Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hottest 10 of all time

Triple J have asked people to vote for their all time favourite songs, so that they can compose a Hottest 100 Of All Time, yet again. Now, despite Triple J not being the repository it once was, and acknowledging that the whole shebang may be a rip off, here's my list (in no particular order):

Bob Dylan – Masters Of War. The relentless rhythm allows the gravity of the powerful and earnest lyric to shine through. It’s structure is deceptively simple, like most of Bob’s work.

Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground. Gets the rump shakin like nothing else has ever been able to. That riff! Shit…

Beach Boys – God Only Knows. Hopeless romanticism all wrapped up just under 3 minutes.

You Am I – Berlin Chair. This shit was seriously underrated in its time as the Oz music public grappled with a credibility crisis and couldn’t quite grasp that a home-grown talent could come out with something this great. This was one of my first Triple J discoveries in the days just prior to nationalisation of the public broadcaster. I was doing work experience at the local ABC studio during the semester at high school, and the techies taught me how to patch 2JJJ up from Sydney. I felt dramatically cutting edge knowing about this band.

Pearl Jam – Alive. The iconic riff was first heard on a rare late Friday night rage session, as I shared a small 2-bedroom unit in country NSW with my Mum and little sis. Before, I was going through a serious metal phase, so anything with a melody or any form of pop sensibility was immediately discarded. The turbulent family life, however, also left me pre-disposed to moments of dramatic teenage angst and this song, band, movement and style fitting me like a glove. It immediately seeped into my bloodstream and has fuelled a life-long love affair and symbiosis with the band.

Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet with Butterfly Wings. Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage. The lyric and pulsating riff seemed to sum up the teenaged, Gen-X angst a whole lot more sensibly than talk of mulattos and mosquitos.

Joy Division – Transmission. This song conveyed the urgency and pioneering spirit of Manchester at the brink of Madchester.

Natalie Merchant – Carnival. This is a wonderful lyrical life journey from the perspective of a person deeply unaffected by the day-to-day drama of it all. You also have to love a song which features lightly-touched bongo as a musical focus.

The Go Betweens – Cattle and Cane. This song has the ability to make you homesick, even if you’re still there.

Augie March – Sunset Studies. A gorgeous maudlin feel with an air of desperate hope. Well all by and by and all through and through, this is the only thing that comes back to you, how you banged her on a cannon in a World War Two park in Gundagai. Such a superb Australian lyric.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dave and Hannah send the ocassional chill down the spine... or it may just have been cold.

It's always refreshing to catch a loved artist in a different format. A rock band doing the sit-down acoustic thing has been a proven success; or the All Tomorrow's Parties format of a band playing their seminal album from start to finish are just 2 examples.

Tonight it was checking out young troubadour David Di Marco in a male-female duet, which was quite interesting. I came across Dave as a fresh 17 year old competitor in the Fretfest Find Of The Year 2007, winning the Under 18 age category. His songs are as catchy as hell (with his song-writing belying his young age) and are complimented beautifully by his sometimes astounding voice. He's been a pleasure to work with and listen to for the past couple of years, and was even invited to play at our wedding. Suffice to say I've been an ardent supporter and admirer of his music, and have been keen for him to branch out for some time.

The duet aspect came from his love interest (I'm guessing here) Hannah Shepherd. Setting up under an awning on the footpath in front of a coffee shop in a back street in West End seemed the perfect scene for this 'intimate' show which saw the duo draw a crowd spilling onto the street (which was still great, despite the shivering cold which was rapidly descending). With Hannah on occasional keys and Dave in the familiar acoustic-vox set up, the pair are honest and innocent enough to wear their influences not only on their sleeves, but also within their setlist: the few covers they cracked out included Angus and Julia as well as the benchmarking Glen and Marketa. And while their harmonies were not always on the money, the chemistry was evident enough to know that a bit more work and they'd nearly be there... the silence of the captivated crowd gathering on the street was sure of it. Now Dave just needs to find a way to ensure that pesky g-string stops breaking in the crucial bits.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quitting smoking hurts your legs

I gave up smoking just over a year ago. One year and 4 days ago, to be exact.

It's been a pretty cool year. Despite putting on a little weight, I've felt a surge in my sense of health and well-being which you would naturally expect to result from stopping the routine and willful poisoning of your body.

The quitting, however, did have a natural flow-on affect on my sense of overall health. I realised pretty quickly that smoking was just a crutch to excuse quite a lot of unhealthy life choices in recent years: poor diet, lack of exercise, horrible sleeping patterns, binge drinking and regular intoxication by other substances. I'd actively resisted attempting to fix those other things by hiding behind the fact that I was smoking at least a packet of cigarettes a day: it didn't matter how fit I became, or how balanced my diet was, I was ruining any positives by that rather large negative - was my thinking. Without the cigarettes, I know longer had a convenient bunker to hide behind.

So I joined a gym, I focused my attention on my diet and I sought to remove some aspects of my personal habits which were doing me damage. I also bought a bike. I rediscovered this machine as a relatively exhilarating way to exercise and commute. I vigorously explored the city bike paths on weekends, and often found myself wanting more. A lot more. And so it was in this frame of mind that I accepted workmate Mick's invitation to go actual mountain biking last weekend. My gym sessions were going very well, my bike had been recently serviced and I was feeling relatively invincible. And, since my mountain bike hadn't yet actually tasted anything near a mountain in its life, I figured this would be a great way to celebrate my one year no-smoking anniversary.

We trekked down to Daisy Hill on Brisbane's southside and quickly got into the rhythm of things. The first 10-15kms was relatively polite, as I traversed muddy tracks, craggy paths and pot-holed speckled firetrails. It was great to be in the outdoors and I could feel my confidence beginning to soar with every narrow miss, with every drop negotiated and with every rock ridden over without it resulting in my face assisting in my breaking. It was in this spirit that Mick suggested a final trail - more of a "technical route" that a "fast and scary". Sounded fine, I reasoned, and so we made the way up the red-mud clad hill to the top. "See you at the bottom" he called, as we begun the descent down the very narrow muddy trail.

The track was very narrow, with trees and rocks closing in on both sides. Often the trail was only big enough for your tires, not allowing any room for error. A steep hill fell away on the left for a lot of the trip. I traversed a few tricky corners and crags, and my confidence was reaching its zenith. Rounding a rather fast corner, I spied a deviation in the trail ahead - a purpose-laid path of relatively flat stones was gouged away on the left hand side by hundreds of bike tires slipping off. As is often the case, I focused on where I did not want to go - the sharp edge of a stone which dropped off steeply on one side. The focus did nothing but guide me into it. With both hands squeezing the brakes for dear life, I had no option and closed off my mind as the sickening thud of the tire on the sharp rock signaled a spiraling entanglement of my body and bike. The result was a bruised knee-cap and graze on my left knee, and rather deep scrapes on both thighs. These scrapes have manifested itself into two pretty impressive blue/yellow bruises:

Shut up! This camera sucks and it doesn't really do them justice. They're huge bruises! Certainly the most impressive I'd had as a result of physical exertion for some years (as opposed to bruises gained from sheer clumsiness or the like, which are relatively common). Bruises aside, it was a pretty bloody darned fun way to celebrate such a milestone and I can't wait to do it all over again. I think I'm hooked to this exercise-y stuff.