Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

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Esther Edquist is Melbourne artist Sweet Whirl. She is also one of the best songwriters you have heard in a very long time. The debut Sweet Whirl album “How Much Works” was released May 29th  on ltd white vinyl, black vinyl and digital. Gorilla Vs. Bear just premiered the album’s lead single and video “Something I Do”, calling it “one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard thus far in 2020…a perfect introduction to the album’s quiet, yearning intensity and understated, poignant brilliance.”

“Something I Do” is a languid lament accompanied by an evocative video directed by James Thomson. Esther says of the song, “To be honest I was inspired to write this song while I was seeing this total a-hole and felt like I had to carry the flame of my desire around with me all the time, lest it die.” How Much Works is Sweet Whirl’s debut album proper, after a handful of releases acclaimed by the likes of Gorilla Vs Bear, The Guardian and Clash Magazine. How Much Works arrives fully formed, a classic ten song album from an artist with both a command of history and a drive for new expression.

The album is a beautifully crafted triumph over bleak moments. It’s the love-addled confessions of a seasoned party girl, romantic yet sardonic, a troubadour who sings of the heart with a knowing sense of the timeless victory of song. Esther dissects experiences with wit and depth, emerging as a powerful, indomitable voice. Musically and lyrically, How Much Works draws on wells as deep as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jean-Paul Sartre and Sheryl Crow.

It distills personal, reflexive narratives into something universal and wondrous. Esther produced the album and plays almost everything on it, with guitar and therevox from engineer Casey Hartnett (Sui Zhen, Sleep Decade) and drums from Monty Hartnett (Dreamin Wild, Sleep Decade). Fellow Chapter Music recording artist Gregor contributes backing vocals to Make That Up For Me and Conga Line. Esther has previously served in Melbourne duo Superstar, who released two delay-drenched albums during the mid 10s. She has also been a member of Scott & Charlene’s Wedding.

Love for previous Sweet Whirl releases: “An exquisitely bleary-eyed gem” – Gorilla Vs Bear, “With music this soft on your skin, small acts of rebellion feel big.” – The Guardian “A gentle sense of grace, an unhurried sense of beauty” – Clash

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Losing someone close to you creates an almost phantom limb-like effect. Often, it feels like they’re a phone call away. But that instant between when you reach for the phone and when your brain delivers the new reality to you is a strange, momentary eternity. It’s both an uncompromising void and maybe as close as you’ll ever come to communing with that loved one again.

Gordi wrote Sandwiches as a tribute to the matriarch of her family. Her late grandmother was, in Gordi’s words, “a great feeder of people.” So when she fell ill, Gordi and her mother took it upon themselves to nourish the visitors gathered around her hospital bed. As they passed around sandwiches, “someone called out that she was gone.”

Sydney-based singer-songwriter Gordi  announced her sophomore album with a brand-new single, ‘Aeroplane Bathroom’, which has arrived with a music video.

Gordi – real name Sophie Payten – told NME Australia that the music video is “the visual centrepiece” of her upcoming album, ‘Our Two Skins’, due for release on June 19th on Liberation Records.

“Aeroplane Bathroom” by Gordi, the new song off ‘Our Two Skins,’ out June 26 on Jagjaguwar Records.

A new nineteen-minute journey that continues on from their debut track, ‘Helios Hyperion’, written and recorded in 2014. A regular feature of their live shows, ‘Sun of Hyperion’ was recorded at the same time as their last album, ‘Mydriasis’ and therefore sees them operating as a four-piece once again. This track will take you exactly where you need to go, this time in the comfort of your own home – perfect for the current climate!

Side A
01. SUN OF HYPERION – COMACOZER (19:03)
Side B
01. HEX IV: CASSINI’S LAST BREATH – VINNUM SABBATHI (06:50)
02. HEX V: X-15 RESEARCH PROJECT – VINNUM SABBATHI (09:55)

Instrumental heavy psych space rock with a slither of doom from Sydney, Australia..
The Band
Rick – Guitars
Rich – Bass
Andrew – Percussion
Jabs – Synth/Keys
Released June 10th, 2020

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Welcome to the debut album from Melbourne, Australian psych quintet The Black Heart Death Cult.

A side: droney sitar sling (Setting Sun), space rocked mellotron flutes through fuzz pedals (She’s a Believer), walls of verb (Black Rainbow), psych folk wanderings (The Magic Lamp) & guitar-o-rama (Aloha from Hell) show these future sailors know their way around the high psych seas.
Droney & dark but always with some light shining through, expect pretty much the same thing from the B side, an intergalactic fret board freak out!!.

Recorded over a sprawling 2 years (Sing Sing & Newmarket Studios) from early 2015 & produced by Ricky Maymi from The Brian Jonestown Massace, their self titled debut LP was released Jan 2019 through Oak Island Records (Kozmik Artifactz).

