Thursday, 12 September 2013

Return To Big Sound

BIGSOUND Logo
 
I am not a part of the music industry in any way, shape or form. And while, over the years, I have definitely toyed with the idea of following my music-related dreams, which have included, but are in no way limited to the following - egotistical singer, drug-addled guitarist, disrespected roadie, snooty music journalist, and high paid music producer, in typical "me style"these interests were not pursued. That being said, my passion for everything remotely associated with music, in particular live music, has only grown over the years....  One might say I reside on the extreme side of the music fandom fence. Seeing a band utterly kill and/or destroy live is absolutely one of my very favourite things on this planet.

There are many reasons I love live gigs and festivals, but positioned firmly at the very top of the pile, the aspect I love most, is the whole "discovery" aspect that goes along with the scene. Very few things get me wetter than randomly stumbling across a band I had no idea existed, only to be blown away to the point where I am, from that moment forward, a devoted, borderline-obsessed fan.
I often repeat to friends, ad nauseam, the story of how, one muggy afternoon many years ago, at some long forgotten outdoor festival, I came across a tent and stopped in for what I had planned to only be a brief gander at the noisy unknowns playing within. Positioned on that small stage were three humble Poms putting on a particularly entertaining, energetic show, especially for a band stuck in a lousy mid-afternoon slot in a crap tent positioned at the far corner of the festival grounds....

I was won over immediately, and from that point on,  I told myself to pay very close attention to these guys in the future. The band I saw that day was a pre-lightshow, pre-theatric, pre-crap version of Muse. And while I could give two shits about the Muse of today, the feeling I had upon first seeing these guys what now feels like a lifetime ago is the very feeling I still chase at any gig/festival I am lucky enough to attend....

...And therein lies the main and most important reason for my love of Big Sound, the annual festival/showcase that pretty much plays out like a little brother version of Austin’s  SXSW Festival -  That awesome sense of discovery.
 
 
 
Last year was my very first Big Sound.... hey, better late than never, right?

I had heard glowing reports from many of my like-minded, live-music-loving friends and acquaintances over the years, but, as is the norm when it comes to me, I didn’t actually get around to the whole “attending” part for a long, long time
Anyway, yada yada yada, eventually September 2012 rolled around, and, after much delay, I finally built up the motivation to make my way right into the belly of the two day musical beast -  – the belly in this case being the always welcoming, clean and family friendly Fortitude Valley. It turned out to be a fun, lively and inspiring experience. .. but it wasn't perfect.  Two nights at Big Sound, followed by two desperately hung over days at work was a dumb mistake I would not be making again.

This year, I would not be rushing home midway through the last set of the last band of the night, or worse, passing up the after parties in a desperate attempt to make the last train home. Hell no! This year, I would be attending Big Sound as it was meant to be attended goddamn it - with complete disregard for time or day.... If I want to be drunk and deranged at Alhambra Lounge at 3 am on a Thursday morning, then so fucking be it!

So, flashing forward a year to Wednesday afternoon, I stumbled out of what was another typically crap-tastic workday, the difference this time being that I was actually looking forward to the weekdays ahead, because this week I would not be dragged down by the usual "hump day blues".... I would not to be overcome with a severe case of the "Thursday dreads".... And I certainly wasn't going to be I paralyzed by the horrific thought of having to survive two more days (hung over) in my air conditioned nightmare of an office. No way, hosay! My work week was over. Done. Dusted. Finito. ...

Over a few pre-Big Sound drinks at home, while looking over this year's program, I made attempts to remember not only who I had seen the Wednesday night of the previous year, but what venues I had seen them in. A quick search through last year's notes gave me the answers to the venues question, but oddly, not the bands I had seen question....
 
 
Now, judging from the above, I was on a mission to cover as much ground in as little time as possible. This year, my goal was to stick around a little longer during sets, (and in the process likely cover less ground).
So, with that, here’s what night one of the two night live music component of the festival entailed for me, via admittedly hazy recollections and half finished, crudely worded notes from my iphone’s notepad (Bread Lane....WTF?)...


 
08:00pm
Fabian, Kelly and myself,  probably the most pathetically indecisive group in existence, take around about half an hour to decide where we are going to start.
During this extending "brainstorming" session, I catch sight of a Musician Friend from Melbourne, who I approach and say hi to. Despite the fact that I haven't seen the bastard in a year, he seems more interested in chasing Melbourne tail, so I make my way back to my table to rejoin the group.
After an extended period, we decide it's best to move over and catch Billy Bragg at Baker Lane. Upon getting there, we are (perhaps not surprisingly) met with the line up from hell and a 15 minute wait to get in.
Thankfully, this time flies by and, upon getting in, we move ourselves into a position where we have an awesome view... of Billy's arm, and occasionally the top of his head. It matters not, though, because the songs are loud and clear, and they're amazing. One of the great things about events like Big Sound is that the crowd is actually there to watch the music, and the Billy Bragg crowd in particular, hang off every line, every note. Yes, even those of us who can only see his goddamn arm...
 
09:20 pm
Post-Bragg, we actually make a decision and decide to head down the road a little to Electric Playground to catch the rest of Dune Rats set.
Dune Rats are a band I have seen multiple times before, so it doesn't really bother me upon getting in that the place is so extremely packed that any chance of seeing anything at all, even after standing on a chair, is an impossible dream. So instead, I grab a beer, stare at the ceiling and listen to what sounds like another great Dune Rats set. Sometimes being a little vertically challenged can be a real fucking bummer...
 
10:00 pm
Somewhat reluctantly, we decide to head over to Rics to catch Bad//Dreems. I say reluctantly not because of the venue OR the band, but because of how goddamn packed the front bar/stage area can get during Big Sound sets.
Luckily, in a Ben//Kelly//Fabian first, we actually time our arrival perfectly. The front bar is empty, and we are able to grab some awesomely positioned seats, left of stage. Of course, when the band get going, the last thing I want to do is sit. 
Kelly was nice enough to fill me in on the awesomeness of this Adelaide band well before Big Sound, so I was anticipating seeing these guys, and they were, of course, great.
Yes, RICS was again insanely packed to the point that being inappropriately rubbed up against from all angles was damn near unavoidable, and yes I did emerge half an hour later with the sweat of about 50 strangers covering every part of me, but hell, I  would have been disappointed if my first time seeing Bad//Dreems ended any other way. Raaawwwk!



10:50 pm
We decide to head back to Electric Playground to catch Bleeding Knees Club. This plays out very much the same way as the Dune Rats experience from earlier in the evening (in other words, I see NOTHING).

While taking a slash-break, I have one of the many random conversations of the night with a complete stranger about, among other things, our shared artistic aspirations, being at the age we are without having achieved our goals (I don't mention the fact that I'm likely 10 years older and thus, twice as fucking bummed out about my lack of advancement) and last but not least, death. Yes - all very uplifting stuff.
I emerge from the bathroom to witness probably the highlight of the night - frequent Live Gig attendee /  regular guest tambourine player Shamus, crowd surfing from the stage to the bar, with a helping hand from Fabian.
Another Canadian Club later, I'm outta there, on my way to Alhambra for the I Oh You after party.
 
