Album Review: Spookyland – Beauty Already Beautiful

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The first time I heard Spookyland, I didn’t get it. Weird voice, skyrocketing guitars, overtly epic atmosphere – why is everyone losing their shit over this? Spookyland was the sort of band that folks were going out of their way to tell you about, regaling you with tales of this skinny Sydney lad sporting high cheekbones and a heavy leather jacket, who could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand. I’d chuck on “The Silly Fucking Thing”, and I couldn’t see it.

Then, after one fateful night at The Lansdowne, it clicked. Whatever piece was previously missing snapped into place for me, and I was on board the Spookyland bandwagon. It was the same phenomenon that had occurred with some of my favourite bands like Radiohead and The Birthday Party; one second, you’re pissed off that none of it makes sense, and then the band manages to inject something that allows you to immerse into the crowd of believers, the cult of Good ShitTM.

For me, what it comes down to is the power that Spookyland exude. It’s not the same sort of power that’d you’d get from a Stooges or a Metallica record, but something more sophisticated. It’s thought out, developing over the course of a song, so that by the time Marcus Gordon and co. hit their finale, your spine is bent permanently out of place. It’s the way that voice twists and turns, reverting from mourning to triumphant in the space of a verse and chorus; how the guitars crash and burn like the sea in the grips of that 1000 Year Swell that Patrick Swyaze always spoke about.

There’s a nice range on Beauty Already Beautiful, but Spookyland always manage to retain a definitive style. They range from the cymbal-crash, lip-curled country swagger of “Big Head” and “Can’t Own You”, to the more poignant moments of “True”, to the glowing anthems of “God’s Eyes” and “Champions”, which show off Spookyland’s strength in holding their strengths to their chests and picking the absolute right moment to unleash hellishly good moments. And let’s not forget about the fucking one-two-fuck-you of “Bulimic” that doesn’t just knock you out cold, but pummels you into the dust. Two – read it, fucking TWO – minutes of unrelenting shredding, each note reaching right through your soul and individually tugging at the hairs that course your body in an effort to say, “OI, ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS!??? HOW GOOD IS IT!????”

Spookyland have got their signature style down to a T. It’s delivered in a spectacular and unique fashion, and when they reach that bit further, you’d be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the room. Don’t be a fool – if you don’t get it, don’t wait around like I did for these blokes to come around and smack you in the face with the Good ShitTM. Sit down, put the headphones on, and make sure that this band rattles your being to the core like I know they can.

Also their highly recommended live show is coming to Sydney and Melbourne, with the extra punch of YEEVS opening both shows. Spooky land play the Newtown Social Club tonight (11 May), and tomorrow at Shebeen.

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New: North Arm – Careless

Although North Arm are originally from Newcastle, it feels like they’ve been learn’d in the teachings of the Leisure Coast. On a completely unrelated note, how good is Game of Thrones?

Their reach for angelic guitar climaxes is easily reached, swaying with the hazy ritual that was first introduced by Spiritualized in the 90’s, but a lot fail to recapture. There’s something incredibly tranquillising about their new single “Careless”, an uneven airiness that the Jesus & Mary Chain liked to occasionally pull out on numbers such as “Just Like Honey”.

Although it takes a little while to collect itself, North Arm steer this misty gem into a serene finale of peaking guitars, shifting the band next to local luminaries Cull and Shining Bird.

Album Review: The Men-Tomorrow’s Hits

The Men are the Golden Snitch of amazing bands. Everytime you think you’ve caught onto them, and you’re going to ride into Quidditch success, with all the bling, bitches and Cristal that brings, they slither out of your grasp and chameleonise themselves into a unique and beautiful gryffin. I don’t know how metaphors or the Harry Potter universe work.

It became all too easy to fall in love with The Men on their raging punk debut, but then they broadened their strokes and struck up a post-punk pose with ‘Leave Home’. Their third album continued to be punk rock as GG Allin’s scrotum by incorporating some more influences into the harsh brutality, and their fourth effort took turns between calming down the energy and ramping it up to newfound levels of clusterfuck punk genius.

So, it makes sense that ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ would be another left turn. The Men have all but abandoned their punk/noise roots for a full album of Americana and bluegrass influenced tunes. What the fuck? Surely every fan will be turned into a retching pile of sadness seeing their former punk heroes go from crafting a brilliantly visceral piece like ‘Night Landing’ to wussying out with acoustic guitars and thinly-veiled threats of incestual sodomy?

Turn away your stereotypes right now, you bigoted, close-minded prude! Sure, that sentence could be an excellent (and accurate) example of hypocrisy, The Men prove to be an outlier of bands that can consistently change their sound and yet retain the magic of what their original fans were keen on. ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ is an album so chock full of goodness, you could shove your head up the asshole of a vegan that recycles and still not be at the levels of amazing health that The Men showcase on this album.

