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.

 

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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: Pronto – Pronto/Pronto

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Pronto make me feel good about myself. They make me feel like I’m hanging out with my girlfriend on a Sunday arvo at Bondi, the beach is crystal clear, seagulls are squawking and I’m content with the secret knowledge that I’ve poisoned the local kale supply and everyone who sucks in Bondi will die soon.

They released an album last year called ‘When You’re Gone’, and it was all sorts of great. Rock ‘n’ roll in the style of The Troggs committed to an insane asylum and screaming bloody murder. Now, the Melbournites have somehow upped the stakes; before the freaks across the road, laughing and smashing bottles. Now, they are the terrorists of good taste and decency, shoving punk rock down the throats of the innocent, slitting civilians from ear-to-ear with three-chord blades.

It can not be overstated how refreshing this album is. After recently wading through a few too many shows of braindead blokes hidden behind a beanie and a laptop, playing the same flaccid synth key over and over again, its nice to hear someone bark in my ear with the sort of seething fury that brought us Bits of Shit, Helta Skelta and Gutter Gods. When Pronto kick into their first track “Implausible”, you can taste the flecks of spit hit your face, feel the carpet of the pub ripping and tearing under your stampeding feet, embrace the inherent danger that comes from being within such close proximity to a band like this.

The power-pop elements of ‘When You’re Gone’ have been all but abandoned (with the exception of the riff of “On the Slots”). It can not be overstated enough that the bludgeoning does not let up. Not for a fucking second. Word of warning: if you turn your back on this album, you will be shanked by the sharp end of a thrashing riff, and the band will dance over your corpse, letting you bleed out to the tune of an incomprehensible solo. You get halfway through, think you can stop for a snack and a piss, and next thing you know “Fad Cult” is caving your skull in.

The vitriol is high. The power is raw. The gritted-teeth approach is overpowering. The stench, the muck, the dirt that cakes this…this THING…makes me want to throw up and dance in a puddle of my own puke. This is disgustingly good punk rock, and you’d be an idiot not to bury yourself in it.

‘Pronto/Pronto’ is out now on Slovenly Records, and you can grab it from their Bandcamp here.

In very exciting news, we can all bask in the glory of Pronto when they make their way up to Sydney. They’ll be playing November 20th (Venue TBA) w/ Ghastly Spats and Tim & the Boys.

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: Summer Flake – Time Rolls By EP

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Late last year, Summer Flake (aka Melbourne via Adelaide’s Steph Crase) dropped ‘Son of a Gun’, and the sounds of hearts shattering could be heard around the world. It was allegedly the first single of a sophomore album, fresh from the best Adelaide export since West End Draught and Matt Banham, and I couldn’t have been happier.

A year has passed, and that “forthcoming” album has remained elusive. However, just as we were about to return to Robert Smith for a companion in the most dire of times, Steph has released an EP of brand new material and a Stones cover. In true Summer Flake fashion, the songs are raw, honest, and tug at the heartstrings more than the mention of the 1997 Grand Final around a Sea Eagles supporter.

The whole thing is essential, but particular standouts on this EP go to “Sun Won’t Shine” and “Makes Me Wanna Die”. The former has the approval of Henry “I Kinda Started Hardcore, Yeah” Rollins, a five minute wallow in the mire of guitar dirge and Steph’s incredible voice. She shines here, despite the title, but its her lyrics here that make the track stand out, cruising through the darkest depths of anxiety and bleakness.

The latter track, despite sharing a name with a song that actually does make me want to kill myself, is fantastic because it could work just as easily in an intimate moment of joy, as it could when you’re huddled by yourself under the blankets at 4pm on Saturday. It drifts on a simple guitar strum, splashes of a drum, and the Summer Flake mantra, “Makes me wanna cry”.

For many, Summer Flake echoes our own fragility – her voice is a gentle lullaby, but booms with heartbreak. The greatest thing here is that her music feels universal – it doesn’t single out one demographic, and concentrate all of its energy in appealing to that single group. Come one, come all! Teenagers, war veterans, game show hosts, it doesn’t matter your race, creed, footy team, brand of smokes, whatever. If you’ve ever felt down in the dumps, alone, a little bit helpless, Steph understands, and her music and tone reflects that. Part Neil Young, part Yo La Tengo, and part Eric’s Trip, she guides you through the shits with a soft hand and quaint voice.

So we might not have that full-length record from Summer Flake that we all crave. But at least we haven’t gone a full year without any material from one of Australia’s most underrated. 2015 has birthed a full EP of breathtaking music to accompany us at our most cracked and distraught. Honestly, wouldn’t you much prefer to spend those lumpy-throat moments with someone as sincere and comforting as Summer Flake? Thought so.