11:50 pm

In my Canadian Club-induced haze, I appear to have mistakenly turned up waaay too early for the after party. This turns out to be for the best, though,  because Gay Paris are on, and they're the very definition of fun, high energy awesomeness.They put on such an great show, in fact, that I forget for a brief moment that I'm there for the after party at all...

Looking around the packed room, I also briefly forget it's a Wednesday night. Thank Christ I had the good sense to take the rest of the week off ... Thursday will not be pretty, work or no work.

Eventually, Philadelphia Grand Jury kick off the after party with a set that I see a little bit of, when not in line at the bar or struggling through the attractive crowd in a desperate dash for the bathroom. Midway through the set , my body starts telling me it might be time to call it a night. My response - More Canadian Club!

This works... for a while. Around about 2:30 am (I think), or more precisely around about the midway point of Jeremy Neal's great set, I decide to chuck it in for the evening/morning. There is, after all, a whole other night to go. So with that, I head on home for some much need rest, before doing it all over again on Thursday night.



*** I should probably mention that the original plan was to have a "To be continued..." at this point, with another post focusing on the Thursday night to follow soon after. However, my experiences on Thursday are vague at best, and any report on the events of that evening would likely only be pieced together, with minimal accuracy, from photos and (more) unintelligible notes on my phone, along with the equally foggy recollections from the friends I was out with... so I'll skip that entry all together and simply say it must have been a great end to a great festival.



Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going for a quick lie down....



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

2013 Is STILL a Music Nerd's Wet Dream

How is it July (almost August) already?
 
It feels as though it has only been 2013 for a grand total of 3 weeks. Probably the most glaringly obvious indication that 7 months have well and truly passed by are the sheer amount of new goddamn albums that have accumulated in my CD rack/on my iphone this year.

As per my earlier rant, January through March offered more great albums then some years could manage within an entire 12 month period. And if, like me, you thought the Gods of Music Awesomeness somehow blew their wads way too early this year, then you’d be  luckily mistaken, because the last few months have offered enough diverse, interesting,  down right bodacious music to keep even the shortest of attention spans satisfied.

Take a look for yourself below, and if you still disagree, then it's either because you don’t share my personal tastes (totally fair, btw) or that you’re still a believer in that stale old, long expired argument that "music nowadays sucks" and "they don’t make’em like they used to" (total bullshit, btw). If the latter applies to you, then I’m sure you will take comfort in the knowledge that Jon Bon Jovi and The Angels will be gyrating their creaky old carcasses on a stage near you, very soon.
 
Anyways, back to the here and now. Because it's 2013 bi-atches, and there is so much out there to give you and your loved ones the aural pleasure you so desperately need. 

Take a gander, thank me later....
 

The Flaming Lips - The Terror


I’ve always been an admirer of Wayne Coyne and Co, but admiration turned to love after watching Bradley Beesley’s excellent 2005 documentary The Fearless Freaks. Since then, I’ve been 100% dedicated to the Lips, even through excursions into 24 hour long songs, the recreation of Pink Floyd albums and collaborations with Ke$ha.

Their first album proper since Embryonic is another left turn that I knew I’d love even before giving it a single listen, thanks to the one-and-a-half star Rolling Stone review (a sure sign of greatness if there ever was one).
 
The Terror (if the title didn’t already clue you in) is one the darkest, most fucked up things they've produced. It's not an easy listen, and it's certainly not something you'd put on to brighten your day, improve your mood or motivate yourself to get out there and embrace all that is right with the world. This is gloomy, intense, nasty, late-night-everything-is-fucked - music. Fun for the whole family, really.

 
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito


The fourth Yeah Yeah Yeahs album has received a somewhat mixed response from fans and those horrible hell-spawns sometimes also referred to as music critics, and while it certainly ain't Fever to Tell, it’s the loosest and most fun they’ve been since that record.

The album is all over the place stylistically (James Murphy producing a song featuring Dr. Octagon was already a dead giveaway this would more than likely be the case), but overall, at least for me, it totally works. I even like the much-despised Album Artwork.
 
Last, but certainly not least, I am not at all opposed to a blonde Karen O. Not in the slightest.



Tyler the Creator - Wolf


Tyler's third album is an easier pill to swallow than either Bastard or Goblin. It's not as relentlessly evil, for one (not that there’s anything wrong with relentlessly evil). Beyond that, there’s quite a lot of diversity contained within Wolf’s 70+ minutes.

As with any artist worth his salt who dares to grow, mature and move their sound into different places, there's going to be the usual whinging haters who are defiantly opposed to anything resembling a change in style or direction. But who cares about those sad fucks? For those of us a little more open to progression, this is a great step forward, and a promising sign that Tyler's best work is still in front of him.



Iggy and the Stooges - Ready To Die


Iggy and his band of Stooges are responsible for three of the best albums of the late 60's / early 70's. Actually, fuck that - three of the best albums ever, period!
 
When they reformed in 2003, the passion, energy and danger were all still very much intact and, after a few years of solid touring, a new, Steve Albini produced album was eventually announced. To say I was stoked would be kind of an understatement....

And then The Weirdness was released....

Underwhelming does not even begin to cover it.
 
I tried to see the positives, but it was hard. Were my expectations too high? Perhaps, but it still didn't soften the blow. A flawless track record had been destroyed in one foul swoop...

A couple of years later, shit went from bad to worse when, just as 2009 was kicking off, News filtered through that the brilliant Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton had passed away. And with that beyond-sucky news, it appeared that the Stooges story had come to it's bummer of an conclusion...

...But then, the unthinkable happened. Scrap that, it's closer to an all out fucking miracle, really. James Williamson, the legendary  guitarist who stepped in and gave the third Stooges album, Raw Power it's... um... Raw Power, rejoined the fold, decades after leaving the music industry well and truly behind. With that, touring continued, and, inevitably, another album was announced.

My initial reaction to this news was not positive...

 I mean, one average late-career album spoiling a perfect run was bad enough... but two? What if this continued to the point where there were eventually more below-par Stooges albums than great ones? What then?

In late April, with my optimism pretty much non-existent, I bit the bullet and gave Ready to Die a listen.... And much to my surprise, it was not a crushing disappointment. Far from it in fact.
 
The energy, excitement and power were back, and, when Iggy was not crooning about boobies (which happens more than you’d think) he was getting...well, all  heartfelt and shit. Yes, heartfelt! Something you probably didn’t expect or necessarily want from a Stooges album, but something this album offers on more than a couple of occasions.  Even better – it works.

Ready to Die is a winner, not only because it doesn't tarnish their reputation, but because it also shows them moving into new territory and doing so with the passion and power of their younger, more drug-addled selves. Holla!



Deerhunter – Monomania


Any Bradford Cox release is worth your attention. Fact! But I’m biased, because whether it’s Atlas Sound or Deerhunter, anything Bradford cooks up will inevitably end up on lists like these when I'm in the writers seat. The albums are never anything short of great, and Monomania, which is (not surprisingly) a complete 180 from Halcyon Digest, might well be one of Cox’s best creations yet, at least to my ears. 

