Filler by Proxy IX: Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Brain

Monday 17 January 2005

Why didn’t anyone tell me* that Marc Almond was in a coma last year? I know, you’ll just say “Because, Ben.H, we know you don’t give a shit about Soft Cell, let alone Mr Almond’s solo career,” but that doesn’t mean I’d have laughed dismissively at the news of his terrible motorcycle accident. Thankfully, he’s getting better. Anyway, I’m only mentioning it now becuase of his miraculous parrot-assisted recovery, as reported at No Rock & Roll Fun:
The range of benefits of keeping a pet bird have expanded by one, with Marc Almond revealing that he was roused from his coma by someone playing him the CD that he usually played to his parrot. We’re not entirely sure why he made a specific compilation for his parrot, and we don’t know what was on it – Chicks on Speed, we suppose. We’re also not sure who had the idea of playing Marc the parrot’s CD – we like to think it was maybe the parrot – but it worked.
Athough he’s recovering, Almond has got a way to go – in addition to the physical injuries, he’s discovered his childhood stammer has returned, and his hair has, Leland Palmer** style, turned grey overnight.
* Yes, Australian celebrity babe ASCII art.
** Or maybe Leland Palmer.

Filler by Proxy VI: No such thing as coincidence

Wednesday 22 December 2004

Greg Sandow muses on the simultaneous obituaries for poet Jackson Mac Low and ex-Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. After playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for a few paragraphs he describes his admiration for Mac Low’s (and John Cage’s) work in a way I can agree with but have never explained so well:

One feeling I’ve long gotten from work like Cage’s or Mac Low’s is peace. But not just any kind of peace — not, for instance, a warm and fuzzy peace, full of love, hope, and goodwill. It’s more profound than that; the peace that comes from lack of need or striving.

And from there he looks for, and finds, the common thread which made him react to both deaths.
Both, in fact, oppose the mainstream, metal noisily, Mac Low’s more quietly. Metal rages angrily at normal life; the relationship of Mac Low’s kind of art to normal life is less direct. And yet it’s strong…. After World War II… meaning in normal life was hard to find. Hence rebellion, and also modernist art, which didn’t look for normal meaning.
More about Jackson Mac Low, including some of his poems, interviews and sound recordings.

Swings and Roundabouts

Sunday 12 December 2004

On the one hand, Delta Goodrem is leaving Australia to live in the U.S., from where hopefully she can devote less time to perpetually saturating every Australian media outlet* while simultaneously bleating about how the media shd respect her privacy. Having now stiffed in the U.K. and exhausted the goodwill of her compatriots, she thinks she can still evade the Pepsi Curse.
On the other hand, Leo Sayer is still threatening to move to Australia next year to relaunch his music career. For those who haven’t heard this choice quote:

In Australia they still want heroes. They are looking to me to teach their kids knowledge and wisdom.

Still, better him than Delta, I guess. And you have to admit “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” is pretty catchy.
* Including this one, dammit.

Whack the masonite up on the pool table and get yer tits out

Saturday 4 December 2004

You people can count yourselves lucky. For a while there I had shut down the Rob Roy Hotel without even realising it. Apparently they couldn’t make enough money out of having live bands play there. I attribute this to me not going there even once all year on the pretext of hearing some music but really ending up getting blind on $2 black sambucca shots, trying to rehang the op-shop art on the walls and then groping some poor girl while she’s trying to talk to her boyfriend. So naturally their bottom line suffered when I took my talent for making my own fun elsewhere, and I was saddened but not surprised to hear of the venue’s demise.
Of course it could all be part of the continuing fallout from Lion Nathan’s plan a few years back to pay ridiculously large sums of money for inner city pubs in a vain attempt to get people to drink Tooheys.
Walking past the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude with the pub dark and quiet was like a return to an older Fitzroy that most resisdents pretend to have known and loved. The effect was set off nicely by a large-waisted, short-legged man in track pants across the street who had straddled the fence around Atherton Gardens and was complaining loudly about the effect this posture was having on his balls.
I had high hopes that we might see a return of the ‘exotic dancers’ to the back bar of the Rob Roy, but there’s been a change of heart by the management and the bands are back just as abruptly as they left, so the gentrification process of Gertrude Street has taken a decisive step sideways. In fact, City City City are playing there tonight and I totally intend going to see them, except I’ve just realised they’re probably on right now as I type this. Besides, a friend’s just given me a Target shopping bag full of Wesley Snipes videos so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere for a while.