Summer Flake’s ‘Time Rolls By’ EP is available now on Rice is Nice Records, and you can grab it on the ol’ iTunes here. A limited run of cassettes will be appearing October 17th. If you’re around on the 16th, make sure you come to the free Rice is Nice Mixtape Vol. 3 launch at Waywards w/ Zeahorse (!), White Dog (!), and Us the Band (!). Oh yeah, Soundly Sounds DJ’s are going to be DJ’ing as well. I just downloaded AC/DC’s best of, so it should be a great set.

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: Wireheads – Big Issues

a0242313477_10The album cover for the second Wireheads record features a painting of a horse that looks like it’s been savagely beaten. Waitasecond…are you tryna say what I think what your tryna say? That Wireheads are beating a dead horse? That they’re flogging the same old concept over and over again? Is that what you’re tryna say, is it, HUH PUNK? Well, you’re dead fucking wrong, yeah, because that’s one crime that Wireheads have yet to commit. You can get in a huff about their lo-fi recordings, their inability to play on a stage that can only hold the average sized band, or even their Adelaide origins (why you’d get pissed off about the place where you can find both fuck off giant sharks and WOMADELAIDE is beyond me). But accusing them of rolling out the same tired tricks is simply not something that Wireheads are capable of.

Their debut, ‘The Late Great Wireheads’ was certainly interesting, but ‘Big Issues’ articulates the strangeness and unique abilities of the band far better. First off, getting Calvin Johnson of K Records/Beat Happening fame to record the album was a 10/10 idea. That man is pretty much the reason that oddball lo-fi reached the lounge room stereos of the globe, especially a place as far flung as South Australia, where that label seems to have, at least partially, inspired a similar scene that includes luminaries like Fair Maiden and Bitch Prefect. But back to ‘Big Issues’; getting Johnson to record Wireheads  has allowed more focus, the random intrusions of their unorthodox breathing more easily between the usual battle cries of frontman Dom Trimboli.

From the second track in, the band establish a triple threat avalanche of mope-pop which makes for the first showcasing of the great musical sensibilities of Wireheads. “Boys Home” is a salad days reflection paired with niggly guitar parts and detached percussion; “Glass Jaws” paints a brief, strung-out, harmonica-led Garfield comic come to life. And “Crooked Cults” features a chorus that manages to sling together a Star Trek reference and bullying in a couplet: “Beam me up Scotty/Gimme ya church money/It’s not your fault but I’ve got no one else to blame”. Which leads to a very serious question: what the fuck is church money? Is that a thing that only exists in the City of Churches? Is it a replacement for lunch money? Is that why the kids in Adelaide are so thin – they’ve been giving all their money for sandwiches to the Church? Tracey Grimshaw, you’ve got your work cut out for you on the next episode of A Current Affair.

Wireheads play the cards of diversity, moving from their stringy guitar shredding and onto pleasant country being beaten to death by squalling No Wave (“The Frisco Tracks”), a supremely impressive punk bombing (“Year of the Horse”) and a starry eyed Americana twirl (“Victorious Hermit”). There’s plenty to be sink into here, and all of it is loaded with a ramshackle sandpaper quality.

Wireheads are hilarious, morbid, and an incredible product that could have only been sourced locally. But best of all, they’re interesting; there’s no chance of getting bored with what Wireheads have to offer. They’re a strange breed, an almost octopus that live in a weird town, and produce weirder records, providing a perfectly skewed alternative to the slicker produced popularity of Twerps et. al.  ‘Big Issues’ might have a dead horse on the cover, but Wireheads are far too engaging to fall victim to that, or any, cliche.

‘Big Issues’ is out now on Tenth Court. Melbourne folk can catch ’em at the Tote this Friday, with Old Mate, The Shifters and Great Outdoors. Grab the album over at the Tenth Court Bandcamp here.

Album Review: Angie – Free Agent

qudHyOn9JsyGhrFraU_ElV03-kp5m6M7leb-dk4TeZUAngie is one of the most productive legends in Australia – in the past year alone, she has showcased her debut full length film ‘Garish Hearts’, as well as a myriad of music videos, curated an art show for the Underbelly Arts Festival,  and has just unveiled a book publishing company which has already seen the publication of poems from herself and Beef Jerk’s Jack Lee. And with a few months to spare in 2015, Angie has released her new solo album, the follow up to 2013’s ‘Turning’.

‘Free Agent’ was written whilst Angie has been touring the world – from Memphis’ Gonerfest (the Mecca of garage rock), multiple European tours, a residency in Brazil, as well as criss-crossing Australia. That’s a lot of travel, and anyone who’s ever flown on Tiger Air or any international equivalent for longer than a half hour knows that these things can be brutal. There’s a lot of time spent cramped up in those soaring sardine cans, and Angie is obviously someone who doesn’t shy away from productivity, preferring to record her thoughts and processed during these lulling moments rather than let them slip away. As such, ‘Free Agent’ showcases Sydney’s favourite soul at her barest moments, as well as her strongest.

