Archive for February, 2008

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Oh Ma, the sea is rising

February 20, 2008

Machine Translations – basically the bedroom project of J Walker – is one of my favourite Australian acts of recent years. They’ve tended to provide both quirky and endearing live shows and subtle and well-produced albums. There’s little more you can ask of a band.

Fortunately, 2007 saw the release of a new album, the first in a number of years. Seven Seven was, sadly, a bit of a disappointment at first purchase. At only ten tracks it felt a little insubstantial – and those tracks were based on simple, folky melodies. Without the oddball experimentalism of Happy or Venus Traps Fly, it seemed like Walker had merely given us a couple of cast-offs from another, better album.

But more fool me. Because underneath these songs lies something more. The melodies and arrangements are less straightforward than they appear. And the lyrics start to take on new meaning and implications.

Perhaps these tracks won’t grab you instantly. Please persist, because there will be something good waiting for you.

Machine Translations – “Oh Ma, The Sea Is Rising”

Machine Translations – “Laboratory”

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Love, love is the answer

February 19, 2008

On my travels through the US of A, I ended up in the pretty college town of Athens, GA – home to REM, the B-52s, Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, Now It’s Overhead etc etc. But my big musical discovery there wasn’t even from Athens.

In fact, the Poison Control Center are from Ames, Iowa. But they did rock the hell out of Athens on the night I saw them support Casper and the Cookies in a venue where you would have struggled to swing the proverbial cat. My enduring memory is of them jumping maniacally around the stage, bashing their instruments and pulling random girls out of the audience to shout the refrain to “Magic Circle Symphony”.

If you don’t know it (and why should you?) it goes:

Love, love is the answer
Until you get cancer
Then you’re lying, dying, dead

Good times for all. The CD version isn’t quite the same experience, but it’s a demented and catchy slice of spazzed-out rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll know what I mean when you click the link below.

The Poison Control Center – “Magic Circle Symphony”

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Covers Day

February 11, 2008
Deer Tick

Thank heavens for random shuffle on the old ipod, or I there are some songs I would never discover. I downloaded a bunch of music by Deer Tick (youngster John McCauley and friends) but I hadn’t really made it past their cover of Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” with its inspired trick-ending. Last night, their cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” came on and it pulled me out of my book with a start.

On the surface, Deer Tick are “just another indie band” – at least that would seem to be the assessment of the folks over at Bitchfork. Lots of jangly guitars, barely-on-key vocals and lower-than-lo-fi production. But there’s something in McCauley’s voice, a kind of desperation, that makes me think they deserve some attention.

But then, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing anyway.

Deer Tick – “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” (Talking Heads cover)

Deer Tick – “Beautiful Girls” (Sean Kingston cover)

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Law and order

February 8, 2008

Did I mention I went to see The Police’s reunion tour this year? Well, I did. And it was brilliant. Sting is still in fine voice and they all jumped around the stage (not too much, though, they have hips to look after). It was everything you’d hope for.

Except, of course, for the oddity of Fergie as the support act. I mean…Fergie? Speaking to some of my old co-workers today, they couldn’t see the problem. But Goodnight Believer readers (both of you) are a more discerning class.

So, in honour of people who can tell the difference between artists that would sound appropriate an hour before The Police take the stage and those that don’t, I present a couple of recent tracks that sound a lot like The Police. In a good way.

First up – New Orleans art-popsters Mute Math. Paul Meany always sounds like he has taken all his vocal cues directly from Sting. And even if the music is a lot more lush and electronic than The Police – a band that usually stuck to a bare-bones production style – the tricky-dick rhythms are there too.

Secondly – Grand National from the UK, who actually started out life as a Police cover band. They listen to a lot of The Specials too, so they’re kind of an 80s Brit reggae-pop revival band. Their 2007 album is probably less Police-y than the first, but I’m sure you can hear the influences still.

But speaking of Fergie – did you know that the Black Eyed Peas used to be just called The Peas? That was until they met Chuck Norris.

Mute Math – “Noticed”

Grand National – “Weird Ideas At Work”

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Stoned and dethroned

February 1, 2008

Goodnight Believer is back from holidays and full of new musical delights to share with y’all (I went to the Deep South, see). But right now, it’s time to visit some standouts from last year that for one reason or another didn’t make it onto the bonanza year end list.

Japan’s Boris got a lot of attention with their stoner metal opus Pink back in 2006 and I was pretty impressed with a few tracks, but not the whole package. Much more to my taste was last year’s collaboration with Michio Kurihara, Rainbow. It’s a mellower affair – more along the lines of early 70s psychedelia than full-on Sabbath bludgeoning.

One of the most subtle and effective tracks is the 7 minute opus “You Laughed Like A Water Mark”. I have no idea what the title means and the lyrics are all in Japanese. But it’s a melancholy track – perfect for lazy, unemployed mornings.

Boris and Michio Kurihara – “You Laughed Like A Water Mark”