Sunday, June 30, 2013


Corner Hotel
A room-halving red curtain is the first thing that greets a punter curious for some hyped UK neo-psych rock at the Corner tonight. Not an indication of a poor gig, but not a promising sign. The other unexpected sight on entering is that of copious sponsorship of A Certain Alcoholic Cider of Irish Apples (aka ACACIA), who has thrown their name in with whatever image UK Indie Rock™ has these days. Whether seeing a band surrounded by sponsors’ logos vs not seeing them at all is an arrangement to get used to will be interesting to see. Someone should write a column about it.

The prevalence of ACACIA on signs, screens, posters, plastic glasses, bottles and the T-shirts of iPad-toting dudes eager to sign punters up to mailing lists makes for some hilarious banter from Frowning Clouds. Cranking through a stellar set, the five-piece are a perfect opening act, and seem instantly comfortable in this curious environment. Boasting tight, reverb-saturated harmonies and riffs that chug like runaway trains they possess vitality rare in a band evoking 60s garage. Songs like My Calendar Girl, Bad Vibes recent 7-inch single Propellers and a track introduced as ‘a song about reverb’ are all excellent examples of how to keep rock and roll fresh. Thin, hollow-body guitars festooned with knobs all cranked to ten, nodding, tousled hair, stomping beats, pithy songs and a sense of humour; this is how it’s done.

To a static ACACIA-sipping crowd shouting into each other’s ears over a deafening Velvet Cave DJ set, TOY arrive with minimal fanfare and low lighting. Blasting the crowd with a consistent force of abrasive guitar chops and insistent beats, it’s hard to deny their power even away from the production brilliance of Dan Carey who guided their sole album to rapturous reviews. Far from being a noodling jam band in thrall to Sonic Boom and the Velvets, there is a ruthless tightness about TOY’s rhythms and squalls.
A wall of expensive cameras line the front row, as the band play as though they’re already as big as their riffs and pedal boards. It’s all down-strokes and nodding heads and it doesn’t need to be anything else when it’s done this well.

Playing their single Left Myself Behind second is indicative of the confidence on display here. Weaving pitch-bent melodies over the thrashing guitars, TOY could be more melodic and pop if they wanted (e.g. My Heart Skips a Beat), but they’re far more interested in a vibe. Making music that implies speed (in both senses), this is some of the best car-driving music since Stereolab, and the crowd respond by staying stock-still. Layers of dark clothes keep us rooted to the spot as Motoring and the blistering Dead and Gone tear at the air.

Naturally, the gig ends in a frantic burst of strumming, kneeling and pedal cranking, but even this (album closing ten-minute epic Kopter) is reined in carefully. No encores, no need, just nine songs and we’re good.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Northcote Social Club
Proving not only that there are still plenty of good band names out there, but that there are still great supergroups left to come out of the Melbourne music scene, Early Woman dispatch any notions of slick professionalism within moments. Flaunting their gold lame and wandering vocal melodies proudly, singer and guitarist Hannah Brooks (Young Professionals, St Helens) and keys hammerer Bjenny Montero lead the band through a captivating set boasting cheap synth sounds, slap back vocal echo, and some brilliant bass playing from Rob Bravington, all of which keeps us in thrall to their brash take on early garage rock and girl groups. Songs like Believer are full of ideas and rusty pop hooks (even if they are all cribbed from Paul Kelly and John Maus, as Montero suggests). Future single I’m a Peach is a standout, but closing song Roadknight is the clincher. 

Three-piece Bushwalking are a band willing to drive a groove into the ground, and if you’re not with that groove things can get very same-y. In a lesser band this idea would be tedious, but as Karl Scullin is playing his saturated, spiky melodies over Ela Stiles churning bass lines and Nisa Venerosa’s percussive loops, it’s a wonderful thing. Stronger still is their harmonies. Matching then simultaneously swooping, their voices are never pretty or showy, but piercing without jarring. With the room packed to capacity before closing highlight Visual Jam Doughnut, the crowd responds warmly to a thoughtfully bludgeoning set.

Beaches are going from strong to Herculean, playing this, the first of two sold out nights to launch their second album, She Beats. Immediately noticeable are the shifts in dynamics and intent behind their music. It’s as if their self-titled debut album was made for the fun of making music, and the songs were played for each other, while this new batch feature vocals to the fore, motorik beats and guitars reminiscent of the previous night’s lightning storms, and it’s these newer songs that stand out. Send Them Away, Out of Mind, Dune and stellar Distance are full of purpose and drive and the transfixed crowd love every moment. Personalities have always shone through at Beaches gigs, and Gill Tucker’s wry smiles to the crowd and ‘Fuck I’m having fun!’ persona prevent accusations of solemnity that their Teutonic rock might suggest. Another example of one of this city’s finest bands owning it; this was always going to be a great night.