Friday, January 31, 2014


Corner Hotel, 28/01/2014

At the close of another 40+ stinker of a day, the huge soft slashes of Nick Allbrook’s guitar is perfect balm for the heat-weary. He once of Tame Impala and currently of Pond is no stranger to the stage, and his shy, self-deprecating mumbling between songs contrasts sharply with the lash-like howl of his singing voice. 'I want to get me the fuck off stage and see King Krule too,' he jokes to an affectionate response. Over synth textures and metronomic beats, Allbrook’s stark and observational songs feel almost improvised they're so immediate. That his impassioned lyrics are lost in clouds of effects doesn’t diminish their impact, and the crowd are boisterously on side. 'I wanna suck your dick Nick,' shouts one punter. Allbrook, seeming extra small and skinny in a baggy top and trousers, his red hair matching his guitar, muses blankly and replies 'that's a bit rich', before launching into set highlight 100ks Around Carmel. ‘Ooh I just want to take him home and nurse him back to health,’ coos one punter quietly, as one young, malnourished redhead replaces another on stage.

The crowd swells to capacity as Archy Marshall and band, aka King Krule, amble on. Opening with Has This Hit? and Ceiling the crowd respond emphatically to every shred of conversation between songs, and ape the hooks. Moving away from the slashed dry guitar of his work as Zoo Kid, to the skeletal funk and near-rap from last year’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon album, songs remain sparse settings for his uniquely hollow and evocative voice. The skittering funk and jazz, so proficiently played by his band, is a strange evolution for an artist who styled himself as a modern-day Gavroche and accompanies the online release of his songs with CCTV footage of his East London neighbourhood and whose no-budget clips feature him mooching around train stations and climbing roofs.

With his personality his biggest asset, the songs that give the biggest insights are the boldest; Baby Blue, Easy Easy and the still-mesmerising Out Getting Ribs. When he stretches out and lets the silence creep in, as he did so arrestingly as Zoo Kid, it’s stunning. The tight, slick upmarket funk of his newer material goes down gloriously though, and the crowd, while never actually dancing (this is still Melbourne readers), clearly love the evolution and it will be fascinating to see what he brings when next he returns having left his teens behind.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Corner Hotel, 17/01/2013
Stepping out of Richmond Station to a sky full of bats flapping their way over the Corner Hotel is only the first dark portent of a very dark and portentous evening. 
One band that is neither of those things is The Mercy Kills, a four-piece seemingly invented purely to soundtrack killer nights at the clean and rowdy Cherry Bar. No one comes to a Mistfits gig for anything new and the Mercy Kills don't trouble that premise but they do have fun, even if audience interest levels are low. When drummer Josh Black breathes fire from burning drumsticks and extinguishes them with a drum solo, the gradually growing crowd barely muster a cheer. 

Graveyard Rockstars have the elaborate makeup, hair and black metal look of a band that live and breathe the lifestyle. Which makes the prominent well-enunciated vocals and pop lyrics jar oddly with the heavy riffs and majestic shredding which leaves them looking like Slipknot and sounding like a sub-Rage Against the Machine covers band. Still, their panto-groove metal does what it sets out to.

The room, swiftly filling with an audience dressed almost entirely in black, seethes gleefully like a bikie convention on E. Selling more t-shirts than albums would suggest the image of The Misfits is stronger than their music, but the fervour gripping tonight’s hardcore crowd proves otherwise. Near capacity when they come on stage, the room surges excitedly and with the opening chord of The Devil’s Rain and a brutal mosh ensues. 

The opening ten minutes sees the aging trio pull out the classics Scream, Attitude and Teenagers From Mars, and it seems we'll be witness to a top-heavy set and a band whose energy levels drop fast. Thankfully, we're proven wrong. The sweaty, lanky, pin-balling fans explode with raw gusto as security peel crowdsurfers from the roof of the feral, flailing mass, and the band easily match our fury.

The one original Misfit, bassist and now vocalist Jerry Only, may have less hair to make his famous devilock style than he did when debuting these songs 30-odd years ago, but he never gives less than 100%. Barking introductions and a frantic "1, 2, 3, 4!", songs are short blasts of punk horror metal and we respond with equal intensity. Dig Up Her Bones, She, Skulls and an incendiary Helena are highlights of a set that runs to over forty songs as the band prove over and over that their brand of Halloween punk is far from getting old, and the band aren't about to act their age any time soon.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

ANXIETY ATTACKS: An interview with Autre ne Veut

Arthur Ashin aka Autre ne Veut is psyched to be joining the "weird hipster circus" that is the 2014 Laneway Festival. ANDY HAZEL gets a ringside seat.

“I’m really looking forward to Laneway if for no other reason than in the midst of the worst month of our winter I get to experience someone else’s summer,” says Arthur Ashin amiably from his home in Brooklyn. “As I understand it, it’s a weird hipster circus that travels throughout Australia,” he continues with trademark acuity. 
Touring in the guise of his stage name Autre ne Veut, Ashin speaks as though he is the clinical psychologist he was, until recently, intent on being. Leaving the academic world for that of bedroom electro R&B is the first in a long series of brave moves that set his name into rapid ascension among thousands of 'important' blogs. “In the clinical psychology framework of the American academic world you’re not meant to do other things, as this shows you’re not dedicated to being a serious clinician” he says curtly. The weight of this decision informs his acclaimed debut album Anxiety. However, he has no such trepidation about his forthcoming Australian shows.

