Friday, March 22, 2013


The Gasometer, 16/03/2013
Hell-bent on punishing those who didn't bring earplugs, tonight’s lineup wrestle punk from history and blast away its more polished proponents in a three-way match of guitar-driven intensity. Perth trio Foam know how to construct a fearsome riff and deliver it with unerring accuracy, particularly when playing tracks off their new EP Run Kon Koma; a coursing, fizzling howl of vitality and rage. Most of the set sounds (and looks) like underground Seattle shows in the late 80s, though with a far more static crowd. Between incredibly tight bursts of guttural punk, singer Joel Martin cracks decent jokes that seem to embarrass his bandmates, though their sense of humour rarely seems to (discernibly) break into their songs. The slower So Far So Good highlights Martin's American twang and closes a set that acts as a road map of sorts to an underground Perth.

Sydney's Step-Panther sneak on second despite being the big draw, and though less relentless, they're no less a ferocious unit. Launching their Dream Crusher EP they open with Nowhere and Never Again, singer Steve Bourke's vocals gleaning a tinge of reverb and his Danelectro shooting sparks as spiralling riffs and dexterous lead runs push up against the beat, urging the songs forward. Maybe Later is ridiculously catchy and makes it's easy to see why NME picked them as one of 2013's Bands to Watch (something you can be sure means absolutely nothing to the small but riotous crowd here). Bourke’s songs channel a very bright cataclysmic euphoric despondency and feature some truly inspired guitar work. Closing with the brilliant loathing of Zombi and its despondent chant of 'I hope this summer never ends', they’re one of the smartest bands to play dumb. 

Wax Witches meanwhile don't play anything but fast, hard and as if nothing’s sacred. 'This is my friend Josh. He plays drums,’ says singer and guitarist Alex Wall. ‘We started this band two days ago,' he lies happily. Launching their Celebrity Beatings LP the duo pull Ramones count-ins, Black Flag riffs, Dead Kennedys sneers and a Pixies cover (Wave of Mutilation) - whatever it takes to make a killer show. Despite having a lot of fun expressing a snotty disregard for everything, the band have an almost Reatardian way with brevity, melody and knowing when the job's done. Seemingly still in early days (despite the band being Wall’s side-project from Bleeding Knees Club), they almost seem to be playing to each other at times, which doesn’t stop the small, vocal but self-conscious crowd draw closer to the stage and head-banging; 'you might be a small crowd but it doesn't mean you're any less of a crowd than any other crowd' Wall says in mock seriousness. Nightmares sounds like it could be a Germs cover, so masterful is its simplicity. Crashing cymbals, constant riffs and perpetual speed, Wax Witches bring levity to their heaviness, as songs like Gay Batman, Everytime I Try and Fuck Shit Up amply prove. So good, it was almost like the Arthouse in here tonight. 


The Cornish Arms, 15/03/13

Houndstooth, a local four-piece - tonight playing as a trio - do a nice line in emotive folk rock songs without distracting the punters too much from their drinking and chatting. Singer Penny Walker-Keefe's sweet, naive vocals match her guitar style well. Songs are penned with a fresh proficiency and boast an imaginative way with melodies; though their fleshing out seems perfunctory it’s hard to get a true impression with a quarter of the band absent. The lack of sensitivity shown by a very loud and trebly rhythm section doesn’t help either, their sound bouncing around the mostly empty room to little effect. 

Tight, snappy, well rehearsed, enthusiastic, these are all words that accurately describe The Staffords’ performance tonight, and its not surprising that it goes down a treat with the gradually growing audience. As if transported from 1981, the band’s new wave power-pop sound is easy to love, and the talent on display impressive; few three-piece’s sound this solid. Mike Barnes and Phoebe Neilson’s harmonies are evocative and used in a refreshingly powerful way. If in times very in debt to The Jam their closing cover of Neil Young's Mr Soul goes down a storm and reminds you of other recent shows that may explain why punter numbers are lower than usual tonight. 

