Friday, December 12, 2008
Coming across more like the end-of-year performance of Songwriting Masterclass 101, The Corner's measly crowd bore witness to one of the greatest night's entertainment 2008 had to offer in all it's humble beauty, shy glory and Australian twang.
The Millers Tale's album Overland and tonight's rendering of many of its songs give a jaw-dropping 'where-have-I-been/how-did-I-miss-this?' sense of wonder. This is perfect travelling music. The songs feel extensions of the land; incredibly simple and direct, warm Harriet Wheeler-esque vocals from bassist Bec Quade with melodies as appealing as guitarist John Maclane's suggestion to 'buy everyone's CDs and bust this recession's arse.' Slices of folk-pop perfection follow hard on each other's heels with Constellation and Elbow Room jostling for highlight, but it's the miraculous Wasn't The One For You that reveals the brilliance of these songwriters. Amazing.
One band you could trust to follow such an opening set would be Machine Translations, tonight a trio. From the opening clangs of Love's Dangerous to the closing, Baterz-dedicated I'm Changed the wearied voice of J. Walker is on fine form. Machine Translations play a short and comparatively very energetic set, which naturally, incorporates She Wears A Mask and pleases all and sundry.
Bursting from the side stage comes the smart anti-Thatcherite bluster of a fired-up Guild League, a band who seem to shift and morph according to singer Tali White's preoccupations – travels in south-east Asia have long been replaced by Melbourne's weather and public transport, and now social justice, middle-class apathy and organ donation drive the man. It's a gloriously bracing burst of 'songs to smash windows by' as he calls it. Mouse vs. Mountain, If Not Now, Suit Fits and older songs The Storm and opener Animal are further faultless examples of White's ever-improving songwriting and the band's impeccable backing.
The opening track of Sophie Koh's set Objects In The Mirror is so breathtaking with its instrumentation and warm-yet-distant feel that the rest of the set almost feels like a letdown. Far from bad though, Koh seems more relaxed and comfortable than ever, her voice on fine form and songs like Silly Things and Somebody Come To End This are OK, if a little safe. When she takes risks, such as with the opening song and the closing Mandarin karaoke-learned ballad Gan Lan Shu she hints at what she is truly capable of.
Straight from the cover of today's MX (right next to but nothing to do with the Lawyer porn shock headline) and launching her Bijoux album tonight comes a radiant Fi Claus. Opening with Get Me Up she seems a little nervous but her voice and the songs themselves are so wonderful that the audience are with her. The phenomenal drumming of Pete Bosworth and the bass and backing vocals of Per Stenbeck give her the perfect setting while the songs Please, Please, Get It and a rousing rumbling dual-bass take of Come Home show just what a valuable songwriter she is; worth more than the album title on a triple word square even.
In black shorts and fishnets, a mile-wide smile and handbag on arm, comes Angie Hart. Surprisingly including several Frente! songs (The Book Song, Labour of Love and their take on Bizarre Love Triangle) Hart's set is almost too simplified. Her voice could render the Centrelink reporting line essential listening, but against chunky barre chords and sporadic violin it seems a little too unadorned. Still, the new songs are good enough to win over those who don't associate her voice with the heady days of high school, particularly Unbroken High, a brand new Geoff O'Connor collaboration Delicate, and her emotive cover of Pictures of You. Heavenly.