Saturday, July 25, 2009

We All Want To

This is another review I've sent to Faster Louder as a taste of my work. Not sure what's going to become of this, but it could be an interesting side-note back into writing for a bit.

If a rose by any other name is still a rose, according to the saying, is Screamfeeder by any other name still Screamfeeder? Well, yes - but as Brisbane band We All Want To's first EP Back To The Car is evident, this may not be an altogether good thing.

First a bit of back-story. Screamfeeder was one of these darling little indie bands which popped up in the booming post-grunge era Brisbane. They shared stages with the likes of Powderfinger, Custard and Regurgitator during those band's formative (and some still claim, best) years. Their music was always lauded as an intelligent post-grunge dirge which won them a solid following, but never mainstream success.

Fast forward 10 or so years, and the band never really faded away. Vocalist-guitarist Tim Steward and bassist Kellie Lloyd have always been main-stays of the Brisbane indie crowd, with solo shows and the odd "reunion" gig. In fact, just this year they did a quick run of gigs highlighting their career peak album Kitten Licks. Tim maintained the solo path, eventually settling on a 5-piece collective to back his live efforts. This band has now been christened with the devilishly vague moniker of We All Want To and the 4-track EP is a taste of what's to come.

On its own, the songs hold up superbly. Title track Back To The Car is delicious pop irony, telling various latter-years coming of age yarns. Second song I've Been Listening To You For Too Long continues the achingly gorgeous hook-based songwriting, with new female foil Skye providing the perfect antidote to the spiralling vocals. A reprieve from Tim's nasally flat delivery is given as one of the other male members takes on vox with Two Way. This song also marks the only significant departure from the tell-tale soft-loud-soft guitar-driven late 90s feel of the rest of the teaser disc, as keys and an alternating rhythm drive a maudlin feel. This Ship Has Sailed pushes back to 1996, with escalating driving drums and bass allowing the melody to creep up under the radar to a peaked finale.

There's hardly anything to fault with this short insight into a longer effort promised later this year. While the dirge has definitely been turned below 11 and the songs have a much fuller sound than the previous incarnations, it fails, however, at being significantly different from the lead man's inescapable past. And that may lead to accusations of lack of originality and creativity by some.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Augie March - Hi Fi Bar Brisbane

I posted this review to Faster Louder as a taste of my work. Hopefully they'll like it and I'll get a few reviews out of it

Augie March have built a solid reputation for unpredictable gigs over the past 10 or so years. Depending on the collective will of the band, the room and the punters, gigs can swing between self-indulgent pap teetering on the edge of disaster (led by frontman Glenn Richard's overt perfectionism) to achingly gorgeous moments of holding a room in complete silence and awe. Tonight's gig at Brisbane's new(ish) house of music, The Hi Fi Bar, swung more towards the latter as the band set about wrapping up its story to this point with the aptly titled Watch Me Set My Strange Sun You Bloody Choir tour (a mashup of album and previous tour titles).

First up, however, The Drone's main men Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe get a chance to warm up the PA in this yet-to-be-finished room amidst the usual pre-gig chattering. The two men bounce off each other with great harmonies and superb licks, and manage to bottle the almost infamous on-stage intensity of The Drones. Liddiard was even spied sporting a smile or two as they ripped through the list of songs showcasing the raw bones of what makes The Drones tick, with the low intimate feel almost making it feel like you were eavesdropping on their weekly jam sessions.

Warm applause acknowledged their existence as the curtain drew on the support act and preparations were made for the main. The room was nowhere near capacity as the curtain drew back after a short wait and the band sauntered on for what was being touted as their last full-scale Brisbane gig for some time. Early signs pointed towards another horrendous gig, however, as Glenn grimaced at some unheard and unseen misdemeanour from drummer David Williams in the first few bars of There's Something At The Bottom Of The Black Pool. It wasn't to be, however, as the band kicked in well during the difficult middle section of this gem from their second album Strange Bird and set the tone for the evening: a fan-pleasing romp through their impressive back-catalogue. Only 4 of the 16 songs in the set list were, in fact, from their newest albums (2006 breakthrough Moo, You Bloody Choir and this year's Watch Me Disappear). This may have been due to a fan-led song poll on their website leading up to this tour, but the up-beat mood of the band indicated the trip down memory lane was also their intention with this swan-song tour. Early highlights were peppy The Offer (from Sunset Studies) juxtaposed with the mournful and bass-driven Dogsday from the new album, showing not only the journey this band has managed, but also a glimpse of where their sound could go should they choose to continue.