It’s raw, straightforward rock that sounds as only music filtered through Bradford’s twisted and unique mind possibly could... Check it!



The National – Trouble Will Find Me


Anyone who has listened to The National or had the pleasure of seeing their great live shows won’t need lil’ ole’ me to tell them why this album is the very definition of brilliance.

At this point, the only criticism that could possibly be thrown at the band would be if they somehow happened to drop the ball and release something not quite up to what has come before... which would be more than understandable given the insanely high bar they have set for themselves. Yet, here is Trouble Will Find Me, an album that impossibly stands up alongside High Violet, Boxer and Alligator as another classic.
 
I really don’t need to sell it any more than that. If you like substance, style and wit to spare in your music, then buy the albums mentioned in the previous paragraph, and get your ass to one of their show, pronto.



Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork



The first Queens of the Stone Age album in 6 (!) years. I really needn’t say more than that, but fuck it, I got space to fill, and they kinda deserve it.

Since the Kyuss days, Josh Homme has unleashed so much awesomeness upon the world it’s downright nuts, really. Whether we’re talking Queens, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures, producing Arctic Monkeys or even randomly rocking up on a Mastodon album, everything the dude touches  is worth your time. This is never truer than with Queens. AND, like Iggy, he’s comeback with the same passion and energy, but also dares to lean into deeper emotional territory this time around, which in lesser hands may have been a disaster on the scale of LuLu (okay that’s over doing it) , but Homme is, as always, in control, and he, Dean, Dave, Troy, Mickey, and a few fair-weather friends have created an album that turned out to be more than worth the wait.
 
Hopefully we won’t have to wait until 2019 for the next one...



Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City


 
This album is probably the closest thing I’ve had to a meaningful relationship all year, which some may find impossibly lame, and more than a little sad. But I care not –that’s right -  I said it, I meant it, I’m here to represent it!
 
Vampire Weekend have created what will likely go down as one of the, if not THE  highpoint in their catalogue.  After listening to the thing for close to 3 months straight, I find the thought of VW getting anywhere near this level of greatness on any future release damn near impossible. But I hope they prove me wrong.
 
Every second of Modern Vampires of the City is so insanely well thought out and executed that only the most cynical of listeners could deny this as being a perfect example of a band at the peak of their powers. 

Yes, yes,  Vampire Weekend and Contra were both great albums as well, but this is really next level shishkabob. It’s the album that not only many non -believers have already been turned around by, but perhaps more importantly one that defines them as a real band who are here to stay.

If you haven’t heard it, give the singles "Diane Young", "Step" and especially "Ya Hey" a spin, and if you’re sold on the quality of these cuts, get hold of the entire album. If you’re not, then what the hell is wrong with you? Like, seriously?
 
And MVOTC would have been this year’s overall highlight for me, to. However,  just like a Taylor Swift acceptance speech, Kanye had to randomly show up and crash the party....
 


Kanye West – Yeezus



I have a complicated relationship with Kanye.
 
Here’s how it usually goes down for me, in chronological order:

1)           I don’t give two fuck about anything Kanye-related.
2)           Kanye releases an album, I still don’t care.
3)           I eventually hear the album, and am under it’s spell for at least the next 6 months.
4)           Kanye then says or does something so utterly and completely douchey, I’m like “Fuck Kanye” and stop listening.
5)           Kanye releases another album, I don’t care
6)           I eventually hear the album, and yet again, I’m back on the Kanye bandwagon.

This is a pretty consistent representation of how it goes... at least since the release of Graduation (Pre-Graduation I don’t recall there being an over-abundance of Kanye’s out of control ego getting in everyone’s face) .
 
And yes, two months ago, I really couldn’t have given two shits about Yeezus or any future Kanye releases.... But then the out-of-nowhere SNL performance happened, and just like that, I found myself returning to Kanye-land. 
 
After hearing Yeezus (too many times to count at this point, but I'm sure it's in the hundreds), I’m remaining a resident, regardless of how many Kadashian babies he ends up being responsible for. It’s seriously that good.

You’ve gotta give credit where credit’s due... despite an ego so big it can barely be contained within our solar system, Kanye has released the ballsiest album of the year -  a defiantly uncommercial, insanely, utterly, bat-shit crazy brilliant beast of a record. Yeezus outshines, out paces, and out-fucks anything else in 2013.

Kanye, I fucking hate you.... keep up the great work.

 
So there you have it, 7 months in and whoa, Nelly.... What a year, huh? There are also albums from Savages and Bambara that I am still yet to give my full attention to, but I’ll get to ‘em... eventually. And, you know, Nine Inch Nails, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, No Age, MGMT and a shit tonne more are STILL to release their latest opuses, so at this stage I’ll be playing catch up well into 2014, which is pretty damn amazing, especially when you take into consideration the “fact” that they “no longer make ‘em like they used to..."

 Pfffft...

 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Your Local Multiplex: The Ultimate Experience In Gruelling Terror

There is a scene midway through the film God Bless America that, given the events of the past year, is probably inappropriate to admit to finding as hysterically entertaining as I do. But to hell with it, it's only a movie. And if one can't laugh along with a work of fiction simply because it happens to mirror recent real life tragedy, then surely the bad guys have won... or something... Right??

The scene in question involves the films protagonists, Frank (Joel Murray, brother of Bill) and Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), taking a brief respite from their cross country, reality-television-celebrity-murder-spree, by kicking back to enjoy a film within a seemingly quiet multiplex. What eventuates within those cinema walls - rude, ignorant, inconsiderate asshole patrons being violently dispatched of one by one, is darkly funny, especially to those of us who have ever had to sit smack-bang in the middle of a crowded cinema, only to be forced to endure groups of loud, obnoxious bastards fucking up the experience for the rest of us.


Now this is certainly not to say I'd ever think of disposing of the offending jerks in such a grisly manner - a more realistic and relatable example of where my mind drifts to in these unpleasant moments can be found within the pilot episode of Californication, in which struggling writer Hank Moody (David Duchovny) wrestles a phone from the hands of the obnoxious douche-bag cinema parton sitting in front of him, hurling it across the room before, as a grand finale, wrestling the owner of said phone to the ground, much to the delight of the rest of the audience in attendance.

So why is it that these particular scenes ring true for me?

Probably because I, like many, many others, have had to endure similarly stupid people while innocently trying to enjoy a trip to the Multiplex...

I count myself as a fairly serious movie goer/buff/nerd, with my visits to catch a flick on the big screen being on the upper end of regular. Yet, no matter how many times I've been made to sit next to some disgusting example of humanity at it's lowest, I still naively continue to hand over my hard earned cash in exchange for a cinema ticket, stupidly optimistic that the experience will end up being a positive one. But alas, more often than not, there will likely be all manner of horrors waiting for me beyond those cinema doors.

These have, in the past, included (but are in no way limited to) the following:

  • Loud, Jaba-sized, white trashy types, squeezed tightly into the seat next to mine, updating their Facebook statuses multiple times throughout the course of the film while coughing repeatedly in my direction

  • Snotty teenage scumbags tweeting away their feelings on a film they are barely watching to begin with,

  • Uneducated bogans/junkies casually carrying on conversations, no different to how they would if they were watching the very same flick on their small, shitbox television sets in their very own living rooms / crack dens...