Debut single “She’s a Believer” & the “Black Rainbow” EP

>This is Sparkly magic mountain-drops fall from the outer cosmic reaches in the re-imagined mind-forest of The Flower Captain Gloom/doom singer/songwriter Sasha L Smith envisions a brave new dark age of droney bliss in the sonic bazaar. Domenic Evans fret wizard, Deon Slaviero bass dealer, Andy Nunns time machine & Gabbie Potocnik Italian keys are on the magic bus we call “The Black Heart Death Cult”.  Awesome Psychedelic Flower Doom that is reminiscent of Turtle Skull; but with a bit more 60ies flare. The LP has 3 tracks from the EP which is both a good & bad thing. Good in that they are the cream of the EP, & the EP is very creamy. Bad in that if you already have the EP, you have a third of the LP. Having said that, I have the EP but after hearing the LP I just had to have it. The new tracks build on the brilliance of the EP & the structure of the LP ensures each song complements the next.

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As yet untitled 2nd LP is slated for release late 2020.

Released January 18th, 2019

Still with us (though via several different line-ups), The Saints go down in history as actually the first Punk band outside the U.S. to release a debut single – “I’m Stranded”, released in September 1976 predates The Sex Pistols and The Clash and I am pretty sure pre-dates New Rose by The Damned by few weeks.

The Saints originated in Brisbane, Australia in 1973. The band was founded by Chris Bailey (singer-songwriter, later guitarist), Ivor Hay (drummer), and Ed Kuepper (guitarist-songwriter). Contemporaneously with American punk rock band the Ramones, the Saints were employing fast tempos, raucous vocals and “buzz saw” guitar that characterized early punk rock. With their debut single, “(I’m) Stranded”, in September 1976, they became the first “punk” band outside the US to release a record, ahead of better-known acts including the Sex Pistols and the Clash. They are one of the first and most influential groups of the genre.

Alongside mainstay Bailey, the group has also had numerous line-ups – in early 1979, Ivor Hay and Ed Kuepper left, while Bailey continued the band, with a changing line-up. All Fools Day peaked in the Top 30 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart in April 1986. Bailey also has a solo career and had relocated to Sweden by 1994. The band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2001.

In June 1976, the Saints recorded two tracks, “(I’m) Stranded” and “No Time” with Mark Moffatt producing. Unable to find any interested label, they formed Fatal Records and independently released their debut single in September. Their self-owned Eternal Promotions sent discs to radio stations and magazines both in Australia – with little local interest – and United Kingdom. In the UK, a small label, Power Exchange, issued the single. Sounds magazine’s reviewer, John Ingham, declared it, “Single of this and every week”. EMI head office in London contacted their Sydney branch and directed that they be signed to a three-album contract. Over two days in December, the group recorded their first LP, (I’m) Stranded (February 1977), with Rod Coe producing. It included a cover version of the Missing Links’ track “Wild About You”. They supported AC/DC in late December 1976 and, early in 1977, relocated to Sydney. EMI re-issued the single, “(I’m) Stranded” in February and it reached the Kent Music Report Top 100 Singles Chart.

In late 1982, the group toured Australia with Bailey, Hall and Shedden joined by Chris Burnham on guitar (ex-Supernaut) and Laurie Cuffe on guitar. In 1983, Bailey released his first solo album, Casablanca, on New Rose. In 1984, Bailey was based in Sydney, and the Saints’ album, A Little Madness to Be Free, was released in July on RCA with production credited to Lurax Debris (Bailey’s pseudonym). It contains the popular track “Ghost Ships”, which was issued as a single in May. A Little Madness to Be Free was “more rock-oriented, with extensive use of acoustic guitar, brass and strings set among tightly focused arrangements”. In mid-1984, the band toured as Bailey, Burnham, Shedden and Tracy Pew on bass guitar, (ex-Birthday Party), who was briefly replaced by Kuepper in July. By 1985, the Saints were Bailey, Richard Burgman on guitar (ex-Sunnyboys) and Arturo ‘Archie’ Larizza on bass guitar (the Innocents), while Louise Elliot on saxophone and Jeffrey Wegener on drums (both ex-Laughing Clowns) completed the line-up. A live album, Live in a Mud Hut … Somewhere in Europe, recorded in 1984 with production credited to Mugumbo, was released by New Rose in 1985.

The group then recorded All Fools Day in Wales with Hugh Jones producing. It was issued by Mushroom Records in Australia and Polydor in United States, in April 1986. The album reached the Top 30 in Australia and included a Top 30 single, “Just Like Fire Would” (March).

Australian musician Gordi (real name: Sophie Payten) has just shared this shimmering new single which he says is a tribute to her late Grandmother. The song was produced by Bon Iver collaborators Chris Messina and Zach Hanson at Gordi’s family home in Canowindra, Australia. “Her whole life was in Canowindra,” say Gordi of her grandmother. “We made it in a house that’s a hundred meters from her house.” She’ll be on tour with Of Monsters & Men this spring.

The Australian musician Gordi, moniker of Sophie Payten, shares the new single, “Sandwiches,” and its accompanying Justin Ridler-directed video. “Sandwiches” It is a soaring, post-new wave anthem, and a tribute to her late grandmother. One of the first true Gordi “guitar songs,” it shimmers with the lush-yet-fragile momentum of The Cranberries’ classic “Dreams.” “Sandwiches” follows “The Cost,” a track released last month in support of the Australian Bushfire Relief efforts, and is Gordi’s first new recording since her 2017 debut album, “Reservoir”. Gordi has also recently collaborated with Troye Sivan, toured with Sam Smith, Julien Baker and Fleet Foxes, performed at Eaux Claires alongside The National, Bon Iver and Big Red Machine, and finished her medical degree to become a qualified doctor.