Those that are here respond vocally to Jim Murray’s acute DJing selections that keep the infectious positivity high before the young Perth combo The Morning Night open with their devastating take on the Triffids’ Monkey on My Back. Singer Adrian Hoffman's charging performance helps the band make a resolute stab at owning this most sacred of sounds. The band's original material tends toward the less strident end of the rock spectrum but is no less powerful for it, thanks largely to Hoffman's vocals and commanding presence. Ensuing track Trees sees the whole band kicking into gear; Brendan Gaspari's atmospheric guitar work, bassist Michael Savage’s exploiting the power of a good bass riff and drummer Jesse Brown’s powerful yet imaginative timekeeping. Pulling out highlights from their Otis album, tracks like Taking Your Time and Love You Better prove they could easily be massive; they have the hooks, handsomness, work ethic, are prolific and have achieved a lot without hitting their mid-20s. With Ricky Maymi producing their new (and previous) album, his influence infuses A Ride With Violence; a feedback drenched BRMC-style headlong psych-pop charge, highly addictive and a worthy single from their forthcoming album. Continuing the close-your-set-with-a-cover tradition, the band finish with a gunning take on the Easybeats’ I'll Make You Happy, proving they’re going to be a band you’ll hear a lot more of before the year is out. 


Beneath a scorching sun and steady breeze, happy campers set up, hydrate, dehydrate and lounge in their campsites, as the amphitheatre begins to fill, and grass is turned to dust by thousands of tramping, dancing feet...
Money For Rope is an excellent choice for opening band. Sometimes reminiscent of the Stones, the Doors, the Clash and a dozen other not quite plagiarised sounds, it’s the occasional, faster songs like Ten Times that stand out and the band sound like the good time you want to have. The band’s harmonies really set them apart from other local rock combos, and they prove to be the first of many excellent programming choices Aunty Meredith offers.
Boasting a strangely smooth psych-soul sound, New Zealand’s Opossum follow and lure some of the curious forward, though most seem content admiring from afar, which is a shame, as the it seems the sun saps much of the energy not spent on opening the drinks account. Songs like Why Why and Girl are blazing blasts of Kiwi jangle with colon troubling bass, distant reverb-drenched drums, and floating vocals, an easy mix to love.
Not a skin disease but actually one of the world’s finest lyra players Adonis Xylouris (aka Psarandonis) is a fantastic left-turn from guitar-dominated bands Australian festivals do so well. Featuring the ever-watchable Jim White on drums, the trio’s set is striking for the musicians’ interplay, Xylouris beating the strings as often as bowing them, wielding the traditional Greek instrument like a Les Paul and looking like a cross between Gandalf and Gandhi, it’s a fantastic set. 
One of the most anticipated acts and one of 2011’s buzz bands, Wild Nothing, blend indie pop and shoegaze and are a winner with those here who also went to Laneway. It’s perfect music for tired people, perhaps because the band themselves seem to be lackadaisical in their delivery and performance. Songs like Nocturne and the rousing, closing Summer Holiday gel beautifully, but overall their set is a disappointment from the quality of their recordings and the audience response is similarly muted. 
Between sets last year’s Sunday speaker Barry Dickens reads his poignant, funny and pertinent poetry to a largely attendant crowd. His pithy treatises on our current personal, communal, political and generational states are an excellent substitute for mid-afternoon DJ sets and only serve to accentuate the bands either side of his appearances.
‘What the fuck are we doing here?’ asks No Zu’s Nicolaas Oogjes, and it’s a fair question for anyone who hasn’t seen the band before. Rhetorically, they dive into their set and pull out a series of percussion-lead post-punk jams that energise the amphitheatre like nothing else yet. The band’s rock solid rhythm section allow the copious echo effect and rich vocalisations from singer Daphne Shum to float effortlessly as the brash inflections wake the crowd up, move feet and win new fans.
With the ground full of the younger end of the demographic Golden Plains attracts, the sun less cruel and shadows stretching, the stage empties to just a chair, a guitar and a couple of small amps set side-stage. Moments later Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man on Earth leaps out, jumps enthusiastically and stares down the audience. This sort of wired performance is not let go of for his whole spellbinding set, and it divides much of the crowd. Songs like King of Spain, 1904, Criminals, Love is All and The Gardener get huge singalongs and the ensuing Wind and Walls the biggest showing of shoes for the festival, though these shoes are of a younger and far more stylish variety than tomorrow’s contenders earn. Mistaking the shoes for weapons, Matsson seems briefly confused before finishing his set with a cover of Graceland, accompanied by his wife fellow singer-songwriter Amanda Bergman. Regardless of your opinion, his guitar fingering skills and ability to pointlessly hurl a plectrum across a stage are intimidating.
Typically divisive and owner of the coveted sunset slot, Cat Power follows and spends several songs (Cherokee, You May Know Him) leading her band through snails-pace churning riffs, utilizing about 0.5% of their abilities and losing many of the curious. Her dour charisma and wounded voice is talismanic to much of the crowd but only grips attention when J Mascis joins for Metal Heart and closes her set with a disarming and brave stab at combining Boys Next Door’s Shivers with INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart; a strange and not entirely successful venture.