And this is only scratching the extremely depressing surface...

It can all be a bit of a bummer at times, especially given that I personally love nothing more than experiencing a great film by a great director on a massive screen, backed up by an absolutely kick ass sound system, just the way the filmmaker intended. It is somewhat unfortunate then, that as time goes on, it's getting a damn sight harder to build up the enthusiasm to make the trip to the local multiplex, given the increasingly moronic state of the crowds that will more than likely be encountered whilst on my travels.

It's starting to feel as if the days of sitting down with an audience displaying any level of respect for the entire cinema-going experience are quickly disappearing, and that famous message played in cinemas all over the globe advising those in attendance to "please turn off their motherfucking mobile phones" is now as ignored as anti-drug warnings at a summer music festival, or Paul Shore at an Academy Awards Ceremony.

But who or what is to blame for the increase in horrible patrons? I mean, obviously, people have always been dicks, and dicks enjoy movies as much as anyone else. It just seems to me that the dick/non-dick ratio has shifted, with a higher percentage now positioned firmly over on the dick side of the fence.

The most blatantly obvious reason for all this, to my mind at least, appears to be a shortening of attention spans the world over. In this day and age of Twatter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, blahty blah blah, there has been a natural (de) evolution that simply cannot be avoided. Hell, it's pretty much expected now. In fact, when it comes to social media, things have been steadily tumbling downhill, and fast, to the point where now, in 2013, a great deal of the population can no longer so much as take a dump without tweeting about it (or heaven forbid instagramming it).

Given all this, is it really any shock that people can no longer sit still over the course of a two hour long movie without feeling the need to entertain them selves with multiple other distractions? Not really. To many, sitting on their ass, watching a great film on a big screen while shoving bucket loads of horrible buttered popcorn down their throats is no longer enough. I mean, how can they possibly go on for that amount of time without following up on emails, responding to texts, or checking to see how many "friends" liked that grumpy cat picture they posted on their Facebook wall earlier??

Even those who ARE able to show a little self control during a film can still often be both visibly and audibly restless, for reasons other than wanting to know if they've been tagged in any potentially incriminating photos from the previous nights Kegger. A significant segment of the modern movie going public, it seems, have grown so accustomed to watered down, lifeless, CGI-crammed crap straight out of Hollywood, that when something with a little style, substance and originality makes it's way to the big screen, the first and only reaction is flat out dismissal.

Such an example for me was back in 2011, when one fine Sunday afternoon, I made my way toward the nearby moron-magnet of a multiplex to catch Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, a film I had been looking forward to seeing for quite sometime. Sadly, as the film progressed, I began to notice an increase in awkward shuffling throughout the surrounding crowd. In fact, any scene in the film NOT involving a fast car was met with either sighing, whispering, or flat-out talking.



Thankfully, the sudden bursts of brutal violence scattered throughout the film served the purpose of putting a kibosh on the non-movie related audience activities, albeit briefly... Nothing like the sight of Ryan Gosling crushing in some dude's skull with his boot to shut an audience the fuck up for 5 minutes.

Days later, I randomly stumbled across a story involving some useless waste of space from Michigan suing the distributors of Drive for what she claimed was a "misleading trailer". The trailer in question, according to this dope, presented the film as a "Fast and the Furious" style action piece, not the stylish cinematic masterpiece it actually turned out to be. My reaction to the story was not surprise, or amusement, or anger. Sadly, it was acceptance. This is where many members of today’s cinema going audiences now reside: Stupid Land.

Another recent, similarly asinine example is a story involving some senseless dumbfuck from New Zealand, who thought it only fair to file a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority against Hollywood Studio Paramount Pictures because... wait for it... an explosion that made a split second appearance in the trailer for the film Jack Reacher did not find its way into the final 130 minute cut of the film. A COMPLAINT. FILED. FOR A MISSING EXPLOSION. Yes... This... actually... happened.

Again, if stories like this serve any purpose at all (besides providing fleeting amusement), it is that they help to make sense of why certain people or (God forbid) groups act the way they do within the cosy confines of the local multiplex. It's for the very same reason shows like The Biggest Loser remain ratings mammoths, why no-talent douchebags like Chris Brown continue to sell millions upon millions of albums, and why planking was once "a thing": a great percentage of the human race are insufferable morons. Nothing new, really. The late, great George Carlin said it best decades ago: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realise half of them are stupider than that". Disturbing, depressing, true.

The whole "Drive" scenario mentioned above has happened countless times during various cinema outings, though there has certainly been an increase in these experiences over the past couple of years. And while it is annoying, I have now found that attempts can be made to avoid these scenes....

Avoiding bigtime modern multiplexes altogether is a good start.

While smaller cinema chains and boutique art house theatres may be steadily decreasing in numbers, they are still out there, and are a refreshing alternative, especially considering, more often than not, the audiences in attendance are there because they fucking well wanna be, not because they're just "killing time." I mean, it's hard to imagine finding a single tweeting teen sitting in the audience of an art house cinema watching Michael Haneke's Amour, correct?



And at the end of the day, if you pride yourself on being even a semi-serious cinema goer, isn't it best to give the film you're planning on seeing the respect it deserves, by watching it with an audience worthy of it's time?

Where possible, leave the larger commercial multiplexes for the uncaring tweeters, tweekers, texters and talkers, happy to sit and barely watch the latest in a never ending line of crap-tastic crowd pleasers.

If, however, you're only choice is the multiplex, for whatever reason, then you had better hope to high hell that you have someone like Hank Moody in the audience, ready and willing to knock the problem patrons on their fat asses, and hopefully before the start of the Coming Attractions...



Tuesday, 26 March 2013

2013 is a Music Nerd's Wet Dream


If I had to sum up, overall, the quality of music we've been presented with during the first quarter of 2013 in one word, it would be: Woooooooooooooooo Hooooooooooooooooooo! Okay, that's two words. Technically, they are not even words at all. But fuck it, no "real words" could possibly do this music justice.

The year is off to phenomenal start, musically speaking. And this surprises me to no end, especially considering the embarrassment of riches last year offered. I thought it would all be impossible to top. How could this year possibly compete?

Well, it can, has and will. January, February and March have already produced a bunch of albums that can stand up to any from last year, in some cases even bettering them.

Just take a look at the following fine examples, and keep in mind it's ONLY FUCKING MARCH:


David Bowie - The Next Day



I had to start with Bowie. Because this is the biggest and most unexpected return of 2013 by a country mile (and will likely remain as such, unless someone figures out a way to ressurrect Joey, Johnny and DeeDee to record a Ramones "Comeback Album").

If you told me a only a few months ago that a) Bowie would return with a new album this year after a 10 year hiatus, with no prior warning, and b) said album would be the best thing he's done in 3 decades, I would have told you that you were FUCKING high and to get off my lawn.

But release an album he did, and amazing it is (respect to Yoda)...