Filler by Proxy V: The Ten Greatest Albums of All Time (inspired by Rolling Stone Magazine)

Tuesday 26 October 2004

According to Useful Noise. Yes, I’m trying to build up posting momentum here. The account of the Newcastle adventure is taking a little longer than expected to write up, owing to me repeatedly breaking down and weeping openly over the keyboard, which hinders my progress.
I was going to apologise about not updating this for a while and launching into some fanciful cock-and-bull story about why I’ve been absent, but I figure you’re all mature enough to understand that when dealing with shonky amateur operations like this one you have to take what few cheap giggles you can get and be grateful for a few minutes’ distraction from your job and/or masters thesis. I forsee that this blog will perpetually be caught in a boom-bust cycle of updates.

How I went to Newcastle full of dreams and returned a broken shell of a man with nothing to show for it but some new enemies and my host’s house keys

Sunday 10 October 2004


You may have inferred, correctly, from the previous post that I’m back home. The jaunt to Newcastle was a mixture of good and bad: foremost in the latter category is this case of killer flu I picked up in the filthy weather they had up there for the first few days, and which is now lingering into its second week.
Expect a detailed description over the next day or two, but for now I’d like to thank the Electrofringe people for having me up there, and especially Aaron and his housemates for putting me up in such comfort and style during my stay, and letting me walk off with the key to their front door. God bless you all.

Jumbled in the Yooralla box part 2: The heat-death of the 60s universe edition

Monday 13 September 2004

For those who came in late, read the first installment, which includes the origin myth of the Yooralla Box (as told to Maurie Fields).

The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies

Now that CD technology is fast approaching its sunset years, it’s safe to say that humanity will never solve the problem of how to design a workable triple-LP gatefold sleeve. This particular specimen has ‘2XX‘ liberally scrawled over it in texta (how it escaped from Canberra remains a mystery) and is held together with red gaffer tape after having its spines broken by a generation of hairy disc jockeys in need of a bong break folding the thing backwards trying to find the side with “Whippen Post” on it. For a moment I thought they’d stuck parts of the cover back on upside-down, but closer analysis revealed that the various panels were intentionally printed in different orientations, inviting you to pick it up the wrong way round and have one record plummet to the floor.
It’s hard to not be touched by the optimism of this album’s title: apart from Sunbury, what other rock festivals from the 70s can you think of? What we have here is one LP of the Atlanta Pop Festival followed for no particular reason by two LPs of the Isle of Wight Festival. But dig the bands, man! Mountain! Cactus! Poco! The Chambers Brothers! Thinking positively, unadulterated slabs of sometime popular culture like this help remind you that the 60s were no different from subsequent decades inasmuch as they pretty much entirely sucked. And the band list still isn’t as bad as the lineup for Woodstock.
Speaking of which, this does have what turned out to be Jimi Hendrix’s last gig on it, and you can hear it without first having to sit through Kris Kristofferson, David Bromberg and a 20-minute jam by Ten Years After while cowering in a muddy field packed with stinky hippies.
Sleeve quote: “‘I was there,’ said a girl from Montreal. ‘I know I was. And I remember getting into lots of music. But, oh wow. What really happened? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out. What really happened when it was so much of everything.'” Someone thought this was worth printing on the cover. It’s good to know that even the first generation of hippies had a talent for self-parody. The daggy albums with sleeve notes trying to be cool are never as funny as the ones which really were considered cool at the time.
Thurston Potential: 20 to 1. Too much Hendrix on this album to be undervalued in itself, but then maybe it’s time for a Ten Years After revival.
Disc-O-Tech #2
An album that triggers a rollercoaster ride of emotions before you even drop the needle on it, even if you like disco. Hideous generic cover with no visibly black people on it – bad! Wait, it’s on Motown – good! Wait, it was made in 1975 – bad! A mixture of nonentities and 60s singers whose best years are behind them. They all sound like they’re trying very hard, but that is not a good thing when it comes to soul music. Nothing here sounds even half as funky as “Jive Talking”, which is a real worry. One track has the temerity to start with an acoustic guitar, which made me think for one sickening moment I was going to hear Richie Havens going disco.
There’s one exception. The other day when I was watching Rush Hour 2 on telly and Chris Tucker said that Lionel Richie hadn’t been black since the Commodores, I didn’t fully appreciate what he meant until I heard “I Feel Sanctified” on this record. You listen to this and can’t believe it’s the same guy who ten years later is moping through ballads like a suntanned John Oates with a predilection for stalking blind women in music videos.
Sleeve quote: “A Collection of Classic Motown Songs and Sounds for Dancing in the Streets… and Elsewhere.” Lies! None of these songs are classics, except maybe that Commodores track. What’s worse, they sneakily imply that “Dancing in the Street” is on the record. Of course, it is not. But then, they were so ashamed of this deception they printed it in tiny text at the bottom of the cover, in writing smaller than the actual naff track listing above it. On the positive side, you can dance to this album, even in the street; although you may feel a bit foolish doing it if you’ve moved to Caroline Springs. Not sure how ‘sounds’ are distinguished from ‘songs’: I’ve listened closely and can’t hear any classic Motown sounds, like people snorting coke or backing singers blowing Berry Gordy Jr.
Thurston Potential: 6 to 1, but anyone who tells you that mid-70s Motown has the funk is full of shit.
The Bay City Rollers, Rollin’
Next time someone whinges to you about pop groups these days putting all the effort into looking good instead of working on their musicianship, whip this ‘un out on them. They look just as dorky as boybands today but twice as ugly, and the songs sound at least as crap as whatever’s getting played on TV this Saturday morning. Take my word for it, it’s much easier to jerk off to modern-day pop kiddies’ music videos with the sound turned off than to record covers of bands that warmed the prepubescent cockles of Generation X.
Look closely and you’ll notice that most of the songs are written not by the band, but by the two guys who also produced the record. This goes a long way to explaining why last summer the Rollers (or what’s left of them) were in Northcote playing the Croxton Tavern on the $10 parma and pot night. It does not explain why it took two people to write songs which all invariably consist almost entirely of the words “shang-a-lang”.
Sleeve quote: None. The Rollers are for looking, not for reading. The facsimile autographs on the front cover photo are a nice touch, though. This album once belonged to one P. McCulloch, who wrote her name on the record label but restrained herself from drawing any lovehearts around the faces or signatures.
Thurston Potential: 8 to 1. A retro-boyband fad is just aching to come out.

