Band who put the roll in rock ‘n’ roll

January 30, 2015 5:23 pm 17 comments Views:
Sleater-Kinney Band Photo

Sleater-Kinney Band Photo
Source: Supplied

THIS week’s album reviews from The Courier-Mail (ratings out of five stars):



No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)


IN THE car. On your device. At your desk. At a party, where it could (a) clear a room (b) make you a new gang of friends, possibly both. On your own, when you can dance as if possessed by a particularly unhinged rock demon — Sleater-Kinney’s return to the fray, No Cities To Love, is seriously great.

It’s rock with the roll, that feeling-giddy-on-the-edge effect that so many bands with big amps and big distortion pedals just don’t get. It’s a collision of the intricate, those intertwining guitar lines, with the raw and even brutal.

It might be the record that introduces you to the power of rock ’n’ roll for the first time. It could be the album that reminds you once again of the power of rock ’n’ roll, the one that drew you to albums like Patti Smith’s Horses, or Wire’s Pink Flag, or Gang of Four’s Entertainment, or Television’s Marquee Moon, or any of the other records which have done the trick before and since.

That tension, the push and pull, the thing that feels like its tightly coiled in the chest and right on the point of letting go.

Sure, comparisons are cheap, but if mention of any of the above records gets people interested in what is sure to be one of the albums of 2015, they are worth mentioning.

On first listen I was already convinced. By the time of the third listen, I realised this is not just a powerful album but one that plays like five killer singles, then five more great B-sides. Having those kind of songs — not necessarily hits, but ones that can appeal to rock fans across generations — can lift an album from being terrific, but loved only by the few, to wider acceptance.

No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney

I enjoyed Sleater-Kinney albums in their early run from 1995, but not in the way this one hits me. Certainly it seems like they have developed in their musical interests, not surprising after a long break, or deliberately chosen to avoid material that provokes comparisons with their earlier work.

Corin Tucker’s voice seems richer, and the way her guitar rubs up against guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss showers sparks all over the place.

Opener Price Tag hits lift-off 30 seconds in, as Tucker howls at consumerism (“I was lured by the devil’’), a topic that hasn’t had much airtime since punk’s angry exchanges of the ‘70s but remains current.

The lean, sinewy riff of Fangless takes me back to the best of Gang of Four, disco deconstructed into a shattering mirror ball, with a hook that nags like a broken tooth.

Surface Envy makes it single No. 3 from three, serrated guitars ripping and gnawing at the flesh, atonal in parts yet somehow perfect as Tucker urges: “We win, we lose, only together do we make the rules!’’

The title tune gets funky in a Sleater-Kinney fashion, then unleashes a refrain that implores you to dance and shout and sing.

And so it goes, barely pausing for breath, and at 34 minutes it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

You might be depressed, you might be anxious, you might live in horror of another day of working drudgery. But for the 34 glorious minutes of No Cities To Love, you won’t be. That’s what rock ’n’ roll is for, isn’t it?

Noel Mengel

Paper Planes trailer



Paper Planes (ABC Classics)


SINCE producing an enchanting soundtrack for the 2007 film Miss Potter, the tale of the English writer, artist and conservationist Beatrix Potter, Australian composer Nigel Westlake has composed many outstanding and award-winning film scores. The quality of his work should not surprise given the thorough classical music training and global experience with chamber music groups and fusion bands that has informed his work. Nor is it surprising the 15 tracks of Paper Planes
shine with his distinctive and instinctive sensitivity. There is the exuberance of the title track, the haunting quiet of Pavane with pianist Michael Kieran Harvey, Riley Lee’s shakuhachi in Take Your Positions and Hannah Coleman bringing subtle recorder tones to Do Emus Dream of Flying? Lior, Cameron Deyell and Lachlan Carrick reprise a special setting of Lior’s Learn to Live, and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s performance, conducted by the composer, brings the project’s charm to pulsating life. A delight for all ages, from first to last.

Patricia Kelly



The Pale Emperor (Cooking Vinyl)


LEST he suffer relevance deprivation in this desensitised digital age, enduring shock rocker Marilyn Manson has turned out another effort that’s as unique to him as it is glammed up by Bowie and T-Rex influences. Opening with the bluesy hangman’s swing of Killing Strangers — “We’re killing strangers so we don’t kill the ones who we love … We got guns/Mother——- better run” — he cranks up the power on Deep Six. Third Day of a Seven Day Binge grinds along as Manson turns to substance abuse to forget an ex-lover. “Lazarus got no dirt on me!” he proclaims on Mephistopheles of Los Angeles
. And the demonic theme continues with The Devil Beneath My Feet: “Don’t need no mother—— looking down on me.”
Cupid Carries a Gun features a funky beat not unlike Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus (which Manson himself once covered). Manson may be supplementing his status as the Alice Cooper of a jaded generation with guest-star gigs on Sons of Anarchy and Californication
but, musically, he’s still keeping his hand in.