Think of this-If David Bowie were re-incarnated into being a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Phil Spector circa-Ramones were given production duties, then this is what would have resulted. The album has elements of grandiose and flash to it, and a sincere pop edge, but it’s delivered in a style that’s laidback and comfortingly warm. It’s like Bob Dylan or Townes Van Zandt got a rush of adrenaline straight to their spleens. The result can only be described as gorgeous.

Songs like ‘Get What You Give’, ‘Sleepless’ and ‘Settle Me Down’ are rollicking ballads that unfold at a more timeless place than a Morgan Freeman narration. Then there are high energy Stooges/Radio Birdman-esque romps of ‘Different Days’ and ‘Pearly Gates’. And finally, some good old fashioned twirlers like’The Dark Waltz’.

Initially, The Men seemed like a secret that wouldn’t be uncovered until past their prime, like all the proto-punks from Detroit. But although an album title like ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ points towards such a future, The Men are a band that are too dedicated to their work of pumping out awesome songs to not be revered in their own lifetime.

New: HTRK-Give It Up (free download)

Oh shit muffins, there’s some official new HTRK. Fans of the disturbingly dark rejoice!

‘Give It Up’ is the first single off HTRK’s third record ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’, which is going to be released in April next year (It’s going through Ghostly International in the USA! That’s the same label as Shigeto and Gold Panda!). Now, HTRK were always ones to experiment with new sounds and cover new musical ground, but whereas you’d be used to soaring guitar loops and occasional squal in their previous two releases, ‘Give It Up’ rids itself of that. Instead, there’s a more defined, limber approach, like Portishead.

If you imagine a sea mammal just slowly drifting through the ocean, not really alive, not really dead, unmoving and caked in sorrow…that’s the picture you get from the sadness that resonates on this track.When Jonnine Standish says ‘This time…I’m gonna love you much better’, you can actually feel your emotional glands working overtime. Very beautiful, but more heartbreaking than repeat viewings of Schindlers List.

Album Review: Zeahorse-Pools

artworks-000058413166-or9bxs-t500x500If you’ve ever been one to go for music that is badass and huge and sounds like a New Zealand rugby player is bellowing in your ear, then you really can’t go past Zeahorse. They’re a band that crawl with disturbed beauty, prowling on the weak-minded and challenging the strong-willed, making music to beat the shit out of your preconceptions. Indeed, Zeahorse could probably change your entire world view. That’s how brutal and honest their music is-it will physically and emotionally change you. Personally, I started listening to Zeahorse a small, reclusive ginger, and emerged a glamourous, blonde hunk. Zeahorse has done wonders for my self-esteem!

For the most part of ‘Pools’, Zeahorse lay down thick slabs of dirty feedback. Remember that part in Breaking Bad where Walter rescues Jesse from the crack den? Yeah, Zeahorse are playing on that level of dirtiness. But that is definitely not a bad thing, in fact it works in their favour. It lets you indulge in the grime and scum you’ve always wanted, albeit in an audio format. Isn’t music fun?

Opener ‘Career’ is a slow, disturbing introduction to the warped world of Zeahorse, but the madness comes to fruition on album highlight ‘Pool’. The drawn out guitar works its way through your brain like mercury, slowly choking you, but at the same time giving a sense of relief you haven’t felt since you found the holy grail of a clean public toilet. But the greatest moment for that track is when things go all-out abomination, with banshee sounds erupting to fucking great effect, blasting the listener with a wave of orgasmic post-rock glory.

Remember, ‘Pool’ is only the second track on the record. There is still plenty more shit to go down. Take ‘Onion’ for example, a ADHD ridden junkie of a track, jumping all around with a manic look in its eyes, Charlie Manson on murder juice. ‘Onion’ switches from slow, menacing Tool-like blows of bass and whispers to anarchic screams of fury. And ‘Tugboat’ re-defines the term ‘with gusto’, taking that twattish phrase and inserting an adrenaline rush that would make Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction say ‘Woah, slow the fuck down’.

‘Pools’ unleashes the sort of hellish sounds one would expect from a youthful Birthday Party crossed with The Jesus Lizard, smothered in a thick coat of Baroness. The unruly, fuck you nature of their lyrics and vocals, reinforced with the dry, heaving bass lines that compress the tracks into iron-clad forces to be reckoned with, and the drone-rock guitar buzz that yawns in every track like the gates of hell opening…I mean, has this combination of things even been tried before? We’re talking about a bonafide original fucking band here that will not only fuck with your mind, but do it with an energy that you’ve never heard before. As far as this debut goes, Zeahorse can be filed next to great bands of the heavier side of things, right next to Cancer Bats and Boris. ‘Pools’ is fucking deadly.

‘Pools’ is already out on HUB the Label, through Inertia. You should buy it if you want to get that pesky EDM shit permanently out of your brain (that makes me a hypocrite, I know, get over it). Zeahorse will be playing their launch at Club 77 next Friday, which is the 1st of November. No Art and Narrow Lands, two bands that give the term ‘capable’ a new definition, will be playing support. Zeahorse are an absolutely mental live act, and once seen, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for their tunes. Tickets are $10, which means you have no reason to go, unless Cthulhu breaks loose.