Gig Review: Queens of the Stone Age & Nine Inch Nails

Thursday 6th of March @ Sydney Entertainment Centre

BOOM! Lights go up, crowd goes wild. It’s the classic stadium rock show that we’ve all been waiting for. Or at least 90% of the room have been waiting for. The other 10% are probably unwilling participants, ungrateful significant others who couldn’t give less of a shit as to whether Trent Reznor is still a whiny bitch, or if Josh Homme dyes his hair red.

It’s been a while since I went to a massive venue like the Sydney Entertainment Centre. And I’m not quite sure whether it’s because my ears have become used to excruciatingly bad sound at venues, but the way that bass thunders in my chest and Trent Reznor’s vocals ring crystal clear is refreshing. However, that’s probably one of the highlights of Nine Inch Nails’ set. Overall, it doesn’t cast too much of a shadow. The effect of his performance is lopsided. When he plays a big hit, like the one-two punch of ‘March of the Pigs’ and ‘Piggy’, a scenario that caused my inner 14-year old to jizz profusely, the crowd goes mental, as they rightfully should have. But stuff like this is interspersed with random electronic shit that, frankly, sounds boring. There’s nothing all that exciting that happens on stage when Reznor is moaning about how much his life suck whilst surrounded by thousands of adoring fans and accompanied by a light show that would make a gathering of UFO abduction theorists lose their collective shit.

The haphazard hit-and-miss spectacle of Nine Inch Nails’ show makes for patient waiting, and only towards the end does it offer a reason for dedicated attention. Before that, I was pretty content to nod along, stand in line at the atrocious bar queue, and fantasise about how great it would be if I were in Metallica circa 1987. Even old mate Trent seems to get more excited when he hauls out the hits-a whole crowd screaming back ‘FIST FUCK!’ during ‘Wish’? Yes, please! And ‘The Hand That Feeds’ and ‘Head Like A Hole’ are gloriously alive performances, with Trent stalking the stage in classic form, a nihilistic barbarion. And the closer of ‘Hurt’ is a fantastic way to close, an adoring crowd of young and old singing back the original NIN song that most actually think is a Johnny Cash song. Beautiful.

But what about ‘Closer’, Ryan? Surely the man played his biggest hit? Right? Right? What the fuck, he didn’t play ‘Closer’? Yep, the song that everyone wanted to hear was peculiarly absent in the set list. Nine Inch Nails abandon Australia for five-ish years, and when they return Reznor pisses on the fans, playing a bunch of technically proficient but overall uninteresting new material in leu of a track people would kill to see live. It just seems like a bit of a kick in the balls, especially on top of a performance that was mediocre and tired for a band so renowned for their live performance and visceral attitude.

For Queens of the Stone Age, there was no such problem. A red carpet is laid out, Oscars-style, a precursor to the bombastically rich and luxurious performance all are about to witness. Josh Homme and co. come out and immediately blast into ‘Songs for the Deaf’s ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionare’. Instantly, and I mean instantly, the crowd is a roaring, soaring maelstrom of intensity and adoration. Queens own the stage like they were birthed onto one with their respective instruments in hand. The music is fast, repulsively so, but it whirs and connects with a viciousness that most bands couldn’t hope for.

The set continues with the same momentum. Every song is a bonafide hit from the Queens career, a caterwauling construction of awesome. For the first hour, the focus is on songs from the new album, ‘…Like Clockwork’, with tracks such as ‘My God Is The Sun’ and ‘Smooth Sailing’ causing a ruckus of biblical plague proportions. But of course, it’s the older hits that form the circle pits and incite the largest bellows of ecstasy. ‘No One Knows’ kicks off the first real mosh of the night, and ‘Little Sister’s cowbell is, at this point, a certified apthrodisiac.

A few more hits off the new record, with the title track and ‘If I Had A Tail’ appearing with over-annunciated warmth, and its time to kick back into hit-making territory. ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ and ‘3’s and 7’s’ team up together to form a double-kick more powerful than anything that Lars Ulrich could stimulate from a drum set. Then ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ pops up for asphincter-loosening extended version, literally causing my mouth to drop into unintended awe and ecstasy. I know I say my jaw drops a lot, but this time, it actually happened, and stayed that way for a good ten minutes.

