31 August 2011

Here's my super group, where's yours?

There's been a fair bit of hype in recent years over "super groups", although they're not a new phenomenon at all.  A lot of the discussion is around what constitutes a super group and whether certain bands fall into the category or not - the Raconteurs state that they aren't a super group, despite having members from very successful bands; Them Crooked Vultures were definitely considered one.

27 August 2011

Last weeks listening list, for your reading pleasure

Another mixed bag of musical treats got the call up to my playlist last week.  Here's the highlights:

Miles Davis and John Coltrane, two of the jazz greats, together?  What's not to like?  Well, the sound quality on Abstract Impressions mainly.  If you can get past that then this is a pretty good introduction to both musicians, and they're in fine form here.  It's not the cutting edge Miles, that phase of experimentation started shortly after this was recorded, but if you want to hear him, and Coltrane, playing some of the songs that made them both huge names, then this should do it for you.

23 August 2011

This is the best damn party I've been to

First of all, apologies to any bands that may recognise themselves in this week's post.  My intention isn't to offend, upset or criticise, but to mention something I experienced last week; if it helps get people turning out to support live music, and bands recognising the importance of putting on a professional show then that's got to be a good thing.  Right?

Last weekend I was photographing a band called Luger Boa (you can check out those photos at Under the Radar, or the full set here).  I went along with low expectations, having seen them before and not really getting into their sound; when I left the gig I'd changed my mind about them and have been talking them up all week.

I have to admit, I'm still not a huge fan of their sound, although they've improved since I saw them a couple of years ago (I don't know what it is about the music I'm not getting; it's balls to the wall rock n' roll, and that normally does it for me).  What changed my opinion of them was their incredibly professional live performance.

Watching them, I was reminded of how important good stage presence is to a band, to the point that a band that lacks it doesn't tend to go very far or last very long.  Luger Boa knew how to work the crowd; before they even started they had someone come out and announce them with the declaration that "most people will only ever experience one truly great moment in their lives, and this is one of them".  The whole set they never stopped moving and, most importantly, they looked like they were loving every minute of it.

Contrast that with a "new band" night I went to earlier in the week.  While the music was good and the bands played well, for the most part there was little movement from the bands, not a lot of audience interaction and in one case the drummer got up as the band was starting and went to get a drink from the bar. 

The audience tends to reflect the energy and interest of the band on stage.  A band that appears disinterested in their audience and doesn't involve them tends to lose the interest of the audience.  Live bands perform because they want to play in front of an audience, if they don't treat that audience with respect, then it's likely to be reciprocated.  Conversely, put on a great show, be energetic, involve people, and even if your music still needs work you'll probably find your fan base grows quickly as people share their experiences and do the hype work for you.

Have you seen any bands that put on a great show that left you buzzing?  Or saw a band you thought were going to be great, only to find that they were a let down live because they lacked energy of presence?  Drop us a comment below telling us about it (you don't have to name the bands if you don't want to)...

20 August 2011

This week my ears have been enjoying...

Seeing there's a new Incubus album out made me want to listen to some of their older stuff, you know, from back when they were good.  Their sound after Make Yourself seemed to veer too much toward radio-friendly, middle of the road rock, and to be blunt, was pretty boring.  Make Yourself was still interesting, although still softer than the two albums before it, and still rocks now, 12 years after it was released.

16 August 2011

Where's your favourite band from?

Last week I dealt with a question on my favourite albums of all time – something that comes up now and again when people find out I write about (or just have an obsession bordering on unhealthy with) music.  

I also get asked a bit about my favourite local band.  I’m not going to go into who that band might or might not be, or if I even have one – at least not this week.  What I’d rather focus on is the fact that people ask this question in this way, or at all.  It’s never who’s you’re favourite up and coming band/s; it’s usually phrased as a local vs national or international thing – us vs them.

If a band is good and you like their music, does it really matter (should it matter) where they’re from? When I think about the bands that I really like I don’t tend to separate them out into local or international, it’s just a list.

Sure, there are bands that I prefer over others, and my all-time favourites tend to be international, but I think that’s probably more to do with the fact that if they’ve got big enough to get exposure around the world, they’ve had more experience and with that comes a more polished and professional sound.
Local bands tend to still be local bands because they don’t have that experience and therefore don’t have the exposure.  It doesn’t mean I value their music any less and I’d put them into the “up and coming” category, rather than label them as “local”.

Being local, I also get the opportunity to see them more often that some of the bigger national and international bands that I’m into; with that familiarity sometimes comes a form of apathy toward the bands- whereas, when an international band tours it’s a novelty.

So, what can we do to change this way of thinking?  If someone asks about your favourite local bands, tell them who your favourite bands are – local or not; get in the habit of thinking about local bands as up and coming bands, rather than just local.  And most of all, get out there and support bands in your town, city, area.

What do you think about the way bands are labelled?  Is it fair to treat local bands as less important than bigger bands?  If you’re in a band, how does this impact on you?  Leave a comment below…

13 August 2011

Another list of random albums that I've had a listen to this week

After listening to Chino Moreno's new side project Crosses last week I had a hankering for some Deftones.  Diamond Eyes is probably my favourite of the Deftones albums - I think they managed to get the balance between chunky, solid riffs (almost like Meshuggah in some parts) and melodic and atmpospheric sounds just right.  This is a serious collection of solid tunes and I can't get enough of it at the moment.

10 August 2011

These are, like, my all time favourite albums, as of right now, okay.