For a while there I forgot I was supposed to be talking about music and stuff

Friday 3 September 2004

For some years now my local has been The Empress, so I have witnessed the slow decline of its clientele. Dowdy boozers bravely denying their encroaching senescence camp furtively in corners once populated by clutches of not-quite-hip arts undergrads sipping pots laced with Stone’s Green Ginger Wine. Actually, that doesn’t sound like much of a decline: it’s neutral at worst, if not an outright improvement. Besides, I’m one of those ageing kidults responsible for reducing North Fitzroy to the sleepy shambles it is today.
Even before gentrifying arrivistes with an entitlement complex moved in next door and bullied the pub into submission, their band lineups hadn’t been much chop: it always seemed to be a stageful of bright young things earnestly reworking some licks off the first Tortoise album. So it had been a while since I had a reason to pay money and actually see a band in addition to overhearing one between pots/bad pickup lines/fistfights in the front bar.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a rave for having a non-alcohol-related reason for going to the Empress again, namely the gig turned on by Anthony Pateras, Sean Baxter and David Brown; but it’s hard for me to write about anything that either isn’t about me, or doesn’t let me hang shit on someone or something. In brief: Anthony got to play with the decrepit piano on stage, which until now I thought was for decoration only, and astonished North Fitzroy with the only known prepared upright piano in captivity. David practiced his usual trick of beguiling the audience into thinking he was just as bemused as they were by the sounds coming out of his guitar. Sean managed to get through the whole set without quite demolishing his drumkit and saying “cunt” only once, but that was in reference to the French so it hardly counts. A nice night’s entertainment, particularly their acoustic cover version of Xenakis’ Bohor. The soaks in the front bar hated it.

Filler by Proxy II: Worse than it Sounds

Thursday 2 September 2004

Kyle Gann gives a crash course on why new music gigs so often seem to exist for the benefit of a self-perpetuating clique.