Besides commanding the stage like Dr. Manhattan, and being the rock star God that most has thought perished with the gentrification of rock, The Queens also adopted a fine visual backdrop. ‘Make it Wit Chu’ was accompanied by a suitably horror-ful woman in suspended grey, whilst set closer ‘Go With The Flow’ echoed the balls-to-the-wall rock n roll with a flurry of Songs for the Deaf pitchforks.

Really, Queens of the Stone Age could not be faulted on a single level. They were professional, but oozed the kind of atmosphere that cried intimacy. They were rockstars minus the self-importance. And best off all, they knew how to play really, really great music. In every aspect of their performance, they tore apart mediocrity with the same primal passion usually reserved for cannibalism. Without a doubt, Queens of the Stone Age were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and in the context of stadium rock, they are the best.

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The Glees Dog xoxo Playlist

There’s a name in Sydney that most 18 year olds would know by now. Some think he’s a legend, a myth, a tale as old as time itself. Some say he fucked Julia Gillard. Others say that he once made shat out an entire packet of Skittles. There’s a rumour that says he shoved a pool queue into a turnip’s anus? Surely, none of this can be true. WELL IT FUCKING IS! Glees Dog exists, and he’s a good mate of mine. A man of exquisite music taste, and Ozzy Osbourne levels of alcohol intake, Glees Dog is a hedonistic reveller in all sin-worthy attributes. No one can resist the Glees Dog’s charm: women want him, and men want to be him. As such, on the man’s 18th birthday, a playlist must be compiled for him aka a whole bunch of well-known but energetic rock, and some dopamine underground shit. Be warned: this is the ultimate rock party playlist, and can only be played when one is on the verge of consuming massive amounts of alcohol.

1. Franz Ferdinand-Take Me Out

2. Red Hot Chilli Peppers-Give it Away

3. The Killers-Mr. Brightside

4. Screaming Females-I Don’t Mind It

5. The White Stripes-The Hardest Button to Button

6. Diarrhea Planet-Seperations

7. Japanther-Stolen Flowers

8. FIDLAR-Awkward

9. Eagulls-Moulting

10. Bad//Dreems-Hoping For

11. TV Colours-Beverly

12. ScotDrakula-Burner

13. Queens of the Stone Age-Go With the Flow

14. Violent Soho-My Generation

15. Parquet Courts-Stoned and Starving

16. Palms-Love

17. Palma Violets-Best of Friends

18. Cage the Elephant-Shake Me Down

19. Radiohead-Paranoid Android

20. Weezer-El Scorcho

Top 10 Albums of All Time-1 Year Celebration Fuck Yeah

This is the second of the three articles I’m writing to celebrate my shitty blog. It is a compilation of my Top 10 Favourite Albums of All Time. Honourable Mentions go to The Clash-The Clash, Blur-Parklife, Gorillaz-Demon Days, Pixies-Surfer Rosa, The Stooges-Raw Power, David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, The Scientists-Self Titled (The Pink Album), Dan Deacon-Spiderman of the Rings, Die!Die!Die!-Harmony, Sonic Youth-Rather Ripped/Daydream Nation, The Prodigy-Fat of the Land, Bloc Party-Silent Alarm, The Cramps-Pyschedelic Jungle/Song the Lord Taught Us,  The Strokes-Is This It, Crystal Castles-Crsystal Castles II, DJ Shadow-Endtroducing…, The Bronx-The Bronx I, Eddy Current Suppression Ring-Primary Colours, My Bloody Valentine-Loveless, The Soft Pack-The Soft Pack, The Hives-Black and White Album, Green Day-Dookie (fuck you man, this is my list), Mudhoney-Superfuzz Bigmuff, No Age-Nothing in Between, The Black Keys-Brothers, The Birthday Party-Prayers on Fire, Wavves-King of the Beach, Nirvana-In Utero, Grinderman-Grinderman II, The Dandy Warhols-Welcome to the Monkey House, The Cure-Three Imaginary Boys, Step-Panther-Step-Panther, and Shellac-1000 Hurts.