I'm sometimes asked by people to list my top albums - whether it's best ever, top 3, 5, 10 or whatever.  It seems like a pretty easy thing to do at first glance, but once you start thinking about it, it starts to get tricky.  I can usually come up with a quick list off the top of my head, without really getting into what constitutes a "top" album.  Is it albums that have stuck in my head?  Or perhaps the albums that I connect with significant moments in my life?  Or maybe the albums that introduced me to a band or a genre?

For this post I thought I'd have another go at it and come up with my top 5 albums of all time.  I've selected albums that I have distinct memories of, that had a pretty major impact on my life or musical enjoyment and experiences, and importantly, that I still listen to and enjoy now.  So in no particular order of significance...

Appetite for Destruction by Guns n' Roses.  Okay, so I went into why this album means so much to me in last weeks' post, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time going into it again - you can read all about it here.  I actually stopped listening to this for about five or six years, as I got into a real metal phase for a while, then when I snapped out of it I'd kind of moved on.  Then I had it played to me again about 10 years ago and all the reasons I love this album and what it meant to me came flooding on back.  In terms of where I am now musically, and how I got here, probably the most important album on my list.

Live at the Fillmore East by Miles Davis.  I grew up listening to a lot of jazz - my dad had a huge collection of jazz on vinyl - but when I heard this album it blew my mind.  Recorded over four nights in 1970, this showcases Miles at his best - mellow Miles, traditional Miles, Miles the innovator and experimenter.  After hearing this I went out the next day and signed up to trumpet lessons, mainly because I'd never realized the trumpet could be so cool.  It's definitely the best Miles Davis album I've heard and well before he started to get way into (too far into) electronic music. 

...And Justice For All by Metallica.  The Black album was actually the first Metallica album I remember hearing, although I might have heard some of the earlier stuff before then, but Justice is the one that stands out for me, and got me into Metallica in a big way (and the start of that metal phase I mentioned earlier).  Despite the sometimes shoddy production on it, including the (deliberate?) vandalism to the bass track, the songs are epic slabs of metal and are Metallica at their peak (the Black album is too polished and commercial for my tastes, and coincides with when the cracks started to show in the band and therefore in their music).

Straight Out Of Compton by NWA.  Before I heard this, and I did hear it a couple of years after it came out, it made me realise that hip-hop wasn't all happy Will Smith tracks and Hammer pants.  This was real music, about real situations, created by the people who lived it.  Okay, that last bit might be open to debate, but the feeling in that music, from the strong opening track, right through their diatribes against the police and... oh wait, that was pretty much the whole album, that feeling was what was missing from all the other hip hop I'd heard up until then.  I've been a fan of Ice Cube and Dr Dre ever since (until Dre's releases starting getting worse and worse anyway).

Suck On This by Primus.  Who knew bass could be the focus of a band?  Not me, until I heard Les Claypool noodling away on Primus' first release.  And who releases a live album before they've even released a studio album anyway?  Primus were never going to be a conventional band, right from the start; you could argue that Sausage, the forerunner to Primus, ensured normality was never going to be an option for them.  Their songs are ridiculous tall tales of exploits on the seas, in dark alleys and bars, and on the road, but it's the music that Primus do best.  Tim "Herb" Alexander delivers an amazing performance on the drums, including an impressive solo, and Larry LaLonde ain't too shabby either.  Frizzle Fry, the follow up and debut studio album, is one of my favourites too, but it's this album that introduced me to Primus and made me want to learn bass (see a theme developing here?).

Now, I know it's a top five list, but since I already dedicated an entire post to Appetite for Destruction, I think I'm entitled to one more pick.

Lateralus by Tool.  What's to say about this?  Amazing drumming?  Check.  Big riffs?  Check.  Wicked vocal effects?  Of course.  Solid playing, interesting compositions, fun with time signatures?  All there.  I've been on the Tool bandwagon since Undertow came out, but Lateralus represents the culmination of the Tool journey to me.  10,000 days was a bit same old, whereas with every other release before that they'd pushed the envelope (to quote from Lateralus itself) and destroyed all expectations.  Sure, the previous albums were awesome too, and Aenima got them the attention they deserved, but with Lateralus it's like they didn't care so much about winning over new fans, or getting exposure, they just went ahead and made an album that needed to be made.  And for that I thank them.

There's a few other albums that should have made this list but it was hard enough settling on five.  So to round out my top ten, we've got:
  • Reign in Blood by Slayer - best thrash metal album of all time, and has stood the test of time.
  • The Real Thing by Faith No More - funky, fast, aggressive and most of all fun.
  • Killjoy by Shihad - New Zealand's best rock band ever.  Big, loud, chunk riffs and solid playing.  Produced by Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, so it was always going to be awesome.
  • Back In Black by AC/DC - another album of big, solid riffs.  It's a wall of sound coming down to rock your world and steal your women.  Their best album, and then they went and got into screaming solos.  Shame.
So, let's hear your top five albums... leave a comment with your list below.

6 August 2011

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blues... what I've been listening to this week

New Zealand's the New Caledonia make prog rock for robots and aliens.  Or is it alien rock by robots?  Whatever it is they're making they should keep doing it.  Lotus is an album that I like to keep coming back to because it always continues to interest and surprise me with its layers and soundscapes.  Minimal vocals mean you can really get into what the instruments are getting up to.

3 August 2011

I bought me an illusion and I put it on the wall (or, how Guns n' Roses changed my life)

As a young child I was exposed to the usual mix of children's songs (Wheels on the Bus), 80's pop hits (Locomotion) and mainstream rock (Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet was one of the first albums I can recall owning myself - on cassette of course).  There was also a lot of jazz and blues played in our house, which no doubt had some influence on my musical development; but more on that in a future post.

Then, at 8 years old, I heard Appetite for Destruction by Guns n' Roses for the first time and it completely changed the way I thought about music.