Archive for August, 2008

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He’s a bad mother…(shut yo mouth)

August 12, 2008

For most people of my generation, Isaac Hayes will always be The Chef. But to me, he’s so much more: the 60s Stax super-producer, the 70s soul icon. How can you go past his classic albums like Hot Buttered Soul and Black Moses? Well, you can’t.

So in tribute to the great man, who passed away far too early this week, I’d like to share with you my favourite aspect of Isaac Hayes: his Burt Bacharach covers.

Isaac Hayes was all about the drama – the tension of a taut bassline, the sweeping strings.  Hal David’s ludicrous lyrics and Bacharach’s overblown melodies are perfect for a rework in the Hayes style.  There’s the oft-sampled and super-long “Walk On By”, but there’s also the flamboyant “(They Long To Be) Close To You”, which sounds about as unlike The Carpenters as it’s possible to do.

R.I.P.

Isaac Hayes – “Walk On By”

Isaac Hayes – “(They Long To Be) Close To You”

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Too close to the fire

August 11, 2008


I’m not sure what it is about Sweden, but their music scene doesn’t seem to have too much in the middle ground.  Either it’s more-twee-than-twee pop like Jens Lekman or The Radio Dept. or it’s face-melting metal like Opeth or In Flames.  (OK…I realise this is a gross generalisation and where would you put a stoner-rock band like Dungen in there?)

I like both ends of spectrum for completely different reasons.  And the thing with both of them?  You have to suspend your sense of the ridiculous for a moment.  Twee pop can be so unbelievably wussy and precious that you wonder what they’d do if something really bad happened if they get that upset about a papercut.  Metal can make you wonder how someone can be that into dragons and not have something clinically wrong.

Opeth are easily one of the most ridiculous metal bands ever, sitting as they do at the progressive end – that “progressive” as in “progressive rock” like Yes or Genesis.  They bludgeon you with a double-kicked riff for thirty seconds and then rip into a flamboyant neo-classical acoustic guitar bit with some absurdly portentous lyric over the top.  They’re also easily one of the most awesome bands in the world.   You just have to pay attention to their proficiency in melding together multiple genres, their control of dynamics and emotion, and their sheer power and energy.

The new album Watershed is pretty much what you’d expect after the majestic Ghost Reveries and all those other folky metal albums they’ve done in the last decade.  It’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, hard rock or otherwise.

You couldn’t ask for a better summary than “The Lotus Eater”, which involves driving death metal, a flute line and some wicked Rick Wakemanesque keyboards.

Oh, just listen to the damn thing…

Opeth – “The Lotus Eater”

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Soundtrack of our lives

August 9, 2008

Supporting Sigur Rós the other week was Sydney band Pivot.  As the first ever Australian signing to legendary electronica label Warp, they’re about to get a whole lot bigger, which excites me no end.

I first heard them late at night on JJJ’s Australian music show “Home and Hosed” three years ago and they delighted me.  The cut up samples, the jazzy/disjointed guitars and the heavy beats were exciting.  The first album Make Me Love You was made of stuff like that.

In some ways, they should be easily dismissable as “The Australian Tortoise” or something equally reductive.  They’re not at all, even if they use a lot of similar sonic elements to a certain Chicago instrumental band.  Pivot are brilliant at creating textures and melodies and rhythms that stay in your head long after the CD has stopped spinning.

The band line-up is a little different and they’re apparently trying to make something more challenging with the new album O Soundtrack My Heart.  Live, they were definitely challenging, sending out pulses of bass and noise that shook the wooden floor and made your insides quiver.  They still retained the funky grooves and equally bizarre and entrancing electronic sounds from the Pivot of old, though, and that was great to hear.

To my ears, they don’t sound that different.  But I hope that a lot more people come to love them this time around.

Pivot – “Sweet Memory”

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With horns and guns

August 5, 2008

Even more than I expected, I was thrilled by the experience of seeing Sigur Rós play at Festival Hall on Friday night.  For a band I’d always considered a little bit aloof and otherworldly, they were a lot of fun.  They had a brass band in white suits.  They got us to clap along to “Gobbledigook”.  They fired paper out over the audience.  They made a joyful noise that transcended mere music.

I should have known.  Whether they were always like this, I can’t say, but their latest (unpronounceable) album is easily their most light and fun-loving album.  It’s certainly a world away from the chilly expanses of 2002’s ( ).

On Friday, when they launched into the deliciously pop “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”, my brother turned to me and said half-shocked “It’s Coldplay!”  It’s not at all, but I knew what he meant.  There’s something so anthemic and crowd-pleasing about Sigur Rós’ newer songs that makes you half wonder if they might end up as the biggest band in the world.

To the thousands of people packed in the room the other night, they already were.

Sigur Rós – “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”

Sigur Rós – “Við spilum endalaust”