Prior to it's release, I had been listening to a shit-tonne of old Bowie, namely from my favourite period of his career (Station To Station all the way through to Scary Monsters, if you must know).
It is a trip to hear just how mind-blowing every one of those still albums is. But what's even more amazing is the fact that, upon putting on The Next Day for the first time earlier this month, I realised that Bowie, now 66, had released something just as fresh and vital.

Nothing could make me happier because, as if you didn't already know, the world is a much better place with Bowie around.



Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away



Another musician without equal, and one who has been unleashing masterpieces left and right for decades. The mere existence of Mr. Cave's work, like Mr. Bowie's, makes the world a better and far more interesting place in which to live.

He has been on an insane roll over the past few years, not only with the Bad Seeds, but also Grinderman, his various film soundtracks, a novel and some screenplays to boot. Phew!

Has he been stretching himself too thin, releasing what is now his 15th (!) album with the Bad Seeds (and first without Mick Harvey)?

Apparently not, because it's another brilliant piece of work that can absolutely stand up alongside his best. It's always good to know that there are still musicians and artists out there who, regardless of how long they've been playing the game, refuse to simply "go through the motions", not only continuing to give a shit about what they're putting out for the undeserving masses, but STILL releasing unrivaled works and STILL reaching for the impossible by trying to better what has come before.

For that, Mr. Cave, I salute you.



The Strokes - Comedown Machine



I fucking love The Strokes. Always have,
always will.

Almost everyone (understandably) loves the debut album, but I feel the ones that followed are a little under-appreciated.

Room On Fire might not have been a major step forward, but who gives a shit? It was another album FULL of what made the Strokes great in the first fucking place. It was their Leave Home to Ramones.

First Impressions of Earth, on the other hand, lost a few people because it didn't stick to exactly the same formula (there really is no pleasing everyone, is there?).

Angles was also great, possibly a little all over the place, but still full of Strokes-y goodness, regardless.

And now, here we have the 5th Long Player from the eternally cool New Yorkers, and you know what? It's completely and utterly fucking dope!

Even if I wasn't completely biased here (and make no bones about it, I am!), I would still be singing it's praises. It's not only a step forward, it's one of their most consistently great albums, right through, from beginning to end.

What I hear when I listen to Comedown Machine is a band who still have something to prove, who still give a shit. And therefore, so do I.



Wavves - Afraid of Heights



When Nathan Williams started Wavves, it consisted of...well, Nathan Williams.

The lineup has obviously grown and changed a lttle since then, and with each new Wavves release, the albums also continue to change and grow.

Just as the Life Sux EP bettered King of the Beach, for me, in every possible way, Afraid of Heights betters Life Sux by 10 x a shit load. I was expecting this to be pretty great, but I can safely say even my expectations were exceeded.

It takes many magical elements to come together just right for an album in 2013 to make me feel like a 15 year old again, but this album does it effortlessly. And there's not really any higher compliment one can bestow on an album than that.



The Drones - I See Seaweed



When Gareth Lillard and Co. conjure up a new piece of work, there's no way it won't be challenging, confronting and brilliant. I don't think they will ever have a bad album in them. Ever. And I See Seaweed might just be their most challenging/confronting/brilliant one yet. Seriously, has there been a better start to an album than the track 'I See Seaweed' in the last 10 years....? Like, holy shit!

The risk in starting off an album this strongly is that it's damn near impossible to keep the momentum going for the remainder of it's length. But shock! Horror! They do it, all the way through to the concluding, 9 minute epic "Why Write a Letter That You'll Never Send"

There is no better Australian Band out there. Pick up this album if you don't believe me. I'll accept your apology for ever doubting me in advance.



The Replacements - Songs For Slim (EP)



I dedicated an entire blog post to my excitement regarding this release, so I won't bore you with more gushing here.

As with Bowie, the fact that there is a new Replacements release in the year 2013 (even if it's just an EP of covers), makes me all tingly in my funny parts.



Tomahawk - Oddfellows



Anyone who knows me knows that anything Mike Patton-related will forever have a place on lists like these. The day Patton releases an album entirely dedicated to his reading of the phonebook, it too will have a place here.

For now, however, what we have been blessed with is a new Tomahawk album, their first in 5 years. And it's their loosest, strangest, most varied and interesting one yet.

Hey, Mr. Bungle may never reform, and Faith No More may not have another album in them, but does it really matter when Patton's still releasing work on this level of kick-assery? Heck to tha no!



The Men - New Moon



I'm still fairly new to this band, only first checking out their previous album Open Your Heart a couple of months back, right before I was due to see them at Laneway.

They have apparently wasted zero time and now have another one out, even though I'm still nowhere near done with listening to the last one yet.

Luckily, there's room for both, because New Moon is a separate beast altogether. Equally great, but very different (which is pretty surprising given the short amount of time between releases).

This band is keeper. I hope they decide to stick around for awhile.



Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold



This technically came out in 2012, but it was reissued in January, so I'm gonna say it counts.

Through a recommendation from a friend, I checked this Brooklyn band out and became a devoted nut of a fan, right off the bat.

Some people, of late, are whinging about the so-called "lo-fi-garage-rock-punk-whatever-band-overkill" that is apparently infecting the scene at the moment, but to me there's no such thing as too much "lo-fi-garage-rock-punk-whatever".

Any band keeping the guitar alive in this increasingly electronic day and age will always have my vote. And when the music kicks ass on a level this high, only a true asshole would argue against it.


Johnny Marr - The Messenger



It's Johnny fuckin' Marr! Need I say more?



A$AP Rocky - Long. Live. A$AP.



My knowledge of young Mr. A$AP was.. well, fairly limited. Still kind of is. He had a guest spot Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours, but, beyond that and the odd article here and there, that was where my awareness started and finished. After hearing a couple of songs off the album and reading an impressive Pitchfork review, I decided to give Long. Live. A$AP a shot. Needless to say, it's been a regular in my play list ever since.


So, there you have it - already so many great albums in the first quarter of this glorious year.

Even as I'm writing this, new albums from The National, Queens of the Stone Age, and Deerhunter have just been announced. Add to this the already confirmed releases from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Stooges, Vampire Weekend and Tyler the Creator and it's almost too much for any respectable music nerd to handle.

Almost...


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Q: What's The Worst Thing About Student Drink Nights? A: All The Fucking Students!





My awareness of 3 Dollar Spirit Nights (as they were initially known to me), came about during one typically hazy Saturday evening, waiting at the bar, trying to act as straight as humanly possible while struggling to figure out a) what the hell it was I wanted indulge in now that I had grown tired of beer, and b) whether or not I had enough change to pay for whatever drink I would eventually decide on, without the need to AGAIN visit the ATM and add to my increasing collection of receipts and statements from various machine's around The Valley.

As I optimistically fumbled around in my pockets for any gold coins I may have missed, my gaze was momentarily drawn to a sign above me, advertising, in large, brightly-coloured font: $3 DOLLAR SPIRITS - Available Each and Every Thursday Night!

Wow... and to think, here I was, about to hand over close to 10 big ones for the very same drinks! If only I were willing to change the particular night I frequented this club, I could drink far more for far less, save a tonne of cash and keep the ATM statements to a bare minimum.