The morning sun rises on a dusty encampment, soon populated by thousands of weary soldiers, sporting the festival armour of sweat, sunscreen, dust, hand sanitizer and sunnies, dragged out of messy tents by the promise of Bushwalking. An oddly awesome supergroup, the band open proceedings with calm assertion and killer riffs. Karl Scullin’s excoriating guitar sound, Nina Venerosa and Ela Stiles’ stellar harmonies and the dubwise gambits of their mixer make 10AM in Meredith feel like 4AM in Birmingham, though the patience of many a punter is tested by their My Disco-esque favour for simplicity and repetition.
Breaking for a brief chat with festival landowner and originator Jack Nolan, we learn of his son (and annual festival launcher) Chris’s love of farm-based parties and the organic growth the festival took. Like Dickens’ poetry the previous day, provides another chance to ponder what this festival is besides a series of usually excellent bands and offer an ear-resting pause while savouring breakfast.
A clear festival highlight for many is the ensuing set from Dick Diver, offering a sense of humour interlaced with their humbly-intended and unadorned paeans to Melbourne life. On the verge of dropping their second album Calendar Days (most of which we hear today), the audience don’t take long to get alongside, and songs like Water Damage, the brilliant Head Back and a rousing cover of Dragon’s Are You Old Enough earn more than a few boots aloft.
Coinciding with a merciful cloud cover and a cool change come Mulatu Astatke and the Black Jesus Experience. Billed as a 1960s Ethiopian pop pioneer backed by a local Afrobeat combo, what we get seems to be some incredibly proficient mellow jazz-fusion, which is nice but utterly forgettable. The crowd seem content to chill and observe as the smoothness oozes, until Astatke switches from vibraphone to congas and suddenly everything springs to life. Sounding joyously alive and boasting some vibrant rhythms and stellar vocals from the BJE, an expropriation of As We Enter from Damian Marley and Nas (who sampled Astatke) closes what turns out to be a riotous and fun set.
The highlight of the Sunday for many comes in the form of a local duo bent on recreating the most hellish end of 50s juke joints. Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk are essentially a community radio DJs dream; lovingly recreating the sound of a massive 50s and 60s record collection and doing it in a way that screams ‘I may not be from the Deep South, but I am as real as it gets’. If you can hear a white guy singing about picking cotton in the fields and NOT think of Ghost World’s Blueshammer you’re doing better than me, but whatever you think, they’re very good at what they do. Russell’s guitar heaves and crunches, Dean Muller’s drums crash and drive, and their song Bad Motherfucker cracks smiles across every face in the place earning a lot of boot salutes and new fans. 
Unlike Redd Kross, who bring showmanship by the boatload, power pop crunch and big riffs but no memorable songs. Their harmonies are tight, riffs big and the guitar wails authentically, and despite several hyperactive fans, and a hundred odd nodding straw hats, the audience thins as their set progresses. Songs like It’s a Crazy Crazy World seem ill suited to the venue, and that their newest song was from 1992, speaks volumes. 
The crowd size triples and the average age plummets as Toro y Moi assemble and unleash a brace of dense electro funk. Seemingly doing everything possible to fight against the term ‘chillwave’ Chazwick Bundick (aka both Toro and Moi) brings a forceful approach to playing that refuses to let the listener rest. Still as much about atmosphere as narrative, their mood pivots as the well rehearsed four-piece render the crowd a writhing mass of sweat-soaked jelly limbs.
Swapping the crowd yet again comes another shift in tone as riff behemoths The Mark of Cain ensure that anyone who was even a passing fan remains glued to the spot, head nodding or arms aloft. Separatist bludgeons us into submission or arrests us to attention; the trio barely moving a muscle (besides drummer John Stainier’s stand-in Eli Green) while issuing round after round of assaults. Milosevic, The Contender and Tell Me all rouse the faithful and repel the twee.
Maintaining the low-slung guitar and blinding riff aesthetic Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are as hot tipped as a band can be. A spluttered introduction of ‘we’ve come all the way from New York City to be with you people!’ before countless cries of ‘blues explosion!’ let you know no one else could be here. Eschewing a series of songs for an amalgam of riffs and hints of tracks both old and new, Spencer toys with expectations, and shoves his mic between his teeth as the band huddle to the front of the stage, plying riff after nonstop riff. Comparatively subdued compared to last year’s tour, new album Black Mold is heavier and most of its hooks make an appearance, sandwiched against Bellbottoms, Sweat and a dynamite Bag of Bones.
After ten years in the game and on the eve of the release of their first album the seventeen-strong Melbourne Ska Orchestra are a seasoned unit that goes down well with the crowd. Not attempting to blaze a trail, the good times they profess are easy to jig to, and just as easy to flee from, and a good many goers use their opportune timing to grab a meal from one of the many excellent providores the festival boasts. In addition to these, special mention must be made of the fluro-vested volunteers who do an excellent job of tidying, minding, assisting and manning and ensuring the festival is another raging success. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Festival Hall, 07/03/2013
To a rapidly filling room, BBC Radio 1 DJ and mixmaster Zane Lowe acts like a shat Russell Brand, playing a song “for all the Stone Roses fans out there,” badgering our hands into the air and keeping the beats big and bass heavy. Lowe gives it everything he’s got, but the average age here tonight is a bit high for a whole-body response to his energetic cuts and hectoring. Lowe smacks the mixer, dances with the USB-decks and plays a mix of cold, strobe-lit electro and warm bubbly synth bass, but no matter who he is or what he’s doing, he can’t leave the stage soon enough. 