Her late grandmother was, in Gordi’s words, “a great feeder of people.” So when she fell ill, Gordi and her mother took it upon themselves to nourish the visitors gathered around her hospital bed. As they passed around sandwiches, “someone called out that she was gone.”

The gravity of the moment was poignant for its softness and mundanity. Gordi approaches the totality of a loved one’s life as measured in the small memories that stay with us. She sings, “When I think of you a movie-reel of moments plays / We’ll be in the car or after mass on Saturdays / You’ll be walking down the driveway, you’ll be in your chair / You’ll say ‘See you round’ or ‘Say your “Three”’ / And now you’re everywhere.”

Gordi called on long-time collaborators and Bon Iver production duo Chris Messina and Zach Hanson to make “Sandwiches” at her family home in Canowindra, Australia — an old cottage littered with some of Sophie’s favourite pieces of musical arsenal combined with some flown in from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The tiny farm town where her family has lived for over a century, Canowindra, and the heart of the matriarch, is embedded in this song, and where the video was filmed. “Her whole life was in Canowindra…we made it in a house that’s a hundred meters from her house.”

“Sandwiches” by Gordi, out now on Jagjaguwar Records..

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Influenced by primal garage-rock and the hypnotic grooves of African and South American music, Melbourne’s Bananagun have evolved from the home-made ideas of guitarist, vocalist and flautist Nick van Bakel to a full five-piece set-up. Their new debut album, “The True Story of Bananagun”, was born from extended jam sessions and presents a grand vision for their self-professed ‘global tropicalia’.

There’s an enticing lost world exoticism to the music of Bananagun. It’s the sort of stuff that could’ve come from a dusty record crate of hidden gems; yet as the punchy, colourfully vibrant pair of singles Do Yeah and Out of Reach have proven over the past 12 months, the band are no revivalists. On debut album The True Story of Bananagun, they make a giant leap forward with their outward-looking blend of global tropicalia.

The True Story of Bananagun marks Bananagun’s first full foray into writing and recording as a complete band, having originally germinated in the bedroom ideas and demos of guitarist, vocalist and flautist Nick van Bakel. The multi-instrumentalist grew up on skate videos, absorbing the hip-hop beats that sound-tracked them – taking on touchstones like Self Core label founder Mr. Dibbs and other early 90’s turntablists.

That love of the groove underpins Bananagun – even if the rhythms now traverse far beyond those fledgling influences. “We didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing,” the band’s founder says. “We wanted it to be vibrant, colourful and have depth like the jungle. Like an ode to nature.”

Van Bakel was joined first by cousin Jimi Gregg on drums – the pair’s shared love of the Jungle Book apparently made him a natural fit – and the rest of the group are friends first and foremost, put together as a band because of a shared emphasis on keeping things fun. Jack Crook (guitar/vocals), Charlotte Tobin (djembe/percussion) and Josh Dans (bass) complete the five-piece and between them there’s a freshness and playful spontaneity to The True Story of Bananagun, borne out of late night practice jams and hangs at producer John Lee’s Phaedra Studios.

“We were playing a lot leading up to recording so we’re all over it live”, van Bakel fondly recalls of the sessions that became more like a communal hang out, with Zoe Fox and Miles Bedford there too to add extra vocals and saxophone. “It was a good time, meeting there every night, using proper gear [rather than my bedroom setups.] It felt like everyone had a bit of a buzz going on.”

Tracks like The Master and People Talk Too Much bounce around atop hybrid percussion that fuses West African high life with Brazilian tropicalia; the likes of She Now hark to a more westernised early rhythm ‘n’ blues beat, remoulded and refreshed in the group’s own inimitable summery style. Freak Machine is perhaps the closest to those early 90’s beats, but even then the group add layers and layers of bright guitars, harmonic flower-pop vocals and other sounds to transmute the source material to an entirely new plain. Elsewhere there’s a 90 second track called Bird Up! that cut and pastes kookaburra and parrot calls as an homage to the wildlife surrounding van Bakel’s home 80 kilometres from Melbourne.

Oh, and there are hooks galore too – try and stop yourself from humming along to Out of Reach’s swooping vocal melody.

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Bananagun are first and foremost a band enthused with the joy of living and The True Story of Bananagun is a ebullient listen; van Bakel – as the main songwriter – is keen not to let any lyrical themes overpower that. There’s more to this record than blissed out grooves and tripped out fuzz though: The Master is about learning to be your own master and resisting the urge to compare yourself to others; She Now addresses gender identity and extolls the importance of people being able to identify how they feel. Then there’s closing track Taking The Present For Granted, which perhaps sums up the band’s ethos on life, trying to take in the world around you and appreciating the here and now.

A keen meditator, van Bakel says of the track: “so often people are having a shit time stuck in their own existential crisis, but if you get outside you head and participate in life and appreciate how beautiful it all is you can have a better time.”