After handing over what I preyed was something close to the correct change to the unimpressed bartender, I made my way back toward the darkness of the dance floor, promising myself I would remember to drop in here the next Thursday I was in the neighbourhood...

... A few weeks later, that opportunity finally presented itself when, after hitting a nearby Sushi Train with a friend and indulging in one too many Sakes, we decided it would be a brilliant idea to keep the night going.

Discussing our various options while staggering through the Valley streets, we soon found ourselves in the very same bar. However, this time, upon handing over the usual 20 dollar note for two drinks and expecting nothing in return, I was shocked to receive ACTUAL CHANGE consisting of not only a 10 dollar note but also a couple of gold coins to boot!

In the moments following this (I want to say it was mere seconds but a few minutes is probably more accurate) a light bulb flickered to life ever so briefly in that tipsy-on-the-verge-of-maggoted head of mine, and I realised, to my delight, that I had rocked up on that one magic night a week where normal drink prices do not apply (the same sign advertising this fact was STILL very visible above the bar in front of me).

During the weeks and months that followed, stumbling into this place became less of a random occurrence and more of a semi-planned out, post-sushi ritual. Word slowly spread across to other friends and acquaintances, and eventually the numbers tagging along with us grew substantially.

Around this time, the crowds were moderate in size at best, never getting to the point where there was ever too much of a line up to get another round or take another piss. It was all kind of perfect, really...

...And then February came...

After a typically horrific Thursday at the office, I suggested to a work colleague we hit the bar to down some cheap booze and blow off some steam, happy in the knowledge that it wouldn't be an expensive night out. Plus, heading out with a workmate would be smart, in that I would have someone there responsible enough to pull me in line when I start drunkenly waiving a 50 dollar note in the poor bartenders face at 1:30 am, requesting as many drinks as he or she can possibly make with that kind of cashola (for the record - it's 16 and a bit).

So, along with a further few peepes and peepettes, all equally as fed up with the toll the working week was taking on them, we hit the bar yet again to get reasonably tanked at a reasonable price.

This time, though, as the night wore on, the crowds grew noticeably larger, to the point where it was getting damn near impossible to move around inside without inappropriately rubbing up against a hundred or so other people.

But THAT wasn't even the most obvious change from every Thursday I had attended prior. To my horror, a majority of the faces in the place suddenly looked as though they were all, like, 15 or something!

Pointing out what I thought to be an interesting observation to those around me, my comment was met with rolled eyes and shaking heads. It was then that one of my colleagues came right out and put it all on front street for me: "It's fucking student night, dumbass."

The use of the word "dumbass", it turned out, was well and truly warranted. I mean, sometimes it's disturbing how slow on the uptake I can be with these things....

In my defence, I had not given any of this any thought whatsoever up until that point, due mainly to the fact that, when I originally started these rowdy Thursday night excursions all those months ago, Universities and Colleges were in the midst of closing up shop for the year, hence the moderate, not-so-fresh-faced crowds in attendance at the time.

But alas, I really should have been questioning the reasoning behind "Cheap Thursdays" all along, instead of taking it all at face value...

Thursdays at this particular bar, it appears, were dedicated to those hard-studying, low-income-earning, future leaders of our country who wished to drink affordably, shoot the shit, hook up with the wrong person and eventually find themselves, many hours later, hunched over a toilet bowl, having their hair held back by an understanding friend who is secretly cursing them out for being such a fucking lightweight and ruining the night with their bullshit tolerance levels.

This was all well and good for these young so and so’s who have their whole lives ahead of them, but where does that leave the rest of us who are hopelessly devoted to the idea of cheap booze and great tunes as a way of forgetting about our miserable lives? Does the fact that the new school year has ramped up once again mean we should be vacating the bar of a Thursday to make way for the younger, more hopeful, far less cynical versions of ourselves? Does our obvious lack of student-like qualities even really matter? Should we simply suck it up now that we have reached a certain age and head on down the road a little to the mostly vacant Irish pub with the guy with the acoustic guitar playing mummies and daddies favourite songs of yester year and pay adult prices for our poison(s) of choice?

All interesting questions. Some valid, even. Perhaps more importantly though, one should ask why we are really there, sitting in a bar full of girls who look like Jodie Foster circa "Taxi Driver" and guys who look like Justin Beiber circa, well, now? Are we really that depressingly desperate to drink cheaply? Or are we a bunch of creep-o's who should perhaps seek help?

The answer to all of the above is thankfully "No". Instead, the reason I and many like me are there, time and time again, is more to do with the bar itself, which has, for years, been a reliable regular of sorts, regardless of night or bar prices.

Now I'm not going to lie.... it's undoubtedly a perk that, of a Thursday, drinks are not as tough on the wallet as they might ordinarily be, but it's also the atmosphere, music and staff that ultimately keeps us coming back for more.

I'm sure there are many other establishments with equally impressive drink prices on certain nights, but you still couldn't pay me to step inside those gloomy, lifeless shells masquerading as bars. Drink prices mean sweet fuck all if you're forced to endure endless hours of painful, generic Dad-Rock (or Dubstep - fuck Dubstep).

It would be MORE offensive to stop frequenting my bar of choice simply because I have some kind of hang up about being seen as "the dodgy older guy" hanging out with people a decade or so younger.

*** Warning: This is where shit gets REALLY Rant-y ***

Look, I was listening to the music these younglings now drunkenly gyrate to before they were conceived in the back seat of their Old Man’s Holden Commodore. And I will still be here enjoying the same tunes on nights where drinks are way-the-fuck more expensive, unlike the majority of the Thursday crowd, who will instead be spending their weekend evenings sitting in their dorm rooms or share houses, Facebooking or Tumblr-ing or Twattering or whatever it is they all do nowadays. I will STILL be here when they are successful college graduates, off focusing on careers or some such shit. Hell, I will probably EVEN be here when they decide to throw those pesky degrees away, instead choosing to settle down and shoot out some snotty little rug rats while paying off a shared mortgage with an unloving husband or wife.

*** End Rant ***



Sheesh… please believe me when I say it was not my intention to turn this into an all out assault on today's youth - I swear! LOL!

Anyway, it's best I don't continue on down this rant-y path any further. I've had my say, I've stated my case, and continuing on won't do me any favours. Besides, it's been a tough day, I'm feeling kinda thirsty, and the bar is calling. Oh, and look at that, it's Thursday as well... So make way you fresh-faced, bright-eyed little hipsters, there's an old man comin' through....



Sunday, 10 March 2013

It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)



That damn alarm first thing in the morning is absolutely my worst enemy on this planet. There are never feelings of joy, no birds-are-chirping-it’s-a-beautiful day-in-the-neighbourhood type crap upon hearing that horrible fucking thing come to life in the early a.m. My hatred for it cannot be overstated.

I have made attempts to improve my “morning alarm” experience by setting some truly excellent songs, such as McClusky’s “To Hell with Good Intentions”, to play when the time inevitably arrives for me to emerge from my dream state and re-enter the cold, shitty real world. This does not work. Rather, I have come to hate “To Hell with Good Intentions”, now forever associated with those rude, unwanted wake-ups (the lesson learned here: No song will ever make your morning any better, so it’s probably best to choose one you already downright despise).

