Saturday, June 4, 2011

FUCKED UP: David Comes To Life


The slow trickle of free downloadable singles from this – Fucked Up’s umpteenth release, third full-length album and first rock opera – suggested a marked change of tack for Toronto’s largest punk export. For a band that have constantly dismantled and rearranged the very fabric of what recorded music should resemble, it’s unsurprising they would further push the limits of what they’re capable of, but a 78 minute rock opera by anyone’s standards is a stretch.

Introduced early to our hero David, we traverse a fictional account of life in Britain during the Thatcher years. With Damian Abraham’s trademark screams muted somewhat, bassist Sandy Miranda’s vocal melodies blur the edges of what has largely institutionalised Fucked Up as a punk outfit. Melded with extended ‘straight’ rock jams, as opposed to the usual thrashing assault, the vocal dynamic bends the paradigm of where exactly their music sits. Guitar parts lock into a steam train of a rhythm from the outset with delicate almost Neil Young-ish lead touches. The effect is more the heaving of pulse and breath than the changeable and often borderline violent passages fans would be accustomed to.

The tempo and overall feel shifts through brackets of songs rather than the individual numbers themselves. They trick and tempt with brutal abandon at times (fourteenth track I Was There is as critical as any previous release), but in holding out from relinquishing the psychosis of their earlier material, they deliver a work that is remarkably listenable and will define this band for years to come. Undoubtedly, given the quality of the record, destined for minor accolades on a path to obscurity, David Comes To Life stands firm as what in a just world what would be heralded as a shining example of what’s within reach for those bold enough to dare.

Samson McDougall

I Dream In Transit – Interview with Steven Heath

“People kept Saying David Lynch, David Lynch, David Lynch but I’ve never seen his films,” says I Dream In Transit’s Steven Heath when queried about whether the band’s nightmarish compositions would make for killer movie soundtrack material. “Something pretty strange, a little bit dark, I think. When I hear Sigur Rós I think of icebergs for some reason. What I see in my head is like a 1940s movie with the sound turned down, and that doesn’t make for a very entertaining hour and a half.”

For the moment Heath’s sights are set on this weekend’s Paranoia Pop mini-festival he’s organising at the Workers Club. I Deam In Transit’s insomniac dreamscapes will be joined by Cuba Is Japan’s high-seas adventures, A Dead Forest Index’s discordant brooding and a bunch of other, equally boundary-pushing, outfits for what is shaped to be an aural extravaganza for those bold enough to experience it. “The idea behind the event, and even calling it an event and not just a gig,” Heath continues, “is that all of these bands do express things differently with their stories and experimenting with sound. Hopefully it will be a listening event where people can come along and stand in the dark and have things happen around them.”

A recent relocation to Melbourne from Sydney has opened the door for Heath to get involved with more events like Paranoia Pop. He explains that while he thinks the quality of music in Sydney is equivalent to anything that’s happening here, the numbers of gig-goers pale in comparison. “We fit in to the music scene here a lot better,” he says. “I don’t think I could have put this kind of event together in Sydney. There’s a lot of interesting projects up there but there’s just not the audience for it. There’ll be a lot of fascinating things up there but Sydney people just don’t go and see them for a lot of reasons. It’s just not as welcoming as here. In Sydney people tend to prepare for a Friday or Saturday night out but when they go out they don’t really seem to be enjoying themselves. Here it’s about going out as opposed to the preparation.”

Interestingly, similar thematic sentiments run through I Dream In Transit’s music. As their name suggests, their tunes somehow revolve around a disorienting core of the airport lounges and restless wakefulness we experience during travel. “We came up with the name at the airport in response to the idea that it’s a very strange thing to do to be a person who’s constantly in transit,” he continues. “I guess the idea of air travel and way we live now is kind of strange, a weird form of psychedelia. So the idea of jetlag we tried to convert into a sound.”

The results are strikingly accurate given the existentiality of the subject matter. There is a familiarity in the mood of the music they create that floods with recurrent memories of the forgotten ‘in-between periods’ of our journeys. It’s a universally appealing concept, and one that will make for a unique live experience. “It’s all we knew in a way,” Heath continues. “A lot of the psychedelic music being made I enjoy but the lyrics and the concepts don’t really mean anything to us. A lot of it was centred around the Vietnam War and themes of the ‘60s, even with bands like The Black Angels, bands making music now. What we did know was airports and travelling and industrial areas and shopping malls – anonymous empty spaces and so we just tried to convert that into a sound. It’s not really about overseas; it’s more about the process of getting there and the in-between periods of life. It’s a weird kind of grey area of existence that nobody seems to notice when they’re out of it. We tried to remember it for some reason.”