An album is an incredible thing. It can never be underrated as a singles fest. A record has the ability to transport an array of powerful emotion and context into a 30 minute-1 hour celebration or disintegration of life. A record is a powerful tool, works of art that work cohesively to take things from mere musical pieces to form a connection with the listener that they will never forget. These are my favourite albums that have had a prominent impact on my life.

10. The Avalanches-Since I Left You: This album marked the transition for me from punk to a broader range of music. After hearing the singles ‘Since I Left You’ and (of course) ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’, I became incredibly curious about this album. Accolades upon accolades have been heaped on this album, and the band is one of the few still shrouded in mystery. Through this album completely controlled by samples of others music, The Avalanches created a masterpiece. Some believe it is overrated, however I beg to differ. Where people see unnecessary praise, I see an album that ebbs and flows with a control and  daunting power that most bands could never even think of achieving, let alone express with such nonchalant charisma. ‘Since I Left You’ is a fucking masterpiece of textured beauty.

9. The Killers-Hot Fuss: The Killers first two albums are pure pop-rock genius. I would consider them the modern David Bowie’s. Sure, they might have fallen right off the fucking track with their recent ‘Battle Born’ album, but there is no denying that ‘Hot Fuss’ is a delicacy, capturing every corner of the market. From the earnest ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘Smile Like You Mean It’, to the sinister ‘On Top’. And who can forget ‘Somebody Told Me’, dance floor rock meets charisma. The Killers did it on ‘Hot Fuss’ before Franz Ferdinand even got the idea. Purely amazing, cohesive album.

8. The Prodigy-Invaders Must Die: ‘Invaders Must Die’ remains my favourite of Prodigy albums, simply because it doesn’t get bogged down at all. It doesn’t contain eight minute rave solos that start to drag on, but instead just constantly pushes out solid electronic music, track after track. Sure, ‘Stand Up’ slows down the album considerably, but it remains a fun track. For the rest, just look at tracks like ‘Invaders Must Die’, ‘Thunder’, ‘Warriors Dance’ and ‘Take Me To the Hospital’. It’s jam packed with deadly jams, and remains one of the my favourite Prodigy, and electronic albums.

7. Queens of the Stone Age-Songs for the Deaf: This is an album of absolutely insane proportions. Based on a ‘bored’ listener flicking through radio stations, the album forms. This simple but effective technique absolutely hammers home the themes of loneliness, desperation, and total weirdness in ‘Songs for the Deaf’. The desert aspect of desert-rock is no more clearly achieved on any album of the genre than on ‘Songs for the Deaf’. Everything about it is creepy but cool, and blown to total exageration. One of the most interesting and original albums to come out in recent history. And c’mon, it’s got Dave Grohl on drums, and features ‘No One Knows’. How could it not be a guaranteed amazing album?

6. Sonic Youth-Goo: Sonic Youth have produced so many amazing albums, of course one of them was bound to be my favourite. Although, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘EVOL’, ‘A Thousand Leaves’, ‘Dirty’ and ‘Confusion is Sex’ are all fantastic, brilliant albums, but ‘Goo’ takes the cake. Why? Because it is one of alternative rock’s greatest albums for a reason. Sonic Youth sound incredibly straight forward on the record, but just when you start to get comfortable, it’ll shock your system with a powerful experimental riff that blows your brains out. Take ‘Mildred Pierce’ for example, with it’s solid riff continuing until the nearing of 2 minutes, when Thurston Moore repeatedly screams of ‘Mildred Pierce! Mildred Pierce!’, implementing a cacophony of disturbia. This mainly stays true for the entire album, with good offset by the weird, and interpretive. For this reason, ‘Goo’ rises above the traditional dorward-thinking Sonic Youth fare, and transcends into intriguing and compelling listening. ‘Kool Thing’, ‘Dirty Boots’, and ‘My Friend Goo’ are also essential Sonic Youth tracks to most fans, and staples of the Sonic Youth catalogue, so having them all shining on the one album is pretty great.

