that were re-inventing rock and roll sounds, and they existed within shouting distance. I was the luckiest man alive, and I didn’t even know it. By the time my conscience had been pricked by punk music, and the wealth of talent that existed in my backyard, the times had moved on, and these bands all appeared to have reached their critical apex, either breaking up or facing the problems of fame.

This was a double-edged sword – it made way for a whole legion of new bands, but I, along with a growing stream of 16-20 year olds that have begun to litter Blackwire and the Red Rattler, have been constantly badgered with the fact that we never got to see THE Royal Headache. They were a band from a lost time, who managed to surge past the knowing few and infect the mainstream with one of the most affecting albums of our time. It’s easy to stand by that statement and repeat it without a trace of hyperbole – their self titled debut is a masterpiece of soul, punk and rock ‘n’ roll, a pop album that sits eloquently but uneasily amongst the best. Whereas forgettable major label funded “indie” music dominated playlists for mere moments, the first time that I, and many others, heard Royal Headache, was a punch to the guts. Suicide sat alongside desperation in a romantic, hurtling fashion, and I’d never heard anything like it.

Which is why I approached the new Royal Headache record with slight trepidation. Don’t get me wrong – their Opera House show was a triumph, and similar notions have been relayed about their David Liebe Hart support. Furthermore, their singles “High” and “Another World” have been getting a thrashing on the aforementioned “Rye-Rye’s 3$$entials’ Playlist. But those are singles, and their ability to put on a show has rarely been regarded as anything less than incredible. An album is a different beast – from a personal standpoint, listening to the ‘High’ could have represented the death knell of my favourite band.

Lay your fears aside – ‘High’ is magnificent. It’s a sophomore album that solidifies everything you and I loved about this band, and rounds out Royal Headache’s distinct sound, stretching their abilities and our own expectations of what they’re capable of. Blood, guts and spunk pulse through this record with zeal, clenching and releasing, creating a tumultuous, exhausting and uplifting ride.

Just like the debut, there isn’t a song on here that feels out of place, or obligatory. There’s the ear-puncturing eye-gougers, such as the hurtling “Another World” and “Fantasy”, a reflection of a time when dreams had yet to be dashed, and “Garbage”, which allows Shogun to spew hatred over riffs of fuzzy bile and a plodding bass line, culminating in a song that slashes with the same crushed glass that it begins with. There’s the power-pop, anti-love blitz of “Love Her If I Tried” that takes a hurtfully self-examining look at unrequited romance, and the crooning stabs of “Wouldn’t You Know” provides a lump-in-your-throat respite from the surrounding cacophony of the rest of the album.

However, it’s “Carolina” that stands out on ‘High’ most – a classic rock song propelled into the modern century. Strummed guitars placated by gentle melodies, and a voice that sails over the top, retelling a story that’s got a pain in there that would turn even the most crooked, unfeeling human into a dough-eye sobber. It’s a song that reflects that rock bottom moment, when you’ve transitioned from fighting, a gnashing beast, to a crumpled rag, and the crowd’s reaction and pity to such a sight.

This is a new band with the same mission statement as the one they stamped all those years ago. Royal Headache have grown older, broken up, faced new problems. ‘High’ is the album that showcases that evolution; the songs are generally slower and tinged with more soul, as well as more outward looking. But have they lost what made them such a great band in the first place? The long answer is to listen to this record over and over again, marvelling at each track, and soaking up this band and their worth. The short answer is to look at the cover for ‘High’, a bold, grey shot of the Petersham Water Tower. After trips around the world, festival slots and all the press and media that can be feasibly thrown at a band, they’ve chosen that fucking water tower to adorn their new album….to me, that speaks volumes. To me, that means that Royal Headache are the same band I fell in love with. And in my opinion, the contents of ‘High’ proves that.

‘High’ comes out this Friday, August 26th. Pre-order through the band’s Bandcamp, or go to a record store. If you’re reading this in the US, do yourself a favour and go see this band – they’re touring the nation right now. Also, if you’d like to hear the record before it’s released, NPR is streaming it here.