Coming Attraction, Friday 3/9/04

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Yesterday I was planning to post something positive about the Pateras/Baxter/Brown gig I saw at the Empress, but then I saw the front page of The Age and got all cranky. Once I’ve settled down I might try writing it up again, but for now I’ll just plug their next gig.
They’re going on tour in Europe soon, but the Australia Council didn’t come through with supporting funding. Instead, OzCo preferred to give money to boy bands, the Geoff Harvey Orchestra and the Moonee Ponds Mostly Mozart Mornings, instead of any of that arty crap. So there’s going to be a benefit gig, which is simultaneously a launch for the new Phil Samarzis and Rasmus Lunding record. Won’t you help some locals take their bogan art noise to Europe to show them a thing or two?
when: this friday the 3rd

where: 11 a Hope Street, Brunswick, Melbourne

time: 9 onwards…..

cost: $7/$5 entry

live:

Pateras/Baxter /Brown (electronic set ? ! )

Philip Samartzis (touch parking)

Philip Brophy

qua

Das Butcher (featuring the sublime talents of the state wah guitar winner Justin Fuller!)

+ dj: godcutter

Films, slides, grog etc etc…..

Fumbling Towards Nirvana

Tuesday 24 August 2004

I’ve always been a bit out of touch when it comes to popular culture, so perhaps someone can help me on this one. There’s a share house round the corner that’s had a sign up in the front window since April saying “Kurt We Miss You” in lettering constructed from wads of chewed-up toilet paper pressed against the glass. I can understand that on a certain anthropological level, but last week the sign changed to “Sarah We Miss You”. Did I overlook a news report about Sarah McLachlan eating a bullet? Or are the occupants simply expressing their love of Richard Pleasance’s oeuvre?

Jumbled in the Yooralla box: part 1 of a series maybe

Tuesday 24 August 2004

A few years back, just before Christmas, I found a cardboard box full of LPs on the pavement in front of a Yooralla shop, so I took it home. Don’t get all snippy and send me nasty emails about how I’m going to hell for nicking stuff from a charity: this box was in the middle of the pavement beside a pile of discarded crap right underneath a big sign in the Yooralla window saying “This shop will reopen in February so don’t just dump your crap on the pavement, dumbass!” This box was not a charity donation, it was some girl getting even with her boyfriend after a yuletide tiff and if I hadn’t rescued it some drunken tosser wd have kicked it all the way down the street into the path of a truck.
Nevertheless, to assuage any residual pangs of guilt, and because anyone with a website is compelled by law to post bits of their record collection on it, I shall share with you a small and random sampling of the box’s bounty. If anyone can deduce a profile of the box’s previous owner from its contents I wd like to hear your theories. NOTE: The Thurston Potential, besides being my favourite Robert Ludlum novel, is the likelihood that sometime in the next five years the album will be “re-evaluated” (i.e. wildly overpraised) by wankerous fanboys after Thurston Moore* inexplicably professes a liking for it.

Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog (but were afraid to ask for)
Dig the hip and slightly ribald Woody Allen reference! Yes, it’s just one of many attempts to cash in on the success of Switched On Bach. Back in the late 60s a bunch of musical nerds fell into league with clueless but evil record company executives and churned out platter after platter of this gash, flogging one of the most important developments in electronic music until the word ‘Moog’ turned permanently into a musical term only slightly less respectable than ‘accordion’. The album is credited to “The Mighty Moog, semi-conducted [ha! ha! ha!] by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Whogivesashit”. Thanks to the miracle of vinyl, side 2 of this puppy is taken up entirely with a Moogified Ravel’s Bolero (insert your own Bo Derek joke here), complete with synthetic applause at the end – a feat of painstaking skill and complete worthlessness to rival synchronised swimming. Total length: a generous 12 minutes. Weren’t LPs wonderful?
Sleeve quote:We think that what you wanted to hear was an album of your favourite works”. The emphasis is theirs, a reminder of the glorious days when naked corporate paternalism was still believed to be an effective sales pitch.
Thurston Potential: 60 to 1. It will be hard to make earnest claims for this stuff so soon after its kitsch value has peaked (remember kids, Switched On Bach ripoff: cool; Switched On Bach itself: not cool) and without seeming like belated logrolling for that Groovebox compilation Grand Royal put out a while back.