Even the band’s seemingly innocuous name has an underlying message of connectivity that matches the universality of the music. “It’s like non-violent combat! Or the guy who does a stick up, but it’s just a banana, not a gun, and he tells the authorities not to take themselves too seriously.”

The True Story of Bananagun then is perhaps a tale of finding beauty in even these most turbulent of times.

The Band:
Nick Van Bakel – guitar, voice, flute, trumpet, harpsichord, percussion
Jack Crook – guitar, voice
Charlotte Tobin – percussion
Josh Dans – bass guitar
Jimi Gregg – drums
Pierce Morton – alto saxophone
Miles Bedford – tenor saxophone
Zoe Fox – voice
Songs written by Nick Van Bakel.
Released June 26th, 2020

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Brisbane Australia’s The Go-Betweens are one of my favourite bands ever, but it’s sometimes difficult to explain their appeal. Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were limited as guitarists and vocalists, but they balance each other so beautifully (Forster was a fan of The Velvet Underground, and McLennan a fan of The Monkees), and their songs are literate, graceful, and melodic. Apart from their debut, each of their albums has ten songs, five from each writer, and most of their album titles feature a pair of Ls. They made some great albums during the 1980s, eloquent, literate, melodic, and honest, with the focus on Forster and McLennan’s accomplished songwriting. McLennan is the more straightforward writer of the pair, while Forster writes angular and spiky songs, and the two balance each other very well; their solo records are far less compelling than their group efforts. The Go-Betweens’ career had two tenures; the first between 1978 and 1990, where McLennan and Forster’s main collaborators were drummer Lindy Morrison and bass player Robert Vickers. Amanda Brown joined the band on oboe and violin for 1987’s Tallulah. Over the 1980s, The Go-Betweens consisted of two couples; Forster and Morrison, and McLennan and Brown, complicating band dynamics and contributing to the band’s initial dissolution in 1990.
Forster and McLennan reformed the band in 2000, releasing three more albums before McLennan’s sudden death from a heart attack in 2006; while the reunion albums are weaker overall than their earlier work, Oceans Apart was a fine swansong to their career. Forster’s since carved out a successful career as a music journalist and published several books.

The Go-Betweens’ 1981 debut “Send Me A Lullaby” was recorded as a three piece, with McLennan on bass and Lindy Morrison on drums. The group gradually expanded throughout the 1980s, adding English bass player Robert Vickers, and then multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown on violin and oboe. By 1988’s “16 Lovers Lane”, the band’s sound was lush and layered, a drastic evolution from their austere early albums. But band tensions took their toll, with two pairs of lovers and former lovers, and the band called it a day in 1989.

But Forster and McLennan remained friends, and reunited the band in the 21st century without the other members. They released two passable but uninspiring albums before 2005’s lush “Oceans Apart”, which rivalled their 1980s albums with some great songs. But as their career was regaining momentum, Grant McLennan passed away from a heart attack at the age of 48, ending the band. it’s a good time to go through and rank The Go-Betweens’ albums from best to worst.

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Send Me A Lullaby (1981)

The awkward debut, where McLennan contributes a few nice songs, but Forster’s trying too hard for weirdness. The “I shot you with my….. camera” line from ‘Eight Pictures is particularly awkward, and the iconic cover is perhaps the album’s strongest point. Recorded in Melbourne with the Birthday Party’s producer, Send Me A Lullaby is a mere shadow of the great albums that The Go-Betweens would produce for the remainder of the 1980s. It’s a strange mixture of self-consciousness and weird artiness, and doesn’t often capture the promise of early singles like ‘Karen’, ‘People Say’, and ‘Lee Remick’. It also breaks the group’s template; it’s the only Go-Betweens album to not feature exactly five songs from each writer.

On the positive side, Lindy Morrison’s drumming is already distinctive and interesting, and the group occasionally get an interesting sound from their technically limited three piece, like on the opener ‘Your Turn, My Turn’.
Robert Forster’s ‘Eight Pictures’ is particularly awkward, with its ‘I shot you with …. my camera’ punchline, and a painful five minute running time. Meanwhile, the best material is McLennan’s – opener ‘Your Turn, My Turn’ captures the potential of the weird sounding three piece, while ‘All About Strength’ is robust and muscular.
The Go-Betweens improved significantly after this underwhelming debut – their followup Before Hollywood is a huge step forward, featuring the signature song ‘Cattle and Cane’.

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Bright Yellow, Bright Orange (2003)

I’ve always found The Go-Betweens’ second reunion album a little monotonous – it’s largely acoustic, and well crafted, but it lacks the spark of their best material.

The second installment in the reunion trilogy from The Go-Betweens is also the least noteworthy of the trio. Forster and McLennan recruited a new permanent backing band with bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson. After The Friends Of Rachel Worth dabbled with alternative rock, Bright Yellow Bright Orange returns to more familiar territory, consisting almost entirely of mid-tempo, semi-acoustic folk rock. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, it’s not; it still lacks the lushness that characterised their best period late albums like 16 Lovers Lane and Oceans Apart.