From here, there is usually little improvement to my mood for the next few hours. There's a pretty consistent suck-factor across the board when it comes to what I will be dealing with outside my home on a typical weekday: Whether it be the always crammed buses, street-walking sales people, the countless junkies attempting to bum change for crack (that's right - I am well aware you're not trying to catch the train home, fucko), the endless drones, all looking more like extras from The Walking Dead than actual living, breathing human beings, making their way to one of many drab office buildings spread out across the city, it’s all painful, soul-crushing stuff.



Oh, and speaking of soul-crushing, let’s not forget about that little destination we're all hurridly making our way toward - WORK. Ah yes, work - the glorious, daily time-killer/life-waster that takes place, for many of us, between the hours of 9am to 5pm.

I'm going to be brutally honest here - this whole "work" thing I just made reference to is relevant to me for one reason, and one reason only: It pays the bills (barely). That is where my interest begins and ends. Beyond that, it basically serves the purpose of keeping me from spending my days doing anything I actually enjoy.

And yes, I realise I am not alone here. There are millions in the very same boat.

This daily routine can prove to be quite the annoyance, especially if one is not really designed for the line of work in which they now find themselves.

Many, like myself, no doubt stumbled into their respective jobs as a means to an end, a stepping stone, or a temporary source of income until something better and more promising came along. But time has a funny way of disappearing into the ether, and before you know it, you've been sitting at the same desk, working in the same factory, or waiting the same tables, for more years than you care to remember (or admit to).

Worse, getting bogged down working a thankless job can lead to your REAL interests, hobbies and passions eventually fading into obscurity, without you even realising it.

It’s not until many months or even years later, while sitting alone on your couch one night, watching Conan and enjoying a quiet nightcap, that your mind will randomly flash back to a better time, and for a brief, sad moment, you remember that you were once a much more interesting person.

I should know. I have been that late night dreamer, on more than one occasion ... It is a strange feeling to suddenly recall and miss something you hadn't realised had even gone away, until that painful moment when it all comes rushing back.

Hopefully, this brief recollection will be enough to kick you back into gear and convince you to again follow those dreams you had at an earlier, brighter point in your life.

However, if you’re anything like me, a more forceful kick in the ass might be in order...

One effective motivation is the rather depressing thought that “HOLY SHIT! I'm not 21 anymore. It's been years since high school, and if the Year 12 version of me were ever unlucky enough to somehow see into the future and catch a glimpse of the older me, he would not think twice about taking a dive off the nearest roof and ending it all right then and there."

What also works, as I recently found out, is an honest, no-bullshit, just-the-hard-facts style talking to / lecture courtesy of a concerned (and understandably frustrated) friend. This initially felt like a cold, hard slap to the face, but ultimately proved to be EXACTLY what I needed.

Bottom line, if you're not in a job that is your passion or your dream; one that fills you with an absolute joy for life, then at the very least try spending a few hours outside of said job doing something that is. It will make one helluva difference to your whole outlook.

But, wait... isn't this easier said than done?

Word, my brothers and sisters, Word...

Whether your bag is writing, painting, volunteer work, World of Warcraft, bondage nights, etc. etc. etc. (this list could literally go on forever and ever), keeping motivated to continue pursuing that special something you actually enjoy – the reason you feel you were put on this earth - while spending 5 days a week in an air-conditioned nightmare, can prove quite the challenge.

As an example, let's take a look at a typical work day for yours truly (and the ongoing struggle to maintain that much sought-after work/life balance):

Usually, I will take until around about 11am to reach a point I would consider “fully awake” (again - not a morning person). Later on, around 1pm, (Post-coffee, post-(late) breakfast), when the blood is flowing and the focus has returned, inspiration will finally begin to kick in. Not for anything actually work-related, mind you... I'm referring more so to those post-work activities I actually GIVE A SHIT about. The IMPORTANT stuff.

While it's great and all that the inspiration is there in the first place, it also kinda sucks, given that the working day has only just hit the midway point, and there are many, maaaaannnny more hours left to endure. The timing can be unfortunate, to say the least.

Further to this, holding on to this inspiration until home time takes a fuck-load of mental discipline... and caffeine. If I'm lucky enough to keep it intact until this time, I will then be faced with further enemies at the gate keeping me from my self-appointed goals – the first of which being that goddamn comfortable coach in the living room....

Avoiding the couch ain't easy, and, as you can probably imagine, it's pretty damn tempting to head straight to it after 8 straight hours of soul-crushing, mental ass-fuckery. But consider this - What happens after giving in to these "couch temptations"? Well, the television will most likely be switched on, and then, oh, that episode of Seinfeld I absolutely love but haven't seen in, like, forever, will just so happen to be playing...

Yep, that's what WILL happen. Guaranteed. At this point I may as well call it a night.

On the days that I'm strong enough to pass the "couch test",I've still got to deal with other obstacles that probably can’t be avoided – like organising dinner, washing those dishes that are now stacked all the way to the ceiling, and doing something about that big pile of clothes that has been slowly growing into something resembling Everest....

In my opinion, if the creative juices (or whatever juices relate to your out-of-office interests) are flowing, it is worth skipping these chores as often as you can. Sure, it might end up looking as though you live in a trailer park or crack den, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

If you do feel the need to balance adult responsibilities with your creative output, then good for you! And good luck with the sleep deprivation... Because if you're anything like me, after all these mundane chores are out of the way, you'll finally get to starting on that thing you love, and, just as you’re on some kind of a roll, the unwanted realisation will hit that it’s now about 5 hours until you have to get up and do the whole "work" thing all
over again.



This is the part I struggle with the most. It is frustrating as hell that, after a day full of annoyances and distractions, I'm now finally entering into the “zone”, only to have to begrudgingly accept that, if I wish to stand any chance of getting up the following morning without feeling a deep seated urge to murder absolutely everyone I come into contact with, then calling it a night is the only option.

Hell, EVEN THEN, despite best intentions, I will often find, upon hitting the hay, that cutting myself off just as I was on a creative roll is damn near impossible, and those brilliant thoughts and ideas I failed to put to paper will continue to float around in my still very active noggin for the next few hours.

Finally, around 3:30 am, I will give up on any chance of having a good night’s sleep...

As the week progresses, I will find myself growing more and more tired, depressed and zombie-like with each passing day. This pattern will continue on for a majority of the week until, around Thursday, my good intentions will finally fail me, and that couch I have been eying off every evening upon entering the front door will not only seem irresistible, it will be a necessity.

So, what are the solutions if YOU find yourself in a similar predicament?

Solutions?

Haha! Sorry, I’m not here to offer solutions. Solutions don’t come into it...

What I do have, however, are choices. Not ideal choices, but choices none the
less.

These are as follows:

1) Quit your job, live like a true artist (poor and starving) and commit full time to your life’s dream, your ultimate goal.

Or...

2) Stick with your job and learn to live with a complete lack of sleep, happy in the knowledge that you are not wasting the moments that TRULY count, the
hours outside of 9am - 5pm.