A deserving champion towards the middle of the set, and the traditional quieter moments, was the superb crystal sound of The Hi Fi Bar itself. While the walls and decor may still be some way from being completed, the all-important sound system was given its moment in the sun with such an intimate sound from the Augies. A solid 4-song middle section drew heavily on their sombre and noodling moments, with each nuance from guitarist Adam Donovan and keyboardist Keirnen Box clearly transmitted to all areas of the venue. It may not sound like much, but for Brisbane punters having to endure walls of feedback and muddy mixes at their well established music institutions, the impact of this simple technical milestone should not be sneezed at. The recent establishment of the venue was commented upon by Glenn as a sign of the city's bravery and love of music, a speech which segued perfectly into the obligatory One Crowded Hour - conspicuously played not begrudgingly this time around - and the rare Just Passing Through to finish out the set. A 3-song encore had the band unleash the jamming beasts, as they worked through classics Hole In Your Roof and finished with the building and driving momentum of Clockwork to round out the characteristically unpredictable gig.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm sitting in a void

According to the documents lodged with Brisbane City Council today, I'm currently sitting in a void within the building which is to replace the Albion Love Den.

That's right, the development application is seeking to demolish this gorgeous old girl and build in its stead a 3-storey unit complex consisting of 11 very small 2-bedroom units (only 75sq m each!), an office built right on the Sandgate Road frontage, keeping the old shop and also knocking down the asbestos-laden storage building next door. This is the jewel within their crown, as the building houses the reason for the heritage listing - a 1930s brick baker's oven, which they hope will be restored and used in a future courtyard.

The developers do have a bit of an up-hill task ahead of them. Firstly, there's the Heritage Listing itself, which they have argued is erroneous to have the house included. The original Heritage documents cited the shop with attached residence as an important signpost of the inter-war period development of Albion. The problem is that the house is not actually attached to the shop or the old bakery. In addition, they argue, the house has been "extensively-, unsympathetically- and irreversibly-altered" which essentially cancels out its Heritage value.

They are also using this argument to try to convince Council to ignore the Demolition Control Precinct which also exists over both the shop and the house. Demolition Control was an important streetscape-saving Heritage measure put in place by the Soorley administration (I think) which states that if there are 3 properties in a row which were built prior to 1946 and displayed typical architectural styles of the era, then they were to be saved. This may be their sticking point, I feel. Despite what they claim was unsympathetic alterations, these were primarily internal the house was divided into units sometime in the 60s, I think) and did not significantly change the street view of the house. They claim, however, that the building in of the verandas on the front and side of the house have canceled out its historic value and hence should be excluded from the DCP.

So that's where it's at. I'm kind of relieved to have confirmation that there is finally something happening. It's been nearly 2 years since old mate Ray sold up, and the speculation going around has been frustrating. I have mixed feelings about the development itself, which may be part nimbyism, part sadness at the likely loss of my old girl, and part angst that another chunk of Brisbane history (albeit a small chunk) is most probably going to get bulldozed to make way for another corporately bland "modern" development devoid of soul and style (or "Leggo" type developments which are infecting our urban landscape, according to my mate Jules).

There is an internal conflict in my psyche, however, as the development completely fits into my view of sustainable urban development - high density mixed use projects, close to public transport and amenities to reduce the sprawl and hence reliance on cars. I'm keen to write up a response during the public submission phase of the development, but I fear I'm just not too concerned about the actual physical buildings and future of them.

After 10 years here (celebrating the milestone this month, I think!) I know it's time to move on, and I'm happy to do so. I just wish the rents would reduce a little... sheesh, it's madness out there! I did speak to the real estate this week, and they anticipate we'll get at least another six month lease, which is a relief. My mate Geoff also spoke to the architects who anticipate nothing would get going until at least 2010, so there's some time.

Now I've just got to get back to enjoying the void.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The beginning of the end

It's been coming for a while, but this is the first indication that the Albion Love Den is to be demolished: a development application lodged with council yesterday. The details are extremely light on, but it seems pretty clear from the application for building works that this is more than just a spit and polish for the old girl.

Looking at the history of these applications, though, it still could be another year or so before any real movement around the place. It seems, too, that our owners may be in for a little bit of a battle, as Council also states it's part of a "demolition control precinct" and a heritage place (cultural and adjoining). I'll endeavour to get some facts about what these constraints mean. Our lease comes up for renewal in early September, so it's back to the waiting game.