Even more markedly, it’s easily the least interesting set of songs that Forster and McLennan have compiled on a studio record. It’s not surprising that Forster’s verbose, autobiographical ‘Too Much Of One Thing’ was the only song to make the Striped Sunlight Sound DVD that followed Oceans Apart; alternatively titled “The Ballad Of The Go-Betweens”, it’s a likable, jaunty, piece of country rock. But apart from McLennan’s melodic ‘Mrs Morgan’, and the piano-based closer ‘Unfinished Business’, Bright Yellow, Bright Orange is all mid-tempo, acoustic guitar based music that’s meticulously written and crafted, but fails to capture the spark of the Go-Betweens at their best.

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The Friends of Rachel Worth (2001)

The Go-Betweens’ first reunion album was recorded with members of Sleater-Kinney, and it’s alternative and stripped down, a different approach from their lush records in the second half of the 1980s.

Although Robert Forster and Grant McLennan had maintained a friendship and played live together since The Go-Betweens breakup, a fully fledged reunion didn’t occur until 2000 with the recording of The Friends Of Rachel Worth in Portland, Oregon. Understandably, having former lovers Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown back in the band wasn’t a desirable option, so Forster and McLennan recruited bassist Adele Pickvance, a permanent fixture in The Go-Betweens’ second incarnation, and drummer Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, while the other Sleater-Kinney members guest on McLennan’s ‘Going Blind’.

As much as The Friends Of Rachel Worth is a reinstatement of the classic Go-Betweens formula, back to ten songs equally shared between Forster and McLennan, it’s also different from the relatively ornate studio craft that the group pursued on Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane. Instead, the sound is more alternative and stripped down, which can be problematic on some of the acoustic tracks which are more monotonous than necessary.

The record isn’t helped by the fact that it gets off to a slow, low-key start; although McLennan is often sentimental, opener ‘Magic In Here’ is more hackneyed than one would expect on a Go-Betweens album (“Now the coast is clear/You’ve got no time to fear”) while acoustic first drop ‘Spirit’ is pleasant but exposes Forster’s lack of vocal chops. But apart from Forster’s irritating ‘Surfing Magazines’, the rest of the album is surprisingly solid. Forster rocks on ‘German Farmhouse’, a song that explains what he did after The Go-Betweens breakup, while McLennan’s ‘Heart And Home’ has a beautiful melody and joint lead vocal from Forster and McLennan. The more enigmatic pieces that close the disc are also effective – McLennan’s ‘Orpheus Beach’ is melodic and haunting, while Forster’s Patti Smith tribute ‘When She Sang About Angels’ asks “When she sang about a boy/Kurt Cobain/I thought what a shame/It wasn’t about Tom Verlaine.”

You’d have to go all the way back to Send Me A Lullaby to find a less accomplished Go-Betweens record, but it’s a respectable reunion nonetheless, and the start of an ultimately rewarding second tenure.

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Spring Hill Fair (1984)

The band’s first album as a four piece has great material from Forster, but McLennan’s a little scattershot, contributing both the beautiful ‘Bachelor Kisses’ and the awkward experimentation of ‘River Of Money’. But like the next five albums on this list, Spring Hill Fair is an essential purchase for Go-Betweens fans.

The Go-Betweens became a four piece, adding bassist Robert Vickers to the band. With Grant McLennan moving to lead guitar, the band sound much fuller than before, and  Robert Forster’s material is more conventional, forgoing jerky new wave in favour of more conventional pop, although his material is still more fractured than McLennan’s. So conceivably, Spring Hill Fair could have been the album where the Go-Betweens crossed over to the mainstream, spear-headed by the transcendent opener ‘Bachelor Kisses’ (“Don’t believe what you heard/Faithful’s not a bad word”). They didn’t, and never progressed much further than an enthusiastic cult following, but from this point on it gets difficult to see why, beyond Forster and McLennan’s plain singing voices. Spring Hill Fair was recorded in jazz keyboardist Jacques Loussier’s Cannes studio; Loussier contributes Prophet synth to Forster’s ‘Part Company’

The widened sound palette allows the group to try more things, and for better and worse Spring Hill Fair is more diverse than the low key Before Hollywood. Most notably, ‘River Of Money’ features a spoken McLennan vocal over a backdrop of a repetitive bass-line and loud guitars, and it’s one of the weaker pieces on the disc. But elsewhere, McLennan’s ultra-melodic and accessible; as well as the acknowledged genius of ‘Bachelor Kisses’, the more overlooked ‘Unkind and Unwise’ is almost hymn-like childhood reminiscence, a sequel to ‘Cattle and Cane’. But McLennan is eclipsed by Forster on Spring Hill Fair: a fuller four piece version of the single ‘Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea’ lacks the raw energy of the original, but it’s still worth a revisit, while ‘Draining The Pool For You’ tells the tale of a disgruntled employee of a celebrity, and ‘Part Company’ is an ambiguous kiss off, set off by Loussier’s keyboard.

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Tallulah (1987)

Multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown joined The Go-Betweens, and her skills on oboe and violin help fill out their sound. As with most of the band’s 1980s albums, Forster’s writing is excellent with overlooked songs like ‘You Tell Me’ and ‘I Just Get Caught Out’ but McLennan’s is inconsistent – ‘Bye Bye Pride’ is my favourite Go-Betweens song, but ‘Cut It Out’ is awkward white boy funk.