For me, it will need to remain option 2, at least for the time being, because livin’ ain’t cheap, and fuck it, sleep in overrated anyhow.

Besides, no matter how sleep deprived you are, or how much of a struggle it can all prove to be at times, it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative - finding yourself sitting alone on your couch late one night, well rested but desperately unhappy, reminiscing of a time long since passed, a time when you actually gave a damn.

Friday, 1 March 2013

So, The Replacements Are Releasing a New EP...




I was late to The Replacements. Very late. 18 years after the fact, to be exact.

Sure, I was aware of their existence due to, among other things, occasional viewings of the black and white "Bastards of Young" video on late night television, or the fairly regular mentions and shout-outs from various artists I admired regarding the band’s massive influence. There were also countless articles and stories on this debauched group of young, drunken scallywags. For whatever reason, though, they did not actually have my full attention until the day I received an unlikely wakeup call courtesy of a guy by the name of Greg Mottola.

In 2009, two years after directing Superbad (a film that single handily reinvigorated my love of the teen comedy genre), Mottola unleashed his next cinematic gem onto the movie-going public, a little film called Adventureland.

Adventureland was more personal a film than Superbad. You could see Mottola knew these characters: the employees of the theme park, in which a majority of the film takes place were, no doubt at one time, HIS co-workers, the experiences were HIS experiences, and the music these character's listened to was the music HE listened to.

Ah, yes. The music.




Look, I'm just gonna come out and say it - Adventureland has, without a doubt, one of the best goddamn soundtracks I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Not only did I fall immediately for the characters and the movie in which they were contained, I was also hopelessly in love with the great collection of tunes featured, courtesy of (among others) Husker Du, Lou Reed, and of course, The Replacements, whose unbeatable "Bastards of Young" opens the film.

I recognised the song immediately, though at that point my familiarity with it may have had more to do with seeing Against Me! performing a killer version on their Live At The Key Club DVD, than with seeing the original black and white clip in my youth.

A little further into the film, Jessie Eisenberg's character James compliments Kristen Stewart's "Em" on her record collection ("Replacements, cool”). That brief throwaway line stuck in my mind, as did a scene toward the end of the film featuring Eisenberg staring out the rainy windows of a bus destined for New York, while another Replacements tune, "Unsatisfied", plays over the visuals.

Later that afternoon, post-movie, I was determined to hunt down this very awesome soundtrack. My long, persistent search through the city's many music stores did not prove successful. However, during my last stop (at Rocking Horse Records), while heading towards the exit, defeated, I glanced to my left, along the wall of “On Sale” CD's, and wandered over for a quick look, not expecting to find anything I either a) liked or b) didn’t already own. To my surprise, there was a name that caught my attention: The Replacements. The CD was their greatest hits collection, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? (which could not have been a better entry point to the band). And for under 10 bucks! Jackpot!

A couple of hours later, I hit play while reading though the CD booklet, which contained not only a brief history of the band, (including their early days as Dogbreath), but also insightful details on each of the albums, stories of the notorious drinking, and references to shows (both good and bad), all of which painted a vivid picture of a band truly like no other.

The remarkable thing for me about this collection of amazing tunes was that there didn't appear to be any significant drop off in quality as I made my way through the chronologically sequenced tracks (unlike many, many other career-spanning greatest hits compilations). To my ears, from the first song to the last, it was perfection. All of it. There were certainly changes, sound-wise, but it was all good, positive progression. The set was even topped off with two new tracks, specifically recorded for inclusion on the set, both of which remarkably kept the quality levels as high as what had come before. One listen in, I was dedicated, devoted, and obsessed. I needed every single thing this great band had ever put to tape, and I needed it yesterday!

While it was somewhat maddening to me that I had taken so long to catch on to the complete and utter awesomeness that is The Replacements (or The ‘Mats, as they are known to their die hard fans)  I guess it just wasn’t meant to happen any earlier. I was meant to find them at the point in my life that I did. And given the reissues that were released around the same time, it wasn’t exactly the worst timing in the world.

The first albums I got my hands on (based purely on availability) were Tim (the highly-praised, Tommy Ramone-produced 4th LP) and Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (their mighty debut). I listened in that order, effectively starting Mid-career, before heading right back to the beginning.

Next was Let It Be (the 3rd LP and quite possibly the BEST.ALBUM.EVER.), followed by Stink (EP), then Pleased to Meet Me. And on and on it went until finally, the collection was complete.



Midway through my Replacements listen-athon, I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I had a favourite band. This was a MASSIVE deal, especially when you consider that prior to this point I was always hesitant to label ANY band as 'my favorite'.

With The 'Mats, though, there was a magical combination of music, attitude and personality that, for me, was like no other: A completely unpredictable quartet who were, on any given night, too drunk to play a note, or, alternatively, sober enough to pull off a completely life-changing show (which, again, I have only ever had the privilege of hearing or reading about).

Luckily for late-starters like myself, this stuff is well documented, whether it be from Michael Azerrad's This Band Could Be Your Life, Jim Walsh’s All Over But The Shouting, or Gorman Bechard's great documentary Color Me Obsessed, which, like the band itself, stands out from the crowd due to being defiantly different (in this particular case, containing no band member interviews or music, just first-hand accounts from fans, critics and admirers).




In the time since first finding myself becoming a Replacements obsessive, rumours have surfaced here and there regarding potential reunions (including a possible Coachella performance in 2011 that, of course, never eventuated). However, the band have always played coy regarding, or flat out denied, such claims. Members have either been too focused on Solo Material (Paul & Tommy) busy playing in a lesser band (Tommy again) or have moved on from the music industry completely (Chris – now an amazing artist). Then there’s Bob, who sadly shuffled off this mortal coil back in '95.

Flashing forward to 2012, and through not very ideal circumstances, rumours became reality, and, almost out of the blue, a reunion of sorts finally came to be...

The not very ideal circumstances mentioned above are as follows: Slim Dunlap (The Replacements post-Bob guitarist) suffered a debilitating stroke last year and, with ongoing treatment meaning sky-high medical expenses, it was decided that, in order to raise the money needed to cover these costs, the guys would reform (at least in the studio) to record an EP of covers, with all proceeds to go toward helping out their former band mate. Thus, the Songs For Slim project was born...




That brings us to right now, the eve of the EP's release. Holla! I can only imagine what the wait has been like for those who were with them from the beginning...

If you require any proof at all that a covers EP from The 'Mats makes for an exciting proposition – feel free to check out any number of cover versions from the back catalogue and listen first-hand to what it sounds like when a band completely fucking owns a song  originally written by another group (Kiss’s "Black Diamond" and The Only One's "Another Girl, Another Planet" among them) .

I am as excited, hell, more excited , to hear this EP than any other full length release this year. And there are A LOT of great albums coming out in 2013, trust me.

Anyway, you'll need to be excusing me now, as I’ve got some new Replacements to prepare myself for, and, come Monday, listen to. I suggest you do the same. You can thank me later.

www.songsforslim.com
Tommy Stinson (twitter): @tommy_stinson
www.chrismarspublishing.com
www.paulwesterberg.com