John O’Brien



Happy Ending (Quixotic)


TILBROOK has worked, on and off, for 38 years with co-writer Chris Difford in Squeeze, scattering pearls along the way like Up the Junction and Tempted. Tilbrook sings, plays guitar and writes the melodies; Difford provides the lyrics. But this solo album shows that Tilbrook is quite the dab hand as a lyricist himself, delivering affectionate studies of characters like Ray (“Stuffs his hands in his pockets and lets out a sigh/He’s getting more brittle and he doesn’t know why’’) and the “flat-topped hard-nosed kid from Hawthorne who everybody always wanted to be’’ in Dennis, about Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. While there is an acoustic instrument base here, there’s a broad palette of sounds, from the Bollywood-with-tablas of Mud Island to ukuleles and harmonium. Tilbrook’s greatest gift has always been his mellifluous melodies and they are in abundance, from the Squeeze-like Everybody Sometimes to the wistful alcoholic melancholy of Hello There. Tilbrook is still on a creative high, with or without Squeeze.

Noel Mengel

A Horse Called Freedom (Firesongs for the soul series III) by Cheynne Murphy



A Horse Called Freedom (Independent)


AUSTRALIAN songwriter Murphy knows music can be a tough game: He threw in a corporate career to pursue his music and after signing an international publishing deal saw it all come crashing down. He found peace in the foothills of Byron Bay while teaching university students about the pitfalls of the biz. His rediscovered love of songwriting has resulted in this 10-track album, which reveals a mature folk-rock style with a tight band including his long-time guitarist Toby Andrews. Lyrically, the focus is on surviving to fight another day in a philosophical song cycle which celebrates the joys of a simpler life. Subtext: you better do this because you love it, because it can tear you apart. Burnished Gold is one of the best tracks with its imagery of an old coin uncovered in a canyon and the title tune takes inspiration from the warrior imagery of the Richard Harris film A Man Called Horse. Elsewhere some overused metaphors slip through, but songs like Good Feelings, a powerful folk-rock track with sighing harmonies and evocative guitar from Andrews, show how deep the fire still burns.

Noel Mengel

Stevie Wright – Evie Pts 1, 2 and 3



Harry Vanda and George Young: The Official Songbook (Alberts)


WHEN The Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind hit the airwaves in 1967 it drove fans around the world crazy, me included, and time has not dimmed its magic. The reputation of the band’s chief songwriters Harry Vanda and George Young (brother of Malcolm and Angus) was assured on that gem alone. But this 20-song compilation features only three Easybeats songs, Friday, The Music Goes Round My Head and the blazing Good Times
. Instead the set focuses on the duo’s post-‘60s career as a songwriting/ production team, from the shiny pop of Ted Mulry’s Falling in Love Again to John Paul Young hits such as Standing in the Rain
. The tunes from studio band Flash and the Pan stand up; the same can’t be said of disposable teen pop from the likes of William Shakespeare. The songs that really deserve the spotlight are from the two ‘70s albums the pair made with troubled Easybeats singer Stevie Wright. The raw urgency of the ‘60s hits is still present, especially the Evie trilogy, but any of the excellent Easybeats anthologies and Wright’s Hard Road albumshould still be the first stop for anyone discovering Vanda and Young.

Home Remedy by Columbus



Home Remedy (Habit Music Company)


FRESH from being named Triple J Unearthed feature artist of the week, Brisbane punk-rock trio Columbus have just dropped a new EP. The first track, Downsides of Being Honest, features guest vocals from John Floreani, singer of Novocastrian band Trophy Eyes, and is a full-throttle slice of melodic pop-punk that recalls Latterman and early Against Me. Toss and Turn is a more emotionally wrought number, but the gang back-up vocals give it a hard enough edge to prevent it from being too saccharine. Hospital follows a similar template and tells a familiar tale of lost love, while the title track that wraps up proceedings takes clear inspiration from bands such as Blink-182 and Brand New. On the basis of this EP, it’s easy to see why Columbus have been scoring support slots with the likes of US rockers The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hawthorne Heights and these four tracks mark the band as one to watch in the months ahead. Home Remedy is available now as a free download from Columbus’ Bandcamp page.

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