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown joined The Go-Betweens for Tallulah, and her skills on violin, oboe, guitar, and keyboards helped usher in the band’s most commercially oriented era. The Go-Betweens benefited from a lusher, more detailed sound – the richly textured 16 Lovers Lane and Oceans Apart are among their most successful albums.

Song for song, however, Tallulah isn’t the most consistent Go-Betweens album, mostly due to inconsistent writing from Grant McLennan. It’s almost as if he’d put all his effort into one song – the sublime ‘Bye Bye Pride’ might be my favourite entry in the entire Go-Betweens’ catalogue, a warm, enigmatic breakup song (“When a woman learns to walk she’s not dependent anymore/A line from her letter May 24”). But McLennan’s other songs are all flawed – ‘Right Here’ squanders a great verse melody and terrific lyrics on a predictable chorus, while ‘Someone Else’s Wife’ and ‘Hope Then Strife’ mostly come alive on their dynamic choruses. ‘Cut It Out’ is the most awkward song the Go-Betweens ever put on an album, with an unnatural funk rhythm and stilted female vocals. Both ‘Right Here’ and ‘Cut It Out’ were recorded with producer Craig Leon at the behest of the record label, but the stiff feel of these tracks isn’t right for The Go-Betweens.

On the other hand, Robert Forster’s material is becoming more aligned with McLennan’s melodic pop – ‘You Tell Me’ and ‘I Just Get Caught Out’ are hooky and urgent, while ‘The House That Jack Kerouac Built’ is haughty and compelling – only ‘The Clarke Sisters’ really steps into arty territory, and its portraits of three feminist bookstore workers are engrossing.

When this record works it’s amazing, and I’ve probably spent more time listening to “Tallulah” than any other Go-Betweens release.

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Oceans Apart (2005)

The Go-Betweens’ third and last reunion album is easily their best from the 21st century, recapturing the lush sound of 16 Lovers Lane, and with great songs like Forster’s ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ and McLennan’s ‘No Reason To Cry’. Some of the early CDs have poor mastering jobs, however – I’m no audiophile, but it’s bad enough that I notice.

After two worthy, but unspectacular, additions to their canon, The Go-Betweens reunion suddenly clicked to wonderful effect third time around. This is easily Forster and McLennan’s best set of songs from their reunion. Sonically the album returns to the lusher sound of Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, and it’s a welcome reversion.

The first half of Oceans Apart is loaded with concise, accessible pop songs; Forster contributes the opening ‘Here Comes A City’, reminiscent of early Talking Heads, with lyrics like “Why do people who read Dostoevsky always look like Dostoevsky?” McLennan might be shooting too close to radio fodder with the pretty ‘Finding You’, but his other first half contributions are magnificent; ‘No Reason To Cry’ launches from regret (“fifteen years since we last spoke”) into a soaring guitar solo, while ‘Boundary Rider’ is cut from the same elegant, nostalgic cloth as ‘Cattle and Cane’ and ‘Unkind and Unwise’. The second half of the album is more ambitious and more ambiguous; Forster’s ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ builds over six minutes, eventually overlaying a horn section over Forster’s punchy guitar riff. McLennan’s ‘The Statue’ dives headlong into a hypnotic guitar riff, drum machine and synthesiser based arrangement, before opening into a pretty acoustic bridge (“They say that ice will melt”), while ‘This Night’s For You’ marries bouncy pop and pretty harmonies to outbursts of crashing rhythm guitars. Forster’s low key ‘The Mountains Near Dellray’ provides a suitably enigmatic conclusion.

While the group weren’t aware of it while making Oceans Apart, it proved to be their last album, as McLennan died of a heart attack in 2006, especially sad as prior to McLennan’s death, Forster had stated in interviews that McLennan had been writing some of his best ever songs. Still, it seems unlikely they would have topped this record, which is an extremely satisfying final album and a fitting elegy to one of pop music’s most overlooked bands.

Strangely, the mastering job on the original album is noticeably substandard – there’s obvious distortion, particularly on ‘This Night’s For You’, although apparently there’s a remaster that fixes these issues.

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Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986)

A particularly solid effort from the band’s stellar run in the 1980s, and one which I suspect is a favourite of many hardcore fans. A crop-top wearing Forster emulates Prince on ‘Head Full Of Steam’ (and parodies him in its music video, below) while McLennan writes gorgeous songs like ‘The Wrong Road’ and ‘The Ghost and the Black Hat’.

Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express has the same lineup as Spring Hill Fair and it’s a more mature and more disciplined follow up. Robert Forster has stated that his favourite Go-Betweens albums from the 1980s were the even numbered ones, so fourth album Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express is one of the strong ones.

Forster dominates the record with the singles ‘Head Full Of Steam’ (apparently an attempt to emulate Prince!) and ‘Spring Rain’, both melodic and driving. ‘To Reach Me’ throws in a great lead break, before its memorable “Ruth said/Ruth said/She said/That you once disapproved/How could anyone disapprove of me?” middle eight, while ‘Twin Layers Of Lightning’ emulates Morrissey.