With only a goldfish in a bowl to distract us from the wait, it seems an eternity before The Stone Roses stride out to a round of deafening roars and it’s a full minute before bassist Mani can ease into the intro of I Wanna Be Adored, the song itself nearly drowned out by the crowd singing along; even the guitar melodies are sung note for fleeting note. It takes about 15 minutes for Festival Hall to earn its more infernal nickname as the sweaty mass crush against the barrier and from seemingly nowhere (perhaps beamed in from a football terrace in Manchester, 1989), several hundred boisterous Englishmen claim the band and venue for their own, initiating a round of elbow thrusts alternating with shrugged shoulders and ‘not me mate!’ expressions.

Continuing with Mersey Paradise, the crowd noises ease to jet engine level and the skill of each band member becomes clearer. Mani never drops a note, John Squire’s deft ambling over his guitar neck, the brilliant, rock solid beats and fills of Reni and, drawing everyone’s attention, the loping, aping Ian Brown. Sounding unusually (Auto?)tuneful in a way that reminds more of their legendary eponymous album than any live recording you could Google, Brown is vibrant in crisp baggy jeans and his ‘monkey man’ vibe, his timeless cheekbones framing a frequent grin as he gestures and sneaks winks at audience members.

The stifling heat seems not to bother the goldfish, but everyone else is saturated in sweat. iPhone wallpaper pictures of kids are thrust aside as cameras are pushed into the air with predictable frequency. Sugar Spun Sister, Sally Cinnamon, Ten Storey Love Song andSomething’s Happening follow, each played with precision and passion. A stripped-down version of Fools Gold catches the band in a rawer state, but disappoints no one. A glorious take on Waterfall/Don’t Stop sees the crowd get riled up despite it being the gentlest song they play. Closing with a fringe-banging swagger of She Bangs The Drum and anthemic I Am The Resurrection, this is one return we never expected to see, and can be eternally grateful we did. As the band link arms, embrace and accept the rapturous adulation before disappearing, Brown shouts out ‘one love!’ and vanishes backstage while the crowd detach themselves from each other and peel off into warm night air, dazed and happy.