5. Weezer-The Blue Album: Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ was a marked difference from mainstream rock music upon it’s release. While most teenagers were obsessed with heavy metal, or flannel grunge, Weezer released some nerd rock, heartfelt geek music. And it fucking gelled. The singles of ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, ‘My Name is Jonas’, and ‘Undone: The Sweater Song’ hold as true as they did then. But then again, so does the rest of the album. It’s an amazing record from start to finish, that’s pace and depth only rise as the record continues. Plain songs with surprising insight are ‘The Blue Album’s’ forte, and it’s executed most perfectly.

4. JEFF the Brotherhood-Heavy Days: The most recent of my favourite albums, it stands out because it’s probably the one I listen to most consistently. There will never be a point in time in which I skip a JEFF the Brotherhood song from this album on my iPod. Every track is utterly engaging, turning what could be completely average garage rock into an entertaining and smooth artwork. Song melts into the one another, however they are all unique enough to hold themselves as signals. Opener ‘Heavy Days’, with it’s droning, fly buzz intro, is completely different but equally amazing as the happy go lucky ‘Bone Jam’ or the coming of age anthem ‘Growing’. Overall, ‘Heavy Days’ excites as much as it shocks and pleases. And you can’t mention ‘Heavy Days’ without swooning in the same breath about the ultra heavy neo-pysch of ‘Mind Ride’ and ‘Heavy Damage’.

3. Fugazi-13 Songs: Introduced to me at the same point as Shellac, I’ve always preferred Fugazi’s material over Minor Threat. I find the experemintalism of Fugazi’s ’13 Songs’, and they’re willingness to get a message across in a subtler, more educative form is a far more powerful tool than Ian MacKaye’s previous attempt of screaming. ’13 Songs’ is more than an average punk record, in that it’s more intelligent and textured than anything else put out. If the Ramones, the Dead Boys and Black Flag all hung out, it might create something like ’13 Songs’. Sludgy yet light, angry yet thoughtful, harsh yet understanding, the juxtapositions on ’13 Songs’ are endless, and songs like ‘Margin Walker’, ‘Bulldog Front’ and the stunning ‘Waiting Room’ ensure it’s classic status.

2. Dinosaur Jr.-Green Mind: One of the first alternative albums I bought, along with Tool’s ‘10,000 Days’, The Dandy Warhols’ ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ and Alice in Chains’ ‘Face Lift’. Of all those, ‘Green Mind’ has been the most enduring because of the powerful connection J Mascis manages to confer with the listener. Although it’s not considered a ‘classic’ Dinosaur Jr. album, due to Lou Barlow’s absence and Murph’s limited contributions, J Mascis still manages to create a deep, thriving atmosphere on the album that really pushes limitations. Maybe it’s because it was my introduction to Dinosaur Jr., but I’ve always favoured ‘Green Mind’. But it’s probably due to the killer tracks on the album that just build and build towards a heartbreaking crescendo of ‘Thumb’ and ‘Green Mind’. Not that the album acts as ladder to the final tracks, far from it. ‘The Wagon’, ‘Puke + Cry’, and ‘How’d You Pin That One on Me’ are all essential Dinosaur Jr. tracks that everyone, including myself, loves intensely. Like the album artwork, a photo of a young girl smoking, ‘Green Mind’ is a powerful, drastic record that pays off with it’s honesty, toeing the line with cliche, but containing enough genuine awesomeness to solidify it’s place as one of the greatest records of all time.

1. The Ramones-The Ramones: If you don’t like this album, then we cannot be friends. There is literally nothing wrong with it, as it is a flawless record. This was the record that set the cornerstone of punk, and adapted a pedestal for people to admire. Definitive buzz saw guitars, simplistic chord structures, and some of the most no-brainer lyrics ever written (‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue/Now I Want Have Something to Do’) all combine to make a landmark record. The Ramones crafted addictive punk trash that is invaluable to both the history of music and music itself. It is completely revolutionary, and faultlessly executed. Most remember the debut as the album which had ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. You know it…’Hey Ho! Let’s go! It was in a Stephen King novel, and it’s only one of the most fire-up worthy songs in existence. However, it also features gems like ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’, ‘Havana Affair’, ‘Beat on the Brat’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’, ‘Judy is a Punk’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Go Down to the Basement’. In fact, every song on the album is worthy of timeless distinction. Combining a hard, fast, loose musical principle with razor-sharp charm and slacker wit, The Ramones made a masterpiece that is my, and I’m sure countless others, favourite album of all time.

Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age-…Like Clockwork

MORE LIKE QUEENS OF THE BONER AGE!!! Because they give me a boner. Because they are so good. Excellent, in fact. Okay, I should go back a bit. QOTSA have just released a stellar new album, an album stewing in hibernation for the past 6 years, since the previous pyscho-drama of 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’. The anticipation that has been building in the collective rock community for ‘…Like Clockwork’ has been more twisted than a pigs dick. All the news of the guest stars, from Foo Fighter and Nirvana skinsman Dave Grohl to the Nine Inch Nail and human muscle Trent Reznor, from pipsqueak Scissor Sister Jake Shear to Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. Even Sir Elton John wanted some of that sweet, syrupy Queen action (Insert your own joke about Elton and Queens here). As the album drew closer to release, all the Homme fans in the house started to panic. Will it be a catastrafuck? Will all the guest stars crowd the record and turn it into a mess of mish mashed sounds? Will QOTSA go dubstep?! Holy fuck, they didn’t chuck a Muse did they!?. Luckily, no, they’re not that fucked up (except for Nick Oliveri) and, for the most part, every fans nightmares have been quenched, and the record remains a tauntingly morbid masterpiece.

Before ‘…Like Clockwork’s release, Josh Homme, lead singer/guitarist and my ginger ninja compatriot, described the album as ‘documenting the journey of moving forward, you know. It was a tough time and I thought, ‘I can run away from this, or I can run into it.’ Indeed, the album does present that sort of view. Howling maelstrom’s of horrifying sound swell and capsize, and there is a sense of moving down a never-ending highway, the conscious notion that pushing forward is the only option. Frenzied, buffed riffs tear through and shred undeniably, melancholy juxtaposing hope, torpedoing drums splinter a chaos, and, overall, the classic Queens of the Stone Age sound fills the entire record.

After that overtly pompous intro to the album, let’s get stuck into the great aspects of ‘…Like Clockwork’. It revels in that classic mysterious, doom vibe that has always separated Queens of the Stone Age from your average band. Explosions of sound have always worked in their favour, as well as cutting edge bass lines that  dominate the listener, and force you into a cowering fetal position, and all these elements are present. ‘My God is the Sun’, probably the first taste of the album for many fans, as the band premiered the song at Lollapalooza Brazil earlier this year, is an infuriatingly dense track, filled to the brim with confident sound. It pounds ahead with primal instinct, thumping with undaunted and god-like fever. Homme’s vocals quail, and the guitar hook manages to perpetrate every corner of the brain. However, it is definitely the drums that create that tidal aspect to the track, and no wonder, Grohl is behind the kit. It is a shockingly awesome display of power, as is the clunky ‘Smooth Sailing’. Homme’s trailing, seductive voice calls the listener like a siren before bashing them with harsh, snarled disposition. It’s a ghastly incantation of slime and spatter, a whole wave of personalities present on the song, and even the classic bouncy harmonica meets-guitar  sound solo making an appearance (A lot of fans might remember something similar on ‘3’s and 7’s’ or ‘Skin on Skin’, but this is much more intimidating and gruesome). The bouncin’, bopping rhythm makes me picture this: imagine John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, taking over the Splash Mountain ride at Disney Land, and then replace that ‘Skip-de-de-do-da’ with ‘Smooth Sailing’. Yeah, it’s fucked up, but that’s QOTSA for ya. Another stand out bomber is the slipping and sliding ‘If I Had A Tail’. The spectre-railing-against-your-window effect that chorus has is down right creepy, and there’s not many songs out there that can lay claim to a reaction like that. When Homme laments/accuses ‘IF I HAD A TAIL/ I’D OWN THE NIGHT/ IF I HAD A TAIL/ TO SWAT THE FLIES’ you can practically feel the buzzing drone of the guitar and bass combo needling away at your skin, breathing hotly on your neck.