Grant McLennan writes another evocative childhood song, ‘The Ghost And The Black Hat’, while a string section underpins his gorgeous epic ‘The Wrong Road’ (“When the rain hit the roof/With the sound of a finished kiss/Like a lip lifted up from a lip”). Some of McLennan’s second half compositions aren’t as convincing – ‘In The Core Of A Flame’ has a surprisingly banal “that’s the right word/Cos I love you” chorus – and ‘Apology Accepted’ overstays its welcome despite its heartfelt lyric.

Often a fan favourite, Liberty Belle is another excellent entry into the catalogue of an excellent, literate, and over-looked band.

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Before Hollywood (1983)

A huge step forward from the awkward debut from the Australian three piece. McLennan’s terse, autobiographic ‘Cattle and Cane’ is perhaps the group’s signature song, while Forster contributes the jerky new wave of ‘As Long As That’ and ‘Ask’. Bass player Robert Vickers joined in time to appear in the music video for ‘Cattle and Cane’, below.

The Go-Betweens’ second album, and the last the group recorded as a three piece, was their critical breakthrough, containing their signature song ‘Cattle and Cane’. Guitarist/songwriter Robert Forster, bassist/songwriter Grant McLennan and drummer Lindy Morrison had moved to London following their debut, and signed with Rough Trade. Before Hollywood was recorded in Eastbourne’s International Christian Communication Studios, with minimal overdubs, although guest keyboardist Bernard Clarke provides graceful piano on ‘Dusty In Here’ and swirling organ on ‘That Way’.

Despite the thin sound – the group’s other first tier records (Liberty Belle, 16 Lovers Lane, and Oceans Apart) are all much more studio based and lushly produced – Before Hollywood stands up as one of the group’s best records, one of their most consistent sets of songs. It’s McLennan’s childhood reminiscence ‘Cattle and Cane’ that’s the most noteworthy song here, recently voted as one of the ten greatest Australian songs of all time, with its weird time signature and nostalgic lyrics (“I recall a schoolboy coming home/through fields of cane/to a house of tin and timber.”) The organ led ‘That Way’, which sounds like a cross between The Monkees, Bob Dylan, and Television (a conglomeration which sums up the group’s sound pretty well) shows McLennan’s ability in well-crafted, understated pop.

McLennan’s other stunner is the minimalist, understated ‘Dusty In Here’, almost pared down to a lonely piano. Balancing McLennan’s nostalgia and romanticism, Forster’s nervy pop is tense and hooky. ‘As Long As That’ (“I’ve got a feeling, sounds like a fact”) is his most accessible, while ‘Ask’ and ‘On My Block’ throw lots of energy around.

One of the best, and most over-looked, records to come out of late new wave, Before Hollywood is markedly different than the group’s subsequent albums, but excellent nonetheless.

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16 Lovers Lane (1988)

After spending much of the 1980s in the UK, the group returned to Australia and recorded their most accessible album. The recordings were largely based off Forster and McLennan’s acoustic guitars and voices, with Amanda Brown and new bass player John Willsteed adding lushness with their overdubs – Willsteed plays a lot of guitar leads – while Morrison is often absent and replaced by a drum machine. It’s McLennan’s most consistent set of songs, with ‘Quiet Heart’ and the minor hit ‘Streets Of Your Town’, while Forster is less arty than usual with ‘Clouds’ and ‘You Can’t Say No Forever’.

The Go-Betweens had been quietly releasing some very good albums throughout the 1980s, but 16 Lovers Lane is their peak; it features their strongest line up instrumentally, with new member John Willsteed officially the bass player but adding lots of guitar parts, and producer Mark Wallis adding an ornate sheen. The album also contains Robert Forster’s most accessible set of songs and Grant McLennan’s most consistent set. With Wallis working from Forster and McLennan’s acoustic demos, he broadens their range; McLennan’s ‘The Devil’s Eye’ is pared down almost to acoustic guitar, while Forster’s ‘You Can’t Say No Forever’ is given a dance-able rhythm and sassy blaxploitation guitar.

Forster writes his prettiest material ever – ‘Clouds’, ‘Dive For Your Memory’, ‘I’m Allright’ and ‘Love Is A Sign’ are all sweetly melodic, underscored by Amanda Brown’s oboe. McLennan’s five songs are all winners, ranging in mood from the aggressive, punchy ‘Was There Anything I Could Do?’, through the exuberance of ‘Love Goes On!’ and the melancholic resignation of ‘Quiet Heart’.

Quite simply, 16 Lovers Lane is one of the best pop albums by anyone.

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Here we have only covered the original albums, but their 1980s albums have been re-released with bonus discs – I have some of them, and there’s definitely some good material in their b-sides; if you’re a fan you’ll want to hear songs like ‘Second Hand Furniture’, ‘Rock and Roll Friend’, and ‘That Girl Black Girl’. They also released a two disc DVD “That Striped Sunlight Sound” in 2005 – the live set is competent but  unexciting, but there’s a great bonus disc where Forster and McLennan play some of their best loved songs on acoustic guitars and discuss them.