“For some reason I’m optimistic about Australian audiences,” he continues, “but it’s not based on any logical assumption. I saw Flume play the other month and there were mostly Australians in the audience, so if I get a fraction of the psych he got, I’ll be stoked.”
This balance of euphoria and exposed internal pressures is a way of life for Ashin now. Having released several EPs anonymously (“I wanted to avoid Google searches of my name - music disseminates online much faster than a journal byline” he explains), Ashin’s commitment to a musical calling has thrust him into the international limelight. With a Best New Music prop from Pitchfork and countless blogs calling Anxiety one of the albums of the year, Ashin is now finding himself explaining the line between authorship and catharsis.  

“I think of songs and production as being able to be worked with and against each other,” he says quickly. “They’re not detailed personal accounts, they’re not examples of anxiety. [Single] Play by Play is a six-minute meditation on jealousy which is not to say I’m perpetually jealous. It’s not about one moment of jealousy, it’s just a mediation on the idea for me. It plays on the idea of a populist trope in music, but also has a potential to produce social anxiety, in the way Hollywood film perpetuates the same scenes and ideas over and over again; how to be a hero and what constitutes the idea of heroic behaviour. These superimposed, top-down ideas are so deep seated that when we seat them next to our carnal desires or id expressions there’s this inherent dissonance between these two things, or societal expectations,” he says in the manner of Sherlock explaining something obvious to Watson. “The production ideas I use are informed by the broader ideas of society, capitalism and media on which superimposing norms, so yeah it [Anxiety] is both personal and a societal creation.”  

Listening to Anxiety is an overwhelmingly positive experience. Far from being psychological offloading, Ashin is mainly concerned with beats, textures and subverting the overt physicality of R&B into something just as powerful, but more cerebral than sexual. “I was on a life path,” he explains by way of outlining his methods. “I was doing my Plan B 100%. Making records is not just cathartic, you get to curate yourself and you decide what aspect of your catharsis translates well. If I could get paid a modest amount to perpetually produce music I would probably be the happiest I could be. Once in a while I would go to some sort of intellectual salon and have a half-assed conversation about Plan B to keep my academic brain rolling to a passable degree,” he jokes.  

Ashin’s proclivity to anxiety has surprising positives when it comes to touring. “I have the benefit of having a massive amount of stage fright, which creates stress and adrenaline rush. So maybe I’m playing the same shit every night, but I’m still scared to do the same thing. I have a lot of visceral action in my body while performing, so it’s not as mundane as it might be for a braver, more bored individual,” he says, seeming to realise the funny side as he talks. Many listeners have pointed out how 80s-influenced his music sounds, though, as Ashin points out, this is far from intentional. It is possible, he suggests, that the music he makes as a catharsis is influenced by music he heard before his critical faculties developed. 

“I was born in the front end of the 80s and there are musical aspects that are deeply embedded in me, and I guess that comes through on this record. I have never tried to make 80s music, but what I do love about the 80s is the idea of the popular avant-guardists. People like Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Annie Lennox...they were simultaneously engaged in ideas that pushed against the very foundations they were helping to create and I find that so compelling. I’ll never sit down to make an 80s-sounding song or album, never, but when I’m trying to create a Dr Luke-style gated synth and it ends up sounding more 1987 than 2007, that’s OK,” he laughs. With brains like these on board, this "weird hipster circus" could just be the best yet.


The Corner Hotel, 04/01/2014

Lanky hair framing his impish grin, Dean Whitby opens tonight's show with a blast of local charisma. Playing his first gig without usual accompanying band Drunk Mums, Whitby has a nice line in chunky garage rock, with big dirty chords and a Paul Kelly-esque speak-singing delivery. Songs are largely unadorned with melody or dynamics and suffer from sameiness without his band, but his self-deprecating humour wins the crowd over; it’s hard to dislike a man who names his guitars Gumby and Pokey.

After a lengthy break during which the crowd stares at a red velvet curtain and makes earnest conversation, lights lower and the curtain parts. Johnny Marr and his three-piece band stride confidently onstage and blast into The Right Thing Right, the opening track from 2013’s The Messenger. Impeccably dressed in a crushed velvet suit smattered with badges, Marr exuberantly prowls the stage. His silver nail-polished fingers run over his white, low-slung Fender Jaguar with trademark fluidity. 

The opening minutes remind you that now, of all times in recent decades, Marr is at the top of his game. Brimming with confidence, making irreverent asides and playing track after track of arresting songs, you could almost forget he has one of the finest back catalogues in music history to draw from. Songs from The Messenger gives the set its drive and thrust – energy that Marr and the band have no difficulty augmenting live – but the Smiths songs bring the euphoric bonding that elevates this show to being something truly distinctive.

Second song, Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before sees the crowd explode with pinch-me-I’m-dreaming glee. “How many of you here have bought the new album?” he asks mid-way through the set to loud cheers. “You lyin’ bastards!”
Album track Upstarts and a searing version of Lockdown follows as the crowd begin to see Marr as not a godlike figurehead of their youth, but a regular geezer you could chat to in a bar and so questions, declarations of affection and requests pepper the breaks between songs. Smiths’ songs like Bigmouth Strikes Again and Panic are reborn with the effusive bravado that makes Marr’s more recent Word Starts Attack and I Want the Heartbeat late set highlights. 

The set-closing How Soon is Now excites us all enough to call him back for an encore that features not only a reverent I Fought the Law and a tender, Rowland S. Howard-dedicated There is a Light That Never Goes Out, but a surprise take on Electronic’s Getting Away With It. Proving himself up to taking on both Morrissey AND Neil Tennant is no mean feat, but then he is, as the t-shirts at the merch table scream in red-on-black bold type, “Johnny Fuckin’ Marr”.