Now all this is truly impressive stuff, and it’s mind-bogglingly good, but sometimes it’s hard not to wonder ‘Have I heard this before? On another QOTSA record?’. Sure, it stays diverse enough to be different, but it’s not a substantial difference to say, ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ or ‘Songs for the Deaf’. That’s not the only thing on the  that puts a quizzical half-frown on my ugly mug. Some songs seem too big to fit their own shoes. Sure, Queens of the Stone Age have always had a penchant for the melodramatic, in fact, it would be strange to hear their music not pushed to the limit, railing against oblivion, but at points, such as moments in ‘Fairweather Friends’ and ‘I Appear Missing’,  and indeed the entirety of the maelstrom of ‘Kalopsia’, it appears as though the dusty part of desert rock is gone. Then there’s the tragedy of title track ‘…Like Clockwork’, which is a completely mistaken way to end such a jam packed album. Instead of going full throttle, QOTSA loosen their grip and let victory slip off their dicks like the broken condom that led to the baby that led to your 9-to-5 clock examining job and the mortgage that has you by the balls, all for a house that looks like something a Star Wars Storm Trooper threw up.

Despite all this, it’s classic Queens of the Stone Age on display here. Instead of going all out alien, they’ve brought back what they know best: desert rock. They’ve proved that they can bust out an earth-quaking jam with the best of them, that their musicianship is nigh-perfect, and that their lyrical prowess for nihilsm and woe is next to none. This is an amazing record, and while not one of their best (I mean, who could top the genius of ‘Songs for the Deaf’?), it basks in an apocalyptic desert light, riding into the sunset on a skeleton horse, bound for fuck knows what. Nah, Queens of the Stone Age more or less fucking nailed it on this one.

June Playlist

So, Summer has officially disbanded, and left us with Winter. In case you didn’t get the memo, that sucks. And don’t start with the ‘But I love to ski!’ bullshit. You’re only lying to yourself. When you’re standing neck deep in a snow field with a broken ankle and a mouth full of yellow snow, only then will you admit to yourself that maybe you should have stayed inside and listened to Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’. Or alternatively, Weezer 2.0, aka Surfer Blood, as they show off on a new album that could be Pinkerton if Frank Black was on vocals. To combat the shitty weather, I’ve provided a shitload of slimy new stuff, including brand new Fuck Buttons (HOLY SHIT YAY!), Crocodiles (HOLY SHIT YAY!) and Cloud Control (HOLY SHIT YAY!). There’s also the old school DJ Shadow and Mission of Burma because what’s a good playlist without those two. And there is a special treat at the end of the list for those that like fucked up band names. Enjoy it suckas!

1. Queens of the Stone Age-Smooth Sailing

2. DJ Shadow-The Numbers Song

3. Fuck Buttons-The Red Wing (Edit)

4. Crocodiles-Cockroach

5. Cloud Control-Dojo Rising

6. Sic Alps-She’s On Top

7. !!!-Slyd

8. The Stabs-The City (sounds like an Aussie version of Shellac, which is seriously ballin’)

9. Mission of Burma-That’s When I Reach for My Revolver

10. Unnatural Axe-Summertime

11. Panther Ray-Green Lake

12. Palms-This Last Year

13. Radical Dads-Shackleton

14. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding-Fakin’ NYC (free download)

15. Savages-She Will

16. Caveman-In the City

17. Surfer Blood- Demon Dance

18. Fang Island-Asunder

19. Milk Music-Cruising With God

20. Gay Witch Abortion-Girl Pop Soda

Video: Queens of the Stone Age-I Appear Missing

Morbid, depressing, melodramatic, emphasised are the words that come to mind for Queen’s of the Stone Age’s first video clip/second single from their upcoming album ‘…Like Clockwork’. Featuring zombiefied people throwing themselves off cliffs, bloody, gory eyeholes peeking at the viewer, and a raven trying to eat a guy, this isn’t a video for the easily disturbed. As for the music, it’s a return to the desert rock off ‘Songs for the Deaf’, a whispering, toxic calamity of Western tragedy.