Angie is primarily known for her noise wreaking abilities, whether it be with the plethora of bands she’s headed (Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune etc.). Even her debut solo effort ‘Turning’ was a festival of dirgy feedback and songs raised on their haunches. ‘Free Agent’ explores a duality to Angie that’s never quite been revealed before. For example, “Ricky Street” reveals a mournful side, repeatedly asking “Where are you?” between plonking pianos and a rickety guitar whose rusty strings threaten to snap at any second. “Crocodile Tears” shows off her own incredible voice, albeit layered heavily underneath sprawling guitar. Encased here is a heartfelt track with an abandoned narrator, grieving through webs of noise that thicken as the song progresses. It’s the greatest song that Grace Slick never wrote.

That’s not to say that Angie has lost her ability to wreak havoc with songs that sound like they’ve been recorded through a wind tunnel, and have burst out through a PA stack that has been through several 13th Floor Elevators tours. Crackling, prickly and tough, songs like “Down for the Count” and “Paris Face” muscle through with a Royal Trux-esque pervasion of cool, roughhouse riffs plunging next to Angie’s signature puncturing vocal drone. “Out of Age” signifies the most skin-crawling moment of ‘Free Agent’, a crescendoing eruption of sounds and curdling guitar licks, brawling viciously to come out on top, but falling short to Angie’s strident vocals.

There are parts of ‘Free Agent’ that are powerful. There are parts that are desperate. There are parts that are flippant, and parts that are naked. Angie works from all angles, covering a range of styles with a sound that feels purely her own. ‘Free Agent’ remains another of her bombastic works, but it has also freed her from the tag of being just a rocker. Although she’s always experimented, it’s now become less subtle and more accessible, without losing the identity that she’s established over all her years behind art of some form or other. ‘Free Agent’ allows the public to get into the head of one of Australia’s most underrated stars, and what’s inside is a dichotomy of painful self-awareness and raw power.

‘Free Agent’ comes out Friday, September 4th through Rice Is Nice Records. Angie will be launching the record in Sydney on September 4th at Waywards in Newtown, with Skull & Dagger, Sex Tourists and more.

Album Review: Ouch My Face! – Bunyip

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16 years old. Feeling fresh, feeling fine. Got the whole world at my feet. The biggest problems my kind face are detentions, Maccas food poisoning and the two second slumps of depression associated with getting inevitably dumped after two weeks. It makes sense then that when cruising around Triple J Unearthed, the acts I was drawn to were ones loaded with angst, pushed by the same angry exuberance that I felt. Chicks Who Love Guns, Zeahorse, Sweet Teeth – man, what a treat! Oh, and of course, Ouch My  Face’s “Knockouts“; didn’t that cop an absolute thrashing! That ungodly bass riff, combined with the spunk of front woman Celeste Potter and wiry wall of guitar made me fall head over heels. I was smitten.

But then, Ouch My Face sort of disappeared. Other bands popped up, and I became as distracted as an acid freak at a Colour Run. Occasionally, that snarl would rear up in iTunes, and the thought of “Fuck, what happened to that band” popped into my head….but that’s about as far as it went. Until approximately a month ago, when they dropped this album on Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher’s label Milk! Records.

The same zeal and flair is there, the exact same deranged desire to mash the riot girl of Bikini Kill and Babes in Toyland with the over the top rock rush of Jane’s Addiction or Queens of the Stone Age. The bass lines are still buzzsaws ready to tear you limb from limb, the guitars are still made from that taught wire that assassins use to decapitate victims, and Potter still sounds badass. None of that has been lost even remotely over the past five years…if anything the band’s senses are heightened to predatory levels of instinct.

What has changed are the smarts surrounding the songs – there’s far more on ‘Bunyip’ there feels like there are few more unique things to sink your gums into, as opposed to a collection of rock songs. Beginning with “Creep Heart”, the heart monitor-propelled ode to stalking, Ouch My Face also go for a great Future of the Left impression on “Rejection”, and some thrashing grunge courtesy of “Pointy Horns”. Then there’s the playfully evil gleam “Do The Wrong Thing”, which is essentially a theme song for Chucky the Evil Doll. These are just a couple examples of the fierce fun available on ‘Bunyip’.

This album is full of short, sharp and utterly badass tunes. Close your eyes, pick a track, and press play, and there’s a guarantee that something with all the nuclear nature of a Cold War film plot device will be revealed. ‘Bunyip’ is rock, played tight and with gnashing intensity, a Tasmanian Devil of churning instrumentation. But best of all, it retains the goal of making music that will set a live show alight. Ouch My Face may have taken a while to get their debut album out, but they’ve never faded from existence, and they certainly haven’t forgotten how to have fun on an album.

You can grab ‘Bunyip’ from Ouch My Face’s Bandcamp here.