Writing

A collection of writing. Mostly reviews.

The Fuzz: 100 Demons (2005)

This is an older review, rescued from the internet ether. I wrote it for a site I was involved with at the time, and I’m prompted to put it online as I’ve just listened to the band’s album and it still holds up OK if you’re keen on the whole garage-rock kinda thing. Excuse the writing: a lot has changed in 12 years – including lead singer Abbe May, who’s now out of the garage and into the spotlight. 

d74a214_4563After two well-received EPs, Perth quintet The Fuzz has upped the volume (and the dirt level) with their debut album, 100 Demons. What results is an album that’s got the sound of hunger nailed. With young bands, this keenness, this eagerness to rock isn’t unusual, but what marks this bunch of noiseniks out is the strength of vocalist Abbe May’s cords. They’re phenomenal, and bring to mind some kind of scientific experiment wherein Bon Scott and Adalita from Magic Dirt are somehow combined to create the Ultimate Rock Throat.

She’s that good. (more…)

PJ Harvey, The Tremors @ The Back Room Club, Byron Bay, 25/7/2004

This review is an example of my older writing. Eventually, I hope to have all my reviews archived here. The writing style is a little different, but then I suppose we’ve all changed in the past decade. (Yes, that means I’m cringing at that use of ‘incendiary’ too.)

Gigs where there’s some difference between bands are always good, and this evening’s show at The Back Room Club was no exception. The difference in this case was that the headliner, PJ Harvey, is the queen of come-close-but-stay-at-arms-length songwriting, at once embracing and spurning, while her support, The Tremors prefer to stay up close and personal; preferably trying to get a hand down your duds in the process. (more…)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: … And This Is Our Music (2003)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: ...And This Is Our Music (2003)

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

First things first. …And This Is Our Music is an album created by people who’ll probably want to kick in the heads of reviewers everywhere. Scope out the liner-notes and you’ll see that self-serving critics make a list of people officially put on notice that they’re “Officially uninvited to our party!!!” – replete with three exclamation marks.

That’s not very hippie, is it? In fact, it probably qualifies as a freak-out, baby. But that’s fine, because the music recorded here overtakes any attitude-based party exclusions that The Brian Jonestown Massacre (Anton Newcombe, boss man and chief sonic wrangler) could hurl. (Of course, the fact that elsewhere in the same notes – couched in a track-by-track commentary, revealing musical inspirations, drug information and touching rave-ups of guest vocalists – lies a thoroughly shameless attempt to pick up BJM-fancying ladies weighs a little in their favour, too.) (more…)

Peter Fenton: In The Lovers Arms (2004)

This is an older interview of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Originally published September 2004.

R-5554611-1457749426-1151.jpeg[1]There’s a line in Peter Fenton’s debut solo album, In The Lovers Arms that accurately encapsulates its author’s thoughts on songwriting. On opener ‘The Song People’, appears the refrain

Song… Song… Song…
It’s where you’ve been

It’s also pretty apt for where the artist is at in his life. Song is, in some ways, a transcript, a record of where you’ve been. And for Fenton, it’s been quite a journey. In The Lovers Arms is the end result of recent ruminations on life, love and solitude, and it’s a welcome release.
The album is the singer’s first solo release since Crow – the best fucked-off-with-life band of dark-eyed troubadours since Nick Cave stopped writing Latin on his chest and decided to keep his suit-jackets on – imploded after the release of Play With Love in 1998. Since that time, he’s begun a career as an actor, and this album marks his return to the world of recording, after a period of disenchantment with the industry at large.

There’s two things to note about this return, too. Firstly, it’s a concept album. Secondly, it’s a product that makes the waiting worthwhile. (more…)

Peter Fenton Opens His Lovers Arms

This is an older interview of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

Originally published September 2004.

I’m walking into a small, backstreet hotel bar in Sydney on a Friday afternoon. Office-workers are beginning to fill the streets. A mirror-ball hangs from the roof of the front bar, while the best in Rat Pack tunes float through the cigarette smoke. It seems a fitting place to speak to singer and actor Peter Fenton, about his debut solo disc In The Lovers Arms (Inertia), given that it takes place in a mythical hotel – and given the fact that he’s previously starred in a TV series set in such a locale (the ABC’s Love Is A Four Letter Word.). There’s something slightly seedy – yet charming – about the setting that just seems right.

Fenton is sitting at a table in the back as I arrive. Over drinks, we begin to discuss his career, weighted towards his latest release. The first question is simple: though he’s been playing occasional gigs for years since the demise of Crow, how come it’s taken until now for him to release something under his own moniker? What’s he been up to? (more…)

New The Revenant (soundtrack) review

My review of the Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner soundtrack for The Revenant has been posted over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.

For the most part, there’s a kind of ascetic, restrained feeling, a mirror to the film’s harsh, cold setting. There’s hints of single-fiddle folk-tunes, dragged out to contemplative, almost-stopped lengths, but there’s more fulsome moments, too. The ‘Killing Hawk’ cue mines the emotive vein popularised by Arvo Part – indeed, some of the string prods are reminiscent of that composer’s Te Deum, isolated moments of touched-nerve consideration, heard through reverberation.

You can read the rest here, if you’d like.

Synergy Percussion and Noreum Machi: Earth Cry 15/8/2015

Waiting.

Last Saturday evening I spent a little over an hour watching two percussion ensembles perform at Sydney’s City Recital Hall. It was the culmination of a couple of years of joint study and development between Sydney’s Synergy Percussion and Korea’s Noreum Machi. This show was the last of the tour, with the Korean trio set to fly out the next morning, so I was interested to see how the two would come together. (more…)

Writing to rule: introducing a new project

I’ve always been interested in the Japanese poetry known as haiku. Something has always appealed to me about its brevity and imagery; it’s a distillation of feeling when it’s done well. When I had to write a recollection of my time in Tokyo as part of a touring taiko group, I nicked one of Bashō’s poems to convey the way I felt.

In my new clothing
I feel so different, I must
look like someone else

I’ve had an old Penguin edition of Bashō’s haiku for years now, and I come back to it pretty regularly. It’s a tale of travel, of change, and you can read more about it here. If you’ve never read it, it’s definitely worth a look. (Handily, there’s a PDF version to be found here, with links to further reading.) But flipping through it recently, I was reminded of the power of brevity.

Brevity is something which I don’t have a great handle on, which you will recognise if you’ve read some of the reviews on this blog. So to counter that, I’ve started a new project. I must be serious about it as I registered a domain name and everything. Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing here, at the usual length. But the new project, 575 Reviews, is my attempt at combining brevity and review.

Each day, I’m aiming at writing a single review of something. A book. A film. An album. A play. Manga. Snack food. The terms aren’t really set, beyond there being a picture and a review. There’s not much there now, but it will build, and it is linked in my linklist so rather than spam this page with continual mentions, I’ll let you check it out yourselves.

Here’s a sample, though, a review of Nico’s album The Marble Index (itself named for a passage in a poem) in three lines:

Bleak, black-clad death-songs
Harmonium wheezes on
Goth make-out classic.

Not exactly Bashō, but it’s early days. I hope you’ll join me there, sometimes.