This is the highlight of “That Striped Sunlight Sound‘s” first disc – a gorgeous acoustic version of ‘Clouds’, which incorporates a verse from Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero’.

Thanks to Aphoristic Album Reviews

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Then on the heels of two stellar EPs, Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever first appeared on our radar at SXSW 2017. The marvelous quintet piled on guitars unapologetically in each of their breezy pop songs with life on the world’s roads and skies laid ahead for them. Their excellent 2018 debut LP, Hope Downs, solidified their status as a touring powerhouse, but the grind eventually made the band turn inward when writing “Sideways to New Italy”. “We saw a lot of the world, which was such a privilege, but it was kind of like looking through the window at other people’s lives, and then also reflecting on our own,” says singer/guitarist Fran Keaney. “She’s There” opens almost unconsciously with a nasty guitar hook that threads into a song about longing and pondering someone’s absence who might be thousands of miles away. “Falling Thunder” is a more traditional pop groove that’s still heavily stacked with guitars and asks “Is it any wonder? We’re on the outside / Falling like thunder, from the sky.” And while RBCF is shifting to make sense of their place in the world, they’re still very much committed to doing so while absolutely shredding.

Just two years ago, This Australian indie pop band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever rose to international prominence with the release of their critically acclaimed debut LP ‘Hope Downs’ which found an eager audience around the world. Showing absolutely no signs of second album fatigue, they make their welcome return with the newly released ‘Sideways To New Italy’.

Inspired by the New South Wales village of the same name where drummer Marcel Tussie grew up and spent his formative years; nostalgia plays a major part in this wonderfully wistful record which channels the melancholy and turns it into a dynamic explosion over ten tracks.

It also reflects on how immigration is increasingly becoming a contentious issue thanks to the dangerous rhetoric of popularist politicians, which contrasts sharply with the bands views who see the benefit of blending cultures as proven by the Venetians who came to New South Wales in the 1800’s and brought their rich history to their new home.

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On their second full length record, “Sideways to New Italy”, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have turned their gaze inward, to their individual pasts and the places that inform them. From a town in regional Australia that serves as a living relic to how immigrants brought a sense of home to an alien place, to the familiar Mediterranean statues that dot the front lawns of the Melbourne suburbs where the band members live, the inspiration for the record came from the attempts people make at crafting utopia in their backyard (while knowing there is no such thing as a clean slate). In searching for something to hold onto in the turbulence, the guitar-pop five-piece has channelled their own sense of dislocation into an album that serves as a totem of home to take with them to stages all over the world.

“These are the expressions of people trying to find home somewhere alien, trying to create utopia in a turbulent and imperfect world.” These guys continue to grow as songwriters- there are a ton of catchy melodies across this album, and not a weak track. I can’t wait to see them perform these songs live! . The tightest 3-guitar band I have ever seen, full stop. The dual-lead guitar crescendo in Cars in Space is pure bliss, something Verlaine and Lloyd would have been proud of.

Released June 5th, 2020

2020 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever under license to Sub Pop Records

‘Sideways To New Italy’ is now available on Limited Edition Sky Blue Coloured Vinyl, Standard Vinyl and a Bundle containing both records.

Minibikes have been soundtracking Australia’s endless summer for over a decade now, releasing their debut collection of tropicana rock ‘n roll For Woods Or Trail in 2011. Since then the somewhat elusive four-piece of Marcel Borrack, Libby Chow, Nathan Farrelly and Al Barden have been scarce on the live music scene, having played a handful of intimate gigs in their time together, but are gearing up to change this trend in a post-COVID world, no doubt to welcome their forthcoming album Freaky Dreams to the world. Their sophomore LP was recorded with Tim Harvey (Jade Imagine, Gena Rose Bruce) and is released today. Available now through Cheersquad’s Bandcamp in a limited edition fluro green or black vinyl.

Things happen slowly in the world of Minibikes… Time seemed to be a big influence on writing, recording and releasing this album. It all started when I walked past the mural that’s on the album cover. It was an aquamarine slice of paradise on the side of a motel, and it set the mood for writing the songs. I wanted to capture lush fantasy and grimy reality in the same place, so I spent a long time gazing at this scene, trying to evoke that feeling in the songs. Along the way I’d be in other towns on the east coast of Australia and similar images of palm trees and whales would reveal themselves, as if by magic they seemed to be everywhere like in some freaky dream. I discovered they were all the work of artist Geoff Slater, who turned out to be awesome and generously allowed me to use the cover image. When I emailed him and explained how I’d been inspired by his work he said “Inspiration has natural power”. I thought “Wow, this guy walks the walk”, so I wrote “Magic Happens” as a tribute to the beachy, 70’s new-age vibes I was imagining him exuding. Now I’ve never met Geoff and I may be completely misrepresenting him in my thinking, but without a doubt he’s a big part of the Freaky Dreams story.
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The rest of the songs followed, all of them trying to meld seemingly disparate imagery or instrumentation into a single, if slightly blurry vision. The kind of feeling you might get when you stare into a mural too long I guess.

Released June 12th, 2020

Another freaky dream from the Minibikes featuring Snowy “Freaky Dreams” out on Cheersquad records and tapes.