Rod Laver Arena, 01/03/2013
Phew! Technical proficiency hey? Not often you get to see a band bursting into extended instrumental breaks in a packed and enthralled stadium, but then it’s not often you see a lineup like this. Journey’s early set (nothing says ‘old men at work’ like a 7:15PM start), is packed with spiraling lights, colossal riffs and massive drum fills from the opening blast of Separate Ways, and there’s no let up. Boasting just one original member, guitarist Neil Schon (who is far more taken with noodling around on the pentatonic scale than actually playing a song), it’s the vibrant enthusiasm of singer Arnel Pineda, the Philippine living every Idol contestant’s dream who earns attention. Though the suggestion that Steve Perry’s iconic vocals were outsourced belittles the talent and energy the incredibly youthful Pineda brings, recent quote from keyboardist Jonathan Cain describing him as ‘the future for our franchise’ speaks volumes as loud as Deen Castronovo’s kick drum. Every sound is gigantic; every cymbal kept swinging, every available plectrum flung into the crowd, every song boasting a Superbowl guitar solo. Any Way You Want It, Forever Yours, One Love and Wheel in the Sky are all epic, but none touch the crowd response to THAT song. Don’t Stop Believin’ is everything the crowd want and before the opening riff finishes, the arena is lit by phones and the opening lines sung as one.

Against a smaller, less illuminated backdrop, the titans of heavy metal launch into the sprawling behemoth of Fireball, all caterwauling organ solos, thudding bass and Ian Gillan’s screeched vocals, a man who looks in urgent need of laxatives. Easing into Hard Lovin’ Man then Maybe I’m a Leo, guitarist Steve Morse proves himself a fiery replacement for Richie Blackmore, his fluid lead lines fully validating Australian Guitarist Magazine’s investment in the tour. Morse's solos – and there are a lot of them - are so compressed and busy that they stand at odds with the big valve crunch of Blackmore and the 'sound' of early Deep Purple, but they're a different band now. Whether that's the band the punter is paying for is another question, but Gillan’s vocals suggest enough to keep the audience spellbound and the entertainment level never drops.

Deep Purple is one of the few bands that will give you a five-minute drum solo in a stadium. No One Came boasts an organ solo that sees the rotating Leslie speakers nearly taking off with the intensity of Don Airey's playing. Displays of technical virtuosity lead us into Perfect Strangers and Space Truckin’ both of which bring the audience to their feet, fists in the air, but fists become phones for Smoke on the Water. Howled back for an encore of their first big hit Hush the band leave us with a titanic, skull-rattling version of Black Night ending our short trip back to the days when being a musician meant being able to play an instrument well; no bad thing at all.  


Northcote Social Club,27/02/13
Unlike last night's sold out sauna of a show, this, the second of two concerts Leeds' finest are treating us to, has a loose, friendly and intimate feel from the moment the band step on stage. Tonight sees them run through The Hit Parade, a compilation of their Guinness Book of World Records-listed collection of singles (twelve charting singles in twelve months). The nearly full room is populated mainly by men who bought The Hit Parade when its songs were still A and B-sides, all of whom are in the throes of excited adoration from the spectacular sour emphatic jangling of opener Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.

David Gedge, the man who essentially is The Wedding Present, is as comfortable warmly chatting as he is dispatching acerbic barbs. He pulls out the 'it’s so nice to be back, it seems like only yesterday' gag, which is no less funny for being obvious. This sense of humour fuels Wedding Present classics that get an airing tonight, like Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft, Spider Man on Hollywood and My Favourite Dress, still doubling as an incendiary slice of futile malice despite now being rendered despondently rather than with the vitriol that fuelled its 1987 release. A blistering, face-reddening take of Kennedy follows and the audience are borne along on his careering, slashing chords and the tight deftness of his backing band. Guitarist Geoff Maddock of Kiwi bands Bressa Creeting Cake and Goldenhorse is responsible for the emphatic riffs and works fantastically with Gedge to recreate the harsh, unaffected jangle that the Wedding Present made their own. After the fantastic Mystery Date, we’re lead via Come Play With Me and California – further exercises in pithy economy into The Hit Parade section of the show.