The Residents, 13th Anniversary Show – Live in Japan
This is probably the best score in the box because I like The Residents just enough to listen to one of their records but not enough to pay for it. Also it has one of those intricately detailed cover drawings that you really need to have in the 12-inch version to fully appreciate, and because I can’t get wildly excited about the music I don’t mind that it’s on crummy lousy horrid awful vinyl. So it’s a winner on all counts.
Sleeve quote: “Featuring Snakefinger”. Hey, he’s dead now!
Thurston Potential: 120 to 1. Still too famous for being obscure, and in need of rehabilitation after stooping to feed off Silverchair for free publicity.

Ronnie Ronalde, The Yodelling Whistler
An album equalled only by Polka Disco for having the most repellent title ever. It prompts one to speculate on the existence somewhere of an LP called A Very Bagpipe Christmas. Apart from the singing and yodelling, the sleeve notes make a big deal out of his whistling, referring to him with the French title of siffleur (their emphasis) and generally beating up putting your lips together and blowing into some rarefied talent on a level with the Tuvan throat singers. The resulting music (with orchestra conducted by Arturo Steffani) is of a quality that makes you anticipate each song to be followed by a score out of fifty and constructive criticism from Bernard King. At the time of writing there are only four surviving people in Australia who can remember when entertainers cd build a career out of yodelling and whistling.
Sleeve quote: “‘Look out Bing and Frankie’, wrote one enthusiastic American critic, ‘A real singer has come to town, so don’t forget the name.’” Sadly Ronalde’s fame was soon eclipsed by that of the Beatles, a group that cd sing, yodel, whistle, and play the spoons.
Thurston Potential: 40 to 1. There’s an outside chance the Breton nationalists will become flavour of the month soon, but this is more likely to result in every café and bookshop playing some Les Mystères des Siffleurs Vol.II CD than genuine interest in this siffleur manqué.
* Thom Yorke if you’re under 25.

No Go the F-Lo

Monday 23 August 2004

For years now I’ve been bugged by people asking me what I thought of Francisco Lopez’s gig last time he was in Melbourne, and then having them yammer on for half an hour or so about what an amazing performance I missed. So I jumped at the chance to catch him this time at Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time he was playing inside a giant empty sewage backup tank somewhere under Hawthorn; I suspect many of the punters there that night were overwhelmed more by the atmosphere than the music.
Lopez likes performing in total darkness, something about the purity of sonic essence unsullied by extrinsic perturburances or somesuch yaffle. This cd be pretty effective inside an unlit, resonant, subterranean tank, but is less so when you’re sitting in a plastic chair on a creaky wooden floor, and asked to wear a piece of cut-up pantyhose over your eyes so you’re not distracted by the EXIT signs over the doors. He had a four-speaker surround sound set-up, with us sitting around the room in a circle, facing away from him in the centre. The size and shape of the room meant that no-one, except maybe Lopez himself, had the benefit of any spatial design in the sound: everyone was either facing into a speaker directly in front of them, or facing a wall and having to settle for the sound bouncing off it.
The trouble with these spatialised gigs is that it’s so often like going to an Imax movie: impressive technology scratching around for a reason to exist. Inevitably for any piece of electronic music with high production values these days, the majority of it sounded like it was recorded inside a well, with lotsa reverb and profound bass rumblings. I’m not sure if this was meant to impress us of its seriousness and importance, or if what with the dark and everything we were supposed to feel like we really were in a well. A very noisy well, filled with lots of clanking machinery that served no apparent purpose. Occasionally there was the mandatory sound suddenly rushing across the room to remind you there were more than two speakers in the room.
There was one section which did a nice job of creating the impression of sitting in a grassy glade on a hot summer day, but you’d have much more fun doing that for real if you like that sort of thing, and – considering I spent the entirety of last summer holed up in the back bar of a darkened pub knocking back G&Ts until I was insensate – I don’t. Then it was back into the gloom of the techhead’s aural lingua franca, the sonic equivalent, in interest and ubiquity, of sewers in computer games. Really, you can’t win with this stuff: it either sounds like real life only not as interesting, or like the sound design of all those straight-to-video action movies made in the 1980s with a “futuristic” theme, every single one of which has a set with that big fucking industrial fan slowly rotating with a light behind it like in Blade Runner.
The August Drag was again present in the form of benign punters yawning and smiling wanly while thinking fond thoughts of their nice warm beds back home.
Beer: Hahn Premium stubbies, $6.

Exciting performance shot of Lopez in concert.