Samson McDougall

VALENTIINE interview with Vanessa V

This dude was telling me, ‘They’re like early ‘90s stoner or grunge music man, you’ll love it’, and he was right. Valentiine draw heavily on a sound synonymous with that period. Think L7, Breeders and Veruca Salt and you’re half way there. Catching them live for the first time is like a (mild acid) trip down memory lane; but more than that, their songs stand up so strongly they’ll be buzzing around in your head for days.
Love Like, the first single from their about-to-be-released self-titled debut, was launched to a packed Old Bar as a sweet little seven inch earlier in the year. The audience on the night was like a sliding scale of age and musical fancies from old rockers banging away at the rear of the room (including a couple of noted local via Tasmania hardcore exponents) to the cutest bunch of barely legal rock girls dancing circles in the front row. For the band, the leaning towards a known period of rock’n’roll was more a case of saluting what they love than trying to replicate the past. “We’ve all got the same influences,” says singer/guitarist Vanessa V. “I started playing guitar because of Veruca Salt. It’s always gonna come through but with each song we write there’s more of us there if that makes sense. The roots are there, you can still hear where we’re coming from but there’s more of ourselves in there.”
Recorded at Brooklyn Sound by – fellow lover of all things 1994 – Malcolm McDowell, the record is shaped to translate this timelessness of a known aesthetic whilst allowing the quality of writing to shine through the wash of nostalgia. For the band, Vanessa continues, it was hugely important for the recording process to be as light hearted as possible. “The record came off sounding exactly the way we wanted it to sound. We were really worried about recording with someone who’s pushy or that we didn’t feel comfortable with, but we just gelled. It was always fun, the sessions never dragged and were never boring. We just fucked around really and somehow made a record.
“I don’t think we’d record with someone that didn’t like the music we like. I couldn’t imagine as an engineer sitting through hours and hours of music that you didn’t even like. He was passionate about the stuff we laid down. It wasn’t audacious; it was just laid back and really cool.”
Having packed out the Old Bar for the single launch, Valentiine are stepping it up a notch for this Saturday’s album launch at Melbourne’s veritable home of rock’n’roll the Tote. With a cluster of worthy bands on offer on the night, it already smacks of one of those, not infrequent, all-killer bills the venue is famous for. For Valentiine it goes hand in hand with being based in this city – the diversity and quality of acts on offer every week is unsurmountable. “I don’t know if Melbourne’s always been this way, we feel really privileged,” she continues. “Yes there are a lot of bands but there’s so much really great stuff happening, it’s buzzing. The venues, especially places like Old Bar or the Tote really know how to put together a good bill.
“The reason we wanted the Tote for the album launch was that the first time we played there was a Tuesday night and we felt like absolute rock gods. There was no one there, like five people or something. Then we played there a ridiculous amount of times. I think they have this rule where you can’t play there twice in one month, so we’d change the name of the band and play second time. It just became a second home like it is for a lot of bands I guess. The Tote is so a part of the record, it wouldn’t feel right anywhere else.”

Samson McDougall

Ironhide: Interview with Lochlan Watt

For whatever reasons there’s a common sentiment in music that somehow metal is derivative of classical and orchestral compositions. In a broad sense this could considered true – after all, all music is derivative of historical forms – but for some reason the tempo shifts and, at times, over-blown theatrics of metal draw parallels with Wagner or Bach or whomever.

Though classically trained, Lochlan Watt of Brisbane metal outfit Ironhide doesn’t necessarily adhere to these comparisons. For Watt the attraction to the heavier forms of contemporary music was born less from compatibility of application and more out of frustrations with the modern world. “It’s just the outlet I guess,” he says. “Metal’s for me basically. I started getting into metal when I started questioning the world around me and I decided to learn a bit more about how life actually works. My introduction into metal coincided with finding frustration in life and even from a musical point of view; I had classical training so technical music has always held my attention. I get bored of simple song structures, not many other genres really give me that same kick.

“Some people will say that metal is really similar to classical music, I don’t think so. It’s not that similar really, although with Ironhide, you could look at it in that way in that our guitar player [Shaun Burke] is pretty much the composer. He writes it all, demos it all; I guess the only real difference is that when we get into a jam room with it as a group we’ll make a few changes and suggestions.”

In terms of defining Ironhide’s sound, the words blistering, brutal and absolute spring to mind. In metal circles it’s not that simple. With so many sets and sub-sets existing within the same musical realm it can be difficult to differentiate styles without forcing parameters of sound or listing band comparisons. This may all seem like unnecessary pigeonholing but the genre of ‘heavy metal’ is so vast these days that one man’s metal can be another’s nursery rhyme. “In terms of where Ironhide fits into everything, we’re in a bit of a no-man’s land I think,” continues Watt. “If you had to find a succinct term to define our band then metalcore would probably make sense but I don’t think we sound like a typical metalcore band. We’ve been describing our sound as technical metal with punk vibes and post-metal influences. There’s a bit of sludge in there and doom as well. It’s definitely technical and definitely heavy, but definitely not death metal and it’s too metal to be hardcore so I’m not sure... we just float around. Some of the younger bands coming up, we feel a bit of a musical connection to, like The Idols, Acid Snake and Capeweather – bands that have elements of metal and hardcore and punk or whatever without having to be like a big scary metal dude.”

The loss of the Arthouse in Melbourne and the impending doom facing Brisbane’s bastion of heavy music Rosie’s is flagging tough times for metal in Australia. Thankfully the (albeit brief) resurgence of interest in ‘90s sludge and doom bands along with the ascent of cross-genre festivals like Soundwave and more specialist festivals such as Doomsday are allowing a new cohort of metal fans access to the healthy outlet that the music allows. “We’re about to lose Rosie’s, which is the main metal venue up here,” Watt continues. “Most of the shows are supposed to be moving to the Jubilee Hotel, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few months, it’s a bit of a turning point in terms of Brisbane metal. I don’t know what the fuck I’d do if it wasn’t for metal and heavy music. I’d have to find another outlet – maybe I’d be in jail. There’s nothing else quite like it to give you that release.”

Samson McDougall