By now amp valves and vocal cords are warmed up and the guitars' satisfying crunch and Gedge’s bolshy utterances give the songs extra drive, and the set flows from high point to high point, despite a frequent breaking of guitar strings. 'There’s a nostalgic aspect to George Best. It clouds your vision. These are better songs. It's better tonight,' Gedge says to affirming cheers. The slippery melodies of Sticky and heavy riffs of Love Slave ensue. ‘We don’t do encores. It’s nothing personal,’ Gedge tells us before issuing the closing salvo of No Christmas and Deer in the Headlights with abandon; every rhythmic, hunched nod from Gedge sending a shotglass worth of sweat flying off to the floor.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The Toff in Town, 26/02/2013

Looking around this sparsely populated room makes the present writer want to kick Melbourne in the balls. With people exploding their brains trying to find ways to describe My Bloody Valentine's newest opus, and paying $100 to see their show, that Lowtide, one of the finest shoegaze bands on the planet, can barely attract fifty people at the end of a poorly attended residency is unfathomable. Sure it's a Tuesday and yes they’re not as well known (or known for making themselves known), but this is a band, it only takes seconds to realize, who know exactly what they’re doing.

Preferring to let foreign bloggers wax lyrical than court attention, the band turn in a flooring effort tonight and preview most of their forthcoming debut album. This will of course, be completely brilliant, promoted by Lewis mumbling through his copious fringe about obscure effects units and sell about ten copies, of which I'll own two, none of which will stop it being a shining example of timeless genius. Singers Giles Simon and Lucy Buckeridge have never sounded stronger than tonight, and confidence and power is the overwhelming theme of their music. No longer slow and languid, many songs (such as Hey Rose and Blue Movie) are gut-lifting, headlong rushes into somewhere beautiful, full of volume and certain of intent; like clinging to a bullet train. With a spinning mirrorball above, spotlights trained on the ceiling, and dry ice thickening the air, the delicate textures and twining harmonies of Whale and Spring emphatically build and release, while the older Underneath Tonight and No Horizon close the set with loose majesty.

Making this one of the best shows in months is the opening set from another band due to release a blinder of an album, Montero. Whether it’s the quality of the PA or a good mood, singer Bjenny Montero's voice sounds richer and more expressive than ever. A tender, careful placement of words and space during the quieter sections seems to give the songs an epic quality that the music emphasises once it arrives. The band’s tight fury and Montero’s expressive vocals show yet another reason why they're going to own this town once the album drops. Out there doing their own thing, this dynamite collection of talent have a deft way with the 70s schmaltz that few could deny. As Bjenny himself says, signing off: 'awesome, awesome times'.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


The Stickmen play ATP Melbourne. Photo by Andy Hazel
From 1997-1999, one band ruled Hobart, released two adored albums and vanished. ANDY HAZEL catches up with Ianto Kelly, drummer for recent ATP highlight and reformed legends THE STICKMEN.

“When The Drones got the job to curate ATP, [drummer] Mike [Noga] wanted to have a Tassie connection, and he particularly wanted us there,” explains sticks-man for the Stickmen, Ianto Kelly one quarter of the four-piece. “He asked very nicely which I thought was funny:  ‘It would be a real honour and a privilege if you could consider this offer…’” he laughs.

Thrust into the vault of ‘you should’ve been there’ experiences, a Stickmen gig was something witnesses will attest to as being very special. With their four members long-since split between four different cities, any chance for a reformation would similarly have to be under very special circumstances. “Having ATP and the Drones behind you is a bit of clout,” says Kelly. “That’s the ATP thing; it’s someone saying ‘this is a band that influenced me, this is a band that contributed to me making the music I do’. It’s not like someone saying ‘we’re booking a show, we’ll make it worth your while’. Mike had been playing Stickmen to the other members of the Drones for years, so the whole band got behind it.”
With all four members continuing to play in other bands (Kelly now plays with The Spinning Rooms), he admits rehearsals were fuelled by adrenaline. “There is a bit of pressure. We were nervous until we started playing, then it just sounded like the Stickmen having fun. Our first rehearsal wasn’t as shabby as we thought it would be, and we’re very relaxed about it now, especially compared to how we were feeling before,” he says laughing. “It’s all round rad. Playing is going to be crazy.”

Of their more relaxed (and cheaper) sideshow at the Tote, Kelly explains that this is being considered a very different show. “We’re writing up two sets, we’re saving the faster, more dynamic stuff for the Tote. Aldous brought some ideas to rehearsal, we added to it and we really quickly wrote a new song,” he says before expanding on the band’s remarkably fluid creative process. “Aldous was always moving on and changing things, never resting on his laurels, he always wanted to keep moving things forward. We used to play songs that people knew by starting at half speed or double speed, changing the way we’d go into and out of them, finding ways to keep it interesting.”

The band’s long lost albums - 1997’s The Stickmen and 1999’s Man Made Stars - were mined for the 2008 compilation Who Said it Should Be Good?. Released by Tom Lyngcoln’s (Harmony, The Nation Blue) label Solar/Sonar, the album added to the few press retrospectives and the enduring copying and spreading of the music, all contributing to a groundswell of curiosity that surprises the band, as Kelly explains. “A big part of that is that we didn’t hang around too long or get boring and start repeating ourselves. There’s a bit of mystique because we never came to the mainland too. Tom Lyngcoln and Mike Noga have largely been responsible for keeping our name alive, that Mess and Noise article too,” he says referring to Troy D. Colvin’s Hunting…The Stickmen. “That Best Of was a labour of love for Tom, he certainly made no money out of it.”

With a lot of listeners and reviewers struggling to describe their uniquely simple hybrid of surf, psych rock and primitive turntablism, Kelly is reflexive. “I think the two albums stand up really well, but I can’t really tell if it’s all the things people say it is. I’m too close to it. I wonder if people will think ‘that’s the sound of Hobart in the 90s’ or whether it could have been made now or 40 years ago, which it kind of could be.”

Excitingly, this reunion may not be ending at the Tote. New material has been written and technology, burgeoning when the band split, now allows them to continue despite geography. “It’s not an official reunion as such,” he clarifies. “But who knows?”


The Workers Club, 15/02/13

Despite starting nearly an hour later than advertised, there are still more people on stage than the audience by the time Dumb Blonde kick off their idiosyncratic set. Actually Sydney’s Kite Club playing a secret gig, Dumb Blonde are immediately arresting for a number of reasons. Opening song I'm Aligned bursts into light, full of jangling, stinging guitars, a surging rhythm section and above the galvanising falsetto of guitarist, singer and really very smart blonde Nicholas Futcher. The band's deft way with melodies is roughly balanced by an almost aggressive power pop, though they look more in thrall to the Stones than Big Star (who they, at times, suggest). Futcher's keening wail draws lingering punters who thinly populate the room. Sounding as if Jonsi was raised in Geelong and fronting XTC, his sometimes-wayward vocal reach is affecting rather than atonal. Climbing and Hold On Me are crackling pieces of 80s pop. Closing song My Love suddenly fills the room with dancing couples, and underlines what a revelation they are.

Milk Teddy, another five-piece making resolutely 80s-infused guitar pop, is on equally top form. Curious, twisting guitar melodies anchor their breezy, shouty pop, giving them an intriguingly forceful energy with any sense of seriousness countered by hilarious internal banter. Singer Thomas Mendelovits' voice sounds as though it’s battling isolation with every stretching lyric and hollow echoed vocal, verses coming between breaks of spiraling guitars and light brisk beats; it’s a strangely dour instrument. The final songs XTC and Sparks reminiscent of British band Arctic Circle - are fine encapsulations of this contrast. Mendelovits' charm and the musicianship of the instrument-swapping members fuel their take on low-fi pop, making it a cut above.

From the ashes of Philadelphia Grand Jury, bassist and vocalist Simon Berckelman's latest incarnation, Feelings have a tight line in stripped back pop punk. Bracing, but almost too sparse at times, the songs lack guts despite being full of momentum. Berckelman's charisma almost lets them get away with it, but far too many songs sound a lot, but not exactly like, songs you know. City Hall rips off its melody from Summer Cats wholesale, and Going to The Casino Tomorrow Night and I Want to Chill But I Can't Relax are, like many of their songs, little more than some decent riffs, underused musicianship, and an unexplored repeated title. Between-song chat is a triggered sample of pre-recorded talking which is a wry trick, but too often the golem of tedious pub rock lumbers through their sets. This, however, doesn't stop the gig from being a joyous event with a now-packed room fuelling the fire. The hot-stepping disco of Don't Be Mean to Me underlines this overt energy and positivity but also the songs’ inherent emptiness. Simplicity and shallowness can be a virtue in some people's hands, but not these, or not yet. Granted, they're not aiming for anything higher than ‘good times’, so in that sense the show is a success, but they could be so much more.